Why, she asks, did our culture respond to an assault against American global dominance with a frenzied summons to restore "traditional" manhood, marriage, and maternity? Why did we react as if the hijackers had targeted not a commercial and military edifice but the family home and nursery? Why did an attack fueled by hatred of Western emancipation lead us to a regressive fixation on Doris Day womanhood and John Wayne masculinity, with trembling "security moms", swaggering presidential gun-slingers, and the "rescue" of a female soldier cast as a "helpless little girl"?
The answer, Faludi finds, lies in a historical anomaly unique to the American experience: the nation that in recent memory has been least vulnerable to domestic attack was forged in traumatizing assaults by non-white "barbarians" on town and village. That humiliation lies concealed under a myth of cowboy bluster and feminine frailty, which is reanimated whenever threat and shame looms - as they did on September 11th.
Brilliant and important, The Terror Dream shows what 9/11 revealed about us - and offers the opportunity to look at ourselves anew.
©2007 Susan Faludi; (P)2007 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC
"A brilliant, unsentimental, often darkly humorous account of America's nervous breakdown after 9/11." (Publishers Weekly)
I started this book with the vague sense that Faludi was right, that gender politics had been engaged in some retro ways in the American reaction to 9/11, but that she was probably way overstating it. Faludi convinced me otherwise! She's a terrific, very cogent and clear writer who does her research thoroughly. In fact, I had the same experience when I read Backlash, years ago, feeling like she was only a little right, and then reading it and being utterly persuaded.
Faludi goes into a lot of deeper American history to try to elucidate the story that the media applied so readily to the events of 9/11 and its aftermath. It's all interesting, but some of it is less than productive to her main thesis, and ends up being a bit tangential. But when she's treating major episodes of 9/11-related coverage, such as that of the "rescue" of American soldier Jessica Lynch, she is simply brilliant.
The author backs up her point with lots of facts, so I have no doubt of the basis for her point of view. However, I couldn't tolerate the strident and accusatory tone long enough to see if she had information about how this trend has played out over the last 6 years.
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