The Fall of Man

Promise breakers: Susan Faludi goes in search of the origins of male betrayal.
photo: Debra Dipaolo
Promise breakers: Susan Faludi goes in search of the origins of male betrayal.

Details

Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man
By Susan Faludi
William Morrow, 662 pp., $27.50
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Faludi is most at home with the white boys she grew up around in her postwar suburb. A mere third of one chapter is devoted to the Scott brothers of South Central L.A.: Kody, of Monster supergangsta fame, Kershaun of lesser Crips lieutenant fame, and Kerwin, the law-abiding younger son who toils dutifully in a grocery store. Otherwise, we are in predominantly white company and thereby miss out on most of the socially valuable debates about the crisis of ethnic America, and especially black masculinity. As a result, readers who have learned to mistrust universalist statements about gender will take with a pinch of salt Faludi's call for all men to revolt, as women once did. They may indeed point out that the very model she favors— gay men's care-giving, institution-building response to the AIDS crisis— has mostly benefited middle-class whites. So, too, those more partial to economic causality will note that she has much less to say about the impact of the sweeping restructuring of capitalism than she surely ought to. But her call for men's liberation is neither naive nor unsupported, and the stark reasoning and thick description in this book merit at least as much public discussion as did Backlash. Faludi is warning us, after all, that mass mobilizations like the Promise Keepers and the Million Man March may not have been mere wind-driven ripples on the surface of history, but advance signals of some serious seismic shaking down below.

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