(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Backlash appeared on the scene at a time when America’s attention had been dramatically refocused on women’s issues by Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas. Political analysts would later point to a direct correlation between the anger many women felt over the results of the hearings—and Thomas’ subsequent confirmation—and the increase in the number of women elected to Congress the following fall. Although Backlash had already gone to print at the time of the hearings and the controversial case is not included in Faludi’s analysis, the book’s reception is inextricably linked to the events unfolding at the time of its publication.

Whether one sided with Thomas or with Hill, the focus of all discussions relating to the case was women in the workplace and the sometimes complicated male/female dynamic that can underlie and inform working relationships. Backlash, with its strongly pro-feminist position, offered a larger context within which to view the events of the hearings. It also provided welcome documentation for those who had long questioned the stability of women’s advances, as well as a thought-provoking overview of the shift in attitude toward working women.

Faludi’s central premise, simply stated, is that feminists and the women’s liberation movement have become popular scapegoats for those who oppose their goals. She quotes several studies in which women repeatedly point to their jobs as a primary source of security and self-esteem, juxtaposing them with articles in national magazines blaming the women’s movement for the problems facing modern women. Faludi’s approach is to trace these articles to their sources and examine the methodology used to obtain their conclusions. In every case, she maintains that she could find no hard evidence to support either the claims of disillusionment on the part of working women or the dire warnings of “spinsterhood,” childlessness, and imminent...

(The entire section is 827 words.)