Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Susan Faludi, Backlash 13

In my latest reading of Susan Faludi's 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, Faludi talked about two issues.

First, she discussed how women within the New Right have absorbed feminist ideas, or display in their own lives the truths that feminism has highlighted. Faludi profiles New Right luminaries Connie Marshner and Beverly Lahaye, as well as women in Lahaye's Concerned Women for America. She notices that many of these women have been unsatisfied as homemakers but have found fulfillment outside of the home----as lobbyists, as researchers, as women with other past careers (i.e., Lahaye worked for Merrill Lynch when her youngest child was in diapers because her husband, Tim, was not making much money as a pastor). Some of them have arrangements in which the man is the homemaker. Some, such as Beverly Lahaye, encourage women to be more assertive. Moreover, Faludi observes aspects of some of these women's lives that refute conservative myths. Whereas (according to Faludi) Connie Marshner left lobbying in order to spend more time at home and felt guilty about her career, Marshner's sons actually report that they liked it when their mom worked. When conservative activist Paul Weyrich, Connie Marshner's boss, remarks that Marshner's leaving is evidence that women cannot have it all, Faludi observes that there are women who are still working for Weyrich, which (for her) may imply that women can have it all----a career, motherhood, etc.

Do these New Right women believe that there's a contradiction between their lives outside of the home and their conservative opposition to feminism? Not exactly. Beverly Lahaye says that she worked after her kids grew up, which is an endorsement of homemaking, but some try to harmonize their lives outside of the home with their anti-feminist sentiments. Connie Marshner says that she succeeded by her own merit, implying that feminists are seeking success without merit. I have heard and read similar sentiments by Phyllis Schlafly, who says that women don't need to demand things from the government in order to succeed. At the same time, Beverly Lahaye has endorsed such things as pay equity for men and women within the work-place (not comparative worth, but equal pay for equal work). A Concerned Women for America activist who lobbies against federally-funded day care says that she's not against day care, per se, but she desires family-based centers and believes that women should have a choice, rather than for the federal government to tell women what kind of day care their children should have.

Second, Faludi says that New Right women were seeking jobs within the Reagan Administration, but they were basically given the shaft. Women either received jobs that lacked authority, or they were demoted, or they got dirty jobs, such as making clinics inform on teenage girls who had abortions without parental consent, or "shutting down domestic violence programs" (page 259).

I may write about Connie Marshner near the end of this month. I do not agree with her on much, but I have long admired her, and so it was good for me to read Faludi's remarks about Marshner and her background.

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