Skillfully Probing the Attack on Women's Rights
"Opting-out," "security moms," "desperate housewives," "the new baby fever"--the trend stories of 2006 leave no doubt that American women are still being barraged by the same backlash messages that Susan Faludi brilliantly exposed in her 1991 bestselling book of revelations. Now, the book that reignited the feminist movement is back in a fifteenth anniversary edition, with a new preface by the author that brings backlash consciousness up to date.
When it was first published, Backlash made headlines for puncturing such favorite media myths as the "infertility epidemic" and the "man shortage," myths that defied statistical realities. These willfully fictitious media campaigns added up to an antifeminist backlash. Whatever progress feminism has recently made, Faludi's words today seem prophetic. The media still love stories about stay-at-home moms and the "dangers" of women's career ambitions; the glass ceiling is still low; women are still punished for wanting to succeed; basic reproductive rights are still hanging by a thread. The backlash clearly exists.
With passion and precision, Faludi shows in her new preface how the creators of commercial culture distort feminist concepts to sell products while selling women downstream, how the feminist ethic of economic independence is twisted into the consumer ethic of buying power, and how the feminist quest for self-determination is warped into a self-centered quest for self-improvement. Backlash is a classic of feminism, an alarm bell for women of every generation, reminding us of the dangers that we still face.
Far from being "liberated," American women in the 1980s were victims of a powerful backlash against the handful of small, hard-won victories the feminist movement had achieved, says Wall Street Journal reporter Faludi, who won a Pulitzer this year. Buttressing her argument with facts and statistics, she states that the alleged "man shortage" endangering women's chances of marrying (posited by a Harvard-Yale study) and the "infertility epidemic" said to strike professional women who postpone childbearing are largely media inventions. She finds evidence of antifeminist backlash in Hollywood movies, in TV's thirtysomething , in 1980s fashion ads featuring battered models and in the New Right's attack on women's rights. She directs withering commentary at Robert Bly's all-male workshops, Allan Bloom's "prolonged rant" against women and Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer's revisionism. This eloquent, brilliantly argued book should be read by everyone concerned about gender equality. First serial to Glamour and Mother Jones.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
August 14, 2006
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Backlash by Susan Faludi
INTRODUCTION: BLAME IT ON FEMINISM To be a woman in America at the close of the 20th century--what good fortune. That's what we keep hearing, anyway. The barricades have fallen, politicians assure us. Women have "made it," Madison Avenue cheers. Women's fight for equality has "largely been won," Time magazine announces. Enroll at any university, join any law firm, apply for credit at any bank. Women have so many opportunities now, corporate leaders say, that we don't really need equal opportunity policies. Women are so equal now, lawmakers say, that we no longer need an Equal Rights Amendment. Women have "so much," former President Ronald Reagan says, that the White House no longer needs to appoint them to higher office. Even American Express ads are saluting a woman's freedom to charge it. At last, women have received their full citizenship papers. And yet . . . Behind this celebration of the American woman's victory, behind the news, cheerfully and endlessly repeated, that the struggle for women's rights is won, another message flashes. You may be free and equal now, it says to women, but you have never been more miserable. This bulletin of despair is posted everywhere--at the newsstand, on the TV set, at the movies, in advertisements and doctors' offices and academic journals. Professional women are suffering "burnout" and succumbing to an "infertility epidemic." Single women are grieving from a "man shortage." The New York Times reports: Childless women are "depressed and confused" and their ranks are swelling. Newsweek says: Unwed women are "hysterical" and crumbling under a "profound crisis of confidence." The health advice manuals inform: High-powered career women are stricken with unprecedented outbreaks of "stress-induced disorders," hair loss, bad nerves, alcoholism, and even heart attacks. The psychology books advise: Independent women's loneliness represents "a major mental health problem today." Even founding feminist Betty Friedan has been spreading the word: she warns that women now suffer from a new identity crisis and "new 'problems that have no name.'" How can American women be in so much trouble at the same time that they are supposed to be so blessed? If the status of women has never been higher, why is their emotional state so low? If women got what they asked for, what could possibly be the matter now? The prevailing wisdom of the past decade has supported one, and only one, answer to this riddle: it must be all that equality that's causing all that pain. Women are unhappy precisely because they are free. Women are enslaved by their own liberation. They have grabbed at the gold ring of independence, only to miss the one ring that really matters. They have gained control of their fertility, only to destroy it. They have pursued their own professional dreams--and lost out on the greatest female adventure. The women's movement, as we are told time and again, has proved women's own worst enemy. "In dispensing its spoils, women's liberation has given my generation high incomes, our own cigarette, the option of single parenthood, rape crisis centers, personal lines of credit, free love, and female gynecologists," Mona Charen, a young law student, writes in the National Review, in an article titled "The Feminist Mistake." "In return it has effectively robbed us of one thing upon which the happiness of most women rests--men." The National Review is a conservative publication, but such charges against the women's movement are not confined to its pages. "Our generation was the human sacrifice" to the women's movement, Los Angeles Times feature writer Elizabeth Mehren contends in a Time cover story. Baby-boom women like her, she says, have been duped by feminism: "We believed the rhetoric." In New