Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
WASHINGTON -- Susan Faludi is waifish in slacks and sweater as she enters
the National Press Club auditorium to promote her new book Stiffed: The
Betrayal of the American Man.
Gathering her notes, she approaches the lectern with an almost apologetic
timidity, suggestive of a doe approaching a gentle pond in a willowy
glade. Feminist Faludi smiles broadly to her audience, then explains her
latest spin on American misery -- this time, man-style.
Men are miserable, Faludi says, not because of testosterone, not because of
feminism; but because of a culture that no longer values the traditional
measures of masculinity. Of course, men created the culture, which is to
say: Fix it, boys, or eat it.
Faludi has a Lady Di way of peering up from beneath her eyelids -- which
curiously seem to flutter coquettishly. "I just wanna help," her expression
In fairness, Faludi's lash-fluttering probably was owing to contact lenses,
but the effect was unmistakably feminine. And why not? Faludi, who blamed
women's unhappiness on a vast male conspiracy in her earlier book,
Backlash, has discovered her feminine side. She feels men's pain.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, sports fans, but feminist-fatale
Faludi is not your friend.
Every remark about her findings -- whether resulting from an interview with
a male porn star or a confused war veteran -- was uttered with barely
concealed contempt. Her smile, beguiling perhaps to men desperate for
female understanding, is a coached effect designed to disguise the sneer
hovering just beneath the surface.
What makes me so sure? Call it mother's intuition. I can always tell when
someone's lying. On a more tangible level, Faludi simply misses the point.
Or at least she misses such a large point -- the alienation of the American
male from home and family -- that her other conclusions can't be taken
As I listened to her lilting voice, I thought: The woman spins a good yarn.
The plot has motion. The characters are colorful -- porn stars (everyone's
notion of maleness), movie stars (regular-guy Sylvester Stallone),
hood-lums, convicts, boys who measure their worth through sexual conquest.
American manhood, once defined by conquering frontiers and saving
democracies, now has been reduced to a retail culture, "that honors men
only for having the biggest biceps, the fastest cars, the greatest
'killing' on the stock market," Faludi wrote for MSNBC's Web site.
But Faludi's story is a superficial fiction, filled with exaggerated
characters who fail to resonate with real people and a plot with too many
holes to permit the requisite suspension of disbelief.
Faludi could have filled those holes easily had she skipped her next
book-signing and crossed town to the annual meeting of the Children's
Rights Council, where men and women gathered to discuss the issues that
more likely underscore men's misery -- the disenfranchisement of the
Those in attendance weren't worried about their biceps or their credit card
limits. They weren't obsessing about ornamental masculinity. Instead, they
were consumed with urgent concern for their children and the rising number
of American children growing up without fathers.
In a culture where half of marriages end in divorce, resulting in fathers
becoming mostly visitors to their children's lives, men have a right to be
miserable. To leave them out of a book about men's unhappiness is the
definition of stiffed.