Gender Expert Faludi Talks Feminism

“Feminism cannot be dead,” began author, lecturer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Susan Faludi in her talk on “Why Gender Is at the Center of Everything” this past Wednesday. In Kemper Auditorium, Faludi discussed the importance of feminism in society and gender relations. The Brace Center for Gender Studies invited Faludi to speak as a part of its “Women in Politics” speaker series. She was sponsored by the Elizabeth Roger’s Fellowship, which PA awards each year to an exceptional woman. Anthony Rotundo, Co-Head of the Brace Center and Instructor in History and Social Science, previously wrote a book about American manhood, which put him in contact with Faludi. Kathleen Dalton, Co-Head of the Brace Center, said that Faludi is “a key person in the field of women’s roles”. She said, “[Faludi] clearly is a major interpreter of gender issues and relations.” Faludi has written several books about gender relations, including “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” “Stiffed” and “The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America.” Faludi is currently a lecturer at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Faludi defined the term feminism as “the belief that this is not a half a world, wasting the contributions of the [other] half” and “the idea that women are not just objects to be looked at but adults whose contributions are critical to a just and meaningful society”. The necessity and timelessness of feminism in American society was a central message of Faludi’s presentation. She also mentioned how gender inequalities between wages, healthcare and education are still prevalent today. After beginning her talk by analyzing the roots of feminism with the movement for suffrage, Faludi continued to show how sexism is still evident today. She described the role the media has played in past primaries, particularly in regard to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Faludi quoted several political reporters and pundits who criticized Clinton, often with derogatory statements. Faludi also discussed her book “The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America.” The book highlights how gender roles became more old-fashioned after the attacks on the World Trade Centers. Courtnie Crutchfield ’09, Co-Head of Women’s Forum, said, “We had heard of the sexism Hillary Clinton had faced [during her campaign], but not many people thought of 9/11.” There were also some positive trends, Faludi said. “Most women are quite adamant that they want equality in careers, wages and opportunities. The basic principles of feminism have permeated our culture,” she said. Students at Phillips Academy interpreted her speech in various ways. Mary Krome ’09 said, “I had read Faludi’s books, but what stood out to me were the statistics representing inequality.” Faludi cited in her presentation that the United States ranked 77 among all nations in regard to the percentage of women in federal office. Ahead of the United States were countries including Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan. “I think she did a very good job of looking deeply into how gender roles have shaped the roots of politics,” said Elizabeth Patino ’09. “I was struck by how something like economic depression or terrorism could have affects on gender relations.” Don Abbot, Phillips Academy faculty emeritus, said, “[Her presentation] showed it was important to improve our quality of critical thinking in order to discern what society is really telling us.” Faludi highlighted one gender “issue” at Phillips Academy: the lack of female candidates in the upcoming elections for School President. She mentioned how only four female School Presidents have been elected in the history of the school. Alana Rush, Co-Coordinator of the School President elections and Assistant Director of Community Service, said, “The most important way to encourage and empower women is by supporting the goals that they have established.” Faludi said that “meetings discussing the issues” were necessary to rectify gender inequalities. Mary Fulton, Instructor in English, said, “I hope students will think about the feminist goal of helping both genders to reach their full potential.”