Memo To Mo

Making the rounds today is a rant by one of the online community’s preeminent dyspeptics, Fred Reed. In it he responds to the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s opinion that men are no longer necessary.

Ms. Dowd sums up her little idea as follows:

So now that women don’t need men to reproduce and refinance, the question is, will we keep you around? And the answer is, ‘You know we need you in the way we need ice cream — you’ll be more ornamental.’

An excerpt from Mr. Reed’s reply:

Listen, Corn Flower. Let’s think over this business of obsolete men. Reflect. You live in New York, in which every building was designed and built by men. You perhaps use the subway, designed, built, and maintained by men. You travel at in a car, invented, designed, and built by men—a vehicle that you don’t understand (what is a cam lobe?) and couldn’t maintain (have you ever changed a tire? Could you even find the tires?), and you do this on roads designed, built, and maintained by men. You fly in aircraft designed, built, and maintained by men, which you do not understand (what, Moon Pie, is a high-bypass turbofan?)

In short, as you run from convention to convention, peeing on hydrants, you depend utterly on men to keep you fed (via tractors designed by men, guided by GPS invented, designed, and launched by men, on farms run by men), and comfy (air conditioning invented…but need I repeat myself?)

I do not want to be unjust. It is not in my nature. While men may be obsolete (unless you want to eat) I cannot say, Apple Cheeks, that feminists are obsolete. They are not. Obsoleteness implies having passed through a period of usefulness.

A jot—an iota, a tittle, a scintilla—of gratitude might be in order. Should you look around you, you will note that everything that keeps you and the sisterhood from squatting in caves and picking lice from each other’s hair was provided for you by—the horror—men.

Mr. Reed singled out a particular field — computer science — for particular attention. To shorten the comment thread, I will pre-emptively acknowledge that this is in fact a field in which some women have indeed made significant contributions, so you needn’t chime in with indignant references to Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, et. al. It is also, of course, this website’s editorial position that any woman (or for that matter, anyone at all) who has any talent or interest in pretty much any human endeavor whatsoever should be able freely to pursue it without institutional obstruction. The pleasure of Mr. Reed’s essay is simply to see him give the smug and insufferable Ms. Dowd a poke in the eye.

You can read the rest here.

Related content from Sphere


  1. At The Orthosphere, Thomas Bertonneau wrote a piece called, “World without Men: A Novel of Totalitarian Lesbiocracy” recently. ( Perhaps Ms Dowd read this 1958 throwaway paperback, which is still available (

    Posted December 22, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  2. Speaking of the insufferable, dollars to donuts our resident gadfly is a Mo-fan.

    Brace yourself for a tsunami of verbiage …

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 1:10 am | Permalink
  3. JK says

    No TheBigHenry, she’s less than I am, & you deal with me. But then, she’s more than I am and here’s the link:

    Thing to keep in mind is though – LibertyBelle makes more sensible than I, JK does.

    As if, that’s a stretch.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 2:14 am | Permalink
  4. JK says


    Appears I’ve [again] mistook TheBigHenry.

    Ah well. Arkie wells are brimming with eggnog.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 2:18 am | Permalink
  5. “No TheBigHenry, she’s less than I am, & you deal with me.”

    WTF? Are you threatening me?

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 2:25 am | Permalink
  6. Dear Holly Asbury,

    I hope you did not think I was referring to you as “our resident gadfly”. The latter is how Malcolm sometimes refers to “the one eyed man”.

    In point of fact, I happen to like your commentary.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 2:44 am | Permalink
  7. “Arkie wells are brimming with eggnog.”

    Is an excuse what passes for an apology, JK?

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 3:00 am | Permalink
  8. Oh dear Henry, never fear, even if someone does think I’m a gadfly, I spent a little time as a soldier in my youth, which toughened me up a bit. I like the one-eyed man’s intrepid defense of his political positions. His confidence reminds me of the French delusions about their Maginot Line. Vast fortifications of your position don’t necessarily strengthen it, so I read his miles of posts awaiting Malcolm, JK or you to go around them with minimal effort. I’m not up to your level of discourse here – I admit it freely, but I go read up on topics and arguments presented and learn.

    JK, my devoted knight, long ago I wrote on a message board and also in a politics chat room. I’ll survive criticism or even being thought a silly nincompoop. The most vicious attacks usually come from other women though.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink
  9. Dom says

    TBH, “you deal with me” was not a threat and does not call for apology. JK just meant you deal with him nicely, so you can deal with anyone.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink
  10. Thanks for that interpretation, Dom.

    I have enough trouble following JK’s Arkie dialect. With a layer of TWI (texting while intoxicated) on top of it, it’s like Greek to me (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    The latter parenthetical, BTW, is a reference to a famous Seinfeld episode. I wouldn’t want to offend any Greeks who may be following this thread …

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    I wouldn’t want to offend any Greeks who may be following this thread …

    Anyone on Earth who is able to follow this thread deserves either a psychiatric examination or the Fields Medal.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  12. I’ll take one of each please.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  13. @ Posted December 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    “Oh and I like studying nuclear proliferation issues, which became a pet hobby after serving in a Pershing missile unit long, long ago.”

    I hope I may be forgiven for commenting on Holly’s comment in the above-linked previous thread, but I had vowed to STFU there …

    Small world, Holly. I am a LANL physicist (emeritus) and before I retired I had participated in several programs related to your pet hobby. I had made certain other vows that bind, but I may relate that I have a “certificate of accomplishment” from the missile school at Vandenburg Air Force Base, which I received at the end of the best boondoggle I ever had the privilege to experience. I even climbed down a very scary ladder leading to the the control room of a missile silo. That was a thrill and a half.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  14. the one eyed man says

    I’ve never liked Maureen Dowd. I think she is incredibly cloying. I rarely bother reading her.

    Not so for Gail Collins. She’s awesome.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  15. the one eyed man says

    Maybe cloying is the wrong word. “So over the top you could use it as an emetic” or “sounds like fingernails on a blackboard” is closer to the mark.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  16. Cue the drum roll:

    “… Gail Collins. She’s awesome.”

    What a surprise.

    Here’s all anyone needs to know about Gail Collins:

    She wrote “As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda”

    “Gail Collins is the funniest serious political commentator in America. Reading As Texas Goes… is pure pleasure from page one.” — Rachel Maddow

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink
  17. Malcolm says

    Yep, Gail Collins. Oy.

    Jonah Goldberg and Mark Steyn are both pretty darn funny. I guess they aren’t as serious as Ms. Collins, whose focus during the 2012 election cycle was Mitt Romney’s dog.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  18. Dom says

    Concerning MoDo, how privileged and entitled do you have to be to write something like that and still get it published in the NYT?

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  19. the one eyed man says

    Gail Collins’s “focus during the 2012 election cycle” was not Mitt Romney’s dog. It was the fact that Mitt Romney strapped the dog to the roof of his SUV for a few hundred miles, an act so amazingly bone-headed (if not downright cruel) that his basic judgment is a very fair question.

    Unlike, for example, saying in a speech “you didn’t build that” instead of the grammatically correct “you didn’t build them,” which consumed the right wing for months on end, culminating in a night at the Republican national convention focused on precisely nothing.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 8:47 pm | Permalink
  20. I think Maureen Dowd is a truly outstanding writer and ahem, that’s why she’s writing for the NY Times. I rarely agree with anything she writes, but I enjoy reading her columns. There are several excellent writers from the left side of the political spectrum that I find worth my time. Christopher Hitchens comes to mind as another liberal-leaning writer whose truly superior writing and intellectual heft warranted being not only taken seriously, but worthy of quoting.
    On this topic of feminism, it seems obvious that a society where all citizens are free to pursue their dreams and seek career paths based on their abilities benefits society as a whole. It’s in the much murkier areas of interpersonal relationships, where I think most of these friction points create clashes, which ripples through the broader spectrum, influencing and often reshaping our cultural norms. If more of these friction points were approached in an open-minded, less politicized fashion, most small groups of people could quickly come to amenable terms on simple rules of conduct for their group. It’s because we imbue politics into everything that even small local situations can become rallying points for political factions.
    In particular the issue Fred Reed touches upon, that being women aren’t entering into the hard sciences or engineering fields in droves, despite decades of pushing women to think beyond traditional female career fields reminded me of a news article I read a while back. I’ll try to locate it, but the gist was addressing this disparity and hinting at the possibility that there might be an actual inherent difference in males and females leading to this decided preference that leans so decidedly toward males. Here is a NY Times piece from a couple months ago, which makes mincemeat of the inherent difference theory, which while it does indicate there’s a difference between males and females in choosing to pursue degrees in the STEM fields – the difference is that females pursuing studies in these fields often don’t find any support or encouragement from their professors.
    Now, to totally turn this away from the battle of the sexes and look at STEM careers, Malcolm Gladwell states, “More than half of all American students who start out in science, technology, and math programs (or STEM, as they are known) drop out after their first or second year.” (Gladwell, Malcolm (2013-10-01). David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (p. 81). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.). Gladwell exhaustively covers the perils of attending a top notch school and pursuing a degree in STEM fields, where it’s very common for students to quickly be “the little fish in the big pond” and feel overwhelmed and inferior. For many of these bright students, competing against even smarter students is a daunting and discouraging experience, since all of these students were top-notch students in their high schools. So, maybe why there are so few females pursuing STEM careers has more to do with this and not blatant sexism. Gladwell cites studies into this phenomenon and states, “What matters, in determining the likelihood of getting a science degree, is not just how smart you are. It’s how smart you feel relative to the other people in your classroom.” (Gladwell, Malcolm (2013-10-01). David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (p. 84). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.). Sorry for rambling on, but Reed’s comments although true, might not give the big picture on why young women aren’t flooding the STEM fields and maybe if you have a daughter who is interested in science, you’d look at this from a less politicized way and consider ways to encourage more girls to pursue careers in these fields. I’m a staunch conservative, but I want my daughters and sons to believe that in America, if you work hard, anything is possible.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
  21. Holly,

    I agree with the points you make about young women in the STEM fields. When I was a freshman at Cornell (back in the stone age), 40% of my class busted out! Admittedly, I don’t remember there being any girls in that class of engineering/physics students (though there may have been a couple — who had time to look?), the consensus was that the pressure to excell was so great that many of these guys, who were high-school valedictorians, simply couldn’t hack it. I somehow realized early on that, though I was able to coast through high school, I couldn’t afford to do that at Cornell.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink
  22. Malcolm says

    …maybe if you have a daughter who is interested in science, you’d look at this from a less politicized way and consider ways to encourage more girls to pursue careers in these fields.

    My daughter is the head of the science department at an international-baccalaureate school in Guangzhou, China.

    I think that the reason that there aren’t more women in the physical and engineering sciences is primarily that, due to innate differences in the male and female brain, there are, on average, fewer women who finds these fields appealing (as opposed to the life sciences).

    I also think that it is well established that the distribution of intelligence is shaped differently among men and women, with more men at both the upper and lower extremes of the curve. (According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences by the Danish researcher Helmuth Nyborg, at IQ 145 there are 8 males for every female.) This would naturally account for the preponderance of males at the elite levels of the more abstract sciences.

    I’m all for women in science. If a woman has the talent and the interest, there should be no obstructions in her path.

    What I do not believe is what we are forced to accept as true if we are forbidden to consider the possibility of statistically relevant differences between the sexes, namely that the lower numbers of women in the physical and engineering sciences, and particularly at the elite level of those fields, can only be due to cultural conditioning and institutional oppression by males.

    Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Permalink
  23. Malcolm, I sure hope your daughter is keeping a journal of her experiences living in China, because years from now she might want to share this with others or even read it herself to prod her recollections of this remarkable adventure.

    Sadly, very many smart women devote more time to creating controversy than they do to actually helping other young women succeed. Human biology places us on this earth different, so despite the feminist angst, males and females can not escape this basic starting point and herein lies the futility of their utopian quest for gender “equality”. History indicates, that with very few exceptions,the social order developed with family structure remarkably similar and central to the society’s survival and prosperity. Now, the Spartans ran a top down hierarchy, where the state dictated every aspect of the social order, placing the needs of the state above familial bonds. In many ways, modern day feminists remind me of the Spartans, wanting to dictate every aspect of our lives and control the fate of each child.

    The Danish study you cited is interesting and even more fascinating than the intelligence aspect are the vastly different emotional components between how male and female brains respond, which may account for career choice differences. The unspeakable sacrilege is the fact that many women place higher value on family choices rather than carving a path to the top in highly competitive fields. Rest assured though, no matter what science can prove and disprove, the feminist-driven quest for arbitrary quotas and political machinations in pursuit of “equality” will continue, with all the finesse of Stalin…. agree or be banished:-)

    Posted December 24, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink
  24. Malcolm says

    Agreed all round, LB (or Holly, if I may).

    Posted December 24, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink