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The Terror Dream: What 9/11 Revealed About America Paperback – Import, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. SignatureReviewed by Richard RodriguezSusan Faludi has written a brilliant, unsentimental, often darkly humorous account of America's nervous breakdown after 9/11. The intrusions of September 11, she observes, broke the dead bolt on our protective myth, the illusion that... our might makes our homeland impregnable... and women and children safe in the arms of their men.Drawing on political rhetoric and accounts from the New York Times and the major networks, as well as Fox and talk radio, her book makes clear just how sexually anxious Americans became in the aftermath of that terrible day. But the tragedy had yielded no victorious heroes, so the culture wound up anointing a set of victimized men instead: the firemen who had died in the stairwells of the World Trade Center.The woman's role, she argues, became that of victim. Husbands had lost wives, but it was on the surviving wives of September 11 that America's grief was fixed. When some widows—the Jersey girls—rejected the victim's role by asking pointed questions about governmental incompetence, they were quickly ostracized by the press.After September 11, we read that Donald Rumsfeld had been a wrestler at Princeton—and that became his legend in news accounts. Even the president clearing brush in Crawford, Tex., became the stuff of legend in the National Review, which juxtaposed Bush's refreshingly brutish demeanor with the way the president sizes up the situation and says, 'You're mine, sucker.' A late chapter on Jessica Lynch rehearses how the myth of the imprisoned woman rescued by male warriors was manufactured by the government and the media. But I wish Faludi had appraised the more important Abu Ghraib scandal. Arguably, the photographs of Private Lynndie England standing over naked Arab men shocked many of us out of any remaining childish belief in our own heroism. The last third of the book traces how the American male's determination to see himself as protector (and the woman as dependent) derives from colonial Puritan wars against the Indians and the cowboy conquest of the West. In the end, Faludi judges our invasion of Afghanistan to be inept and tthe war in Iraq disastrous. It is essential, she says, not to confuse the defense of a myth with the defense of a country. A nation given to childish fantasy ends up with a president dressed like Tom Cruise, a chest beater in a borrowed flight suit.Richard Rodriguez is the author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America (Penguin).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
*Starred Review* Panicked and anxious in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack, the nation has returned to the earlier mythology of the protective male and the dependent female, according to Faludi, author of Backlash (1991) and Stiffed (1999). She points to the sudden and stunning disappearance of women in the media as editorialists, commentators and scholars immediately following 9/11. In addition, police and fire departments across the nation have reduced their hiring of women, using 9/11 as justification for the need for brawny rescuers, while President Bush took on the persona of a cowboy, issuing threats to the terrorists. Faludi also examines how the media-fabricated rescue of Jessica Lynch morphed from a story of a heroic GI Jane to the more appetizing one of a fragile female rescued by heroic American male troops. She also examines the scrutiny and harsh criticism of four 9/11 widows who became politically active and asked embarrassing questions of the Bush administration. Faludi debunks the media-created myths of post-9/11 trends of baby fever, nesting, and security moms, all involving women returning body, mind, and vote to the hearth. Faludi traces the roots of the fascination with the tableau of the brawny male and the fragile female all the way back to Puritan America. In the conclusion of this insightful book, Faludi laments how all the myth-making has squandered opportunities to critically examine the flaws in American foreign and domestic policy. Bush, Vanessa --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The terror attacks of 9/11, Faludi argues, punctured the myth of America's invincibility. The feelings of fear and insecurity that everybody experienced as a result led to the emergence of a series of phenomena aimed at restoring this feeling of invincibility and security. Sadly, this restoration was conducted along the lines of the patriarchal vision of gender. Faludi's book analyzes the ways in which the media attempted to convince us of the validity and the profound relevance of the patriarchal worldview for the post-9/11 world.
Armed with her truly extensive research, Faludi demonstrates that the responses to the trauma of 9/11 represent a coherent whole, fueled by the call for the return to the traditional gender roles: "Taken individually, the various impulses that surfaced after 9/11 - the denigration of capable women, the magnification of manly men, the heightened call for domesticity, the search for and sanctification of helpless girls - might seem random expressions of some profound cultural derangement. But taken together, they form a coherent and inexorable whole, the cumulative elements of a national fantasy in which we are deeply invested, our elaborately constructed myth of invincibility."
Faludi analyzes the reasons behind many events that in the aftermath of the trauma we might have failed to notice and address. The push to present the heroes of 9/11 as exclusively male and its victims as exclusively female (even though this goes against all available evidence). The evisceration of female intellectuals (Barbara Kingsolver, Susan Sontag, Katha Pollitt) for saying the exact same things that their male colleagues were saying with impunity at that very moment. The promulgation of unsupported myths about women deciding to abandon the workplace in massive numbers, women choosing family over careers, and women desperate to get married and have babies as a result of 9/11. The push for the return to traditional gender roles. The fictitious image of "security moms." The treatment of 9/11 widows and the complete marginalization of 9/11 widowers. The story of Jessica Lynch that was based on an incredible number of lies and distorions.
Faludi delves into the depths of American history in order to disinter its foundational myths and discover why the collective trauma of 9/11 provoked such an unequivocally gendered response. Well-written, brilliantly argued, beautifully researched, Faludi's book is definitely worth reading.
What made the book so fascinating is the way Faludi tells the stories as presented by the media that we all know so well and then digging deeper to show their falseness. One example is Time magazine (or was it Newsweek?) compiling a big list of 9/11 heroes, including a male doctor who stitched up one small cut. The only women on the list were two women who fit the stereotyped role for women: kindergarten teachers leading children to safety. Not included were flight attendants throwing boiling water on terrorists or a female firefighter leading dozens to safety despite a chunk of concrete in her head.
Another example is Jessica Lynch, the American soldier who was made out to be some sort of girly girl in over her head who got hurt and possibly raped before being rescued by big, strong "real" male soldiers. The reality was she wasn't raped, she wasn't tortured, her Iraqi doctors and nurses went above and beyond to provide her great care and even tried to turn her over twice to U.S. forces but that wasn't allowed, she had to be rescued. Jessica's prowess was played down whereas a fellow soldier was praised for helping her by setting his cloth duffle bag in front of her body (likely by accident) to supposedly protect her from enemy fire.
But the book doesn't stop with current events. Faludi does an excellent job making the parallels with false but widely believed tales of women in early American cowering from Indian captors before being saved by their heroic husbands or people like Daniel Boone, whose myth is hilariously debunked.
As a journalist, I was also interested in the many ways fellow journalists made up stories about supposed post-911 baby booms and increases in women giving up their careers to do what's really important and stay home with their children. The New York Times should especially hang its head in shame at the sheer number of stories that have single-source corroboration and that later turned out to be false when data become available to verify the supposed trends, like women deciding to date men they normally would've never looked at before because of the wakeup call from 9/11.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I got the audio version, and the narrator perfectly captures the subtle flavors of each anecdote, giving slight hints of mocking or bravery, thus bringing further richness to the telling.
It looks like the book wasn't successful, though, given its remaindered status on Amazon. Not a surprise. I plan to also buy the print version because there are so many juicy pieces I want to be able to summon easily.
I think anyone who has an interest in societal discrimination against women or early American tales of Indian-settler conflicts would love the book.