Women Journalists: Maureen Dowd

January 28, 2008
by findingDulcinea Staff
Maureen Dowd has been called “the cobra” by President George W. Bush for her acerbic political columns in the New York Times.

A History in Columns

No major politician has escaped her pointed commentary and she has often been criticized as “‘nasty” and ”superficial” from both sides of the aisle. But she has also been called one of the freshest and wittiest voices to be found in any paper. Love her or hate her, she is one of the most widely read columnists in America.

Dowd began her career at the Times in 1983 as a metropolitan reporter and became a Washington correspondent three years later. Her dispatch column appeared in the Sunday Magazine. In 1995 she moved to the opinion page, beginning a twice-weekly column about politics. You can read Dowd’s biography on the newspaper’s Web site.
As the only female columnist on the Times opinion page, Dowd is widely regarded as a feminist symbol. In December of 2005, Dowd released her second book, Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide, but rather than focusing on current political affairs as she did in Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk, which was a collection of her columns, Dowd examines the aftermath of the feminist movement. She reveals a number of personal anecdotes, including her own experiences with sexual harassment. With Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air, Dowd discusses women in journalism, her columns, and the so-called “narcissism” that has replaced feminism.

The Prized Python

Dowd was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting in 1992. But it wasn’t until 1999 that she was given a journalism award for her commentary on the Clinton impeachment hearings. Her columns were considered so incendiary that Dowd was personally approached by Monica Lewinsky, who asked why Dowd was so mean to her (an incident that Dowd later revealed in a column). The Pulitzer Prize site includes links to the ten-column series on Clinton. Search “Dowd” in the archives section of the site to read the work.

Dowd is often discussed as a smarter Candace Bushnell for her frequent references to Manolo Blahnik shoes, her gossipy tone, and lack of straight political analysis. She has come under fire for emasculating Al Gore, branding John Edwards a metrosexual, and for taking a stab at presidential candidate Barack Obama, among others. Fellow journalist Eric Boehlert analyzes one of her recent pieces for Media Matters.

Dowd supporters consider her tone and style to be her best attributes, for exposing the true personae of Washington politicians and for taking on fellow Times journalist Judith Miller in a uniquely insightful manner. She appeals to women because she stands out as a feminine figure in the masculine worlds of politics and journalism. Writer Ariel Levy profiled Dowd for New York magazine in 2005 to determine her place in modern journalism.

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