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Backlash Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The thesis of Backlash is that in the 1980’s North American society reacted vigorously to take back the gains made by the women’s movement during the previous decades. According to Susan Faludi’s meticulously documented work, the backlash phenomenon has followed each era of women’s advances throughout history. The 1980’s reaction followed the perception that women had made giant strides toward equality during the 1960’s and 1970’s, but that this equality had created two generations of miserable women. Faludi holds that these perceived gains were much inflated. She indicates that 75 percent of women workers made less than 20,000 a year, that the average female college graduate earned less than her male same-age counterpart with a high school diploma and that most women still worked in traditionally female jobs.

The author refutes a number of “statistical” studies widely publicized during the 1980’s. These include the much-touted “man shortage,” which documented the meager-to-nil chance of older college-educated women for marriage. Less publicized than the fallacious man shortage was the work of other scholars whose scrutiny of the original study revealed flaws in its methods and models. The book further demonstrates the error of other studies: the “infertility epidemic” and the depression and increased suicide rates attributed to intense career pursuit.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the media downplayed the women’s movement, with some few exceptions. The media settled comfortably, however, into the backlash in the 1980’s, reinforcing the tenets of the antifeminists. The book points out films’ portrayal of strong women primarily as wives and mothers, while single career women are sadistic destroyers of the family, a full turnabout from the films of the 1970’s.

Faludi indicts television also for its move away from portrayal of strong independent women...

(The entire section is 439 words.)