I've got two pictures of Susan Faludi and I didn't know which one to go with so I'm using both.
9/11 Is Seen as Leading to an Attack on Women
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
Published: October 23, 2007
This, sadly, is the sort of tendentious, self-important, sloppily reasoned book that gives feminism a bad name.
With “The Terror Dream,” Susan Faludi has taken the momentous subject of 9/11 and come to the conclusion that it led to ... an assault on the freedom and independence of American women. In the wake of 9/11, she argues, the great American cultural machine churned out a myth meant to “restore the image of an America invulnerable to attack” — “the illusion of a mythic America where women needed men’s protection and men succeeded in providing it.”
She contends that there was a “peculiar urge to recast a martial attack as a domestic drama, attended by the disappearance and even demonization of independent female voices” and that there was a “beatification of the ideal post-9/11 American woman” as “undemanding, uncompetitive, and most of all dependent” — a woman who “didn’t just want a man in her life” but “needed one.”
These efforts on Ms. Faludi’s part to use the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as an occasion to recycle arguments similar to those she made a decade and a half ago in her best-selling book “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women” (1991) feel forced, unpersuasive and often utterly baffling.
To begin with, the reader wants to ask: What disappearance of female voices? What “bugle call” to “return to Betty Crocker domesticity?” Since 9/11, Hillary Rodham Clinton has become the leading Democratic contender in the race for the White House, with a good chance of becoming the first female president in history; Katie Couric was named anchor of the CBS Evening News; and women like Lara Logan of CBS and Martha Raddatz of ABC have been reporting from the frontlines of the war in Iraq.
Ms. Faludi asserts that the 9/11 widows “the media liked best” were the fragile, dependent ones, “who accepted that their ‘job’ now was to devote themselves to their families and the memory of their dead husbands.” But even she has to acknowledge that the so-called “Jersey Girls” (Kristen Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg, Patty Casazza, and Lorie van Auken) played “an essential role in forcing the creation of the independent 9/11 Commission,” and helped strong-arm “top White House officials into testifying before the commission.”
Instead of simply celebrating their achievements, however, Ms. Faludi tries to argue that the Jersey Girls were the exceptions to the rule — that they departed from the official script, unlike those 9/11 widows who “projected a persona defined by unassailably demure and virtuous composure” to the world.
In fact, Ms. Faludi displays a disturbing tendency to write off or ignore evidence that might undermine her theories, while using highly selective anecdotal evidence (of which an endless supply exists in today’s blogosphere) to buttress her arguments.
She cites vicious e-mail messages received by the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund and the rantings of right-wing pundits as evidence of an antifeminist post-9/11 backlash. She writes that post-9/11 marketing efforts “had succeeded in darkening the image of the sexually liberated single woman,” even though “Sex and the City” remained a hit TV show in the years before and after the attacks.
And she writes that television and other pop culture manufacturers dispensed “the consolations of a domestic idyll where men wore all the badges, and women wielded all the roasting pans,” even though high-profile shows like “Scrubs,” “CSI: Miami” and “The Osbournes,” which had their debuts in the year or so after 9/11, hardly illustrate this theory, and television has more recently seen the emergence of shows (like “Damages,” “Saving Grace” and “The Closer”) featuring feisty middle-aged heroines as tough-talking lawyers and cops.
As for the much-covered, real-life story of Jessica Lynch (which was riddled with inaccuracies as initially reported), Ms. Faludi argues that it was promoted as “the story of a helpless white girl snatched from the jaws of evil by heroic soldiers,” “a tale of a maiden in need of rescue.” But while she says that rescue turned out to be a lot less daring than first portrayed, she dismisses much-talked-about depictions of Jessica Lynch as a “female Rambo” (which also turned out to be false) as a brief “counterversion” that “fell uncomfortably outside of the girl-in-need-of-rescue script.”
This girl-in-need-of-rescue paradigm, Ms. Faludi argues, dates back to frontier-days captivity narratives, which recounted the ordeals of settlers captured by Indians. She further contends that these narratives embodied the notion of shame (a “largely male burden, the result of recurring attacks in which the captivity of women and children served to spotlight male protective failures”), and that to counter this humiliation, there evolved redemption tales in which a maiden, taken against her will by “savages,” is rescued by a brawny white man.
This “mass dream,” Ms. Faludi goes on, “conceals the shaming memory, as it was meant to, but can’t expel it”: “The humiliating residue still circulates in our cultural bloodstream, awaiting provocation to bring it to the surface. And with each provocation, we salve our insecurities by invoking the same consoling formula of heroic men saving threatened women — even in provocations that have involved few women and no female captives, like the Revolutionary-era kidnapping of American sailors on the Barbary Coast. Or the terrorist attack on 9/11.”
Thus, she insists, “a feminist perspective on any topic was increasingly AWOL” after 9/11. Thus, she argues, various antifeminist impulses (“the cumulative elements of a national fantasy”) surfaced after 9/11, including “the denigration of capable women, the magnification of manly men, the heightened call for domesticity, the search for and sanctification of helpless girls.”
Not only are many of these assertions highly debatable in themselves, but Ms. Faludi’s overarching thesis in this book rings false too. In fact, her suggestion that the 9/11 attacks catalyzed the same fears and narrative impulses as those unleashed by our frontier ancestors’ “original war on terror,” leading to a muffling of feminist voices and a veneration of “the virtues of nesting,” runs smack up against her own “Backlash,” which suggested that similar assaults on women’s independence were being unleashed in the 1980s — a time not of war or threat but a decade that witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the coming end of the cold war.
Such errors of logic are typical of this ill-conceived and poorly executed book — a book that stands as one of the more nonsensical volumes yet published about the aftermath of 9/11.