Well, are they? Is the human race at a point in their existence where men can be phased out? In vitro fertilization, cloning, stem-cell research, and even sex reassignment surgery provide ample ways to relieve the world from the patriarchal dominant trends that have plagued civilization for thousands of years. The question harkens to the joke that if men could get pregnant, morning-after pills would be sold conjointly with Viagra or condoms; no prescription needed. With the Y (male) chromosome acting as erratic and instable as—dare I say—a woman, men’s years are numbered. Granted, that number ranges from one hundred thousand to one million year, but the emperor’s new outfit provides some really interesting food for thought.
Maureen Dowd, an op-ed journalist for the New York Times, has been tackling tough politics for years now, challenging and confronting a variety of issues. In Are Men Necessary?, Dowd challenges women’s progress since the feminist movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Considering the politics of relationships, office etiquette, female political and cultural representation, and other relevant topics, Dowd presents a scary rendering of what women have lost over the past two decades. Perceptions, expectations, and exploitation of women have changed little and in some ways slide back to pre-feminist standards.
Her range of topics is considerable and she covers a lot of ground in her book, but in some ways she lacks organization and cohesion. The title itself - Are Men Necessary - really seems to be the book’s afterthought, as it is the closing line in the book. The better question for a title might have been, Are Powerful Women a Myth? Dowd goes to great lengths in depicting the many crude and inexcusable ways in which women are still designated to second class, but so often her thoughts are like loosely connected train cars that the book feels more like a complaint of what’s wrong rather than a critique. In the beginning of the book, she addresses the pernicious cultural representation of “romance”, and through a circuitous route, the book ends on how Hilary Clinton has caused great harm to feminism. Though much of her writing is relevant, her connections are not tight enough for every listener to follow.
Dowd also has the honor of reading her own book. While it’s always interesting to see how an author presents the text, Dowd might not want to make it a habit. For the most part, she narrates decently, but her delivery needs work. In one paragraph about people who exhibit “Alpha” qualities, such as overachievers and leaders, she writes a fairly humorous sequence. However, her delivery lacks the emphasis, speed, and bemusement that can make a joke funny rather than just being witty. Her reading creates a rather dry tone that detracts from the text.
Dowd has a lot to say and so much of it makes sense. While her organization proves troublesome, her criticism of the current sexism trends make one woefully aware of how fragile our current system is and how we must work doubly hard to keep events from slipping back to the more restricted times of the past.