Susan Faludi: feminism and 9/11

Alicia Bones

Susan Faludi’s Honors Convocation speech, “Sexual Politics and the Tragedy of 9/11,” had students wondering how the author and journalist would link these seemingly unrelated topics together.
In the fifth and final convocation this year, Faludi clarified any confusion as she discussed a new phenomenon in gender politics – what she called the “gender quake,” a new wave of gender identities spurred after 9/11.
Faludi began her speech by telling of how on the morning of 9/11, as she sat on her couch watching the news, a journalist called her and almost gleefully reported that 9/11 had “push[ed] feminism off the map.”
According to Faludi, the “plate tectonics” of gender identity and relations between men and women began to shift in the media and in American life.
Faludi explained that many reliable publications such as The New York Times and Newsweek reported that women were less inclined to be satisfied as single and independent people following 9/11, and another baby boom was predicted to occur as each woman’s biological clock began to tick faster after the tragedy.
Common gender identities for women illustrated by the media began to change as well. For example, the fashion world peddled “Crisis Couture,” which included ’50s-inspired outfits and Victorian-style dresses – fashion implying female submission. Television stations also began airing programs set in the ’50s.
Faludi also discussed how men’s roles began to change as well. Once again, according to the media, “women began salivating over firemen” and other societal examples of good protectors.
This trend of returning to pre-’60s gender norms for men also showed up in popular culture. The fashion industry also took note: Armani, for example, marketed camouflage.
This “new wave masculinity” translated into politics as well. Faludi quoted Newsweek as calling President Bush a “fighting machine who has dropped 15 pounds.” The media even called former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “a babe magnet” because “he was so manly.”
Along with Faludi’s speech, students and professors were acknowledged for their accomplishments as part of the Honors Convocation.
Susan Faludi is the author of “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women” and “Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man.” Her newest book, “The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America,” which focuses on the issues discussed in the convocation, will be available in November.