Bloggers are busy exploring what the Maureen Dowd plagiarism
mini-scandal (she lifted a paragraph from prominent liberal blogger
Josh Marshall and offered a half-hearted apology) means in terms of the
relationship between mainstream and online media.
Beyond those ramifications, it’s important to remember that this
revelation of Dowd’s thoughtless use of words is far from new. She’s been
a perennial thorn in the side of feminists and everyone who would like to move beyond Mad Men-era
perceptions of gender. Over the years, hers has been the loudest voice
of the gender-role police in political media: Media Matters studied her
columns and found dozens of examples of Dowd crying foul over candidates supposedly leaving their masculine and
Dowd has tossed those stereotypes out to the New York Times-reading
public with impunity. She’s particuarly fond of hurling them at male
cadidates, often Democrats, who show compassion or sensitivity; she
said Al Gore was "practically lactating," called John Edwards the
"Breck Girl" and coined the name "Obambi" for Obama. Dowd has also
attacked women whom she sees as not being feminine or retiring enough.
She lashed out at Michelle Obama when it was vogue to do so, worrying
that it was inappropriate for a candidate’s wife to tease her husband, and
her attacks against Hillary Clinton ("the debate dominatrix") have been endlessly vicious.
Bloggers Digby, Somerby
and Glenn Greenwald have skewered Dowd’s use of schoolyard gender insults in her columns — describing her
as an acceptable ambassador of an Ann Coulter-esque philosophy.
Dowd’s sharp wit is occasionally leveled to speak truth to power, but too rarely. Perhaps this growing flap over her careless, possibly craven use of
someone else’s words and ideas will cause her to exercise caution when
making blanket statements. Otherwise, the New York Times should find
another strong female voice, one which doesn’t so consistently fall
back on juvenile, misogynist name-calling and sloppy sourcing.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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