Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Susan Faludi is a feminist heroine. She's a critical thinker. She's not reactionary. She's always believed (rightfully so) that men are imperative to feminism. She's just smart. I like her writing. I admire her resolve.

Like lots of Faludi's fans, I've been looking forward to her new book, The Terror Dream, now out on Metropolitan Books. It got a starred review in PW, a starred review on Booklist. And then it got slammed, and I mean slammed, in The New York Times. The review opens with a sentence that pretty much sums up the tone of the whole piece: "This, sadly, is the sort of tendentious, self-important, sloppily reasoned book that gives feminism a bad name." Yeah. Ouch.

It's on my to-read list. And that's a very long list. But my reason for posting is to comment on the broader issue (read problem) of "feminism as bad" serving as a legitimate premise for a book review. I'm tired of reviewers slapping feminists in the face anytime they want to write about gender depictions in the media, or about gender roles in society at large. These are very real issues. It doesn't matter how many examples to the contrary any given person can provide to counter Faludi's assertions that, in the aftermath of 9/11, there are fewer women's voices, that the media has capitalized on men as heroes/women as victims, that there has been a huge emphasis on family values and women returning to the home. It's easy to come up with examples to counter everything under the sun, but her assertions are not outlandish. They're not even incendiary. It's bothersome that today, in 2007, a book like Faludi's is being criticized for giving feminism a bad name. Give me a break. I have a really hard time believing that the book is unreasonable or sloppily reasoned or reactionary. I don't have a hard time believing, however, that feminists scare people for some reason. But why? Most feminists are like Susan Faludi: critical thinkers who want to engage in conversation about social trends and societal values and the ways in which the media and the government and pop culture steer us, and often manipulate us, toward swallowing a worldview that goes down easier if you don't ask any questions. I'm all for the articulation of such trends resulting in discourse, even debate. But when it instead results in feminism-bashing I have to just shake my head and try to hold my ground. Because another trend, and a disturbing one at that, is the tendency to dump on feminism for the sake of dumping---and I can't think of anything less admirable than that.


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