By Steve Sailer
Commisioned by National Review Online for 9/12/99, but it never appeared for no discernible reason
Mr. Sailer is the founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group.
In 1991 feminist journalist Susan Faludi wrote "Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women," which rode the Anita Hill brouhaha to bestsellerdom. Her theme -- that the American media were fiercely anti-feminist -- was the most self-evidently silly of all the feminist theories ever to be massively hyped by the American media. Back then, when I was young and masochistic, I did a Nexis search of 40 reviews of "Backlash" and found that the press gave it 37 positive reviews. Faludi picked up a Pulitzer Prize and was last spotted hiding out from The Backlash on the cover of Time magazine.
Eight years later, Faludi is back and this time Newsweek's got her. Normally the smartest of the three newsweeklies, Newsweek put their new Contributing Editor on the cover and gave her eleven brain-numbing pages for an excerpt from her new book, "Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man" [http://www.newsweek.com/nw-srv/printed/us/so/so0111_1.htm]. Possibly there is something in the rest of her book that is less banal, but National Review wouldn't have enough money in its entire annual budget to get me to slog through it. I doubt, however, that there's much worth reading in the rest of it -- one distinguished scholar who is being paid to read the whole damn thing for a book review commissioned by a publication with deep pockets emailed me that he found "Stiffed" to be "unbelievably tedious" and a "turkey."
Faludi's Newsweek excerpt represents baby boomer self-absorption at its most comically humorless: according to Faludi, the history of masculinity begins during WWII and takes place only in America. She trots out all the usual suspects of boomer social commentary to explain the current "crisis of masculinity": "Father Knows Best," "Leave it to Beaver," John Wayne, Little League, JFK, Daniel Boone caps, Vietnam, astronauts This style of analysis was tired when columnist Bob Greene column started churning it out a couple of decades ago.
Her topic, masculinity, is a worthy one. The biological differences between the sexes are at the core of the human condition. The central, defining question of any society must be: What must a male do to be a man? Since mothering takes decades, but fathering takes minutes, every society must figure out what males should do with all that time on their hands. Unfortunately, even if Faludi wasn't intellectually hamstrung by the dogmas of her old-fashioned biophobic feminism, her baby-boomercentric perspective would still be too trivial for the job.
The "crisis of masculinity" that I, personally, am suffering from right now is that the press inundates me with this sort of stuff. We always hear about how women only earn 59 cents on the dollar or whatever compared to men, but we never hear about how much more women spend than men. That men hand over trillions each year to women means that the prime target of the advertising-supported media like TV and the big money magazines are women, especially young, inexperienced, emotional, naïve females who haven't yet made up their minds whether they'll buy Colgate or Crest for the rest of their lives.
Susan Faludi is thus the perfect writer for this lucrative market. She doesn't so much understand the mind of the common college-educated but clueless feminist as possess that common mind.
Faludi's "Backlash" made a huge splash by pandering to a fundamental fact of female psychology: the great majority of women want to do what other women are doing, and they want other women to do what they are doing. This female urge toward conformity explains why women like Faludi take as personal affronts any article that mentions in a positive fashion any lifestyle choice different from their own, or that points out any negatives in their own lives. In fact, Faludi wrote "Backlash" because she was scandalized that Newsweek had dared to publish an article about the difficulties that single women of Faludi's age faced in getting married. Similarly, although articles defending non-working mothers are rare -- women journalists and editors are, by definition, working women -- the few that do appear automatically set off a firestorm of letters-to-the-editors from outraged working mothers.
From an evolutionary psychology perspective, Faludi's kind of female conformism makes perfect sense. An individual woman is a more valuable reproductive resource than an individual man. If a male takes up a risky lifestyle and gets himself killed before he can procreate his genes, well, there will always be plenty of other men willing to shoulder the awful burden of impregnating a second woman for him. But if a young female makes an idiosyncratic choice of how to live her life, her reproductive capacity could be permanently lost. Thus, women need to be conservative and conformist, always looking around to see what other women are doing. The flip side of this is that if they invest in a particular life choice, like working rather than mothering, they tend to get extremely upset by any evidence that they chose wrongly, and they thus try to shoot the messenger, as Faludi did on such a monumental, obsessive scale in "Backlash."
A couple of years ago it looked like the World Wide Web would provide financial salvation for people who enjoy logical argumentation. Unfortunately, the Web is now headed toward being almost wholly advertiser-supported. Just about the only websites that today get away with requiring payment from visitors are the Wall Street Journal and the porno pages. Thus, Susan Faludi, who reportedly received a $1.7 million advance for "Stiffed", and others of her ilk can look forward to a long and well-paid career in cyberspace.