Friday, 19 February 2010

The Terror Dream

Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post 9/11 America is interesting. Not as good, in my opinion, as Backlash, but still worth reading. It analyses the media's reaction to 9/11 and how almost before the ashes were cold the attacks were interpreted as being attacks on domestic life in America and were in some quarters attributed to feminists. If feminists hadn't 'weakened' America then the attacks would not have happened. Overnight influential female commentators were removed from all sections of the media.

Faludi shows how there was an upsurge in apparent interest in domesticity. Women were said to be giving up their high powered jobs and returning to the home - leaving the dangerous work to the men. It was as though men could only be heroes if women were wimps and needed protecting. No one wanted to interview the widowers of 9/11 victims - it was all about the widows of hero fire fighters. Once those same widows started making new lives for themselves they were criticised by the media as though they should remain forever in the slough of despond. No one mentioned the women and children killed in the attacks or that most of those rescued actually rescued themselves with no help from anyone else.

The second half of the book examines America's early history and shows how the female early settlers were more feisty and self reliant than has generally been supposed. Women kidnapped by Indians either succeeded in rescuing themselves by fair means or foul or preferred to make a life with their 'captors' rather than returning to their Puritan communities. This history has been rewritten as men being heroic and taking care of everyone - even though many men fled in the opposite direction at the first sight of a tomahawk leaving women and children to fend for themselves.

The book concludes that America needs to examine its prevailing myth of men being heroes and women being damsels in distress as this will not wash in the modern world.

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