The 2001 attacks, she claims, made American feel vulnerable and created a longing for the good old days of 'manly men. As a result ...Female heroes were ignored ...Women vanished from TV talk shows ...Grieving widows became the feminine ideal ...June Cleaver replaced Carrie Bradshaw ...The national 'bump watch' began.
It will be interesting to see the book, but my initial reaction is that Faludi's at best simplistic and at worst just wrong.
There may have been an initial "longing for manly men," but nobody wanted the "good old days of manly men." There's no going back to the good old days of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Clark Gable. It's a lot more exaggerated now--Wolverine, Rambo, Grand Theft Auto, wrestlers, and the thug universe. No more of that strong, silent type anymore. Any man who wants to be a man has to be big and loud or be fans of someone big and loud. There's no safety in current manhood styles. Because it's all about "taking names" and "kicking ass," there's a sense in which instability is needed and desired as the only way to prove your manhood. Far from being a cause of insecurity, 9-11 was seen more as an opportunity to assert manliness. We were going to kick their ass and grind them into the dust.
The longing for a reason for a lot of American men to kick ass was a good chunk of the predisposition in American culture to accept the Bush administration's campaign to promote the invasion of Iraq.
But the administration might also be killing the comic book versions of masculinity. As we draw to the end of the 9-11 decade, big talking guys like George Bush and Dick Cheney have become legendary as failures. The big-talking guys of the right couldn't cut it in the war, couldn't cut it on the home front, couldn't avoid corruption, and couldn't keep away from Congressional pages, prostitutes, and undercover cops. In the end, the only kind of manhood that the big-talking guys of the right had was talk.
That's why it looks like the decade is going to end with Hillary Clinton as our first female president.
Because of their pathetic failures, the Bush, Cheney, and the Limbaugh/Hannity posers on the right have de-legitimated the whole trend toward comic book masculinity that fueled the initial reaction to 9-11. If Hillary Clinton is elected, what the country is going to get is a different kind of toughness, a patient kind of aggressiveness that's capable of cleaning up the messes left by the Bush incompetents and making policies work. Hillary-brand toughness is something that men and women can both have. Therefore, it's not really a kind of masculinity at all.
For my money, the Bush administration has been such a spectacular failure that one of the promising outcomes of the 9-11 decade is a general disconnection of manliness from political toughness.
That's a good thing and we have the Bush administration and the right to thank for it.
Maybe I should write a thank you note to the president.