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November 03, 2005

The Judy Miller of Love

More bad news for the Dowd hypothesis* -- even the few facts it does deign to include are flagrantly wrong:

Sociologist Valerie Oppenheimer of University of California, Berkeley reports that today men are choosing as mates women who have completed their education. The more education a woman has, the more likely she is to marry. Unlike the single University of California, Los Angeles study, this finding comes from an analysis of 80 peer-reviewed studies.

As for Dowd's repeated invocation of the famous study showing the higher a woman's IQ, the less likely her eventual marriage, well:

Neither Dowd nor the Atlantic bothered to mention--apparently they did not know--that the data were gathered from men and women born in 1921; the women are all now in their 80s.

Should a study of octogenarian women be taken as a guide for today's young people? No.[...]

From 36 to 40, high achievers are more likely to be married and have kids than other female workers, but they marry later than other women. Boushey found that women between the ages of 28 and 35 who work full time and earn more than $55,000 a year or have a graduate or professional degree are just as likely to be successfully married as other working women.

And it doesn't stop there, Dowd cherrypicked statistics, used bad data, and ignored reams of contrary evidence.  In other words, her opus was the dating equivalent of the Iraq War -- an embarassing disaster sold on the basis of manipulated data and ignored evidence.  She's the Judy Miller of cultural reporting, the only question is how long it'll be before Keller offers yet another mea culpa.

*For those who've forgot, the Dowd Hypothesis is Maureen Dowd's oft-stated belief that she and her friends are unmarried because their beauty, glamour, accomplishments, poise, wit, interests, intellectual acuity, and overwhelming beauty scare men.

November 3, 2005 | Permalink


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» Oh no, MoDo from Common Sense
Because I have to write about something other than Texas politics, I'll point you toward this takedown of the Maureen Dowd hypothesis. It looks like Dowd was cherry picking her data to support her hypothesis that she and her friends [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 3, 2005 6:57:27 PM


It's my hypothesis that Dowd is upset that having become 'so successful' she nevertheless can't 'marry up'. In other words, considering herself the, say, eighth-most divine creature on the planet, she laments that the seven or so men she egotistically considers to be the only ones worthy of her aren't interested. Oh Mo, it's so lonely at the top!

Posted by: random | Nov 3, 2005 11:44:08 AM

Katie Roiphe's response to Dowd is pretty good, and it makes the point that Dowd's anecdotes are too localized to mean much of anything, even if they weren't occasionally relying on bogus statistics.

There is one slight thing I'll defend MoDo on: Roiphe refers to the title of her book, "Are Men Necessary?", as being "catchy" yet "meaningless." But I'm pretty sure MoDo was referencing one of the most famous classic Hollywood romantic comedies, The Lady Eve. The wealthy and eligible (yet clueless) man in that movie spends most of his time studying snakes, and one of the early scenes in the movie shows him reading a book called "Are Snakes Necessary?", which I bet is what Dowd is referencing with the title of her book.

Posted by: Haggai | Nov 3, 2005 12:14:06 PM

Harsh; comparisons to Judy Miller? Ouch.

I take no position on the ultimate issue whether the dating market does or does not have the consequences Dowd describes, but it seems to me that she's talking about a social institution that's usually irrational when not outright pathological, and her conclusions are well within the realm of plausibility. Unlike the question whether Saddam had nuclear weapons---the answer to which is either yes or no, and you can find that answer by examining external evidence---the question "what men/women want" isn't the kind of thing you can force agreement on by objective facts. Do men want a partner who is nurturing, challenging, subservient, inspiring, accomplished? That's not the kind of question you can really settle forever, and reasonable minds are going to disagree.

Regarding college rates, keep in mind that college isn't the same as work, nor the same as intelligence. Indeed one rather depressing trend is the new function of colleges as social filters---the Times wedding pages is full of couples from the Ivies, Stanford, and Duke whose parents went to the Ivies, Stanford, and Duke, and to some extent Smith or better is kind of a prerequisite for young East Coast women to be marriageable. But that's not at all inconsistent with Dowd's hypothesis---so long as once they find a man they quit work rather than get some use out of their degrees. And indeed we all know some (statistically insignificant) number of women who have done precisely that, and some other number of women who have not done that but stayed in the workforce.

I suspect there's probably an infinite number of statistics lending credence to Dowd's hypothesis, and an infinite number casting doubt upon it. At the end of the day, you're really still left with the same hard question.

Posted by: Jack Roy | Nov 3, 2005 1:38:12 PM

If true, she'd have used some of those inifinte stats. As it is, she misused a couple studies and ignored all contrary evidence. If her argument has support, she's keeping it to herself.

Posted by: Ezra | Nov 3, 2005 2:05:11 PM

I'm pretty sure that Dowd was born in the 1920s, so maybe she was just playing favorites with her age cohort rather than being sloppy and dishonest.

Posted by: norbizness | Nov 3, 2005 2:21:26 PM

Accomplishment? Intellectual acuity? If her style is any guide (in particular, her devotion to wrapping almost every topic in a comparison to the pop culture inanity of the moment), I always figured that Dowd spent most of her time plopped down in front of the TeeVee.

Posted by: sglover | Nov 3, 2005 2:30:18 PM

Dowd consistently fails to identify the one common feature of all her failed relationships: Her.

Posted by: Constantine | Nov 3, 2005 3:05:06 PM

I think both Dowd and The Lady Eve are probably alluding to "Is Sex Necessary?" the first book by EB White and James Thurber.

Posted by: Matt Weiner | Nov 3, 2005 4:02:46 PM

Ah, yes, that's right. She does talk about those classic rom-coms on occasion, from what I remember, so maybe she's doing a sort of double reference.

Posted by: Haggai | Nov 3, 2005 4:39:59 PM

Dowd's not a bad looking woman. I'd do 'er and so would most men if given a chance.

Perhaps she should try being obscene and not heard!!

Posted by: Fred Jones | Nov 3, 2005 6:21:31 PM

dowd's a flake. guys don't like flakes.

Posted by: harry near indy | Nov 4, 2005 1:41:42 AM

It's not a humor column?

Posted by: Calling All Toasters | Nov 4, 2005 9:44:00 PM

Ezra, thanks for that...I'm too a-scared of Miz Dowd to actually read her articles myself. Now I knows better.

Posted by: freq flag | Nov 7, 2005 12:19:32 AM

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