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Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide


Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide

I will admit it. I am a diehard fan of Pulitzer Prize-winning
Maureen Dowd's snarky Op-Ed column in the New York Times. I
find it witty, well-informed, and just the right combination of
sass and smarts to constitute a revealing (and often hilarious)
news-infused, literary cocktail. With pizzazz, grace, and a few
well-aimed arrows, Dowd has whittled away the reputation of quite a
few prominent political figures, cultural icons, and respected
members of high (and low) society over the years. She has aptly
covered the goings-on in the White House since the Reagan era, has
cleverly sniffed out and commented on various trendsetters and set
trends, and has enlightened and intrigued more than her fair share
of devoted readers, all the while wielding her poetically licensed
pen like no other columnist on newsstands today. So when the
opportunity to review her new book presented itself, I literally
jumped at the chance.

It is highly possible that my expectations for this book were too
lofty. With her reputation and a title like ARE MEN NECESSARY?, how
could I not expect Dowd to deliver her usual string of dead-on,
sucker punch to the proverbial gut remarks, followed by her
off-the-cuff yet deliciously accurate asides that would have
readers smirking and slapping their knees in agreement? Could I
have been so convinced of her journalistic prowess before even
cracking the spine that I prevented myself from reading her book
with an unbiased eye, thereby hampering my ability to form an
impartial opinion about its worth?

The fact is that Dowd's polemic on the sexes is a bit
discombobulating. One minute, she's dissecting bedroom politics,
the next she's deconstructing feminism. A minute later she's
ranting about the new plastic surgery craze for women, and then
she's back to talking about feminists in turtlenecks. Throughout
all of this jumping around, she still manages to mention (by name)
who her influential friends are, and why she sometimes feels
slighted (yet devilishly flirty) because she's a powerful (and as
she frequently mentions, single) woman in today's gender-polarized
society. While many of her sex-ed observations are certainly
interesting and may be, after all, true, their seemingly hodgepodge
arrangement and "sometimes here, sometimes there" placement
throughout the book cause her normally rock-solid delivery to come
off sounding a wee bit...scattered.

Yes, we ladies do "have the nerve and authority to ruminate and
rant as well as men," and we "do enjoy mixing it up just as much as
men [do]." In this case, however, there is such a thing as
ruminating, ranting, and mixing it up too much.

Nevertheless, Dowd does touch upon a number of juicy and hotly
debated topics, as the evocative roman noir-esque book
jacket might suggest, and readers will be titillated to find that
she doesn't hold back when alternating observation with personal
opinion --- although she assures us in the introduction that she is
"always as baffled as the next woman" when it comes to matters of
"gender perplexities." She unapologetically dismembers the Clinton
sex scandal and calls out both Bill and Hillary, as well as
that impish Girl in the Blue Dress, for their roles in the
nationally talked-about Oval tussle. She aptly suggests that "women
moved from playing with Barbie to denouncing Barbie to remaking
themselves as Barbie," and unabashedly scoffs at the amount of cow
blubber a gal will inject into her body (despite being a
vegetarian) in order to look young(er), thin(ner), and sexy(ier)
for her man. She even probes into the infamous "Big O" and boldly
dis-semen-ates each sex's attitudes toward and reactions to that
devilish physical reaction we humans have learned to chase and

In the end, Dowd's down-n-dirty gender manifesto is an inquisitive
yet pointed ode to all things Dick and Jane. Yes, there are times
when we really don't want to read another anecdote about the fact
that her illustrious female friend (fill-in-the-blank) is single or
the fact that a male colleague (fill-in-the-blank) used to hit on
her. And sure there are parts where the writing seems in desperate
need of focus. But there are also just enough of those Maureen Dowd
signature moments when she hits her stride, and we gleefully watch
her talent as a gifted reporter and as a perceptive social to the occasion.

Reviewed by Alexis Burling on January 11, 2011

Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide
by Maureen Dowd

  • Publication Date: October 3, 2006
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade
  • ISBN-10: 042521236X
  • ISBN-13: 9780425212363