BACKLASH by Joseph Ellis

BACKLASH

The Undeclared War Against American Women

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The Pulitzer-winning journalist (The Wall Street Journal, Ms., The Miami Herald) explores the real status of American women in the 90's in this powerful and long-overdue myth-buster--an instant classic and a valuable companion to Paula Kamen's Feminist Fatale (reviewed below). College-educated women over 30 are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to marry. Working women enjoy their careers at the expense of their children's welfare. If you're female, you can't really have it all. So go the modern myths that were born in the 80's, despite the era's supposedly ``liberated'' image, and that have terrorized American women ever since. The trouble, claims Faludi, is not only that the myths aren't true, but that through deliberate action or passive collusion the government, media, and popular culture have ensured their overpowering influence on the public. Her interest sparked by her discovery that the Harvard-Yale marriage-for-women-over-30 study was based on very shaky methodology, but that there was resistance in both the media and government to correcting its conclusions, Faludi went on to uncover the unacknowledged but frighteningly widespread backlash against feminism that has taken place under the surface of 80's careerism. Taking the reader step by step through the creation of wildly anti- feminist 80's myths and backlashes in popular culture (Fatal Attraction, the ``New Traditionalism,'' the new ``feminine'' fashions); in politics (reproductive rights, the female New Right); in popular psychology (``to improve your marriage, change yourself''); in the workplace (lack of day care, parental leave, the wage gap); and in health (white career women's supposed sterility vs. black women's actual, unaddressed, sterility problem), Faludi convincingly peels back layers of deliberate and passive misrepresentation to reveal what she sees as the underlying message of the Reagan-Bush era: Women's problems are a direct result of too much independence, and no one but feminists are to blame. Historically, backlashes have always followed feminist gains, Faludi points out; the necessity is to see behind today's hip ``postfeminist'' apathy to the injustices still being done. Brilliant reportage, with all the details in place--a stunning debut.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-517-57698-8
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1991