Feminist writer gives insight into post 9/11 culture
Susan Faludi, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women” has been widely recognized for her work with feminist theory of American culture. Her most recent book, The Terror Dream: Myth and Misogyny in an Insecure America examines the U.S. media’s response to 9/11. On Sept. 19, Faludi presented at Ithaca College in the wake of the ten year anniversary. The talk, titled “9/11: Myth, Media and Gender,” was sponsored by the Park Center for Independent Media. Faludi met with Buzzsaw before the presentation.
Q: You wrote The Terror Dream in 2007. Now four years later — at the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 — do you feel that any of your opinions have changed?
A: No, my opinions haven’t changed but I am a bit melancholy that I haven’t changed opinions out there. I had really hoped that six years out that enough time would pass for people to look more deeply and at the very strange psychological reaction to 9/11 and to look at all the ways we bounced off the real issues and dredged up all kinds of odd mythologies that had nothing to do with the specifics of the attack. But even six years out I found an enormous amount of resistance to having an honest, soul searching discussion. Particularly in the American media — which makes sense, because so much of what I was writing about wasn’t about the average American’s opinion so much as the culture. And the culture is the media.
Q: Speaking of media, did you notice any changes in anniversary coverage from 2001?
A: It was pretty much the same. Either platitudinous, you know, ‘Can we have closure now?’ and sort of hearts and flowers stories. A lot of stories on private, individual reaction, but no grappling at all with the public response to the attacks and some rather major things like our failure to actually develop a meaningful investigative approach to pursue these crimes — you know, our failure to form a viable military strategy, our failure on just about every front of governance and prosecution and investigation. And beyond that no reflection on why we responded in such an ineffective way.
Q: Let’s talk a little about your books. In Backlash, you discuss periods of rejection of feminism. Do you think we’re in the middle of a backlash today?
A: I think it never goes away. It takes different forms. I know that I could easily write Backlash today with different examples, but the same kind of bashing of feminism and lies about feminism. We hear the same myths, and the same lines are being repeated. I think what’s worse is that the right-wing has so upped its attack on reproductive rights and basic legislation for women. Even the so-called liberal politicians in Washington have caved. So now we have a healthcare bill in which the one goodie the Democrats signed off on to appease the Right was abortion. So we see again, when push comes to shove, it’s women’s rights that are left out.
Q: For anyone interested in contributing and making it better — what’s the next step?
A: All we can do is more of what we’re trying to do. I don’t want to sugar-coat it because I think it’s a very difficult time. The media has barely changed and is barely above the water compared to back then. In looking back at The Terror Dream, one of the things I noticed was that many of the publications I referenced have nearly disappeared. It used to be that, if you referenced something in Time magazine, people would sit up and notice. One hopes that one day we will figure out a model that works with the Internet where it can actually be a thriving independent media that actually reaches a critical mass of people and is supported sufficiently financially that one can do investigative work and the real meat and potatoes of journalism. If you don’t have a powerful force in journalism to educate the populous, democracy is fiction — is open to mob rule by people who are consuming nothing but Desperate Housewives — and Desperate Housewives is one of the better shows.
I don’t have any quick fixes, but I do go back often to this wonderful line from Susan B. Anthony. In the winter of 1854, she went to every county of Upstate New York and she said that “I am embarked on an unpopular course, and I must be content to row upstream.” So that’s why I say you can only do more of the same -— harder, faster stronger. And you look at the Tea Party, and how effective they’ve been on the main stage — they aren’t actually that large of a percentage. That proves that you can have a critical mass — just figure out how to get the word out. Neither of those are easy, but the Tea Party has proven that it is possible.