I got Are Men Necessary?, by Maureen Dowd and read it, but I can't say I was wildly impressed. Considering this person is a Pulitzer Prize winner, I was expecting something better, sharper, wittier, something like a liberal Florence King perhaps. No such luck.
The book is mostly treading old ground. I've lost count of how many articles I've read about frustrated career women who can't get men, because men don't want women as successful as they are, they can't cope with intelligent, strong women, they want women who won't compete with them, so they marry secretaries, nurses etec (it doesn't apparently occur to Ms. Dowd that a woman may be a secretary or a nurse and yet have a glimmer of intelligence).
The book goes over all the desperate advice given to women over the years on how to get a man, from 1950s guides to the arch outpourings of Cosmopolitan. Reading about all these desperate women, I reflect how extrardoinary the lengths women will go to to entice men, adopting all sorts of desperate stratagems to appear more attractive, less intelligent, more seductive, or whatever. When I was young I liked men as well as the next woman, I wanted boyfriends, I wanted (eventually) to get married and have children. But it never occured to me to DO anything about it. I mean, I just used to assume that either men were attracted to me or they weren't, either they wanted to marry me or they didn't, I never thought it was possible to influence them in any way, so I never tried.
Ms Dowd laments the modern fad for women to be wholly obsessed with their appearance, and to go to extraordinary lenghts to augment their looks with plastic surgery etc, but she doesn't have any interesting insights into this, or any other, subject. The part about plastic surgery produces what I thought was the only really amusing line in the book. Discussing liposuction she writes, of the chairman of the Liposuction task force:
Liposuction task force? In the ”50s, women vacuumed. Now women are vacuumed. Our Hoovers have turned on us!
The most ineresting part of the book is where she discusses whether men are necessary from an evolutionary point of view. Apparently it would be possible for women to do without men altogether, according to some scientists, or at least to get by with very few. I was struck by this arresting sentence:
Every time a man has sex, he makes enough sperm to fertilize every female in Europe.
Now that's food for thought.
Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky are discussed at length, and one of the most interesting passage in the book comes when Maureen Dowd comes face to face with Miss Lewinsky;
“Why did you write such scathing articles about me?”, Miss Lewinsky asks her. “I don't know” Ms Dowd replies.
And I don't really know what this book is for: it doesn't seem to have anything very new or very interesting to say on any of the subjects discussed within its covers; it's all been gone over before.
I hope that the columns that won her the Pulitzer Prize were better than this.