[This mentions the words "critics" and "sects".]

The incredible shrinking American male

Berlin, Germany
November 13, 1999
Die Welt

For the turn of the millennium, a US feminist consoles the good old man of the masses - essay by Uwe Schmitt

When the much admired and abused feminist Susan Faludi authored an elegiac 600 page summons to the manhood of the American man for the turn of the millennium, either betrayal, delusion or a lot of money had to be at stake. In any case, this fall critics are expectantly poring over her book with the peculiarly suggestive title, "Stiffed - the Betrayal of the American Man". And the hubbub rose noisily around the forty year old woman reporter, who, according to the beliefs of her followers, had exposed a misogynous front of resistance in her prize-winning pamphlet "Backlash - The Secret War against the American Woman" in 1991.

Not that the discovery of a male life crisis was original - it has had a place in society for years under dozens of title lines, like the man with a suit, tie and pig snout. The only one surprised was the female author. She went out, she said in an advance interview, six years ago to discover the soul of the perpetrator. But all she found was victims: fatherless, valueless creatures without pride, stability or dreams, whose misery reminded Faludi of the hyperfeminist housewives of the 1950s in the isolation of their suburban houses. How these men of the 1990s are narcissistic hulls in a culture of ornaments, pampered and confused, each one in their ultramuscular pumped up body. Faludi found the pitiful shrinking man among male sports fans, in youth gangs and evangelical sects, among Vietnam veterans, porno actors and astronauts, and not least of all in Hollywood, where their crown witness, Sylvester Stallone, was deceived by a jealous father and exploitative producers into a career as a character actor. Since that time, he wants to be Rocky again.

And the sympathetic woman reporter diagnoses the same confusion everywhere. In the juvenile delinquents of the "Spur Posse" who parade rapes on television shows and, by doing so, can almost count on careers in show business. But also in Michael Bernhardt, who rebelled against the murders in My Lai by Charlie Company and testified against William Calley. They are all lamentable victims of a commercial society which offers an image but no substance.

Abandoned by alienated fathers who developed their identities as men from commercial crises and wars and tested out their identities in conquering outer space, Faludi's orphan boys are vain, without legacy or goal. The only thing left for them is to brutally or effeminately exploit themselves in every "performance game which is won on the market place, not in the work place." She did, however, find the last of the masculine men: at a shipyard which is threatened with closure in southern California. Big men who rely upon themselves with huge hands, whose work is no longer needed. Susan Faludi raves without limit about the ethos and genuine feelings of these simple men. In contrast to the worker who sweats by the steel bulkheads of the ship, the programmers, journalists, brokers and bodybuilders seem anemic to her. But the "masculine eunuch," as Faludi calls him in her enchantingly critical book "New Republic," does not have a word to say about his malaise. He does not know what is wrong with him, and does not even know enough to say anything about it.

If the average man were really so clueless, dumb and taciturn, "Stiffed" would have had to be a good 250 pages thinner. And that would have been very appropriate for this book. Because it is monstrously wordy. Susan Faludi, who now portends to see in gray what appears to her in black and white, does not just incessantly vary her thesis - ostentatiously a weakness of the running commentary inseparable from the book. She provides her sad heroes with unedited speech therapy.

And the way they are palavered about - dozens of pages lamenting about Rambo alias Rocky alias Sly Stallone - the unpleasant suspicion arises that Susan Faludi has forced her portraits of confused losers for her book all into the same theoretical subject folder. And that was the wrong one. What she describes concerns women as well as men in America who have not enjoyed education from families, schools or universities about how the market has more to offer than pure, parasitical image.

Susan Faludi portrayed overwhelmingly bad times for the lower middle class during the continuing recession of the 1990s. She mentioned the boom and the millions of new jobs only as a sideline. But these jobs are in no way all idiotic or dishonorable just because they don't offer a ship to sweat on. Her girlishly stated image of a man on the pier was once, as the jovial, callous-handed suppressor, the mortal enemy of feminists. She has destroyed the patriarchal male demon a long time ago for good reason. And in post-feminism she feels sorry for him and complains that his son is not man enough to defend himself. It is no accident that feminists are among the strongest critics of "Stiffed."

Not just men, everybody in America is deceived if they are simple-minded enough to believe the unreasonable expectations heaped upon them by the media's image dictators. What's true is that man's self-liberation has begun. Few want sympathy.

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