Saturday, March 24, 2012

Susan Faludi, Backlash 23

I finished Susan Faludi's 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Specifically, I read the end-notes and the Acknowledgments. I have three items:

1. I have long heard the argument (and when I was a conservative I used the argument) that the conservative group Concerned Women for America speaks for more women than the feminist National Organization for Women because CWA has far more members than NOW. On pages 507-508, Faludi responds to that claim:

"Barrie Lyons, Beverly LaHaye's sister and CWA's vice-president, told an interviewer that the organization arrived at a figure of a half-million constituents by counting as a member anyone who expressed 'interest' in the group by requesting a newsletter or signing a petition. About 150,000 women, on the other hand, were actually official members who paid the minimum $15 dues each year. Most of the media, however, accepted CWA's inflated roster claims. A Time cover story, for example, described CWA as having more members 'than the combined following of the National Organization for Women, the National Women's Political Caucus, and the League of Women's Voters.' ('Jerry Falwell's Crusade,' Time, Sept. 2, 1985.) NOW, in fact, had more dues-paying members than CWA."

2. I talked a few days ago about the Supreme Court decision Johnson vs. Santa Clara County (see here), in which Paul Johnson made a claim of reverse discrimination when Diane Joyce was hired (as a result of her seeking affirmative action) instead of him. Faludi argues that Joyce was actually more qualified, but, in the endnotes, on pages 529-530, she provides more nuance, even as she effectively reaffirms her central point that discrimination against women is alive:

"The county's 'Rule of Seven' hiring policy mandates that the applicants with the top seven scores be treated as equally qualified for the job, because the differences in the top scores are typically minimal. Later in the press, Johnson would nonetheless make much of the two-point difference between his and Joyce's scores----citing it as proof that he was 'better qualified.' What Johnson failed to mention when he made this claim, however, was that when Joyce had applied for a county foreman's job in 1985, she ranked first on the orals test----yet lost out to the man who scored fifth."

3. As an aspiring academic, I appreciated Faludi's acknowledgments, in which she described the process of developing a crisp thesis, which was muddled at first. She acknowledged the role that discussions with others played in arriving at that crisp thesis. I can identify with this process.

Tomorrow, I will look some at critiques of Faludi's Backlash.

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