While reading Susan Faludi’s The Terror Dream, I found myself growing more and more uncomfortable as I waded through pages detailing the anti-feminist movement in the media post-9/11. It was bewildering and frankly, frightening to read about the media’s treatment of women — both within the industry and on the front pages. However, my uneasiness stemmed mainly from Faludi’s treatment of the subject itself.
As a feminist and a female planning to work in the media, I really wanted to like this book — really, I did — and in the first half, I could wholeheartedly agree with the points Faludi made. I could see the inherent patriarchal system in effect. Faludi, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist known for her book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, obviously knows what she’s talking about.
She begins the book (which is divided into two sections, “Ontogeny” and “Phylogeny” — refering to the evolution of an individual and a society) with a solid premise: She shows the media’s bigoted and undeniably patriarchal attitude towards women working in media, as well as the subjects themselves — women ranging from writer Susan Sontag to Pvt. Jessica Lynch to the widows of firemen.
Her initial argument is strong — perhaps at times, so strong that it comes off as aggressive, defensive, and pushy. It doesn’t help that her evidence (running the gamut from mainstream media sources to internet chat rooms), although often compelling, ultimately feels contrived, forced to fit the confines of her thesis, no matter what the context.
This could be due to the fact that enough time just hasn’t passed yet to be able to draw stronger conclusions about a post-9/11 world. Faludi published the book in 2007; now, only four years later, the US has observed the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. The Terror Dream doesn’t make much progress after the first half.
The second half of the book, “Phlogeny” lacks focus as it delves into the historical background of American “myth and misogyny,” losing its readers with ramblings about Puritans, witch hunts and cowboys and Indians. Faludi makes a strong initial statement about American society and gender roles in a post-9/11 world; her support of it, however, seems slightly weak, unlike her extremely forceful attitude, which may intimidate readers.
– Cady Lang