The Fray on Roiphe and Dowd.

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Nov. 3 2005 1:00 PM

Necessity, Motherhood, Invention

The Fray on Roiphe and Dowd.

The Fray's best reading today can be found in Culturebox Fray in response to Katie Roiphe on Maureen Dowd. The responses vary—from the hetero-male confessional (radwatts) that corroborates Dowd to the gentle retort that "Dowd in an editorialist" (Ozymandias1), therefore stylized anecdotes, not empirically based reporting, are her stock in trade. Sawbones offers a variation of this here:

Maureen Dowd's anecdotal evidence of anti-feminism in the dating scene is only marginally less funny than Katie Roiphe chiding her for this weakness, then attempting to rebut her argument using only anecdotal evidence. Both are making sweeping, unsupported generalizations (almost never a truly revealing line of argument), but only one of them seems to be doing it with at least the hint of a wink at her audience. Hint: I don't think it's Roiphe.

In reality, I think both writers are on-target for certain groups of men; there are certainly men who have adjusted to and enjoy the ongoing effects of feminism, just as there are those who are threatened by and recoil from them. To attempt to describe an amorphous blob called "men" and pretend that either categorization fits all of them or even is becoming a trend is silly, at least until one of them provides some numbers.… though

Breathe nails it best:

Roiphe, perversely, gets sucked into defending the rest of the world's women by trying to logically attack satire. Poor choice. You bought into the game. Dowd wants you to be offended. You can't fight comedy, even poor comedy, with facts, figures and first hand personal testimony refuting Dowd's position. It makes you look like a sucker.

The most interesting thread on the board was launched by topazz, who concedes that while "stereotyping and characterizing an entire sex is ludicrous – it's even more so not to admit what she says is real and occurs every day to women in work environments everywhere." From there, topazz elaborates:

That being said, attention should also be given to the men who treat women as colleagues and as their equals and peers, who hold admiration and respect for women in positions both above and below their own, the men who do not feel superior to women, not even to those "maids, masseuses' and secretaries" - but rather who appraise each woman on her individuality and worth as a human being both in relation to the work environment and outside of it.

"As a Seven Sisters-educated girl early in her career," naddyfive believes that "in the end, [Dowd] wants more of a Stepford life than she realizes." And chadosaurus, appreciative for the "even-handed perspective," maintains that Dowd may have the wrong idea about a guy like him and his "absolute beauty of a wife":

Somebody like Dowd might well see a couple like us out in public and mentally place me in the category of a pig who bagged a trophy wife while all the smart, ambitious girls like her were left home alone watching MacNeil-Lehrer.

But not only is that inaccurate and an insult to me, it is an even graver insult to my intelligent and strong willed wife, who never buckled under to me on anything that mattered to her. If I have spouted nonsense on occasion, she never bought it. And she maintains that attitude without ever trying to make me feel stupid. And she treats me with respect, as I do her.

Not quite so simple is it, when real people have relationships? We are more than saints or reprobates, and women may be smart, pretty, or both.

CDouglas, whose "circle of stay-at-home friends includes a lawyer, a teacher, an engineer, a publicist," writes that Dowd may be "channeling P.G. Wodehouse":

His character Bingo Little was constantly falling in love far beneath his station, until he secretly tied the knot with a waitress. Of course his wife turned out to be Rosie M. Banks, the famous novelist, gone undercover for research.

CD explains her decision:

Women like me decided to stay home because our income wasn't adequate compensation for the extra expense and work of leaving home for a job. Or, we felt our presence was necessary when our kids were very young. I personally feel blessed for having had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother; I know that in this economy, this is only a dream for many working women.

Successfully married women share a common commitment with their husbands to home and family. That commitment is greater than any commitment to career or self-actualization. I sense that Dowd was never willing to do that.

Several women on the Fray lament that Dowd seems to turn her back on the fundamental virtue of the women's movement—choice. Here's m-, and here's funkgenie:

The goal of feminism was indeed to foster a sense of choice for women. Women can choose to stay at home, seek a 9-5 job, or do both. But, I'm not so sure that women who choose this path are any happier than 'spinsters' like Dowd (or myself even) More and more often I hear friends who have chosen the SAHM path act quasi-embarrassed about their choice. Hinting at regrets about not getting the MA, PhD etc. I've also been at parties where the wives of colleagues answer my question of "so what do you do" with "I'm just a stay at home mom." I think its a legitimate choice so I don't think any less of her. I'm just trying to make conversation at a party where I'm highly uncomfortable as well. But there's an awkwardness that permeates the moment where it becomes clear that the problem is not with the career driven woman but with the SAHM who's not so thrilled about her chosen role.

Splendid_IREny doesn't align herself with CD but isn't drinking the revivalist-Dowd Kool-Aid:

Yeah, there are men looking for June Cleaver redux. Some of those men are in their 20s, some in their 40s. Culturally, this suggests that, in the age of internet dating, of virtual sex and porn-on-demand, some men and woman are recoiling from sexual freedom overload. Or, what might be perceived as such…

However, unless O'Dowd looks for which percentage of the population actually thinks along this route, then she's not doing her readers any favors. And, she's definitely not representing the many different stories out there. Some of those readers might look around, see one or two examples of what O'Dowd presents and not look further for examples of other lifestyles and styles of interaction. And they do exist. I know of men who, not making as much money as their wives, elected to be stay-home-fathers while the mothers were the bread-winners for the family. Those are successful and balanced marriages. Does O'Dowd explore this phenomenon?

Clearly not, since she wanted only to paint a generalization of Leave it to Beaver for the new century, then skew her findings to represent that generalization. A lot of intelligent, attractive women who use sarcasm don't have O'Dowd's credentials or her address list. To bad, then, that O'Dowd chose to stay close to what she knew.

That leaves a lot about what real women think about themselves and their relationships unknown.

Of course, there are a bevy of guys on the Fray who boil Dowd's singlehood down to a much simpler explanation. Here's Jaymon:

Going on a date with her would require three seats - one for you, one for her, and one for the enormous chip on her shoulder

Finally, take a peek at rundeep's KRo/MoDo mirror conspiracyKA9:55 a.m. PT

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Wednesday, November 2, 2005

A Common Thread: Thrasymachus sees one in "Justice Alito's decisions on criminal procedure, abortion rights, and political asylum":

the notion that a husband has a property interest in his wife.

He's denied asylum to the boyfriends of women who've been forced to undergo abortions on the theory that only a legally empowered husband would have a sufficient interest in his wife's reproductive capacity to have injury to that capacity "imputed" to himself. Shei Fei v. Gonzales, 131 Fed.Appx.390 (3rd Cir. May 16, 2005);see, Chen v. Ashcroft, 381 F.3d 221 (3rd. Cir. 2004)

He's also held that a search warrant for a husband should be construed, by "common sense" to extend to his child and his wife. Doe v. Groody, 361 F.3d 232 (3rd Cir. 2004).

And then, of course, he reasoned in support of Pennsylvania's spousal notification requirement using logic that could also be adapted, seamlessly, to support a requirement for spousal consent.

The message, I think, is pretty damn chilling. . . and pretty damn clear.

HLS2003 asks T …

Couldn't the common thread here be that he believes the marriage relationship carries consequences for both parties, both practically and legally? I hardly consider that a radical view, and I don't believe the majority of Americans, or even Senators, consider that radical either. It has nothing to do with alarmist declaiming of "property rights" in women.

… to which caliban1 responds:

The consequences you speak of may be moral ones- but they really shouldn't be legal ones...

But legally, rights to notice usually only apply when the person being notified has a right to do something after being notified. Example (a poor one I admit): say you and I own a building. I cannot destroy and/or sell the building without giving you notice as you have an equal property interest in the building. My rights in the building are no more than and no less than yours. We are equals. You have the right to stop me and/or negotiate.

There are many other examples of notice being required by law; again, notice is only given to those who have rights in whatever is being given notice about. I can feel for the husband who is not given notice, but when I give him the legal right to have notice I am giving him something much greater than sympathy: I am giving him rights. If the wife fails to give notice, can the husband sue for damages for the breach thereof? The possibilities are scary...

The_Bell offers exuberant praise for Alito and concludes:

Bush listened . . . and learned. As a result, he picked somebody that virtually nobody can oppose without seemingly being at odds, to some degree, with their past objections. His hearings will be longer and far nastier than those of Roberts and the vote will be closer but Alito will be confirmed. The judge whose decisions Justice O'Connor frequently reversed will ultimately be her replacement on the Supreme Court.

And Joe_JP deserves to be heard on the Alito appointment. Here's his analysis. 

Feeling Chipper: A handful of Democrats on the Fray are giddy that Reid & Co. went 21 on the Senate body yesterday and invoked a closed session. ElephantGun is relieved:

As a Democrat, I am finally energized somewhat by the recent cojones that the Democrats in Congress have started to show. And of course, like clockwork, the GOP has sent out its bent energy to the "liberal media" (feh) to 'appropriately categorize' this as a stunt designed to curry political favor.

Call it what you want. I call it, 'about time'. With Biden grilling Roberts, Miers being called to the carpet on not having any real qualifications … to the latest salvo to the Senate: you will NOT ignore the issues.

Thank the maker. Balls. Once thought extinct from Democrat trousers, they've shown signs of return. I could give a rat's ass what the precious GOP thinks of this or how they want to spin it. It doesn't even matter to me what comes of it. Alito may be confirmed, and no investigations of intelligence may happen, but at least the Democrats showed some interest in opposing these pathetic ideological shills masquerading as Republicans from running slipshod all over them.

Locdog says "bring it on."

Sometimes a Light Saber Is Just a Light Saber: That's what chadosaurus throws back at Aidan Walsey's post-structuralist gaze into the Star Wars series:

This is why generations of students unfairly label all academic criticism of literature and art, etc. as utter hogwash. The urge to write an article like this, and the expectation that people will take it seriously, is the same urge that causes academics to see metaphors where none exist and symbolism where the actual narrative is sufficiently compelling to inspire admiration.

Duck, Aidan, there's more—from Gilker_Kimmel here:

George Lucas believes his press releases. Nobody else should.

Star Wars is not the universe-spanning mythic adventure Lucas pretends. It is a hack-written space opera with cardboard characters play-acting through old-time Saturday morning serial cliff-hangers. It is not an art film of great depth.

Lucas got very lucky in the first Star Wars. He lucked into a combination of actors and design talent that fleshed out his anorexic fairytale in a way that hit a nerve - not because Lucas designed it to hit that nerve, but rather because of pure serendipity. It was a happy funny-bone moment that Lucas has been desperately trying - and failing - to reproduce ever since. The proof is in the steadily declining results throughout the series.

But any large, accreting human artifact, especially one made by a person of only moderate talent, will be complex if for no other reason than its creator has no idea how to integrate all the parts. And so a willing observer, one presuming that all elements have been carefully controlled and assembled, will project that presumption onto what he observes and rationalize his way to a grand unified theory of what is the mess.

Why is DVD Extras the most inviting corner of the Fray this afternoon? TheNewSnobbery nails it:

So let me get this straight -- anti-intellectuals fill the Fray to trash a fawning, academic analysis of the Star Wars series?

2005 is so schizophrenic it makes my head hurt.

Take two tablets and head hereKA2:50 p.m. PT 

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Slate thanks all fraygrants for their generous patience over the weekend while we worked on some maintenance issues.

On the nomination of Sam Alito for the Supreme Court:

HLS2003 applauds the choice and feels that Alito will pick up between 20 and 25 Democratic votes in the Senate. In addition, HLS lays out a strategy for "Court Dominance in Five Easy Lessons." Among HLS' five prescriptions?

Make the district courts look like America -- as you want it to look.

Pull out of Iraq, aka Win Elections.

… and Fraywatch's personal fave:

Accept no substitutes. The elite law schools have long since been captured by liberals, even more so than academia at large. This means at least three things: first, conservatives forged in those fires are more likely to remain staunch in the face of opposition; second, if someone is respected in the academy while still being exceedingly conservative, it speaks well of their rigor; and third, beware of those who were not well-respected by the academy beforehand, but who always craved it -- I'm looking in your direction, Justice Kennedy.

For all the panic from the left that Bush is replacing a moderate swing vote with an archconservative, JohnLex7 believes that the Alito nomination "does not necessarily mean as hard a turn to the right as people think," largely because of John Roberts:

Alito is certainly a conservative jurist, regardless of the occasional opinion that seems otherwise. 15 years of being on the bench will leave you with a long record on a whole host of issues. However, Roberts does not necessarily have that kind of record.

Roberts is the Chief Justice. He does not want to be a polarizing figure. However, what he could be is an incredibly powerful figure. If he takes the O'Connor position as the swing vote, then instead of living in Sandra Day O'Connor's world, or Anthony Kennedy's world, we might be living in John Roberts' world. Exercising that kind of power would mean that Roberts could shape the Court, and he can't shape anything if he just toes the Scalia line. In order to be the one with the real power, he can't completely agree with them, he has to chart his own course, like O'Connor did.

Given the present makeup of the court what is clear is that we will not be living in Scalia/Thomas/Alito's world. Whether we are living in Anthony Kennedy's world or Roberts' world is a different matter.

Here, J_Mann tries to set Emily Bazelon straight on the matter of Alito and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

And Thrasymachus sheds some light, albeit ironically, on Alito's judicial stance on abortion:

The poor man is being cruelly maligned and slandered by his unscrupulous feminist opponents.

Why, just last week Alito issued a decision in which he denied asylum to a Chinese woman who fled China because she had undergone a forced abortion and been ordered to report to a medical clinic for mandatory sterilization. Chen v. Gonzales, Slip Copy 2005 WL 2652051 (3rd Cir., October 18, 2005).

So take that, liberals! He's not anti-abortion at all! He's just against women having the right to choose abortion for themselves.

To clarify and expand the taxonomy of judicial philosophies, IOZ coins a new term— conservatarianterventionism:

Conservatarianterventionists believe firmly that all laws curtailing the freedom of the State to bear its fangs and start slashing at anyone and anything in its way must be struck down in the name of liberty, whereas those laws limiting the self-determinant freedom of individual action must not only be upheld and reaffirmed, but strengthened.

Here, locdog confesses that …

i wouldn't describe myself as a miers supporter, i was certainly more, ah, tolerant than many of my conservative brethren. miers, i suspected, was every bit as conservative as we could have hoped for--and easily confirmable to boot. but in hindsight, i suspect that the base wasn't so much disappointed in the miers nomination itself as they were in the prospect of losing out on what they had been gearing up for since bork: a no-holds-barred battle royale in which the democrats would finally be ground beneath our heals, filibuster and all.

looks like they're going to get their shot.

is "scalito" confirmable? without a filibuster, certainly. with one, things get a bit more complicated.

In response, rundeep declares that "[t]he fight works for Bush in so many ways." How so? Click here.

2005 MLB: Since FromtheEast was the only frayster to have the Chicago White Sox winning the American League Central, FtE wins, as promised, two complimentary tickets to a yet-to-be-determined 2006 Los Angeles Dodgers game.

Condolences, East … KA12:25 p.m PST.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

It's a big news day in the Fray and, as many fraygrants have noted, a lousy weekend for the Fray to undergo a major migration that will go a long way toward improving the forum's performance. A migration of this sort must be scheduled weeks in advance and, unfortunately, the timing stinks—but save up those column inches for Sunday evening and Monday morning.

On the Libby indictment and resignation, which should light up the Fray this afternoon brighter than Michael Beschloss' MSNBC makeup job, here's JohnLex7 declaring that Libby is the administration's designated fuckee:

In the manner of all good organized crime outfits, someone was designated by the Bush Administration to take the fall. That someone was Scooter Libby. He lied to the grand jury to protect Cheney, Rove and possibly others. He will dutifully take his punishment, pleading guilty so no one will have to testify to what he lied about. He will do some time in a reasonably easy federal facility, and then be handsomely rewarded by those backing Cheney and Bush. Since he's not in the Mafia, they won't be expecting him to do what Frankie Pentangeli did. Maybe.

Catorce unveils his crystal ball:

Libby will plead guilty to some crime for which he will receive 2 years of Martha Stewart jail. He will then write a tell-some book, give lucrative speeches, and become a conservative radio talk show host. In other words, perjury and obstruction of justice will be a nice career move for him.

There is no way Libby can defeat these charges, for one main reason. Libby would certainly have to testify in his defense and you can be sure Cheney will never allow that to happen. Why? Because Libby's cross examination would bring out every nasty little thing there is to bring out on Dick Cheney, literally putting the war on trial. And if Libby feels spiteful, he can certainly bring down a few other high ranking officals with him -- and can probably implicate them in far worse behavior. Still, Libby won't flip on anyone to obtain the get out of jail free card. Someone named "Scooter" doesn't flip, he takes the fall.

Let's close the door on the Miers escape hatch. What's most important about this story?

For Demosthenes2, it's ...

a particularly bitter family quarrel and it stems from the fracture that lies at the heart of the increasingly tense alliance between the evangelical wing of the neo-conservative movement and the business interests that comprise the real and more powerful base of the party. That's important because it can illuminate what might happen next as Bush tries to get something to go his way…

ElephantGun agrees:

The only difference between previous Bush initiatives and the Miers nomination is that Bush didn't want to go along with the right-wing this time. Bush wanted to nominate a loyal apparatchik, Bush family retainer, and all around nice woman for the job and expected the right-wing to follow his lead. The problem for Bush was that the activist right dominated the Republican Party on legal issues just like the neo-cons dominated on defense and tax crusaders dominated on the budget. Bush and the rest of the non-activist Republican Party has been the tool of the right all along. The pawns being pushed by the right-wing players. The tail being wagged by the right-wing dog.

For RoyJaruk18, it's that ...

People are fed up with cronyism. This isn't New York City under Boss Tweed in the 19th Century, or even Chicago und Richard Daley the Elder in the 20th. We need the best legal brains we can find on the Supreme Court, regardless of party affiliation or where they lie in the political spectrum, without resorting to litmus tests on lightning-rod issues. We need independent thinkers who clearly understand that it is not the job of the Supreme Court to MAKE the law, but rather to rule on the constitutionality of the laws and cases brought before it - and that is all they are supposed to do. The precedents the Supremes set are too important and have so great an impact on our society that they cannot be left to a crony loyal to a political dynasty - or to a political party.

For Steve-R here, following Dahlia Lithwick's analysis, it's that ...

Bush is now waist-deep in abortion politics. There's no soft-pedaling or dancing around this one anymore.

And he's brought it on himself. Bush is not personally committed to over-turning Roe and outlawing abortion. That's clear enough. His politics have always been very non-committal on the issue, and in recent years have consisted simply of bland and tepid declarations in support of a "culture of life." His only interest has been to play the abortion issue and the anti-abortion base for his political gain. At the same time, between that rabid base and supporters of abortion rights (who make up the majority), he has sensed a political open flame, and he doesn't want to get burned. So his strategy until now has been to play both sides of the political fence.

Bush has said that he does not have a "litmus test," and has not quizzed his appointees about their stance on abortion. I'm actually inclined to believe him there. He doesn't want to know, and he doesn't care that much. What he has cared about is that he has a "safe" nominee who can dance around the issue and at the same time mollify the pro-life base. He pulled it off with Roberts, but as Lithwick points out, those days are over. As are the days when Bush can sidestep the issue and still keep the pro-lifers in his pocket. He now needs to make up his mind and show his cards on how he's going to play the abortion issue, and face the consequences.

And for HLS2003, who "for once [agrees] with Lithwick," it's that ...

conservatives have decided to pierce the judicial veil. "In OUR Senate, from OUR President, we get OUR candidate," is the feeling. But I believe that by playing by the rules of a highly political and powerful Court, conservatives are joining liberals in sowing the seeds of ultimately diminished power and legitimacy for the judicial branch.

Thanks for you patience as we upgrade our system … KA11:40 a.m.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Sex is Horrible ... and in Such Small Portions!: Meghan O'Rourke's critique of "male traditionalist" Harvey Mansfield and conservative bioethicist Leon Kass puzzles HLS2003. "Middle-aged men" Mansfield and Kass express concern that today's sexually aggressive young women are pursuing casual hookups and thoughtless sexual sampling at the expense of more fulfilling, romantic relationships. HLS charges that O'Rourke's piece is "schizophrenic":

it can't decide whether it hates the messengers or hates the message. If the point is that middle-aged men never have anything useful or insightful to say about young female sexuality, fine. It's an idiotic perspective, but it's classic interest-group politics that only a member of the "in-group" is allowed to criticize the "in-group." If, on the other hand, the claim is that the middle-aged men are permissible critics, but that in this case their message is wrong, then where's the support for that? The only real argument I could see being made to refute the substance of the critique (hardly a radical one -- the idea that rampant sexuality may not be an unmixed blessing for young women) was that the critics had a "monolithic view of what young women want." Well, duh…

EarlyBird tags O'Rourke's argument as a series of "cheap shots." And chadosaurus echoes HLS—take on Mansfield and Kass as reactionaries, not as crusty, old men. Ditto for mallardsballad.

Meanwhile, here, ShriekingViolet (who's been on a tear of late) parses Mansfield from Kass. While she finds Mansfield's argument "worth following," SV interprets Kass' comments as textbook misogyny:

Men are deemed responsible enough to engage in sex for pleasure, whereas women are divided into two camps: whores and housewives. "Modesty" and chastity are elevated as ideals to keep good girls in line to become social trophies and wholesome mothers. Yet even men were not terribly sexually interested in the pure, chaste feminine ideal, as evidenced by the fact that prostitution and adultery were more discreetly acceptable in the prudish Victorian era than they are now.

It should go without saying that this arrangement was less than ideal for any woman with career ambitions or, for that matter, a functioning sex drive.

SV offers her typically judicious perspective ...

These cultural changes have caused a number of difficulties for women, too, but these are challenges associated with increased freedom. More freedom, as usual, entails more insecurity and tougher choices.

... and ultimately concludes ...

But it should be no cliché to say that freedom is worth a few sacrifices. Men and women need to honestly engage with the question of how to deal with the instability brought about by these changes, but not by yearning for the restoration of a simpler era when women were valued for how thoroughly they could restrain their own sexuality.

For Dilan_Esper, "There are two separate questions, and I have a feeling people like Mansfield and Kass are conflating them":

Question 1 is whether the sex lives of women are more satisfying now than they once were…

Question 2 is whether women are better off emotionally in a society that has become so openly sexualized.

Like SV, DE frames his conclusion in the context of freedom "as its own virtue."

Fighting Words: It isn't often that rob_said_that drops into Fighting Words Fray, but he takes a gander at Christopher Hitchens' current article on the downward spiral that is George Galloway. By no means is rst a Galloway partisan ...

I'm not going to bother to defend Galloway, since I've never supported him in the past, didn't even know who he was until I saw him on Maher's show, and I don't doubt that he's a crook in every respect that galls Hitchens under the saddle. And then some.

But rst can't stomach Hitchens' selective indignation:

I find it interesting that certain other lies surrounding the whole Iraq debacle (Iraqle?) have apparently never bothered Mr. Hitchens at all. Lying in order to bring about a war in which 2,000 Americans have now paid the ultimate price is apparently neither here nor there. Certainly it is not worth talking about, since Hitchens never talks about it. I suppose on some level this is understandable—why should he devote precious column inches to matters that don't salve his wounded ego or vindicate him against Galloway's "lionizing" at the hands of the anti-war movement?

But as I write this we are working on our third kilodeath of American servicemen in Iraq. To put that in perspective, if 2,000 adults were to be killed in the largish suburb I live in, a fourth of the kids in the high school would have lost a parent. If it had happened in the town my father grew up in, there wouldn't be any town left.

For his part, Geoff14 has already written the next 12 Hitchens columns. Check 'em out hereKA11:00 a.m.