This Mother’s Day brought with it the usual onslaught of treacly admonitions to remember mom…as if we could forget. “Having power over someone is not the same as having power to confer,” laughs Susan Faludi when she explains her latest theory. She’s been looking at the emergence and disappearance of feminism from the national landscape and come up with the idea that “feminism has a mother/daughter problem.”
Since her first book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, Faludi has uncovered patterns in the erosion of feminism’s advances. Her recent work focuses on the trend itself.
In looking at the transfer of power among women, Faludi noticed that the suffragettes tried to foster the next generation using mother/daughter terminology. Barely seven years later, the smoking and drinking flappers of the 1920s turned around and slammed “their elder feminists as whiners and zealots.”
And then the movement went underground, not to reappear until the bra burnings of the 1960s. With their “sisterhood is power” slogans, according to Faludi, the second wave rejected “mom” altogether. Not that this fixed the problem. An “inability to deal directly and handle confrontation between mothers and daughters slops over into so-called sisterhood. It’s not like by saying sisterhood is powerful you get away from that.”
“A lot of what’s behind [the idea] that feminism has been settled [are these] commercial and consumer terms. It’s all about personal development and individual satisfaction. The political dimensions have been leeched out.”
She’s not yet sure if this is her next book or “a diary entry.” I’m rooting for the former.