Oh, Maureen Dowd. For a gal who questions whether men are really necessary, you sure do say some dumb shit about women.
I don’t usually read Dowd; she’s too glib, and today’s column is no exception. But today I hoped she’d buttress my interpretation of Mark Sanford as a Crappy Governor caught in the clutches of True Love, since some folks seem to think his emo press conference was all an act. I still think I’ve read him right. Were it not True Love, he could have gotten laid a lot closer to home than Buenos Aires, like every other blow-dried culture warrior. Without True Love, he wouldn’t have gone all loony tunes, thinking he could disappear for a week and then declare himself the heir to King David. Or rather, his looniness would’ve stayed focused on rejecting stimulus funds for his state.
But back to MoDo. She starts out brilliantly:
As in all great affairs, Mark Sanford fell in love simultaneously with a woman and himself — with the dashing new version of himself he saw in her molten eyes.
Hand on your heart: haven’t you ever been in just that position? Doesn’t that reflection of one’s soft-focus photoshopped self account for much of the allure of love affairs? Quite possibly, that allure is magnified in midlife and beyond. Someone in my very extended family just got caught in an affair. He was cheating on his second wife, whom he met in church and courted while both were married to their original spouses. After 20 years, he’s now taken up with another woman in the same church, also married, the mother of his current wife’s son’s best friend from high school. He’s over 70. Some folks, it seems, crave that glittery soft-focus reflection even into old age.
So I think Dowd is onto something important when she suggests Sanford was infatuated with his sexy alter ego, Marco. But then she just goes off the rails:
In a weepy, gothic unraveling, the South Carolina governor gave a press conference illustrating how smitten he was, not only with his Argentine amante, but with his own tenderness, his own pathos and his own feminine side. [my emphasis]
He got into trouble as a man and tried to get out as a woman.
(The rest of her piece quite amusingly counterposes the uptight Mark against the rascally Marco, but she’d already lost me.)
Good grief! Dowd is stuck in the nineteenth century if she thinks Sanford is behaving like a girl. The Enlightenment bequeathed us a legacy of associating man with culture, women with nature; man with logic, women with emotion; man with reason, women with irrationality. Three waves of feminism supposedly swept away these cheap binaries. Dowd, a beneficiary of all three waves, happily revives the old stereotypes when they suit her glib purposes.
Besides, those hoary stereotypes just don’t fit the facts, empirically. The hallmark of Sanford’s recent behavior – and the reason he needs to resign – isn’t his emotionality. It’s his irrationality. Women in politics do sometimes display emotion, but they keep a pretty tight rein on the crazy. When’s the last time a female politician jetted off to a foreign country to meet her lover? Without telling anyone? I don’t agree with Dana Perrino’s silly contention that the sex scandals would stop if we only elected women. Women, too, would start to feel cocky and entitled if they were no longer embattled. But surely, with our fresh memories of David Vitter’s diaper play and Larry Craig’s wide stance, no one can seriously claim that women are less rational than men. Not even when it comes to sex – or True Love.