She starts by quoting an article about a Barack Obama campaign event in which "Women screamed? What was this, the Beatles tour of 1964?" At this point her article could still be about politics as the new rock & roll, or about whether Obama's rock-star appeal is good, bad, or just an interesting pop culture phenomenon, or about why Obama gives people such a Kennedy vibe and how that relates to the culture of the early sixties... or about anything, really. But it's not. Because her next quote is,
And when they weren't screaming, the fair-sex Obama fans who dominated the rally of 16,000 were saying things like: "Every time I hear him speak, I become more hopeful." Huh?
Okay, first, she has to be using "fair sex" ironically, right? Right? And... why the "Huh?"? The quoted statement sounds perfectly reasonable to me. The rally-goer hears a would-be POTUS speak and is inspired by his rhetoric, and becomes more hopeful. A point could be made here about distrusting the power of rhetoric alone, but I can't actually construct a reasonable mindset where the quote is a confusing or bizarre statement. The "Huh?" doesn't merely suggest that the writer disagrees with the quote, it suggests that she finds it baffling.
Which, frankly, I find baffling.
So, right away, I know I am being strongarmed toward a point of view of some kind. Although at this point it could still be a more or less feminist point of view that is suspicious of women who support Obama rather than Hillary Clinton for president. Let's keep reading.
Let's see, "Connecticut radio talk show host Jim Vicevich has counted five separate instances in which women fainted at Obama rallies since last September. And I thought that fainting was supposed to be a relic of the sexist past, when patriarchs forced their wives and daughters to lace themselves into corsets that cut off their oxygen."
Er, okay, it's possible she is still going in a kind of feminist direction with this, although people do sometimes faint when they are in big crowds, especially if they get dehydrated, and it's outdoors, and the one time I have actually seen somebody faint in real life it was actually a pretty tall, sturdy-looking guy who was waiting in line for a ride at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. So it could happen to anyone. And also Jim Vicevich is a right wing radio talk show host (is there any other kind?), so anything he says about Obama is a bit suspect. And I'm still wondering what the point is, exactly. That women who support Obama are pushing the feminist cause backwards? Because their enthusiasm makes them look foolish?
I can't help it, but reading about such episodes of screaming, gushing and swooning makes me wonder whether women -- I should say "we women," of course -- aren't the weaker sex after all. Or even the stupid sex, our brains permanently occluded by random emotions, psychosomatic flailings and distraction by the superficial.
Ooooookay. She is so not going in a feminist direction with this.
At this point, I should mention that the furor over this opinion piece prompted the editor of the Washington Post to claim (to Michael Calderone) that the piece is satirical.
"If it insulted people, that was not the intent," Outlook editor John Pomfret told me this morning, calling the piece "tongue-in-cheek."
Yes, yes, of course, and Ann Coulter is only kidding when she suggests that all liberals and Democrats should be rounded up and put in camps. There is a certain kind of mean-spirited "kidding" that is only kidding if you disagree. It is recognizable by its lack of a consistent satirical point of view. And also, by not being funny.
I'm not the only woman who's dumbfounded (as it were) by our sex, or rather, as we prefer to put it, by other members of our sex besides us. It's a frequent topic of lunch, phone and water-cooler conversations; even some feminists can't believe that there's this thing called "The Oprah Winfrey Show" or that Celine Dion actually sells CDs. A female friend of mine plans to write a horror novel titled "Office of Women," in which nothing ever gets done and everyone spends the day talking about Botox.
No... okay... what?
How did we get from "women are stupid because they passionately support Obama" to "women are stupid because they listen to Celine Dion"? Was all that Obama stuff just a lead-in to make this tired old column that's been sitting on Ms. Allen's computer forever seem somewhat topical? And... I hate to break it to her "friend", but back in ye olden days (pre-feminism) they had offices made up almost entirely of women. They called them typing pools or secretarial pools.
We exaggerate, of course. And obviously men do dumb things, too
See, this is where you can tell she is not actually writing satire. The fact that she pulls back a little and admits that she is exaggerating is the thing that proves she actually means it.
although my husband has perfectly good explanations for why he eats standing up at the stove (when I'm not around) or pulls down all the blinds so the house looks like a cave (also when I'm not around): It has to do with the aggressive male nature and an instinctive fear of danger from other aggressive men.
Now, I'm a bit skeptical here. I'm pretty sure that her husband never said any such thing. In fact, I'm pretty sure that she came up to him (while he was standing up, in the kitchen, eating ravioli out of a can) and said, "Honey, do you like to keep all the blinds pulled down because you're like a caveman or something and you fear other aggressive cavemen?" And he was chewing on a ravioli and didn't care anyway and made a kind of grunting noise, which she interpreted as "yes, exactly! you are so insightful about gender roles my sweet!" and he meant as "whatever. I never know what the hell you're talking about."
Women's foolishness is usually harmless. But it can be so . . . embarrassing.
Take Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign.
Back to politics! And, I'm sorry, Ms. Allen, if you weren't embarrassed to publish this column in a national newspaper, then I can't possibly take seriously your claim to be embarrassed by anything else.
By all measures, she has run one of the worst -- and, yes, stupidest -- presidential races in recent history,
By all measures, except the one about being pretty much neck and neck with her closest rival. You know, by all measures except the one that actually counts.
marred by every stereotypical flaw of the female sex. <..>She has all but wept on the campaign trail, even though everyone knows that tears are the last refuge of losers.
Really? "Everyone knows" only losers cry? Because I don't know that. Personally, I'm rather prone to getting choked up at emotional moments, and I don't regard it as a "refuge" of any sort. It's simply one of those sometimes-embarrassing things that happens to us crazy old biological machines. Like farting. And, hey, Allen, you just called me a loser, thanks! I should care about what else you think why?
Then there's Clinton's largely female staff, often chosen for loyalty rather than, say, brains or political savvy.
Right, because male politicians never do anything like that. Like a certain sitting US president isn't famous for favoring loyalty over competence. Nosirree.
What is it about us women? Why do we always fall for the hysterical, the superficial and the gooily sentimental?
Let me rephrase. "What is it about us women-hating women? Why do we always perpetrate the hysterical, the superficial, and the lazily stereotypical?" And, honestly, I don't know what it is about you antifeminists, though I tend to suspect daddy issues, or some variation on queen bee syndrome. Whatever it is, it can't be healthy. Though it does seem lucrative, so I suppose that's my explanation right there.
Allen now meanders into complaining about the chick-lit phenomenon, which she blames on "a female taste for first-person romantic nuttiness" and therefore women are idiots. Allen's assessment of the situation somehow manages to be more offensive than the existence of chick lit itself. And that's saying something.
Then she talks about Grey's Anatomy, The Friday Night Knitting Club and, of all thing, Morgellons as examples of the stupidity of women. "Of course, not all women do these things, either -- although enough do to make one wonder whether there isn't some genetic aspect of the female brain, something evolutionarily connected to the fact that we live longer than men or go through childbirth, that turns the prefrontal cortex into Cream of Wheat."
Hmm. Interesting. At the moment my working theory is that it's being a right-wing anti-feminist opinion columnist that turns the brain to mush, but since my primary evidence is this column, my sample set is too small to provide a reliable conclusion.
But, according to Ms. Allen, "Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true. Women really are worse drivers than men." Yes, and her evidence? That according to one study women have 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven compared to 5.1 for men. But the "only good news was that women tended to take fewer driving risks than men, so their crashes were only a third as likely to be fatal."
So, let's examine this... women really are worse drivers than men because they are slightly more likely to hit you, although men are WAY more likely to KILL you! And that makes sense in what universe? The universe where dying isn't important?
Now she quotes a study by the University of London showing that "women and gay men perform more poorly than heterosexual men at tasks involving navigation and spatial awareness, both crucial to good driving." Which is... okay, the bit about gay men seems to come out of nowhere, but maybe it would make sense if I looked at the original study. Whatever it is, I question her assumption that navigation and spatial awareness are crucial to good driving. Sure, somebody with poor navigation skills is more likely to get lost. And somebody with poor spatial skills will have trouble parallel parking. But these actually strike me as fairly low on the list of absolutely necessary driving skills. Getting lost is not the same thing as getting into an accident. And most people who suck at parallel parking are aware of this fact, and manage to avoid having to do it.
Why women are the sex that gets into more car accidents could have a neurological explanation.
Gee, it could have a lot of other explanations too. For example, women are more likely to be distracted by something going on in the car, like kids or dogs or whatever. Or, maybe the stats are skewed by a larger number of older drivers among the women. Maybe women are more likely to talk on cell phones while driving. Who knows? The thing is, for me to believe that spatial ability is even relevant, you would first have to determine that lack of it is a factor in the accidents. I'm pretty sure that most automobile accidents happen because people aren't paying attention at a crucial moment, not because they are paying attention and simply put the car in the wrong place.
But Allen seems to assume she has proved her point, and moves on to talking about the fact that men have proportionately larger brains than women, and I thought we'd determined years ago that that brain size isn't particularly related to cognitive function, but Ms. Allen is nothing if not stuck in the 1950s. Also, although several paragraphs back she promised to explain to us how " several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true," she never covers anything other than driving.
The important proportional difference is in the parietal cortex, which is associated with space perception <..> at which men tend to excel over women <..> also related to a capacity for abstract thinking and reasoning, the grounding for mathematics, science and philosophy. So this does make men the smarter sex?
I'm not a neurobiologist, but this all sounds pretty suspect to me. Let's see what Wikipedia has to say... "The parietal lobe plays important roles in integrating sensory information from various parts of the body, knowledge of numbers and their relations, and in the manipulation of objects. Portions of the parietal lobe are involved with visuospatial processing. Much less is known about this lobe than the other three in the cerebrum."
So it would appear that Ms. Allen's lofty pronouncements about the function of the "parietal cortex" are, shall we say, overstated? And her view of human cognitive function seems remarkably simplistic as well. For example, my own dear husband can perform arithmetic quickly in his head, so he can figure out an exact 15 percent tip just by looking at the bill. I do not have his instant-addition gift. Instead, I round things and go with my instinct. And yet, somehow, we nearly always come up with the same number.
I am perfectly willing to admit that I myself am a classic case of female mental deficiencies. I can't add 2 and 2 (well, I can, but then what?). I don't even know how many pairs of shoes I own. I have coasted through life and academia on the basis of an excellent memory and superior verbal skills, two areas where, researchers agree, women consistently outpace men.
Erm. Where to begin? First, I don't believe we have established that there are, actually, any "female mental deficiencies." Ms. Allen has leapt boldly from a moderate male visuospatial advantage to assuming that women can't do math, or resist buying shoes, or count their shoes once they have them. In her world apparently there are no female programmers, chemists, or math teachers, which means that a good many of my female friends... what, are secretly men? Good lord, I don't know. And, as a person who values verbal skills rather a lot, actually, I am troubled by her referring to use of these skills as "coasting", as if they are of no consequence or value. (I am also suspicious of her claim that she has them.)
I don't mind recognizing and accepting that the women in history I admire most -- Sappho, Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth I, George Eliot, Margaret Thatcher -- were brilliant outliers.
Right. Because a female leader of the caliber of Elizabeth I is quite rare, while male writers on the level of Shakespeare are tediously common. Anyway, she just mentioned three writers and two politicians, which doesn't actually negate her nattering about the supposed natural male advantage in maths.
So what is this essay all about, anyway? Is Ms. Allen simply upset that we might be about to get our first female POTUS and she's a Democrat? No Maggie Thatcher goodies for the right wing?
The same goes for female fighter pilots, architects, tax accountants, chemical engineers, Supreme Court justices and brain surgeons. <..> I predict that <..> the number of women in these fields will always lag behind the number of men, for good reason.
Perhaps Ms. Allen was hoping we wouldn't notice that "Supreme Court justice" is a traditionally male-dominated field that relies on "an excellent memory and superior verbal skills" rather than, you know, lots of math.
So I don't understand why more women don't relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home.
Um. (puke puke puke) Okay, done now. Honestly, "tenderness toward children"? (puke puke puke) All right, now I'm done. No, wait, "make a house a home", (rrrrrrrrrgh) okay. Dry heaves over. (hhrrrk) Not quite. (rk) Now. Now? Okay. Now.
Notice how this essay started as a rant about how annoying it is that women are stupid (because they vote for Democrats), and now it is an essay about how women should accept their (stupid) lot in life and not make such a fuss and stop being feminists. Somehow the object of her ire has changed from women as consumers of chick lit, to women who would prefer to be brain surgeons.
Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts' content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we can be . . . kind of dim.
All right, we have finally reached the conclusion. And it makes no sense at all. Not only has Ms. Allen gone from setting herself sneeringly apart from swooners and chick lit readers to including herself among them, but also she seems to be saying that reveling in... chick stuff... is a comfort to women who realize that, as women, they aren't too bright. Is that right?
That can't possibly be right.
Of course, this also implies that Ms. Allen regards herself as "kind of dim." And hey! Finally! Something we can all agree on!