Backlash Analysis

Suggested Readings (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953. One of the earliest works of modern feminist literature, French writer Beauvoir’s look at the secondary status of women enjoyed renewed popularity during the women’s movement.

Fraser, Antonia. The Weaker Vessel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984. An intriguing perspective on women’s issues is offered by Fraser’s examination of women’s lives in the seventeenth century. A surprisingly diverse collection of portraits emerges.

French, Marilyn. The War Against Women. New York: Summit Books, 1992. This book offers a historical examination of women’s repression. French explores, from a feminist perspective, the traditional treatment of women socially, politically, economically, and culturally.

Friedan, Betty. It Changed My Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 1985. This collection of Friedan’s writings over three decades provides an overview of the evolution of feminism from the perspective of the woman sometimes referred to as the “mother” of women’s liberation.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973.

Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage. New York: Summit Books, 1981.

Kauffman, Linda S., ed. American Feminist Thought at Century’s End: A Reader. Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1993. As its title suggests, the book contains a collection of recent writings by feminist leaders and scholars. Its topics range from political activism to women’s sexuality.

Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983.

Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York: William Morrow, 1991. This best-selling book examines the ways in which modern society and popular culture put pressure on women to conform to an unattainable standard of beauty.

Backlash Form and Content (Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Susan Faludi’s landmark feminist work, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, was published just after the close of the 1980’s, a decade during which, the author posits, efforts were made to undermine the gains made by women during the 1970’s. Faludi examines several areas of popular culture and documents the dramatic shift that occurred in the presentation of issues dealing with women and the women’s liberation movement. She then traces this shift in attitude to those individuals and institutions that she believes helped to shape the change, either through blatant opposition or through revisions in their earlier positions. Her final chapters examine the results of the backlash in women’s lives—physically, psychologically, and economically.

Faludi’s book rejects the idea that women’s gains within society have been so substantial that there is little or no need for a continuing women’s movement. Drawing on information from studies by the U.S. Bureau of the Census and several published reports on women’s economic status, she questions this assumption of equality attained, noting that women represent two-thirds of all poor adults, earn far less than men—in the case of 80 percent of all full-time working women, under $20,000 a year—and make up only a tiny percentage of the executives and corporate officers of the Fortune 500 companies. She goes on to suggest that women are, in fact, in danger of losing the advances that they have achieved because of the efforts of those individuals—primarily men—who are unhappy or uncomfortable with recent social and economic changes....

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Backlash Context (Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Backlash created a stir and provoked sharp discussion at the time of its publication. Like such earlier landmark feminist works as Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique (1963) and Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (1970), the book quickly left the ranks of little-known theoretical literature and entered the realm of feminist writing familiar at least by name to the public at large. Reviews of Backlash and articles sparked by it appeared in mainstream magazines and newspapers, and Susan Faludi became a frequent interview subject as well as a favorite representative of the feminist point of view on television news shows and programs relating to women’s issues.

The book’s most important impact was the dialogue that it began on the issues discussed. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Faludi’s conclusions at its close, Backlash succeeds in calling many unexamined assumptions about the trends in women’s lives into question. For those in agreement, the book provides a staggering amount of information in support of feminist positions; those who disagree do so after giving time and thought to women’s issues. The book’s provocative assertion that powerful sectors of society are hostile to the advancement of women and are in fact engaged in an insidious attempt to undermine them made the book a subject of controversy. Faludi’s detractors questioned or denied her assertions, while her supporters applauded her documentation of what they saw as a growing trend in American society. Some critics of the book believed that not all Faludi’s targets were entirely deserving of her criticism, with her section on Friedan receiving considerable attention. For those who agreed with the book’s premise, however, and welcomed its outspoken refusal to accept public perceptions at face value, Backlash was an immediate source of information and, at times, ammunition in the “undeclared war against women.”

Backlash Bibliography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953. One of the earliest works of modern feminist literature, French writer Beauvoir’s look at the secondary status of women enjoyed renewed popularity during the women’s movement.

Fraser, Antonia. The Weaker Vessel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984. An intriguing perspective on women’s issues is offered by Fraser’s examination of women’s lives in the seventeenth century. A surprisingly diverse collection of portraits emerges.

French, Marilyn. The War Against Women. New York: Summit Books, 1992. This book offers a historical examination of women’s repression. French explores, from a feminist perspective, the traditional treatment of women socially, politically, economically, and culturally.

Friedan, Betty. It Changed My Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 1985. This collection of Friedan’s writings over three decades provides an overview of the evolution of feminism from the perspective of the woman sometimes referred to as the “mother” of women’s liberation.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973.

Friedan, Betty. The Second Stage. New York: Summit Books, 1981.

Kauffman, Linda S., ed. American Feminist Thought at Century’s End: A Reader. Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1993. As its title suggests, the book contains a collection of recent writings by feminist leaders and scholars. Its topics range from political activism to women’s sexuality.

Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983.

Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York: William Morrow, 1991. This best-selling book examines the ways in which modern society and popular culture put pressure on women to conform to an unattainable standard of beauty.