Book Review: Backlash by Susan Faludi

What an excellent book in every way – powerful, well written, deeply researched, provocative and passionate. And what a sad thing that 20 years since it was published, so little has changed!

Posted: Dec 6, 2011 11:35 pm

What an excellent book in every way – powerful, well written, deeply researched, provocative and passionate. In my case, she’s preaching to the choir; I already agree with and defend the same feminist and equal rights views she holds. I wish I’d read this 450 page book when it first came out, back in 1991. On the other hand, reading it now, 20 years on, shows me how little progress has been made since then. It often seems the backlash she describes has deepened and widened and gotten worse, not better. The war against women’s equality goes on and on, and maybe the seventies saw a high water mark for women’s equality that will not be reached again in my lifetime; but I hope not, for women’s sake and for my own nieces’ sakes.

Some things have changed since the eighties – for example, American women are now far better educated than American men – they hold more and higher degrees than men, on average. Yet still, women’s pay and job prestige lags behind men, in the same jobs – how can this be just?! I can only hope this increase in knowledge really is power, and will be reflected in the board room and in politics. I don’t see much more hope for renewed progress than that.

Another change since the early eighties is the coming out of gay and lesbian America, and the (grudging) acceptance of their place in our society. Maybe this will create some space for another consideration of everyone’s right to equal treatment. But maybe not, for I fear gay America will suffer a similar backlash to that which the author describes for women. American men can be mean and hard and completely amoral when they don’t get their way, as Susan Faludi has amply documented.

One thing I see that the author does not explore (though it comes up in example after example) – American women often trade away their right to equality for the sake of their children. They will endure a bad marriage, or work twice as hard and twice as well for 30% less pay, and hold their tongue, because they love their children. Why men are not expected to make the same sacrifices for their children, I can’t explain. Is it socialization? Patriarchy? Maybe it comes down to plain old physical force – men are stronger and are willing to beat their wives and physically bully women who dare demand equality – again, how in the world can that be just?! It’s a pitiful example of might makes right, and at the expense of the supposedly beloved American woman. It’s sad and sick and sickening, and yet women put up with it. They ought not have to put up with it, and they ought not put up with it.

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