Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Susan Faludi, Backlash 20

I have two items for my write-up today on Susan Faludi's 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women:

1. On page 394, Faludi states the following:

"One of the four cases that summer [in 1989], Lorance v. AT&T Technologies, dealt a particularly hard blow to blue-collar women. The court ruled that women at AT&T's electronics plant in Illinois couldn't challenge a 1979 seniority system that union and company officials had openly devised to lock out women. The reason: the women had missed the 180-day federal filing deadline for lodging unfair employment practices. The court made this ruling even though five past court rulings had allowed employees to file such challenges after the deadline had passed. And ironically enough, that very same day the court ruled that a group of white male firefighters were not too late to file their reverse discrimination suit----against a settlement of an affirmative action case filed in 1974."

On page 398, Faludi says that the women were late because they did not know that the policy was unfair until they were actually fired. This issue stood out to me because I remembered that the topic of filing deadlines came up in the 2008 Presidential race, when there was discussion about John McCain's stance towards gender equality in the workplace. Faludi does well to highlight inconsistencies on this issue on the part of the Supreme Court.

In my opinion, the chapter where this quote is, "The Wages of the Backlash: The Toll on Working Women", is the most important chapter in this book. It talks about blue-collar women experiencing severe harassment in their workplaces (i.e., their equipment being smashed, feces being rubbed over the seat of a bus a woman was ordered to clean, safety equipment being made unavailable, etc.), the struggles of women to support their families, wage disparity, and how affirmative action does not necessarily mean preference for a less-qualified candidate, for the woman who benefited from affirmative action and thus provoked Paul Johnson to launch his reverse discrimination suit was more qualified than Johnson. (Here, however, you can see that both had impressive credentials.)

2. As I said a while back, I wanted to read Faludi's book to see how she portrays prominent right-wing figures. In my last reading, I read about Randall Terry, who was the leader of the pro-life organization, Operation Rescue. Even when I was a conservative, Randall Terry gave me the creeps when I saw him on TV, for he struck me as a wild-eyed fanatic. Some people who know him, however, have told me that he's actually a cool guy (and that they bought cars from him when he was a used-car salesman). He's talented in music, funny, etc. I admire him because he has adopted children, which tells me that he doesn't just talk the pro-life talk, but he walks the pro-life walk (though here, you can read that he has had up-and-down relationships with some of his adopted kids). And this article is also good because it is about Randall's journey towards and conversion to Catholicism, which demonstrates a degree of open-mindedness on his part.

It was interesting to read about Terry in Backlash: how his birth-family had strong feminist women, some of whom had abortions; how his father was talented in music, yet also had a temper, which he took out on Randall in violent ways; how Randall and his family experienced poverty, during which time his wife's income sustained it, until Operation Rescue became a means for Randall to earn a living wage; how Randall (according to Faludi) was not exactly nice to his wife Cindy (whom Randall divorced in 2000, according to this). While Randall liked Cindy because she was quiet, Faludi talks about Cindy's vocal side: Cindy hated abortion because she herself could not have a child, and (before Randall entered the fray of anti-abortion protests) she would stand outside of an abortion clinic and tell women not to abort their babies, since she would take the baby. A clinic worker told Faludi that she remembers Cindy as quite vocal, until Randall came along to the protest and she faded into the background. I found this passage to be moving because it depicts a worker at an abortion clinic admiring the strength of a woman protesting against abortion.

Faludi's argument in this particular chapter, "Reproductive Rights Under the Backlash: The Invasion of Women's Bodies", is that the backlash against abortion is due to men's (especially men who are struggling economically) insecurity over losing control of women. She cites examples of men suing their wives who were about to have an abortion, and the wives had left the men. Faludi believes that abortion and birth-control enables women to have independence: to have sex without becoming pregnant, as men can. She notes that Randall Terry is against contraception (though I vaguely recall him saying on Donahue over a decade ago that he's not against condoms----but I could be wrong on this). Personally, I support contraception, but I have issues with abortion, since that seems to me to be the taking of a human life. That is why, sometime in the future, I may read the works of pro-life feminists, such as Naomi Wolf, with whom Faludi has disagreed.

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