Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thanks, Susan Faludi. I Needed That!

The local library has a large bookshelf by the exit on which they place donated books that patrons can buy for a DOLLAR! I try to avoid that section of the library most of the time because I hoard books like an English major, but last week I was in the mood to spend $5 frivolously, and there were a lot more books than usual. I came away with a great haul, including a copy of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. And so it is that, after a mere 19 years -- half my lifetime, I have actually read the whole book rather than just the snippets that other people used for arguments.

It was often unpleasant to remember the illustrative cultural moments Faludi used in her argumentation. I could have lived happily for the rest of my life not remembering when young men, the good guys, our friends as we thought they were, cheered during the rape scene of The Accused. It was always unpleasant to remember the terrible words of clergy and politicians who were openly hateful about me and the people I loved. It was also perfect timing for me.

I have been trying to figure out for the past three months why I am suddenly in a panic about not being able to present myself to my high school classmates as the 'Mom' of a perfect nuclear family. This has never been my wish for my life. I have actually threatened to move abruptly out of state if a man gets all gooey over me and the thought of diamond jewelry. Because, yikes, marriage cooties! But here I was, having all this angst over not having what I never wanted, and it confused me.

And then, as I read Backlash, I began to understand. Thinking about people I knew well 20 years ago was making me think about what was 'important' 20 years ago. That, in turn, was making me anxious about not having what I am supposed to have by now in order to be considered successful as a woman. The backlash finally caught up with me, but the explanation of what was happening and why was close to hand. I'm lucky.

I wonder who's going to be responsible for chasing down the truth about all the crap that's being put out now about women and burrowing in the brains of young women and girls as little self-esteem time-bombs that will go off at some unknown time in the future. Who will write a chapter explaining what the hell is wrong with Steven Pinker, for instance? Who will go through and explicate the rancid sexism that was thrown at political figures in 2008 by reporters who claimed to be supporters? (I'm looking at you, Tweety, you big snorty ass.)

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