New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd responded to complaints about her frequent use of gender stereotypes by saying that "nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns," according to Times public editor Clark Hoyt. However, many writers and organizations -- including Media Matters for America -- have noted Dowd's feminization of male Democratic presidential candidates.
In a June 22 column responding to criticism of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's frequent use of gender stereotypes, Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote: " 'I've been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,' Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns." But contrary to Dowd's reported claim, in naming her for its 2008 Media Hall of Shame, the National Organization for Women noted, "She has also used feminine nicknames in a derogatory way for both [Sen.] Barack Obama and [former Sen.] John Edwards."
Indeed, Media Matters for America has noted Dowd's characterization of Obama and his campaign as seemingly "effete," and her comparison of Obama to Scarlett O'Hara. In addition, Media Matters has noted Dowd's frequent use of the phrase "Breck Girl" to describe Edwards, beginning with a March 2004 column.
Others besides Media Matters and NOW have noted examples of Dowd feminizing male Democratic presidential candidates. Bob Somerby, editor of the Web site The Daily Howler, noted in a March 5, 2007, column Dowd's repeated use of "Breck Girl" to describe Edwards, her use of "Scarlett O'Hara" to describe Obama, and her description of Al Gore as "so feminized [...]* he's practically lactating":
But then, why should pundits criticize [right-wing pundit Ann] Coulter when she describes Dem males as big "f*ggots?" It's very similar to the gender-based "analysis" their dauphine, the Comptesse Maureen Dowd, has long offered. In Dowd's work, John Edwards is routinely "the Breck Girl"(five times so far -- and counting), and [Al] Gore is "so feminized [...]* he's practically lactating." Indeed, two days before we voted in November 2000, Dowd devoted her entire column, for the sixth time, to an imaginary conversation between Gore and his bald spot. "I feel pretty," her headline said (pretending to quote Gore's inner thoughts).That was the image this idiot wanted you carrying off to the voting booth with you! Such is the state of Maureen Dowd's broken soul. And such is the state of her cohort.
And now, in the spirit of fair play and brotherhood, she is extending this type of "analysis" to Barack Obama. In the past few weeks, she has described Obama as "legally blonde" (in her headline); as "Scarlett O'Hara" (in her next column); as a "Dreamboy," as "Obambi," and now, in her latest absurd piece, as a "schoolboy" (text below). Do you get the feeling that Dowd may have a few race-and-gender issues floating around in her inane, tortured mind? But this sort of thing is nothing new for the comptesse. Indeed, such imagery almost defines the work of this loathsome, inane Antoinette.
Coulter has been visibly disturbed ever since hitting cable in the mid-90s. But Dowd is a borderline nutcase too -- a slightly cleaned up version of Coulter. (Ah, we Irish! Yes, each had an Irish Catholic dad.) Coulter comes right out and calls Dem men "f*ggots" -- but Maureen Dowd has always come close. Just as Chris Matthews is a slightly cleaned-up William Donohue, Dowd is a more presentable Coulter. For mainstream voters, Maureen is easier to take. For that reason, she has done us more harm.
Coulter teaches contempt for gays, and tries to extend that contempt to Dem pols. But that's what Dowd has done all these years! And we liberals and Dems have been too weak to understand and address the problem.
We scream about Coulter -- and give Dowd a pass. But when you read Dowd, you're riding with Coulter! When will we get our heads out of our keisters and take ourselves where the harm is the greatest? It makes us feel good to savage vile Coulter. But what about simpering Dowd? [italics in original]
Somerby on February 6 also criticized Dowd's "sick, endless need to 'feminize' Barack Obama," and has also criticized Dowd for feminizing Gore by forwarding the discredited story line that Naomi Wolf, Gore's consultant in 2000, told him that he had to become an "alpha male."
Also noting Dowd's use of gender stereotypes to discuss male candidates:
- In a May 14 blog post, Columbia Journalism Review writer Liz Cox Barrett noted, "Back in March, Dowd's Obama was 'effete.' Today, she goes for something more vivid, likening him to a 'diffident debutante,' " as the blog No More Mister Nice Blog noted following Hoyt's June 22 column.
- On April 23, 2007, TPM Media's Greg Sargent criticized Dowd's "editorial decision to write a whole column about" Edwards' haircut, stating that Dowd's and other media figures' "decision ... to devote the amount of attention to Edwards' fair locks that they did was idiotic and indefensible." Sargent was referring to Dowd's April 21 column about Edwards' haircut, titled "Running with Scissors," in which she wrote that "[w]hether or not the country is ready to elect a woman president or a black president, it's definitely not ready for a metrosexual in chief," and that Edwards "seems intent on proving that he is a Breck Girl -- and a Material Boy."
From Hoyt's June 22 New York Times column:
SOME supporters of Hillary Clinton believe that sexism colored news coverage of her presidential campaign. The Times reported in a front-page article on June 13 that many are proposing boycotts of cable news networks and that a "Media Hall of Shame" has been created by the National Organization for Women.
The Times itself, however, was barely mentioned, even though two of its Op-Ed columnists, Maureen Dowd and William Kristol, were named in the Hall of Shame.
Peggy Aulisio of South Dartmouth, Mass., said, "A real review of your own stories and columns is warranted." I think so too. And I think a fair reading suggests that The Times did a reasonably good job in its news articles. But Dowd's columns about Clinton's campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.
"I've been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years," Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as "Obambi" and has said he has a "feminine" management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton -- in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 -- left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.
Over the course of the campaign, I received complaints that Times coverage of Clinton included too much emphasis on her appearance, too many stereotypical words that appeared to put her down and dismiss a woman's potential for leadership and too many snide references to her as cold or unlikable. When I pressed for details, the subject often boiled down to Dowd.
Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of the editorial page, said it was unfair to hold a columnist accountable for perceptions of bias in news coverage. A columnist is supposed to present strong opinions, he said, and "a thorough reading of Maureen's work shows that she does that without regard to gender, partisanship or ideology."