Susan Faludi 1959-
American journalist and nonfiction writer.
The following entry presents an overview of Faludi's career through 2000.
An award-winning journalist and feminist critic, Susan Faludi received much attention with the release of her debut book, Backlash (1991), a massive polemic in which she identifies a wide array of reactionary cultural trends aimed at repressing the gains of the women's movement. Compared to Betty Friedan's The Feminist Mystique (1963), Backlash rejuvenated feminist discussion in the media and established Faludi as a leading spokesperson for women's issues. In a follow-up book, Stiffed (1999), Faludi seeks to understand the motivations of contemporary American men. She finds that they are understandably alienated and resentful due to their own set of social, economic, and personal betrayals.
Born in New York City, Faludi was the first child and only daughter born to Steven Faludi, a Hungarian Jewish photographer, and his wife, Marilyn, a writer and editor. As a young person Faludi exhibited skills as a dogged investigator—such as when she surveyed her fifth grade classmates on contentious subjects like abortion rights and the Vietnam War; or when, as the editor of her high school newspaper, she wrote articles critical of, and detrimental to, the religious meetings being held at the public school. Faludi attended Harvard University, where she was managing editor of the Harvard Crimson and continued to address controversial topics, including sexual harassment taking place at Harvard. Faludi graduated from Harvard summa cum laude in 1981, with majors in history and literature. She received the Oliver Dabney History Award for her senior thesis. During her years at Harvard, she worked for Staten Island Advance and the Boston Globe. Upon graduation, she worked briefly at the New York Times, then moved on to the Miami Herald and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 1985 the Georgia Associated Press awarded Faludi first prize for both news and feature reporting. After moving to California in 1985, she wrote for Mother Jones, Ms., California Business, and was also a staff writer for the Sunday magazine of the San Jose Mercury News. Faludi won additional awards from a variety of professional organizations, including a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Journalism Award citation. From 1989 to 1991 she served as an affiliated scholar with the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University. In 1991 she won both the Pulitzer Prize and a John Hancock Award for Excellence in Business and Financial Journalism for “The Reckoning,” an expose about the 1986 leveraged buyout of Safeway Stores, which appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on May 16, 1990. The next year, Faludi produced Backlash, which quickly became a bestseller and received the National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction in 1991. With the success of Backlash, Faludi and Gloria Steinem appeared together on the cover of Time, and Faludi, hailed as a new generation's spokesperson for feminists, appeared on numerous television talk shows. She continues to write for a variety of periodicals and is a contributing editor at Newsweek.
Faludi's Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “The Reckoning,” reported the devastating human cost of a leveraged buyout of Safeway Stores. Based on more than one hundred interviews, the acclaimed piece exposed the contrast between shareholder gain and human loss in the wave of mergers and leveraged buyouts that swept the corporate world in the 1980s. Layoffs, reduced wages, and workplace pressures that resulted from the 1986 takeover of Safeway Stores by Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts, and Company led to at least one suicide, numerous stress-related health problems, and attendant family crises in Texas and elsewhere. The inspiration for Backlash, Faludi's first full-length volume, grew out of a sensational 1986 Newsweek cover story about the bleak prospects for single, professional women in America. Backlash maintains that the Newsweek article is just one of many insidious media creations that prey upon the fears and insecurities of liberated women. The extensive documentation and cogent anecdotes of Backlash suggest that the gains toward equality, earned by the women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s, were systematically eroded in the 1980s. Faludi singles out the regressive influence of advertising, the film industry, politicians, academics, the religious right, the men's movement, the news media, and conservative “pro-family” organizations whose resistance to social change has undermined women's independence. Faludi concludes that the gains made by the women's movement are fragile and easily lost; however, through a unified and concerted effort, and armed with a healthy skepticism toward the media, the rights won can be preserved and extended. Stiffed grew directly out of Backlash. Curious about why many men so actively resist equal rights for women, Faludi began conducting interviews among a variety of men, including laid-off longshoremen in Long Beach, down-sized aerospace workers in Los Angeles, Citadel cadets, and gang members. Faludi contends that postwar men have been betrayed on two fronts: first by their fathers, who promised them that they would be in control and that loyalty would be rewarded in both corporate and governmental arenas; and second, by the growth of celebrity culture, which promotes and celebrates excessive consumerism, money, and physical beauty. In her interviews Faludi repeatedly found men longing for absent or remote fathers and affirmative role models, and many men confessed to feeling useless and unimportant to society. Taken together, Backlash and Stiffed examine how both men and women have been negatively affected by the enormous cultural and societal changes of the last half of the twentieth century. In particular, both works criticize the rise of a marketing and consumer state that reduces individuals to market niches and rewards physical appearance and superficial status symbols—a trend that she has termed “ornamental culture”—instead of personal achievement and community service.
Faludi's journalistic skills have earned her a number of awards throughout both her scholastic and professional careers. Most critics acknowledge her superb interviewing abilities and her use of anecdote to illustrate a point or support a thesis. However, despite the evidence she accumulates, even sympathetic reviewers note that her work often lacks balance, failing to give voice to competing views. Critical response to Backlash ranged from praise for its thorough, hard-hitting reportage to charges of superficial and misleading argumentation. The work was criticized for omitting portions of arguments that undermine its premises or that illuminate the negative effect of the women's movement on some women's lives. Stiffed was praised for drawing attention to the negative aspects of celebrity culture, but criticized for treating men as victims without control over their own lives and decisions. In addition, Stiffed confounded many feminists with its empathic portrayal of abusive, misogynistic, and self-serving men. Both works were criticized for focusing on a narrow subset of the population: middle- and upper-class white women in Backlash, and marginalized working-class white men in Stiffed. Faludi's two books are seen by many critics as offshoots from the same argument, one that arises from the feminist movement and Faludi's own sense of grievance over social injustice. Several reviewers noted that Faludi seems to have transposed and adjusted the feminist arguments in Backlash and applied them to men in Stiffed, which is generally regarded as the least persuasive of Faludi's first two books. A large number of readers identified with Backlash, an important critique of gender relations and the state of the women's liberation during the late-1980s.
*“The Reckoning: Safeway LBO Yields Vast Profits but Exacts A Heavy Human Toll” (journalism) 1990
Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women (nonfiction) 1991
Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man (nonfiction) 1999
*Published as a feature article in Wall Street Journal, May 16, 1990.
(The entire section is 40 words.)
SOURCE: “Bad News, Good News,” in Women's Review of Books, Vol. IX, No. 1, October, 1991, pp. 1, 3-4.
[In the following excerpted review essay, Rapping finds shortcomings in Backlash's dogmatic feminist agenda and superficial analysis of complex, and often contradictory, social trends. According to Rapping, Faludi's book is “ill-thought-out, badly argued and way too often simply erroneous or uninformed.”]
Is it the best of times or the worst of times? Have we come a long way, baby, or are we systematically being beaten back to ground zero by the right-wing goon squads? On any given day, depending on the headlines or my phone messages, I’m likely to believe either one. The times are certainly a-changing, but who’s on first? The horrors of the Reagan-Bush era—increased feminization of poverty, terrifying threats to reproductive rights, reported increases in sexual violence—certainly chill the blood. And yet, there’s no denying the amazing gains made by women, particularly white middle-class women, for which second wave feminists can take much credit. Many young women can, and do, expect to live lives of far greater independence, choice and realizable ambition than did my generation.
The authors of these two angry, militant books [Faludi's Backlash and Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth]—both in their twenties—certainly don’t suffer from my sense of...
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SOURCE: “Selling Sugar and Spice,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 20, 1991, pp. 1, 10.
[In the following review, Showalter offers a positive evaluation of Backlash.]
Every successful movement for women’s emancipation has been followed by a virulent backlash threatening women with the loss of love and health as the penalty for freedom. Following the admission of women to Oxford and Cambridge in the 1880s, a professor warned one young woman: “If you compete with us, we won’t marry you.” In the 1920s, after the passage of the suffrage amendment, ex-feminists recanted in the pages of popular magazines, explaining that managing a job and a family was much harder than they expected. After World War II, when veterans came home to reclaim their jobs, psychiatrists led the way in proclaiming that modern women had become the lost sex, troubled by emotional discontents caused by too much independence.
The current attack on women’s rights is thus only the latest phase in a familiar cycle. But no backlash before has had an analyst as trenchant and witty as Susan Faludi. Her passionate and lively book should be an eye-opener even for feminists who thought they understood what has been going on. Backlash is the right book at exactly the right time.
Faludi covers the “undeclared war against American women” on several fronts. She zeroes in on the way...
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SOURCE: “Phony War,” in Reason, Vol. 23, No. 6, November, 1991, pp. 56-8.
[In the following review of Backlash, Young finds shortcomings in Faludi's “selective treatment of facts” and distorted conclusions about the current state of women's liberation.]
While watching the recent PBS rerun of I, Claudius, I was struck by the extent to which our notions of history are shaped by the writings of inevitably biased contemporaries. If our civilization were to perish like the Roman Empire, and if Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women were one of the few books to survive from the late 20th century, our descendants would think of the 1980s and early '90s as a dark age for women, “one long, painful, and unremitting campaign to thwart women’s progress.” They might wonder how we ever survived.
Faludi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Wall Street Journal (which should not be taken as an indication of her politics), sees signs of the backlash everywhere. The news media, says she, “went on a rampage” to denigrate single women and working mothers; TV and film showed women as contented June Cleaver clones, neurotics, or grasping bitches; corporations and the Reagan administration conspired to deny women good jobs. “The backlash watchtowers flashed their warning signals without cease, and like high-security floodlights...
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SOURCE: “Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?,” in Washington Post Book World, November 3, 1991, pp. 3-4.
[In the following review of Backlash, Clift commends Faludi's “reportage” but finds weaknesses in her analysis of contemporary feminism and the costs of women's liberation.]
Young women today do not like to be called feminists. For them, the word conjures up images of bra-burning “women’s libbers.” Even Ms. magazine, the bible of the women’s movement, began avoiding the feminist label in its copy after a series of focus groups confirmed women’s negative attitude. The National Organization for Women, once a powerful force in presidential politics, is derided as a fringe interest group, its call for a third party not taken seriously. Dumb blonde jokes are back in, and conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh entertains millions by mocking feminism as “mainstreaming” for unattractive women.
Against this background, no wonder the overwhelmingly male Senate was stunned at the outpouring of women’s rage over its initial dismissal of allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas. The feminist movement was supposed to be dead, a relic of the '70s. In the first of the post-post feminist books [Backlash], Susan Faludi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Wall Street Journal, argues that feminism never died. It just faded from the front...
(The entire section is 917 words.)
SOURCE: “Myths that Men (and the Media) Live By,” in Columbia Journalism Review, Vol. 30, No. 5, January-February, 1992, pp. 53-5.
[In the following review, Bennetts offers high praise for Backlash.]
I came away from Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women feeling not only that it should be required reading for all Americans, but that every representative of any media organization in the country should be locked in a room until he or she has finished the last page. The unrelenting series of revelations provided by Susan Faludi’s explosive and exhaustively researched new book is galvanizing enough for any citizen, let alone female; but for a journalist, Backlash is one long epiphany.
Faludi’s analysis of the unthinking and utterly irresponsible contributions of the mass media to the aforementioned war is enough to make any journalist’s blood run cold. There are precious few among us who are not guilty of buying into at least some of the unquestioned and, as Faludi makes clear, almost entirely erroneous assumptions the sheep-like herd has been purveying for lo these many years. On subjects relating to women, the performance of the national media during this period has all too often been a disgrace.
If Faludi’s book were merely a polemic, however eloquent, one might disagree with such conclusions. But Backlash is a stunning...
(The entire section is 1836 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Backlash, in Christian Century, February 19, 1992, pp. 198-99.
[In the following review, Rebeck offers a positive assessment of Backlash.]
A recent article in the “Style” section of the Chicago Tribune exemplified the power of the backlash. The article reminded readers that “a couple of years ago … newspapers claimed a single woman had more chances of being kidnapped by a terrorist than getting married.” Now, the article went on, the statistics have turned around.
Not exactly, Susan Faludi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Wall Street Journal, would say. In fact, the statistics never indicated such dire odds for single women seeking marriage. This “news” item that was widely picked up by newspapers, magazines and television and radio shows was based on a very flawed preliminary study reported offhandedly in a Valentine’s Day article in the Stamford Advocate in 1986. Though sociologists who examined the study pointed out its errors (e.g., Census Bureau statistics showed there were about 1.9 million more bachelors than unwed women between the ages of 25 and 34 and about a half million more between the ages of 35 and 54), few news media would publish their comments, and certainly not with the fanfare that accompanied the initial reports. Newsweek highlighted the dubious study on its cover and added the breezy...
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SOURCE: “Exit, Stage Back,” in National Review, March 30, 1992, pp. 41-2.
[In the following negative review of Backlash, Gallagher attacks Faludi's feminist perspective, particularly her support for divorce and her unwillingness to admit the importance of children and family for many women.]
Pity poor Susan Faludi. Just when she thought she had everything—a high-status job as a Wall Street Journal reporter, the joys of single life, power breakfasts, the right to an abortion, even a Pulitzer Prize—suddenly, sometime in the Eighties, she began to feel unloved. Legions of women, instead of following—or at least envying—women like her, began to do unspeakable things: like vote for Reagan, or don miniskirts, or have babies. How to account for this inexplicable backsliding? Why was feminism losing its hold on women at the moment of its (and Miss Faludi’s) greatest triumph? Suddenly an answer came to her: It must be a media conspiracy.
Backlash is her attempt to stretch that threadbare argument into a five-hundred-page manifesto on the glories of hard-core feminism, and for a surprising number of supposedly sophisticated women, it works. Seldom has a book received the kind of unalloyed worship heaped on Backlash. Ellen Goodman sounded a common note by praising Miss Faludi’s careful handling of evidence “debunking the studies, experts, and...
(The entire section is 1057 words.)
SOURCE: “The New Avengers,” in New Statesman and Society, April 3, 1992, pp. 44-5.
[In the following excerpted review-essay, Wheelwright commends Faludi's effort to put feminism back in the media spotlight, but finds shortcomings in her monolithic portrayal of feminism in Backlash.]
To university students across North America, Marilyn French’s novel The Women’s Room was the feminist bible for the 1970s. French’s portrait of a housewife who trades a claustrophobic marriage for graduate school was confirmation that our mothers were suffering from a similar malaise. The mad/angry wife, the tortured female intellectual stuck with “shit and string beans” and the parade of selfish males became symbols of what women were fighting against. The personal had, with a vengeance, become political.
Since its publication in 1977, French’s novel has sold more than a million copies, and her reputation as a feminist scholar rests largely on this success. Ironically, in the same week that French hits the hustings to promote her latest non-fiction offering, The War Against Women, it is overshadowed by Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women. While both address the campaign waged to discredit feminism in the past decade, nothing could better illustrate the generation gap that divides them.
Faludi, whose book is already a bestseller...
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SOURCE: “Women Beware Men,” in London Review of Books, July 23, 1992, pp. 3-8.
[In the following excerpted review essay, Doody offers a positive assessment of Backlash and further confirms Faludi's assertions about the insidious cultural and economic assault on women's liberation.]
The appearance of these two books [Faludi's Backlash and Marilyn French's The War Against Women] marks a new epoch in our social history. Although first published in the United States, both books deal with England and other countries. Susan Faludi extensively revised her 1991 American edition for the 1992 British edition. This version, with a Preface by Joan Smith, includes information regarding the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. Marilyn French deals with Southern and Eastern countries, including the ‘Third World’—a term which she thinks passé and dishonest. Both books are contemporary and well-informed, and both announce by their very existence that the Nineties are going to be a different era from the Eighties. One of the pleasures of both works is that they analyse the previous decade with knowledge and pungency. The word ‘pleasures’, it is true, is unlikely to occur very often in discussion of either book. To some, these writers will appear to be among the Monstrous Regiment of Women who are responsible—as women always are—for the Death of Civilisation as ‘We’ Know...
(The entire section is 5052 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Backlash, in Humanist, September-October, 1992, pp. 47-8.
[In the following review, Shore offers a favorable assessment of Backlash.]
Women’s issues occupy a strange position in the collective consciousness of America. Even 20 years after the ground-breaking work of Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and others, women’s studies remain ghettoized in small university departments and are dealt with only in limited ways by the mass media. The perception persists that women’s experience can somehow be reduced to a limited body of knowledge, of interest and importance only to a committed minority identifying itself as “feminists.” Backlash, by journalist Susan Faludi, does more than any other recent work to challenge this narrow conception of women’s issues and to compel us to see the forces controlling and crippling women for what they really are: forces working against the interests of everyone.
With a subtitle like “The Undeclared War Against American Women,” Faludi’s book might be taken for merely a polemical piece. Instead, Faludi builds a well-researched and carefully documented case for the existence of a widespread movement during the 1980s which sought to undermine the accomplishments of women and to deny them opportunities in the workplace and the home. Those responsible include the religious right, the exponents...
(The entire section is 946 words.)
SOURCE: “Wake Up, Little Susie,” in The American Spectator, Vol. 25, No. 10, October, 1992, pp. 30-6.
[In the following review of Backlash, Eberstadt provides an extended negative critique in which she cites a series of contradictions and weaknesses in Faludi's assertions.]
If feminists of the 1960s could have looked ahead to the present, what they spied would in some ways have resembled the promised land. More women, including more mothers of young children, are working outside the home than ever before. With this change in the market have come others that once seemed feminist fantasies. Both private corporations and government have devised benefits aimed at the working mother, and both are under pressure to devise more. Day care, though not yet free, has expanded dramatically. In many universities, female students now outnumber males. Women, even girls, now seem freer than ever to do what previous generations would have found unthinkable, or at least unthought-of, from Little League fields to once-male clubs to the combat ranks of the military.
They are certainly freer, as earlier feminists would have hoped, to engage in sex while postponing or altogether avoiding motherhood. To the contraceptive devices already widely offered, the FDA has lately added Norplant, whose five years duration may soon make the vaunted Pill, with its enduring “human error” factor, seem...
(The entire section is 5537 words.)
SOURCE: “A New Attack on Feminism,” in Dissent, Vol. 40, No. 1, Winter, 1993, pp. 123-24.
[In the following excerpted review essay, Epstein offers a positive assessment of Backlash.]
America’s ambivalence about the roles of women today was played out most ironically in the past presidential campaign. The Republican National Convention gave the private, family-centered woman Barbara Bush a very public and political role as a highlighted speaker, while the Democrats pressed Hillary Clinton, the assertive attorney and advocate for children’s rights, to retreat to the role of supportive wife and mother.
The right’s attempt to equate the traditional family with morality and to label alternatives as radical and destructive seized media attention—although voters wisely seemed to worry more about the economy than whether the couple in the White House should be like Ozzie and Harriet. But the many news reports and op ed pieces about whether Hillary Clinton harmed her husband’s candidacy and the polls, which consistently registered higher admiration for the white-haired grandmotherly Mrs. Bush than for the blonde Mrs. Clinton, showed that although the public might not let “family values” decide its vote, the mythic view of the traditional division of labor in the home was still popular on Main Street.
The American public’s attraction to what William J. Goode...
(The entire section is 1107 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Backlash, in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 99, No. 3, November, 1993, pp. 824-25.
[In the following review, Fink offers a positive summary of Backlash.]
Susan Faludi’s account of the backlash movement [in Backlash] is thorough indeed. Although the war against American women may be undeclared, it is difficult to deny the pervasiveness of its battles. Faludi enumerates many efforts to limit women’s roles by those who would silence women’s newfound voice in modern American society. The protagonists described by Faludi want to revert women back into the silent ideal, seen but not heard.
Faludi points, first, to the role of the media in this campaign, but she also identifies other significant social actors such as academics, dress designers, Washington bureaucrats, and politicians. Many perceive a threat to their power as women become more active in the paid labor force and, more important, in the political process. Faludi continues with illustrations of the synergistic effects emerging between battlefronts as actors embellish and add their own agendas to the media’s war on feminists. It is interesting that she asserts that many of these embellishments may be motivated by attempts to recapture the often fickle attention of the media. She then censures “masculinists” such as George Gilder and Robert Bly and feminists revisionists such as...
(The entire section is 771 words.)
SOURCE: “Reproducing Culture through Language: Sex, Gender, and Conversational Style,” in Women's Studies in Communication, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring, 1995, pp. 93-103.
[In the following excerpted essay, Crawford discusses the cultural construction of negative female stereotypes and Faludi's critique of such constructions in Backlash.]
Popular press books are often used to supplement textbooks in the classroom. The trade books reviewed in this essay were selected because they are relatively recent, fairly well-known, concerned with gender/power issues, and written primarily by women. These criteria ground two purposes: the first explores ways that gender is construed in Western culture. As culture is both produced and reproduced through language, this review considers how the authors orchestrate and advance certain notions of stereotypical male and female behavior in contemporary American society. This essay’s second purpose is to touch on the issue of “backlash” against women. It examines the meaning and implications of representations of sex, gender, and conversational style in popular literature within a socio-political context that appears to remain antagonistic toward women. …
The details are vague. National Public Radio. Canada. Native women. A story about abortions. Barbarous protocol. No general or local anaesthesia. But...
(The entire section is 1007 words.)
SOURCE: “Opening the Male: A Leading Feminist Turns Her Sympathies to the Betrayed American Man,” in Christian Science Monitor, September 23, 1999, pp. 17-8.
[In the following review, Chinni offers unfavorable assessment of Stiffed.]
If 1990s America offers one overarching lesson, it is that the cultural labels we once used to define our societal tribes are increasingly worthless. In a world with 500 cable channels, niche marketing, and the Internet, it has become nearly impossible to place large groups of people into neat little boxes.
Lines are blurring. Subcultures are merging across the old boundaries of race and gender. At the close of the 20th century, American society resembles a kaleidoscope, fragmented and constantly shifting.
And therein lies the real problem with Stiffed, Susan Faludi’s new 650-page sociological tract bent on telling us about “the betrayal of the American man.” Lumping half the population under this simple two-word category heading, she tries to “understand the perilous voyage to manhood undertaken by men I once knew as boys” in 12 chapters that roughly break down into a series of character and group sketches. The approach creates problems that extend beyond the enormity of the topic.
Faludi’s sketches are often interesting, even engrossing. In particular, the chapters concerning Citadel cadets, the...
(The entire section is 829 words.)
SOURCE: “The Betrayed Generation,” in Wall Street Journal, September 24, 1999, pp. W11-12.
[In the following review, Fukuyama pans the book Stiffed for its lack of logical analysis and coherence, and states that Faludi is a better journalist than social thinker.]
Journalist Susan Faludi rose to prominence in 1991 for her book Backlash, which sought to exonerate feminism of any blame for society's contemporary discontents, pointing the finger instead at feminism's enemies who, however improbably, were said to dominate the media and popular culture. Following her bestsellerdom, she spent time trying, as she explains at the beginning of her new book, Stiffed, to understand male resistance to female change. She did so initially by attending weekly meetings of a domestic-violence group and discovered that the men were not the monsters portrayed by some feminists but rather victims themselves. After countless interviews with men, she was led, as the book's publicity materials inform us, to a “surprisingly empathetic” view of modern males and the realization that the baby-boom generation of men has suffered a huge betrayal.
This, like the picture of the chisel-faced worker on the book's cover, turns out to be a lot of false advertising. Had Ms. Faludi's intention been to demonstrate how awful contemporary men were, she could not have picked a choicer lot. Apart...
(The entire section is 1355 words.)
SOURCE: “The People Behind the Books We Read,” in Los Angeles Times, September 29, 1999, pp. 1-3.
[In the following essay, Lacher provides an overview of Faludi's career and the media attention surrounding Backlash and Stiffed, including Faludi's own comments on her life and work.]
If you ran into famous feminist Susan Faludi in a dark alley, do you think you’d recognize her?
Probably not, and with good reason. The controversial author of the 1992 bestseller Backlash hasn’t been around, at least not where cameras are concerned. She’s been turning down talking-head media opportunities for years. She’s been too busy reporting.
“I wanted to return to being a shoe-leather, more anonymous, more traditional reporter who just goes out and talks to people without arriving as a celebrity with an entourage, which is how a lot of media works now,” says the Pulitzer Prize winner. “Dan Rather descending on whatever hot spot with his dressers and makeup artist—that, to me, isn’t journalism. It’s performance.”
So there’s the answer to your first question: How did such a big, bad feminist get so many men to open up for her latest treatise, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man? Many of them didn’t know who she was, and when they found out, they were impressed that she’d written a book that had attracted...
(The entire section is 1524 words.)
SOURCE: “The Trouble with Guys,” in Washington Post Book World, October 10, 1999, pp. 3-5.
[In the following review, Fussell summarizes Faludi's observations in Stiffed about the contemporary American man.]
“Welcome to Testosterone Country!” says a Promise Keeper to Susan Faludi at the all-male convocation at Anaheim, Calif. Overhead, a plane trailing a banner buzzes the packed stadium; the banner reads “PROMISE KEEPERS, LOSERS AND WEEPERS,” and is paid for by feminists.
With Stiffed, Faludi, herself a feminist, dives straight into the belly of the beast, Manhood. Her testosterone tome has been six years in the making. It’s Brobdingnagian in scope, Bunyanesque in sheer size. Her prose and pose are not in the hysterical, shrill, histrionic '60s style of Mailer, Wolfe and Thompson, but she is working the same vein of ore. She's a miner in search of stones.
Why a 650-page meditation on masculinity? After all, “nobody roots for Goliath,” as Wilt Chamberlain was wont to sigh. How can the oppressor be oppressed? And hasn’t the subject been done?
Apparently not. The seeds of Stiffed are present in Faludi’s last book, Backlash, where she wrote, “The works on masculinity would barely fill a bookshelf. We might deduce from the lack of literature that manhood is less complex and burdensome, and that it requires...
(The entire section is 1667 words.)
SOURCE: “Guy Talk,” in National Review, October 25, 1999, pp. 58, 61-2.
[In the following negative review of Stiffed, Decter derides Faludi's presentation of American men as victims of postwar consumer culture.]
Six years ago, as she tells us in her new book, Susan Faludi was moved to explore the question of why “our male brethren so often and so vociferously resist women’s struggles toward independence and a fuller life.” In seeking an answer, she set off on a truly strenuous round of travels, meeting with and interviewing and re-interviewing a wide variety of men. And since only one year before undertaking this mission she had published a much celebrated feminist tract, Backlash, the result of Faludi’s quest promised to be of no small interest, above all to her habitually anti-male loyal readers and sisters.
Now we have her findings, published under the title Stiffed, and depending on the fierceness of their loyalty to the founding tenets of their movement, her fellow feminists may or may not feel enlightened by them. For as the book’s title suggests, in the end Faludi came to believe that American men have been just as much victimized by their society—well, make that almost as much—as women.
Essentially, Faludi finds that American men have been betrayed by two forces in their lives. The first of these is their fathers,...
(The entire section is 1943 words.)
SOURCE: “Fired, Fed-up, Discarded, and Scared,” in The Progressive, Vol. 63, No. 11, November, 1999, pp. 41-3.
[In the following positive review of Stiffed, Flanders commends Faludi's journalism, though finds shortcomings in her focus on working-class men and the importance of male stereotypes. Flanders notes that some of the problems Faludi attributes to gender may actually have an economic basis.]
I had the luck this summer to spend a weekend with my relatives Doug and Lori Chambers, and I thought of them as I read Susan Faludi’s latest book, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Doug Chambers is perhaps five feet five inches and 130 pounds: too small to be a he-man, but American through and through. If anyone promised him a productive life followed by a secure retirement, Doug was betrayed for sure. He served in the Army in the 1950s, then worked twenty-one years making concrete blocks. Two decades of pounding wrecked his joints and his hearing, forcing him into early retirement last year at age sixty-one.
Today, Doug applies for lighter jobs—more than 100 so far, he says. But when the human resource officers see his graying hair and hearing aid, they turn him away. So he cooks and cleans and keeps house for his wife, Lori. She’s exhausted each day by her minimum wage job at a local factory, where she makes wire grates and grills. On hot days, Doug drives...
(The entire section is 1628 words.)
SOURCE: “Pity the Boys,” in New Statesman, November 1, 1999, p. 56.
[In the following review of Stiffed, Abrams praises Faludi's social observations and journalistic portraiture. However, she notes that Faludi makes victims out of men by simply transposing old feminist principles to the lives of men, with dubious results.]
Eight years ago, Susan Faludi became a big name on the feminist circuit with the publication of her first book, Backlash, in which she argued persuasively that women’s progress towards equality was being blocked by a wave of scare stories, misleading reports and misinformation campaigns. In her new book she turns away from traditional feminist territory to look at the problems facing men.
Initially Faludi set out to discover why men were so resistant to women’s growing independence. She talked to unemployed shipbuilders, LA gang members, Vietnam vets, porn actors, ex-astronauts and born-again Christians. After six years doing a Studs Terkel on the modern American male, she concluded that while men and their resistance might be a major cause of women’s problems, women and their growing independence were not the central cause of men’s.
According to Faludi, the trouble with boys is not emancipated girls but inadequate dads. Women are just a sideshow to the main event in men’s lives: their relationship with their fathers and...
(The entire section is 841 words.)
SOURCE: “Gender Armistice,” in Maclean's, November 1, 1999, p. 70.
[In the following review, Wilson-Smith offers a positive assessment of Stiffed, though notes that Faludi's sympathy for brutal men is occasionally too generous.]
Susan Faludi likes men. Her affection extends to a willingness to try to understand and explain their opinions, even when they seem offensive. That is not remarkable, except that Faludi is the author of the 1992 feminist best-seller Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. In it, she argued the need to revive the flagging feminist movement because, she wrote, a combination of male-dominated government, media and conservatives were conducting a “powerful counter-assault on women’s rights.” The book won critical raves—except from conservatives whose views she excoriated.
Now, the 40-year-old Faludi is back with Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man—a book that may annoy some feminist fans of her first book, but one that is ultimately consistent with her previous work. Just as she did in Backlash, Faludi reports on the frustration faced by members of one sex in coping with the maelstrom of societal changes around them. This time the subject is men, and Faludi sums up her intent early in the book with a rhetorical question: “What if we put aside the assumption of male dominance, put away our feminist rap...
(The entire section is 701 words.)
SOURCE: “Betrayal of the American Women,” in Insight on the News, Vol. 15, No. 42, November 15, 1999, pp. 48-9.
[In the following review, Fields offers a negative evaluation of Stiffed.]
Stiffed is the brave new word to describe the betrayal of the American man. Poor babies. The pressure of postmodern masculinity is too much for them. The American male suffers from premature emasculation.
This is an idea that only could be written by a woman who dismisses personal responsibility as a guide to action. Susan Faludi, in her best-selling book Stiffed, seeks to put the blame everywhere but at the center of a man’s character. She accuses both feminists and the family-values folk for cutting the male down to size.
Feminists, according to her thesis, say that men are threatened because they must confront female dominance. Conservatives, by her lights, say that feminist demands for equal rights really are a disguise for dismantling the male apparatus both personally and publicly. As a result the American Man is unhinged, undesirable and underfoot. So Faludi has written 662 pages to update T.S. Eliot’s observations in “The Hollow Men”:
We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw.
Faludi’s prose is not quite so poetic, but here’s her description of the astronauts, representative...
(The entire section is 910 words.)
SOURCE: “The Male Eunuch,” in New Republic, November 15, 1999, pp. 36-41.
[In the following extended review, Wolcott offers a negative evaluation of Stiffed. “Faludi's tome,” writes Wolcott, “is an almost self-parodying product of crisis-mongering newsmagazine journalese.”]
As if men hadn’t suffered enough indignities of late (loss of breadwinner status, declining sperm counts, TV ads targeting erectile dysfunction and hair loss), along comes Susan Faludi, offering soothing words and a lump of sugar. Like a horse whisperer, she feels men’s pain and wants to coax them out of the barn, one hoof ahead of the other. She isn’t being deliberately patronizing, which makes her tender concern all the more shaming. Men are now officially pathetic.
After stirring up the henhouse with her best-selling and award-winning tract Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, a warning cry about the secret plot to reverse feminist gains by brainwashing women with stick-figure fashion images and false idols such as Camille Paglia, Faludi has concluded six years of research with Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, which declares that men are not guilty of being the enemy. They are not the mobilizers and the beneficiaries of the backlash. No, they are victims, too, dazed captives in a jar. “[A]s the nation wobbled toward the millennium,” Faludi...
(The entire section is 5588 words.)
SOURCE: “Why Men Get Anxious,” in Christian Century, December 1, 1999, pp. 1166-168.
[In the following review of Stiffed, Van Leeuwen finds shortcomings in Faludi's overly long presentation and narrow selection of case examples, mainly marginalized middle-class, white men.]
My father, born at the turn of the century, was too young to see active duty in the First World War and too old to serve in the Second. But as a high school athletics teacher in a small Canadian city he maintained his masculine credentials in other ways. When his school was emptied of younger teachers during World War II, he coached all the boys’ athletic teams and directed the high school air force cadet squad while maintaining other classroom responsibilities. After the war, as he got older and retired from coaching, he continued to be a pillar of local and regional sports, serving as a record keeper and league administrator. When he died at the age of 71, cohorts of his past football players flocked to his funeral, and six of them were his pallbearers.
Susan Faludi maintains that since World War II American men have been cheated or “stiffed” out of just this kind of male mentoring (at one point she calls it “maternal masculinity”) by the very people and organizations who could and should have provided it. Her list of offenders includes absent and abusive fathers, downsizing corporations,...
(The entire section is 1967 words.)
SOURCE: “How Now, Iron Johns?,” in Nation, December 13, 1999, pp. 18, 20-2.
[In the following unfavorable review of Stiffed, Willis objects to Faludi's nostalgic stereotypes of masculinity and her thesis that male anxiety stems from manipulative mass culture and paternal abandonment, rather than the erosion of their historical supremacy.]
In Growing Up Absurd, his classic polemic on shortchanged youth, Paul Goodman remarks, parenthetically, that “the problems I want to discuss in this book belong primarily, in our society, to the boys: how to be useful and make something of oneself. A girl does not have to, she is not expected to, ‘make something’ of herself. Her career does not have to be self-justifying, for she will have children, which is absolutely self-justifying, like any other natural or creative act.” Goodman’s book was published in 1960; with historical hindsight, it’s easy to roll one’s eyes at the unself-conscious sexism that one of the foremost cultural radicals of the time shared with his conventional antagonists. It is less amusing that four decades later, in the wake of a movement that has reshaped the lives of women, a prominent feminist writer should come out with a book whose implicit assumption is basically the same as Goodman’s: that the conditions of work in late capitalist society are primarily a problem for the boys, a crisis of...
(The entire section is 3517 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Stiffed, in Ms., Vol. 10, No. 2, February-March, 2000, p. 83.
[In the following review of Stiffed, Goldstein commends Faludi's effort to define the crisis of male identity as a product of consumerism rather than feminism, though complains of the book's excessive length and her tendency to treat men as “hapless victims.”]
There are few more flaccid cultural barometers than the New Republic, so it was a shock to see its recent cover proclaiming that “Men Don’t Need Susan Faludi to Pump Them Up.” Inside was James Wolcott’s predictably canine attack on Faludi’s new book, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Faludi’s guide to the sorry state of masculinity is guaranteed to make a backlasher like Wolcott see red meat. Citing the enormous popularity of wrestling and bad-boy icons like Howard Stern, Wolcott concludes that there is no crisis of masculinity.
Now it’s true that any guy can come home from a meaningless job, ignore his sullen family, and wallow in an evening of phallocratic pleasures. But this is precisely Faludi’s point. Men, she writes, are as victimized by the current “culture of display” as women ever were. In great numbers, they’ve been robbed of work that bolsters self-esteem, consoled by entertainment that fetishizes an unreal power, and cinched into an obsessive body consciousness. Indeed, the...
(The entire section is 869 words.)
SOURCE: “Men are Miserable Too,” in Times Literary Supplement, March 17, 2000, pp. 9-10.
[In the following negative review of Stiffed, Kimball finds Faludi's description of a generalized “male crisis” unconvincing and contends that Faludi has merely applied the feminist argument of Backlash to men in Stiffed.]
In Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women, Susan Faludi spent 550 pages telling her readers how unhappy and powerless American women are:
The truth is that the last decade has seen a powerful counterassault on women’s rights, a backlash, an attempt to retract the handful of small and hard-won victories that the feminist movement did manage to win for women. …
Just as Reaganism shifted political discourse far to the right and demonized liberalism, so the backlash convinced the public that women’s “liberation” was the true contemporary American scourge.
That was in 1991. Now Faludi is back with Stiffed: The Betrayal of the Modern Man—662 pages devoted to analysing the “siege” of “American manhood”, the “male crisis” that, according to Faludi, has made American men almost as miserable as American women. “At the close of the century”, Faludi writes, “men find themselves in an unfamiliar world where male worth is measured only by participation...
(The entire section is 1780 words.)
SOURCE: “Where Have All the Fathers Gone?,” in Tikkun, Vol. 15, No. 2, March-April, 2000, pp. 73-5.
[In the following review, Smith offers a positive evaluation of Stiffed.]
Around the beginning of the nineteenth century in the United States a remarkable shift occurred. Advice guides on parenting, almost always in earlier times addressed to fathers, changed audience and targeted mothers. They did not merely expand the table of contents; they virtually wrote fathers out of the text. Reading through the “parenting advice” literature, I was so struck by this sudden switch that I eventually emailed a historian of my acquaintance and queried him. Was my observation accurate? And, if so, what had happened to fathers? He wrote back a couple of days later confirming the textual phenomenon (real fathers were probably more present in family life of the era than the books manifest, he opined), and suggesting that to understand more I read a spate of recent texts on “American manhood.”
Until 1800 or thereabouts, the father was the parent of record and the chosen audience for advice scribes not only because he held all the social and economic power, the legal rights, and the access to education and books, but because he was the link between the family and the public world. Fathers were responsible for educating and preparing sons to take their place in that world. Then something changed...
(The entire section is 2298 words.)
Allen, Charlotte. Review of Backlash, by Susan Faludi. Commentary 93, No. 2 (February 1992): 62-4.
Provides a negative assessment of Backlash.
Conniff, Ruth. “Susan Faludi.” Progressive 57, No. 6 (June 1993): 35-9.
Faludi discusses Backlash, feminism, the current state of women's liberation, and her formative influences.
Ebeling, Kay. “Backlash or Progress?” Human Life Review 18, No. 2 (Spring 1992): 74-83.
An extended negative review of Backlash.
Goodman, Ellen. “The War on Women.” New York Times Book Review (27 October 1991): 1.
A review of Backlash.
Johnson, Diane. “Something for the Boys.” New York Review of Books (16 January 1992): 13-7.
A review essay including discussion of Backlash.
Kakutani, Michiko. “What Has Happened to Men? An Author Tries to Answer.” New York Times (28 September 1999): E1.
A review of Stiffed.
Kaminer, Wendy. Review of Backlash, by Susan Faludi. Atlantic 268, No. 6 (December 1991): 123-26.
Offers a positive evaluation of Backlash.
Metcalf, Roy. “A Man's Work.” Social Policy 30, No. 3 (Spring...
(The entire section is 202 words.)