cover image Stiffed: The Betrayal of American Man

Stiffed: The Betrayal of American Man

Susan Faludi. William Morrow & Company, $27.5 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12299-7

While it offers nothing like the eloquent argument she made in Backlash, Faludi's examination of what she dubs the ""masculinity crisis"" does present a series of thoughtful interviews and fly-on-the wall journalistic excursions into the company of men. Faludi finds that American men are looking for metaphorical Viagra to cure an impotence beyond the literal kind. And sometimes, she argues, they are looking in the wrong places, becoming the proverbial ""angry white males."" Laid-off aerospace and naval shipyard workers, magazine editors and football fans, patriots and Promise Keepers are struggling to define manhood. Faludi aims wide in targeting the sources of the masculine malaise, citing everything from ""the remote-control methods of a military-industrial economy"" to ""the feminization of an onrushing celebrity culture."" Boomers and postboomers, deprived of the heroic status of their WWII veteran dads and having had their sense of virtue eroded by the chastisements of feminism, are trying to find ""a route to manhood through the looking glass."" As Faludi exhaustively documents the struggles of incredible shrinking men with the ""post-cold-war restructuring of the economy,"" she suggests that the core of the problem is that men have lost ""a useful role in public life, a way of earning a decent and reliable living, appreciation in the home, respectful treatment in the culture."" Faludi concludes by exhorting men to stop thinking of masculinity as a quality detached from their humanity: ""their task is not, in the end, to figure out how to be masculine--rather, their masculinity lies in figuring out how to be human."" This admonition--be a mensch!--is a sensible way to close a book that proceeds less by well-shaped argument than by the accumulation of anecdotes and Faludi's intelligent, interpretive forays into the lives of men. (Oct.)