English 456: C20 Criticism and Theory
Comments on Susan Faludi's
Al Drake | Cyber Cafe | Thurs. 6-7 | 714-434-1612
way of historical background, I offer a summary and thoughts on
Susan Faludi's Backlash: The Undeclared War against American
details the “backlashes” that result from advances on women's
identifies four such reactions:
The first came when the mid-C19 movement (she mentions Susan
B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton), ran into the "Teddy’s
Rough Riders/Frederick Jackson Turner Era"—America wanted
to forge an empire around 1900.
The second came around the 1920's after women had again begun
to demand and to make improvements: an Equal Rights Amendment
was proposed, and a whole lot of national organizations were
formed--labor, journalism, etc. The
Nineteenth Amendment (suffrage for women, basically) passed,
but then the War Department, explains Faludi, began accusing
leaders like Charlotte P. Gilman and Emma Goldman of being communists
in the wake of the Soviet revolution. Then
came the Great Depression of 1929.
The third backlash occurred after women had made gains as workers
in W.W. II America. But
when the war ended and the male GI's came home demanding jobs,
Rosie the Riveter was told to pack up and go home. Although
many women remained in the workforce (often as clerical employees),
the Eisenhower Era's promotion of the Feminine Mystique showed
that the chill had set in against feminism.
The fourth backlash, says Faludi, came after the gains of the
1970's--reproductive rights and entry into the formerly male
takes aim at the Reagan Years (1980-88) as the focus of this
fourth backlash, which she says was aimed mainly at the professional
and reproductive gains women had just made.
point: it is worth considering that Faludi does not write solely
about overt attacks on American women's material status. A
big part of the backlash cycle, she suggests, consists in antifeminists'
ability to convince many women (especially members of the new,
allegedly post-feminist generation) that A CONSENSUS HAS BEEN
REACHED ABOUT FEMINISM.
consensus would go something like this:
Feminism is unnecessary, since "we" know that "everybody
is equal now" and/or 2)
Feminism is unwise, since any gains made by its strident, UNNATURAL
advocates come only with a terribly high price tag--the incessant
ticking of the "biological clock," "depression," "unfulfillment," etc.
provides historical context for what some take as the consensus
view that post-feminism is now the way to go. While
recognizing the genuineness of these views on many women's part,
she resists--correctly, I believe--treating them as indicators
of universal facts or inalienable accomplishments. Treating
them as such, she would say, only reinforces what has become
a cyclical pattern in women's history: modest advance/step backward
. . . . That is a valuable point since it allows the "fourth-wavers" (or
third-wavers, in some accounts) posited by the consensus manufacturers
to examine themselves with some distance.