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Jewish World Review Sept. 30, 1999 /20 Tishrei, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours --
WASHINGTON -- Susan Faludi is waifish in slacks and sweater as she enters the National Press Club auditorium to promote her new book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man.

Gathering her notes, she approaches the lectern with an almost apologetic timidity, sugges- tive of a doe approaching a gentle pond in a willowy glade. Feminist Faludi smiles broadly to her audience, then explains her latest spin on American misery -- this time, man-style.

Men are miserable, Faludi says, not because of testosterone, not because of feminism; but because of a culture that no longer values the traditional measures of masculinity. Of course, men created the culture, which is to say: Fix it, boys, or eat it.

Faludi has a Lady Di way of peering up from beneath her eyelids -- which curiously seem to flutter coquettishly. "I just wanna help," her expression suggests.

In fairness, Faludi's lash-fluttering probably was owing to contact lenses, but the effect was unmistakably feminine. And why not? Faludi, who blamed women's unhappiness on a vast male conspiracy in her earlier book, Backlash, has discovered her feminine side. She feels men's pain.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, sports fans, but feminist-fatale Faludi is not your friend.

Every remark about her findings -- whether resulting from an interview with a male porn star or a confused war veteran -- was uttered with barely concealed contempt. Her smile, beguiling perhaps to men desperate for female understanding, is a coached effect designed to disguise the sneer hovering just beneath the surface.

What makes me so sure? Call it mother's intuition. I can always tell when someone's lying. On a more tangible level, Faludi simply misses the point. Or at least she misses such a large point -- the alienation of the American male from home and family -- that her other conclusions can't be taken seriously.

As I listened to her lilting voice, I thought: The woman spins a good yarn. The plot has motion. The characters are colorful -- porn stars (everyone's notion of maleness), movie stars (regular-guy Sylvester Stallone), hood-lums, convicts, boys who measure their worth through sexual conquest.

American manhood, once defined by conquering frontiers and saving democracies, now has been reduced to a retail culture, "that honors men only for having the biggest biceps, the fastest cars, the greatest 'killing' on the stock market," Faludi wrote for MSNBC's Web site.

But Faludi's story is a superficial fiction, filled with exaggerated characters who fail to resonate with real people and a plot with too many holes to permit the requisite suspension of disbelief.

Faludi could have filled those holes easily had she skipped her next book-signing and crossed town to the annual meeting of the Children's Rights Council, where men and women gathered to discuss the issues that more likely underscore men's misery -- the disenfranchisement of the American father.

Those in attendance weren't worried about their biceps or their credit card limits. They weren't obsessing about ornamental masculinity. Instead, they were consumed with urgent concern for their children and the rising number of American children growing up without fathers.

In a culture where half of marriages end in divorce, resulting in fathers becoming mostly visitors to their children's lives, men have a right to be miserable. To leave them out of a book about men's unhappiness is the definition of stiffed.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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