With a huge assist from the New York Times' Patricia Cohen, feminist author Susan Faludi revealed apparently incapable of connecting to the 9-11 tragedy in human terms in Thursday's Arts section story "Towers Fell, and Attitudes Were Rebuilt," in which Faludi cast heroic acts after 9-11 as an anti-woman lurch back to "prefeminist thinking."
"The terrifying and wrenching photographs from September 2001 on display at the New-York Historical Society are suspended from clips in neat rows like laundry hanging on a line. Among them is a black-and-white picture of a life-size cardboard cutout of John Wayne in his prime, with a placard hanging from his neck that reads: 'This is no time for cowboys.'
"'That could be the cover of my book,' Susan Faludi said. She was visiting the Historical Society's exhibition of photographs and artifacts from the World Trade Center attacks and talking about her work 'The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America,' out next week from Metropolitan Books."
The radical feminist bugaboo John Wayne (shouldn't the movement update its cliches?) has a strange hold on Faludi.
"Ms. Faludi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of two previous books, was perplexed by the cultural fallout from that day. What she found, she says, was a powerful resurgence in traditional sex roles and a glorification of he-man virility as embodied by Wayne, the ur-savior of virtuous but helpless damsels in distress. The prefeminist thinking was everywhere, Ms. Faludi said: in the media, where female commentators were suddenly scarce after 9/11 and specious trend reports appeared about women nesting and baking; in depictions of that day's heroes as male and victims as female; and in movies like the 2005 'War of the Worlds,' Ms. Faludi said, with Tom Cruise as a 'deadbeat divorced dad emasculated by his wife, reclaiming his manhood by saving their little girl.'
"At the end of that movie, Mr. Cruise's character cradles his daughter in his arms, an echo of the final scene in John Ford's classic 1956 film 'The Searchers,' when John Wayne carries home his young niece, who was captured by Indians years before. 'It's some bizarre, weirdly out-of-proportion fixation,' Ms. Faludi said, 'an exaltation of American masculinity in an intergalactic crisis.'
"Those who did not conform to this story line, she added -- like female rescuers on 9/11 and widows who refused to remain piously grief-stricken or who scrutinized intelligence failures -- were treated with contempt."
Does this ring true to anyone besides radical feminists like Faludi (and apparently Cohen?). Cohen served as dutiful handmaiden to Faludi's bizarre abstractions, mustering only the weak challenge of a Yale historian who found Faludi "a powerful thinker" who was nevertheless "dubious of the whole notion of a national psyche."
"Ms. Faludi stopped by a fragment of landing gear from one of the planes. 'We have pieces but no story,' she said. 'It's like a lawyer's exhibits without the brief.' In this, the display mirrors the situation immediately after 9/11, she said. But then the Bush administration, aided by the media and others, cranked out a ready-made narrative that squeezed out people's experiences, she argued. Language was also co-opted, she added, mentioning how survivors and workers called the site 'the pile,' while the media used military lingo to rename it 'ground zero.'
For the complete version of this post, visit Times Watch.