The Terror Dream
In her provocative new book, The Terror Dream (Metropolitan), Susan Faludi argues that the attack on the Twin Towers dealt an especially severe blow to American women. Beginning with the immediate aftermath of 9/11—when pundits not only claimed that the catastrophe made feminism irrelevant but blamed strong-minded women for making our country vulnerable and soft by undermining male authority—Faludi tracks the ways in which our conservative culture silenced women's voices in the media and pressured working mothers to become stay-at-home "security moms," meekly casting their votes for the manly men who promised to keep us safe. She notes how the heroic New York City firefighters resisted the affirmative action laws that would have admitted more women into the firehouse, and how the 9/11 widows and the rescued soldier Jessica Lynch were portrayed as pliant, helpless damsels in distress. In the book's less persuasive second section, Faludi argues that the current sense of threat reawakens the shame and sense of helplessness our forefathers felt when the early colonists were assaulted by their Native American neighbors, and that the so-called war against terrorism evokes those eras, such as the Cold War, when frightened Americans found comfort in traditional gender roles. You may argue with Faludi in your head—noting, for example, that women were having a hard time in the workplace long before 9/11, and that the subjugation of women is nearly always the hallmark of an increasingly undemocratic society and the legacy of a frontier past. But hers is a lively, important argument, a discussion highly worth having as we wake from our own terror dreams and try to figure out how all of us, male and female, wound up in the dangerous place where we find ourselves today.
— Francine Prose