Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man

1999, first edition, from William Morrow and Company
Susan Faludi
Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man
Original price $27.50, purchase price unknown
Hardcover with broken spine

The "betrayal" that Faludi writes of is twofold, by specific fathers of Baby-Boom and younger men, and by the culture at large, which shifted after World War II from an emphasis on men doing to an emphasis on men (and of course women) being and appearing.  She began with an examination of why some men are angry and sometimes violent, then went on a literal and figurative six-year journey that led her to a surprising destination.  (She uses "literal" and "figurative" quite a bit in the book, not always accurately.)  

That I was much less into this book than her classic Backlash (1991) is also twofold, although not a betrayal by any means.  First of all, the earlier book had a clear message from the beginning, while the thesis here is one she stumbled into.  And secondly, many of the men she profiles are not ones that I want to read about, like the Spur Posse.  There are some genuinely heroic men, like Michael Bernhardt, who tried to stop My Lai and spoke out against it later, but that's not who the book spends the majority of its time with.  I understand, if she's going to explain the Angry (mostly) White Male, then she has to dwell on that sort of man.  But that doesn't mean I want to be on this journey with her.  There was a point where she wrote about leftist women's late-1960s drift towards feminism because of the sexism of leftist men, and I wanted her to pursue that story instead.

Maybe this makes me sexist, but I didn't want to read about the defense industry, sports fans, the Promise Keepers, or any of the other all (or nearly) male groups and individuals she profiles.  But I wouldn't have wanted to read about women doing any of these things either.  Only Faludi's writing skills kept me reading to the end.

One thing of note, she briefly discusses here the problem of men raised to "rescue" women (yes, literally or figuratively), but finding that women don't want and/or need to be rescued.  She would expand on this in The Terror Dream, which we'll look at in 2007....

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