E's Reviews > Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women

Backlash by Susan Faludi
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Oct 05, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: politics-history
Read in June, 2007

Am I glad I barely recall my first decade on earth - the '80s. One doesn't need to remember much to have the feeling that the country was caught up in a materialist, conservative bacchanal that cried, "Let's feel good again! Stop being so angry and caring about politics/equality! Just go shop and you'll be happy!" Faludi is dead-on in declaring it the era of the Backlash.

She deserves a lot of credit for the depth of her research and the unforgiving tenacity of her thesis in an oppressive time that didn't want to hear it. Sometimes she is a bit too unforgiving for me. Most of her examples of chauvinist film, television, advertising, and legal practice are miserably accurate, but some of them seemed a bit far-fetched to me, leading me to wonder if her tireless dedication to her thesis didn't cause her to develop a bit of tunnel vision. If you study a disease long enough, you start to see it everywhere. That's okay, but it can cost you your credibility with the opposition you are trying to convince.

Faludi's defense of the childless single woman and her right to choose against the intrusive glorification of the voiceless married mother was so unflinching that she missed several chances to also promote the feminist wife or feminist mother. Of course feminist readers like myself will right away agree with her that single women need to be fully accepted by society as equal citizens and anyone who says, "But you really need a man," can go to heck. But those female readers who will say, "I'm not a feminist, but...," need to hear that feminism isn't about hating men or children either. Faludi fails to make this distinction. This wasn't my first conclusion after reading it, but it occurred to me over the following weeks as I pondered how we are ever going to progress without more painful backlashes.

As an appeal to women and men who need to be coaxed to embrace feminism, it's not an ideal first guide. As a sermon to the feminist choir that had been starving through a lousy decade, the book is a great success. Depressing stories of physical and psychological suffering do not exactly make an enjoying read, but there is a catharsis to the validity accorded to them through recognition and retelling.
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