Meghan Daum: Did 9/11 kill feminism?

In a succinct 354 pages (shockingly brief for the normally prolix [Susan] Faludi), she argues that in the months and years following the 9/11 attacks, the rhetoric surrounding various notions of national security (some of it appropriate, much of it overly simplistic and reactive) enabled the media to more or less announce that the whole nation was returning to traditional values and gender roles.

Citing changes such as the sudden and precipitous drop in the presence of female print journalists and news anchors right after 9/11, or what she saw as a marked upsurge in trend pieces about educated women choosing motherhood over careers, Faludi laments that we have responded “to real threats to our nation by distracting ourselves with imagined threats to femininity and family life” and have “base[d] our security on a mythical male strength that can only measure itself against a mythical female weakness.”

One of the few things I’ll defend more vigorously than the rights of women is the right of social critics to make sweeping, dangerously elastic connections between ideas that may have as much to do with one another as pegged jeans and North Korea. So I’ll admit that I was cheering Faludi on from Page 1. Despite the dissertation-like qualities of her Big Idea — that the ultra-masculine mythos of the American frontier has long belied a deep shame about not being able to fend off attacks from Indians — her writing is so deft that the work of many of her ostensible peers (Kate O’Beirne, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Danielle Crittenden) reads, by comparison, like transcripts from “The View.”

That said, I’m not sure that much or even most of what Faludi is putting forth has any basis in reality. As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about why increasing numbers of American women seem to have whittled their ambitions down to the size of engagement rings and baby booties (or inflated them into silicon breasts or collagen-filled lips), I’m about as rapt an audience as Faludi could hope for. But her assertion that the return of domestic goddesshood is not only a result of post-9/11 psychological vulnerability but actually a media creation didn’t fascinate me as much as it made me wish things were that simple.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch

8 comments on “Meghan Daum: Did 9/11 kill feminism?

  1. Wilfred says:

    Maybe Feminism is dying because it just isn’t grounded in real human psychology. Men & women are different in ways that go beyond the physical. People subconsciously know this. These differences cannot be eradicated by political propaganda or academic indoctrination.

    There. I’ve just shot down [i] my [/i] chance of ever being President of Harvard University.

  2. RevK says:

    You have my vote for president of Harvard.

    Feminism killed Feminism because its underlying foundation is phony and could only be propped up by unsustainable levels of outrage and anger.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Feminism promised much and delivered little. We thought we would become self-actualized, “with-it,” in control, fulfilled, and we instead became neurotic, overworked, overtired, and realized the men didn’t have it so great after all. And we knew our children needed us more than we pretended. If we bothered to have children at all. I can’t recall how many of my female friends when telling them of my kids said, “Well, I have dogs.. they’re like kids!”

  4. RevK says:

    [blockquote] I can’t recall how many of my female friends when telling them of my kids said, “Well, I have dogs.. they’re like kids!” [/blockquote]
    Perhaps it is best that they didn’t have kids.

  5. Katherine says:

    We thought we could have it all. We discovered that in the attempt something had to give. I discovered, in my own case, that since I was unwilling for my children to suffer, what gave was me. Women today choosing to stay home with children are doing just that — choosing.

    I don’t argue with individual decisions, or with necessity. There are instances where a mother’s salary is truly essential, and there are cases of women whose personalities and patience are unsuited to the strains of full-time child care.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Katherine, I agree. But perhaps some of the women whose personalities and patience are unsuited to the strains of full-time child care would have had the personalities and patience needed in a culture that nurtured them more, instead of the consumerist culture we have now. Just a thought.

  7. Larry Morse says:

    Well said, Jennifer. To the cult of the Consumer, many social ills can be traced. Women have been the target – one almost wants to same victim – of the advertising world for a long time, and so we have the bumper sticker aimed t women “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” Don’t youo know women who seem to live to shop? LM

  8. Kevin Maney+ says:

    Meghan Daum offers yet more evidence that too many people have too much time on their hands.