Correction to This Article
A Nov. 5 Style profile of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd should have noted that in addition to three brothers she has a sister, Peggy.

Sex & the Single Stiletto

Dowd: "Any woman who criticizes men for a living -- which I do because politics is still male-dominated -- may have a harder time getting dates. I get plenty." (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 5, 2005

She skewers public figures in the most personal terms, calling Bill Clinton "the Animal House president," Al Gore "a teacher's pet from hell" and George W. Bush the "Boy Emperor."

But while Maureen Dowd would seem to have a well-developed taste for combat, appearances can be deceiving. Even after a decade of writing a New York Times column, she admits to being "very thin-skinned" about criticism.

"I'm just not temperamentally suited to it," Dowd says. "The first couple of years I spent curled up on the floor and crying." If someone starts talking about her on television, she lunges to switch off the set.

Now Dowd, who zealously guards the details of her personal life, is inviting a different kind of scrutiny with a book about love and war between the sexes. And she knows full well that the kind of questions she raises in "Are Men Necessary?" -- say, whether successful men are put off by high-powered women -- could easily boomerang on her.

"I have no complaints about my personal life," she says in her stately Georgetown home, where the decor ranges from a pink jukebox to an expensively restored Hungarian portrait of a partially disrobed woman. "I get asked out. I don't know how much more I'd get asked out if guys weren't scared of me.

"Any woman who criticizes men for a living -- which I do because politics is still male-dominated -- may have a harder time getting dates. I get plenty."

The book is a rumination about the inscrutability of men, the perils of dating, male anchor clones, makeup, shopping and the demise of feminism in a sex-drenched society -- all while showing a little leg, in a personal sense.

The author is acutely aware of the slashing MoDo image and resigned to hearing that she has some kind of castration complex. When a photographer for Elle magazine showed up for a shoot, he brought a Ken-type doll and a pair of scissors -- and asked Dowd to pose either cutting off its head or stabbing the figurine in the groin. She declined.

* * *

The sense of being a smart, ambitious, alluring woman in a crazy, often infuriating man's world is at the heart of Dowd's take on life.

"I got a column entirely because I was a woman," she says bluntly. But being the only regular female voice on the Times op-ed page has, in her view, been a hazardous endeavor.

"Political aides have been lethally nasty with me and tried to smear me," Dowd says. "For me there's been a price for being no-holds-barred."

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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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