Thursday, January 13, 2005

Reframe Your Thinking

Listening to the radio some today, it seems that the most recent Maureen Dowd column is the topic du jour. She notes a supposed trend, at least in her social circles, of men marrying not their equals or superiors but their subordinates. It's yet another version of "men want to marry their mothers."

But this quote caught my ear enough to search it out:
I'd been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with the young women whose job it was to tend to them and care for them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.
You can tell she just scanned her own mind and experience to compile that list. That list tells you everything you'd want to know about how circumscribed Dowd's world is and that of her imagined readers. Secretaries, assistants, researchers and fact-checkers are everyday parts of her work world. Many of her female friends would naturally have nannies, in that rarified social stratum. Caterers appear at the parties she goes to and the flight attendants serve her drinks as she flies across the country.

Where are the nurses, cashiers, and lower-ranked female middle-managers of the everyday work world you and I know. There are dozens of other examples she could have chosen, but look at how arthritic her thinking is.

Somewhere last year I had an epiphany. Don't think of the New York Times as America's Newspaper, the Paper of Record, the final authority and national arbiter of discussion. Instead, think of it as the local newspaper of Upper West Side New York. Kinda changes things, doesn't it? Granted, they have resources most papers can't approach, but if you realise the audience they are writing for is so small, insular and provincial, then much of their bias and narrow-mindedness becomes understandable.

It's completely revolutionised the place and esteem I hold the paper in. And it squarely places irrelevancies like Dowd into the "Social Happenings"-reporter place her column occupies. She's just a jumped-up society columnist!

I'm glad for hearing about this column of hers. Now I can safely and forever disregard her.

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