BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Susan Faludi, author of the best-selling Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, why do you think this book has been so successful.
SUSAN FALUDI , AUTHOR, "BACKLASH: THE UNDECLARED WAR AGAINST AMERICAN WOMEN": I can only judge by the letters I've received from so many women, and these women say over and over again -- in fact, it's eerie. It's as if one person is writing the same letter 10,000 times. These women will say in these letters, "I thought I was the only one feeling this way in the '80s. I thought that I was the only one who thought that there were all these pressures to tell me to back off. Nobody else was talking about it, so I just thought I was crazy," which was quite similar to the feeling I had as a writer writing the book. As one person put it to me, she said, "It was as if we were all standing around this pool waiting for somebody to be the first to dive in." There were a number of women in the last year who did the first sort of diving maneuvers, and maybe I was one of them. Certainly Anita Hill was one. Paula Coughlin, who took on the Navy, was another. It only takes a couple of us to do that swan dive into the pool to, in turn, give courage to a lot of women who've been dying to do that themselves. So I think this was a year when we all took the plunge.
LAMB: If you were to tell someone who's never seen this book, never read a word about it, what it contains in a minute or so, what would you tell them?
FALUDI: Essentially what I'm telling people is that in at least the last decade -- really ever since the modern wave of the women's movement got started -- there has been this counter-reaction or backlash to put women back in their place. It's based on a big lie, if you will, that argues that everything that the women's movement inspires, that all of women's liberation has yielded women's misery, that true equality has only brought true unhappiness to women. This is a big lie on both fronts. We certainly don't have true equality. Women's pay still greatly lags behind men's. We have a tiny representation in politics. We have one of the worst rape rates in the world. On the other side, this true misery that women supposedly have and supposedly are facing is not a result of too much feminism, but not enough. Women are feeling pain because the women's movement has not gone far enough. They're not treated equally at work, they're not treated equally in the home, and they have almost no voice in the formal political institutions and the national discourse in this country.
LAMB: How many copies of this hardback version have you sold?
FALUDI: The last time I checked it, it was more than 200,000, but I haven't looked in a while.
LAMB: When you started the project, did you dream that it would sell 200,000?
FALUDI: No! I imagined it would sell as many copies as my mother bought. At the time when I was writing in the depths of the mid-'80s and late-'80s, people weren't talking about feminism except to say disparaging things about it. It was not a time when people felt comfortable talking about anything political. I think that one of the biggest impediments to advancing the women's cause or advancing any kind of progressive cause in the '80s was that so many ideas were reframed as psychological problems rather than political ideas, so the big women's issues in the '80s were 12-step programs or helping women to cure themselves of the women-who-love-too-much syndrome. Problems were always framed as there's something wrong with you, the woman, rather than there's something wrong with the way society is structured that we need to challenge.
LAMB: When did you first sit down to write this?
FALUDI: It started as an article about a rather celebrated story in Newsweek which I'm sure a lot of women remember with much pain. It was a cover story in Newsweek about the so-called man shortage, and Newsweek reported breathlessly that a Harvard-Yale marriage study had found that women over 30 were more likely to be killed by a terrorist than marry. Now, anyone who's past remedial math should have been able to figure out that there's something wrong with their arithmetic. But this story made the rounds. It got on television shows, it was in Hollywood, it was on greeting cards and, of course, dating service manuals. I wondered about it, and as a journalist at the time, I decided to take a closer look at it.
LAMB: Where were you?
FALUDI: I was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News on the Sunday magazine. Within the first phone call to the census bureau, I smelled a rat. First of all, there was no man shortage. There was actually a woman shortage in the prime marrying-age years. Furthermore, there were a host of problems with the study itself, with the sample, with the way that the model to make these projections was set up. The Harvard-Yale researchers ultimately retracted the statistics themselves. This, however, got no front-page coverage. That was sort of the beginning of my thinking about, well, if this study is invalid, why was it so eagerly embraced by the media? Furthermore, what about all the other popular claims about the plight of the modern liberated woman? Such claims as the infertility epidemic -- that women who postpone childbearing for education and jobs were facing this terrible plague of infertility and were all rushing to the infertility treatment centers. Well, it turned out that that, too, was a myth, that, in fact, women -- particularly educated women who most profited from the women's movement -- were the very women whose infertility rates were declining, and, in fact, across the country nationwide women's infertility rate was declining and it was actually men's infertility rate that was on the rise. So you go through these and each of them -- the so-called women are all returning to the home, the mommy-track tale -- was a myth as well. Women were flooding into the workplace and, on top of that, when surveyed in public opinion polls, women said over and over again in increasing majorities that they did not want to go back to the home and they did not want even part-time or less-pressure jobs, that they wanted more advancement, more opportunities, more power.
LAMB: Where's home?
FALUDI: Home for me right now is San Francisco. I'm from New York originally.
LAMB: The city?
FALUDI: Actually I'm now at Stanford on a journalism fellowship.
LAMB: I meant New York City originally.
FALUDI: I'm originally from Queens, yes.
LAMB: What did your parents do?
FALUDI: My mother is a product of the feminine mystique era in a way. She was a journalist who gave up her career to marry and move to the suburbs and is someone who in another era would have been a professional journalist. In many respects the book has been formed by observing her experience and the experience of women of her generation who discovered the second wave of feminism.
LAMB: What is the feminine mystique era?
FALUDI: The '50s and early '60s. Really, I guess we'd have to date the discovery of the feminine mystique to 1963 when Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique was published. It was an experience that women in the suburbs had of waking up and wondering, well, I have every kitchen appliance known to man, but something very basic is missing in my life. In the suburb where I grew up, this discovery hit like a Mack truck in the neighborhood. Women went back to school and back to work and really found themselves, many of them for the first time.
LAMB: How about your dad?
FALUDI: My father's a photographer and he's an immigrant from Hungary, a survivor of the Holocaust, and in more of the old-fashioned school of "my wife works," although he very much believed, as do many traditional men, interestingly, that while maybe they like the wife staying at home, they have higher aspirations for their daughter. He very much wanted me to succeed.
LAMB: Why is that?
FALUDI: I think perhaps because one wants the best for one's children and one also wants a comfortable home, and a comfortable home is made where you have all the comforts. I mean, I think women, if they had their druthers, would have wives at home, too. It's very nice to come home and have the dinner on the table and not to have to worry about taking out the garbage. We all like to be taken care. It's, I think, a human trait, not just a male trait.
LAMB: Is the Faludi name his name?
LAMB: Is that a Hungarian name?
FALUDI: It's Hungarian.
LAMB: Did you have brothers and sisters?
FALUDI: I have a brother who also lives in San Francisco and is very much a feminist.
LAMB: When did you start to say, "I'm a feminist," or think you were a feminist? Or are you? What does it mean?
FALUDI: I've always been a feminist. It was not a difficult concept for me to digest. It never occurred to me that there was a pejorative connotation to it because I had been taught from as early as I can remember that to be a feminist simply was a matter of self-respect and common sense. To be a feminist means that you believe that women should be treated like full human beings -- nothing more, nothing less. It always made sense to me. I think the importance of standing up and calling yourself a feminist came a little later. I think it hits most women when they leave the protected world of school or college and enter the workforce and see the real-life application of inequality.
LAMB: Were you involved in any particular extracurricular activities when you were in high school?
FALUDI: Actually my first experience as a journalist, if you want to call it that, was when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I ran the little school newspaper, and I remember running a survey of the other students asking them if they were in favor of the ERA and what they thought about abortion and a few other what I thought were quite innocuous questions. At the next PTA meeting, a leader of the local chapter of the John Birch Society stood up and started ranting about this terrible radical feminist student who had run this survey and was polluting the children's minds with these terrible notions. My parents were both sitting in the audience chuckling, and halfway through, the mike cut off. She was unaware of this, this speaker, and carried on for another 25 minutes while everyone sat there not hearing a word she said, which strikes me now looking back on it as the goddess at work.
LAMB: That was fifth grade?
FALUDI: That was fifth grade. It's been downhill since then.
LAMB: Did you have discussion and/or arguments about it at home?
FALUDI: Discussions and some arguments, although certainly my mother and I were in complete agreement about the importance of feminism. I think what I learned from that early experience in doing the survey, though, was the power that you could have as a feminist writer. Not being the loudest person on the block, not being one who regularly interrupted in class or caused a scene, I discovered that through writing I could make my views heard, and I could actually created change. That was a very important discovery for me and I think for a lot of women who are conditioned not to be rabble-rousers in a public forum -- not to stand up in the public square and make a ruckus. But we can make just as much of a ruckus behind the keyboard.
LAMB: What about high school? Did you write for the newspaper or were you active in student activities there?
FALUDI: I wrote for the newspaper and continued to make trouble that way.
LAMB: What kind of trouble?
FALUDI: Some of it was on feminist grounds, quite a bit of it. Pointing out the usual things that still exist, that women teachers were not being paid as much as men, that women's sports was not getting the same attention. I remember I was on the track team, and the girl's track team members would show up dutifully on Saturday and half the time the coach would just not arrive because he was too busy with the boy's track team. So, early on, I suppose, the inequality of women was an issue that I kept returning to.
LAMB: Were you one of those students that when you walked down the hallway, somebody would point at you and say, "She's the one causing all the trouble"?
FALUDI: No, I kept a low profile when I walked down the halls. I generally stayed in the newspaper office.
LAMB: What about college, university work? Where did you go?
FALUDI: I went to Harvard, and there, predictably, I was on the newspaper and was managing editor.
LAMB: What's the paper called?
FALUDI: It's the Harvard Crimson.
LAMB: What did you study at Harvard?
FALUDI: I studied American history and literature.
LAMB: When you went to Harvard, how many women were in your freshman class?
FALUDI: I'm trying to remember the rate. It was about 3:1 men to women.
LAMB: What's it today?
FALUDI: I think it's almost 50-50. It may be 50-50 now.
LAMB: What was the attitude at Harvard about women?
FALUDI: Well, I remember soon after my freshman class arrived that Radcliffe appointed a new head of the Women's Center.
LAMB: What's Radcliffe?
FALUDI: Radcliffe is -- well, that's a very good point, because Radcliffe and Harvard had merged, but it was one of those mergers where Radcliffe essentially disappeared from the scene. There was a figurehead administration.
LAMB: Radcliffe was all women.
FALUDI: Radcliffe used to be all women, and with the merger that had occurred in the '70s, Radcliffe essentially handed over all of the power and prestige to Harvard. Many women undergraduates would not identify with Radcliffe at all, so it was very important that Radcliffe at least serve as a gadfly and a supporter of women, which brings me back to this little story about the Women's Center, which was supposed to be promoting feminist causes and promoting the equal education of women. That year, which was in the late '70s, just as the first backlash breezes were beginning to come in, they appointed a director and at her first announcement to introduce herself she said that she wanted to make it clear that she was not a feminist. At the time, this was very surprising to me because that was still a period when most women I knew, at least on campus, called themselves feminists and didn't seem the least bit worried about the consequences. But by the time I graduated and certainly as the '80s progressed, young women in college became increasingly fearful of standing up for their rights, much less calling themselves a feminist.
LAMB: You wrote for the Crimson, you were the managing editor of the Crimson. What year did you get to that position?
FALUDI: I think it was 1979, '80, something like that.
LAMB: Did you find yourself in any kind of center of controversy again?
FALUDI: There was a professor who was notorious as a sexual harasser, and that year for the first time Harvard instituted a policy on sexual harassment. A student decided to file charges against him and decided to go public with it, and it fell to me to write the story. I remember actually the dean of the college made a personal visit to the Crimson, which he did not ordinarily do, to urge us not to run that story. After much debate we did, and the professor went on sick leave for six months. I'm sure as soon as my class graduated, he returned to his post and nothing more was made of it. Feminist issues came up constantly in that university because it's almost an emblem of white male power. It's where all of the men in positions of power, whether it's in corporate America or in the White House, were trained.
LAMB: What kind of a grade would you give Harvard with women's issues today?
FALUDI: Actually I was back there to speak at Radcliffe for the Radcliffe Alumni Lecture and was very, very pleasantly surprised. First of all, there's just much more diversity. The president of Radcliffe is a woman who's very committed to advancing equal education for women and who seems to be very committed to feminist causes, so it was a very different environment from the one I encountered 12 years earlier.
LAMB: Would you give them an "A," a "B" or a "C"?
FALUDI: I was only there for a day.
LAMB: What do you hear about Harvard, though? What about in the leadership and the administration and the dean's offices? Are women involved to the point where they should be, in your opinion?
FALUDI: I think the Chronicle of Higher Education did a survey recently and found that in 20 years -- not just at Harvard, but across the board -- that the proportion of women tenured faculty has not changed much, and the Ivy Leagues are the worst. Most of them have, if you're lucky, 5 percent of tenured faculty as women, so it's still an uphill battle. It's not as if it's some kind of feminist mecca over there.
LAMB: You alluded to this earlier when we were talking about your fifth grade performance as a writer. As you went through grade school, high school and college and certainly now, what power does the printed word have in this society in your opinion?
FALUDI: Enormous power, and it has the power to harm as well is what I found out in researching Backlash. The bombardment of story after story about the wages of feminism was largely responsible for so many women across this country saying to themselves, "Oh, I guess it was a big mistake for me to want more in life than a white picket fence and a house in the suburbs. It was wrong of me to have an aspiration or a dream or to want to participate in public life." Where do they get that idea? It was from the media. The upside, the positive side of that is one can fight back as well through the pen. I think that's what we're seeing for women this year not only in my book, but there have been a whole slew of feminist writers who have counter-punched and have hit the bestseller list as a result.
LAMB: When did you write the last word? I know this was published in 1991 originally, but when was the last word actually written?
FALUDI: I think probably '89 or '90.
LAMB: How come it took so long to get it into a book?
FALUDI: I kept hauling it back to add. The problem with writing about the backlash is it kept getting worse and worse and new examples spewed out on a daily basis, and I kept trying to update it before the presses rolled.
LAMB: In the book it appears -- I want to ask you whether you actually did it -- that you ventured into enemy camp, that you interviewed a lot of people who -- I'll let you characterize them. I'm talking about Connie Marshner, who used to be at the Heritage Foundation, Beverly LaHaye . . .
FALUDI: Of Concerned Women for America.
LAMB: George Gilder. I don't know whether you talked to Allan Bloom or not.
FALUDI: I did.
LAMB: When you went to see all those people, did they know what you were doing?
FALUDI: Yes, and . . .
LAMB: Why did they see you?
FALUDI: This is a question that probably bedevils all journalists. People want to talk to journalists. I suppose there's something very seductive about someone sitting there asking you questions, even if they don't agree with you. Also I think they hoped to sway me as well. Many of them knew that I had written pieces for Ms magazine and for Mother Jones, which are not known for their right-wing writers. They brought that up in interviews. I remember one of the women saying, "Well, you're very polite for somebody who's written for Ms magazine." I don't know what she thought Ms magazine writers were like. I think there was just a genuine desire to tell their own story and also I think not very many people had actually sat down and asked them to speak. There's been a lot of commentary about right-wing activists, but for a lot of these people, nobody knocked on their door before.
LAMB: What did you find, for instance, when you visited Beverly LaHaye? Who is she and who's she married to? Kind of explain a little more about why you went to see her.
FALUDI: I didn't go to Beverly LaHaye's home. Her husband is Tim LaHaye, who is one of the big guns in the right wing movement.
LAMB: He's a preacher.
FALUDI: Yes, and part of Moral Majority. LaHayeÕs organization, though, I did visit, and it was actually rather amusing. Here we have a woman who says that womenÕs place is in the home and that it is not in womenÕs nature to be ambitious or to want any kind of power. I walk into her office, which is set up like the Oval Office with the big flag planted next to the executive desk and a lot of pictures behind her of Beverly LaHaye shaking hands with Ronald Reagan. She did have pink curtains and her business cards were pink, but she was very much a professional person interested in power. In fact, no one in the organization was allowed to speak to me or to speak to anybody without her permission. Shortly before I had arrived, in fact, she had appointed herself president for life, as she put it. So there were all these contradictions that just leaped out in front of you when you set eyes just on the setup of her organization.
LAMB: What motivates her? WhatÕs her philosophy? Should women stay home?
FALUDI: While she believes that women should stay home, in the middle of this interview her secretary came in and was going over her travel plans, which would put the average traveling salesman to shame. She had been to Latin America about 14 times in the last few years and was traveling all over the country speaking and organizing. I think what drives her, though, is what drives anyone. What drives her is this human need to be engaged in the public world, to experience public life and to feel as if you are a part of it and as if youÕre making some change. Now, in her case, she also came from this deeply conservative background. She did not want to give that up, and this was a way of sort of having her cake and eating it, too -- of being inside that traditional safe harbor. She wasnÕt really challenging her conservative religious community in a way that would make her an outcast, but yet she was also fulfilling these basic human needs to get out of the house, be part of the world, speak up and have people listen to you and recognize you and appreciate you.
LAMB: Have you had any feedback from any of the people you wrote about?
FALUDI: IÕve had some, but not an enormous amount. I should say not directly. I think Beverly LaHaye put out a press release condemning my evil feminist ways, but I didnÕt hear from her directly. Now I probably will, having said that.
LAMB: What was the first day that this book hit the bookstores?
FALUDI: It was in October.
LAMB: So itÕs a year ago. When did you first know you had something special here?
FALUDI: ItÕs hard to say. In a way itÕs very ironic because probably the first inkling was a story in Newsweek in which they were noting fall books and they said, ÒThis book is bound to be a very talked-about, controversial book,Ó and they equated it with The Feminine Mystique. I say ÒironicÓ because probably the publication I took most to task in the book was Newsweek. This is a very interesting dynamic and in a way a sort of poetic justice. The women in the media who write for the culture pages, the Òback of the bookÓ as they call it in news weeklies, were women who felt as I did. In fact, the reason they were in the back of the book is because many publications in the Ô70s were forced to hire women after a series of class action, sex discrimination suits. They said, ÒOkay, weÕll hire these women, but weÕll stick them in the womenÕs pages.Ó Then the womenÕs pages turned into the arts and books pages. So when a book like mine came out, it fell into the hands of these women who were very personally familiar with the kind of discrimination that was going on inside the media, were as frustrated as I was, and they were the women who showcased Backlash. In Newsweek the reason why it got so much attention was because there were women who were feminists at the back of the book and so they embraced Backlash because it made sense to them.
LAMB: Now, in the middle of all this, you left San Jose Mercury and came to the Wall Street Journal.
FALUDI: Right. I did.
LAMB: When did you go to the Journal?
FALUDI: That was after I had finished Backlash. I took a year or a year and a half off to finish it, and then I went to the Wall Street Journal.
LAMB: Why did they hire you? What was the reason? What was the job?
FALUDI: I was working in the San Francisco bureau, and I was hired to write longer social issues kinds of stories. I was not hired for my knowledge of stocks and bonds, thank goodness.
LAMB: How long were you there?
FALUDI: A few years.
LAMB: Like two years or three years?
FALUDI: A little more than two years.
LAMB: Why did you leave?
FALUDI: I left or I went on leave to handle the demands surrounding the book and also because I felt that this is a very unusual and exciting opportunity for feminists to get the message. After so many years of silence, we now have this window of opportunity where people are willing to talk about feminist issues, where the media is actually willing to run stories about womenÕs health, about sexual harassment, about a whole slew of womenÕs concerns in the newspaper. It seemed almost a crime to say, okay, well, IÕm not really going to participate in any of that now. IÕm just going to go back to writing about high finance, so I took a break from that, and I may return. I havenÕt decided.
LAMB: Newsweek was the first one to tip people off that the book was coming. When did you next notice more than just a mention in Newsweek that this book was going to sell?
FALUDI: It began selling very rapidly, and I began getting scads of letter from women.
LAMB: Who else jumped on the bandwagon in reporting? It wasnÕt just Newsweek, was it?
FALUDI: No, no. IÕm trying to remember now. It was so long ago it seems.
LAMB: Did you have television appearances?
FALUDI: There were many television appearances. Again, it was a very curious position for me to be in because one of the things I talk about in the book is trying to dissect how a so-called trend story makes the rounds of the media loop and how, say, an idea like post-feminism and this notion that somehow women are now beyond the womenÕs movement, that weÕre just too sophisticated and weÕve gone on into this supposedly higher realm, when, of course, what post-feminism really is just anti-feminism in a different pair of clothes. I talked in the book about how an idea like that, introduced in the media, then gets picked up on television, in fashion ads, in comic strips. Then after Backlash became a media phenomenon of its own, it went through this same loop, so all of a sudden I see Backlash referred to in sit-coms like ÒHome Improvement.Ó It was in Brenda Starr. It was in the JehovahÕs Witness newsletter. It was curious to see that same loop with my name in it.
LAMB: A basic question is whether or not these trends that the media begin and end are thoughtout or do they just happen and once they take off everybody gets in the act?
FALUDI: I think theyÕre largely not thought-out. That was part of the problem with so many of these media myths. I think they start out by being ideas that fit into certain preconceptions we have. In the case of women, a lot of the myths of the backlash were seized upon by the media because they made sense in some gut level. Women who ask for too much are going to get it. I mean, thatÕs something weÕve heard over and over again since the beginning of humankind. So in many respects, both men and women in the media were sitting there thinking, when is the ax going to fall? Women have been pushing and pushing. Women have been radically changing their role in society. Surely thereÕll be a punishment for this. So when stories came along that fit into that idea such as, ÒOh, well, youÕll never get married,Ó or, ÒOh, youÕll never have children,Ó or, ÒOh, your children are going to be molested in day care,Ó or, ÒOh, youÕre going to become a crazy career nut who goes around boiling rabbits like the woman in Fatal Attraction.Ó It fit into this little morality play we all have in our head. Then once it gets into the media itÕs like that spot in the rug where you scrub it and then itÕs all over. You only make it worse. I think thatÕs what happened here, too, is that the idea was almost impossible to root out once it got into our cultural imagination.
LAMB: When was the decision made to market your book with Gloria Steinem?
FALUDI: You mean when we had this advertisement that we did together. I think that was Gloria SteinemÕs idea or her publisherÕs idea. I canÕt remember.
LAMB: The cover of Time magazine?
FALUDI: Oh, I thought you meant -- we actually did an ad together.
LAMB: I know you did both. You ended up on the cover of Time magazine?
FALUDI: Right. The cover of Time magazine, Time approached us.
LAMB: What did that do for you?
FALUDI: It certainly made me less of an anonymous person, which I think is a very difficult position to be in for a writer. I shouldnÕt say Òdifficult.Ó Uncomfortable, because I think writers function best when they are anonymous, when they can be the fly on the wall and when theyÕre not worried about what people think of them. Once you become a public persona, then what comes with that is the idea that you have to live up to that persona, that you donÕt want to offend people -- you know, all the baggage that comes with being somebody whoÕs in the limelight. ItÕs very difficult to write under those conditions. ItÕs very difficult to write honestly, I think is what IÕm really saying.
LAMB: IÕve got the October edition of American Spectator. Have you seen this yet?
FALUDI: No, I havenÕt.
LAMB: You havenÕt seen this, really?
FALUDI: I think IÕve heard about it.
LAMB: YouÕre on the cover. I guess it just came out. I saw it in the bookstores.
FALUDI: Not one of the more flattering portraits of me.
LAMB: Have you read it? Has anybody told you about the article?
FALUDI: No, I havenÕt.
LAMB: Are you surprised that a year later that here it is.
FALUDI: I can imagine that itÕs not a tribute.
LAMB: Why can you imagine? It says ÒWake Up, Little Susie.Ó ThatÕs the title. ItÕs written by a woman by the name of Mary Eberstadt. SheÕs a contributing editor of The National Interest magazine. Do you know her?
FALUDI: I donÕt know her personally, no. IÕve heard of her.
LAMB: The subhead on this says, ÒJust when you thought feminism was mellowing, along comes bad girl Susan Faludi to do her sulking on the bestseller lists.Ó
FALUDI: Actually somebody did send me a Xerox of that, although they kindly didnÕt Xerox the front page, so I didnÕt recognize it at first. This is a very interesting pattern that IÕve recognized recently where feminists are now accused of being whiney or, in her words, sulky. Forbes magazine referred to Backlash as the ÒwhinerÕs bible,Ó but itÕs this new way of attacking feminism. ItÕs the reverse of what they used to do, which is say, ÒFeminists are alienating the average woman by insisting that women all become these superwomen -- do everything, be ambitious, be hard-driving executives, go for all the power.Ó Now what theyÕre saying is, ÒOh, feminists are turning off the average women by promoting this super-victim image.Ó I was just reading an article the other day. It was about the fifth article IÕve seen in which this accusation was made that feminists are promoting victimhood simply by drawing attention to it.
LAMB: ThereÕs a book out called Nation of Victims.
FALUDI: But, you know, I think thereÕs a big difference between pointing out that women are attacked on the street and at home and pointing out that the leading cause of injury to women is battery by the man they live with. ThereÕs a big difference between pointing out womenÕs condition and endorsing it. The point of feminism is not to point out the ways that women are victimized simply to encourage that victimization. The point is to make women strong enough to challenge their victimizing. They almost wilfully seem to be ignoring that in these pieces. The other thing is whenever women protest their treatment itÕs either written off as hysteria or itÕs, ÒOh, stop complaining. Stop being a nag. Stop whining. Stop sulking.Ó The only other thing I can say about that is I think it would take a real stretch of the imagination to see the tone of Backlash as sulking.
LAMB: Who got the maddest that you know of after Backlash came out? Have you had a confrontation in public?
FALUDI: No, I havenÕt.
LAMB: How about on television?
FALUDI: No, not really. I mean, I donÕt volunteer for television shows which are going to lend themselves to cat fights.
LAMB: You mean you donÕt look for it. If somebody sets up a confrontation, you avoid it?
FALUDI: I prefer to conduct my confrontations on paper.
LAMB: How has the book changed your life? Do you speak?
FALUDI: ThatÕs one of the big ways in which itÕs changed my life. I think a lot of people who write, write because theyÕre not public speakers, because they bombed out in the audition for their high school play. Since the book came out, IÕve done a great deal of public speaking, and I think that that has been part of my own personal feminist evolution as well to be able not only to project my voice on paper, but to stand up at a public forum and speak up. ItÕs an extremely liberating experience for women, who are not taught that itÕs ladylike to take a stand in public.
LAMB: Do you have people that you most admire that are alive today in this kind of a political movement?
FALUDI: Well, certainly Gloria Steinem.
LAMB: WhatÕs the reason, other than the obvious?
FALUDI: ThereÕs so many reasons, IÕm not sure where to go.
LAMB: Is she the number one role model?
FALUDI: She combines graciousness and humor and intelligence with an incredible staying power. IÕm exhausted after just the last year, and sheÕs been at this for 20, 25 years. I have great admiration for that. You know, there are so many feminist activists out there who get no attention because the press has this habit of putting three people on their Rolodex and calling them over and over again. There are women across the country, whether itÕs in the labor union movement or at 9 to 5, which works for the rights of working women, particularly working class women. There were women who led the peace movement during the Persian Gulf War who really were instrumental in organizing the peace movement and have gotten no attention in the press.
LAMB: How about women who have been involved in the feminist movement over the years that are now a disappointment to you? Women that are now a disappointment to you, that didnÕt keep it up and may have changed their tune? You write about some of them here.
FALUDI: I write about some of them in there. You know, some of those women IÕve written about have since sort of recharged, not that I take responsibility for that.
LAMB: Betty Friedan?
FALUDI: In the book IÕm critical of Betty FriedanÕs book The Second Stage. What IÕm critical of is actually, in a sense, her putting down her own movement and putting herself down. One of the points thatÕs made in The Second Stage is that the feminists of the late Ô60s, early Ô70s didnÕt do enough to focus on the needs of women with children. In fact, when you go back and read NOWÕs Manifesto -- itÕs a bill of rights which Betty Friedan drafted -- the majority of those points have to do with women with children, with working mothers. The list of demands includes child care, maternity leave, an end to pregnancy discrimination and so on and so on. Throughout the Ô70s and Ô80s, it was feminist organizations who were most committed to advancing the rights of working mothers. The real enemy to family needs was not the womenÕs movement. It was the chamber of commerce, the lobbyists for corporations who didnÕt want to shell out the money to offer such programs.
LAMB: In the few minutes we have remaining, let me just touch a couple of bases quickly. A hundred and six women were nominated for the U.S. House of Representatives in the primary process, 11 women for the Senate. Your reaction?
FALUDI: Well, we will have to wait and see what happens this election day, but it strikes me that you canÕt separate that from everything else thatÕs gone on this year. I mean, whatÕs happened is that women are furious and theyÕre not going to back down, that the combination of knowing that weÕre at the 11th hour in the abortion rights battle, that standing between us and the right to have an abortion is one infirm Supreme Court justice, the furor over the treatment of Anita Hill by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the awareness that we are abysmally represented in the Senate, not to mention just about every other legislative body in this country, provoked women to get out there and run and it provoked other women to give money to organizations that fund female feminist candidates. In the last year donations to EMILYÕs List and other womenÕs campaign funds more than doubled. So it was this combination of our anger and our money and rediscovering our voices thatÕs led to this outpouring of political activism among women. The key, though, is to keep it going beyond election day because the media will take the year of the women only so far and then drop it and look for another trend, and itÕs up to women to force that year into the next year and the year after that.
LAMB: I checked how many times the name Clarence Thomas came up in your book and found one. I think it was page 185 and it was in conjunction with being chairman of the EEOC. It was a matter of timing, of course, on this thing. If you had to write this book over again . . .
FALUDI: I think there would certainly be a long chapter on Clarence Thomas.
LAMB: Were you surprised at anything that happened during the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings based on your research and the way you see this issue?
FALUDI: No. In fact, I thought it was a classic example in microcosm of how the backlash works, because you had one woman stand up before a body of men and speak up, and what happened? She was pushed back by a storm of denunciation, of ridicule. She was called pathological. Her femininity was called into question. Her sanity was called into question. Most of all, she was not listened to. These are all typical responses to any woman who stands up and makes a demand for her rights.
LAMB: WhatÕs next?
FALUDI: IÕm beginning -- at the very beginning -- of a book that is, in a sense, a companion to Backlash. I sort of jokingly call it ÒSon of Backlash.Ó If the first book was about what is a backlash, what does it look like, how does it work and documenting it, then this second book will be looking at why does there seem to be such hostility and fear among the male culture and among many men whenever we see the mere glimmer of female independence. What are the sociological and psychological and anthropological roots of that kind of resistance?
LAMB: In the article in The American Spectator it says that youÕre getting $1.5 million to write this next book.
FALUDI: They say a lot of things. They didnÕt call me and ask me.
LAMB: Does it now become more difficult? I assume youÕre doing much better financially than you used to. Does making money become a drive for you when you see all this stuff being a success?
FALUDI: I donÕt ever write to make money. If making money was the reason I picked my profession, I donÕt think I would have picked journalism.
LAMB: But do you find yourself changing at all when you start to do well, in your own mind?
FALUDI: Not in any serious way, I donÕt think. I mean, itÕs something IÕm very conscious of, but since IÕm not much of a shopper and since I donÕt care much for fancy cars, it hasnÕt transformed my life in any way worth noting.
LAMB: Are the next 10 years going to be better or worse for women, in your opinion, than they were the last 10 years?
FALUDI: I shudder to think of them being worse. I think so much depends on this election because if we wind up with Bush and if he, in turn, appoints the next Supreme Court justice, then we may very well -- I donÕt see any way of preventing it -- see Roe v. Wade overturned and that will just overturn the whole wheelbarrow for women because what else do we have? If we canÕt make basic decisions about when and if and how many children weÕre going to have, what other decisions in our life can we make? Everything depends on that.
LAMB: Last question. Who invented the title for this book?
FALUDI: IÕm trying to remember now. I just refer to backlash endlessly in the book, so it was sort of the obvious title. I kept trying to think of a better one and didnÕt, so we just went with that, but it was actually kind of a fall-back title.
LAMB: Our guest has been Susan Faludi. This is what the book looks like. ItÕs called Backlash. ItÕs been in the bookstores for a year and now in paperback. See the subhead there, The Undeclared War Against American Women. Thank you very much for joining us.
FALUDI: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1992. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.