Friday, March 16, 2012

Susan Faludi, Backlash 15

In my latest reading of Susan Faludi's 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, Faludi critiqued four intellectual opponents of feminism: George Gilder, Allan Bloom, and Michael and Margarita Levin.

I found Faludi's discussion of George Gilder to be interesting. I knew of Gilder from some of the Phyllis Schlafly books that I have, as well as other things that I have read, but I did not know much about him. Apparently, he was raised by the Rockefellers when his Dad died, and he was a contributor to a liberal Republican publication. He gained notoriety and opposition after writing a piece that was critical of proposed child care legislation. When he observed that he was getting attention from a lot of women who wanted to argue with him, he decided to become a prominent anti-feminist. He wrote books that criticized the feminist movement for taking away the chance for men to fulfill their inner desire to provide for their families, and also for discouraging women from marrying, which deprived men of the support that they needed to advance and contributed to men becoming violent criminals. Most of those books did not do overly well, but he achieved more success when he became a speech-writer for Ronald Reagan and wrote Wealth and Poverty, a defense of supply-side economics. Gilder long desired to get married, and his stories about how a hypothetical career woman should marry a drab writer probably was his reflection on his own situation. Although Gilder believed that women should make less money than men so that the men could feel better about themselves as providers, the woman he married, Nini, was an architectural historian who wrote several books. I enjoyed reading about George Gilder because I could not help identifying with him and even liking him, even though I have drifted from right-wing conservatism. I identified with his hope to get married, his desire that women marry the drab men, his climb to success, and also the story about how he invited some anti-war protesters to crash at his place, but they wouldn't leave----and they were smoking dope and eating his food. That never happened to me, but that story would discourage me from letting strangers crash at my place!

Faludi's discussion about Allan Bloom discussed his complaint that feminism is so dominant on college campuses. Faludi, however, cites statistics to the contrary, arguing that there are not many women professors, let alone feminist ones, and that it's harder for women Ph.D.s to find work than it is for men with doctorates. I wonder if things have changed since then. There have been a number of women professors at some of the places of higher education that I have attended. They're not the majority, I don't think, but there are a lot of them.

Michael and Margarita Levin believe that women should be the cooks and that men are the ones who are good at math, even though Michael helps his son to cook, and Margarita is a renowned mathematician (who sees herself as the exception to the rule). Their story appears to be similar to how Faludi profiled women in the New Right: they oppose feminism, but their family lives are quite progressive and non-traditional.

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