by Susan Faludi
As I read Susan Faludi’s (Backlash) depressing opus about the “crisis” in American manhood, I kept changing my opinion of its author. At times I wanted to laud Faludi for her insightful reporting – and sometimes I wanted to throttle her for general cluelessness. As a former journalist, I appreciate the sheer amount of legwork that went into her book. She interviewed scores of men, from construction workers to porn stars, and much of her analysis is thoughtful. But occasionally Faludi adopts the tone of a victor perched atop the pedestal of feminism, sitting subtly and condescendingly in judgment of pitiful males.
- Faludi’s conclusion is that most American men are unhappy (and resistant to feminism) because their fathers – those heroes of World War II and members of the “greatest generation” – were cold, distant, and silent parents, providing little or no guidance to boys growing up in a consumer culture that rewards image over true worth. I’m sure there is some truth to this theory. But what about all of the mothers – do they make no impact on their sons? Other than in passing, Faludi makes no mention of the mothers.
- Feminism, like motherhood, gets a pass from Faludi as a contributing factor to modern male distress. Men who criticize any aspect of the women’s movement are unreasonable, delusional, or scapegoating. Yet I was struck by this assessment of feminism by one of the men Faludi interviewed: “It doesn’t seem to have made anyone very happy.”
- I’m not convinced that the average American male is quite as tormented as Faludi would have us believe. But a 600-page volume of interviews with men who are generally content would be an awfully dull read.
- Faludi’s final words of advice to men who are unhappy or confused by our Brave New World? “Wage a battle against no enemy.” Great. That helps.
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