Following the 9/11 tragedy, Susan Faludi, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of New York Times best-seller “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” sat down to write her latest book, “The Terror Dream: Myth and Misogyny in an Insecure America,” in 2007 after being in Europe during the July 7, 2005, bombings in London.
“The Terror Dream” exposes the media fantasy and fear that followed the 9/11 attacks. Faludi will present “9/11: Myth, Media and Gender” at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Emerson Suites. The event is sponsored by the Park Center for Independent Media.
Staff writer Taylor Long spoke with Faludi about “The Terror Dream” and her personal views on the country’s failure to confront complex issues relating to 9/11 10 years later.
Taylor Long: What did you want to accomplish in publishing “The Terror Dream”?
Susan Faludi: I was hoping to launch a meaningful discussion about our cultural and psychological reaction to 9/11 and why it was so strange. My hope was to get an actual conversation going that was about something more meaningful than missions accomplished, evildoers crushed.
TL: Did you make these analyses during the time it all happened, or was it something you reflected on later and decided to write about?
SF: After 9/11, I got all these phone calls from reporters who were doing post-9/11 stories about how 9/11 was going to supposedly bring back traditional female and male roles. Women would be getting married, rushing to the wedding alter. [They] would want to stay home and bake and would want a man to protect them. Men were going to be more “masculine” — a John Wayne sort of machismo. It all seemed very strange and off the point. Like everybody else, I was sleep-walking a little bit after, sort of in a daze and confused and in shock. It took a while for me to begin to put the pieces together.
What began my thinking process was I was in Europe when 7/7 happened — the attacks on the subways in London. I was following the news and the aftermath of those attacks on BBC and British newspapers. What I noticed was that the rhetoric was very different. They treated it as a crime that needed to be investigated and prosecuted and there was no talk of how British women were going to go back to baking crumpets and serving tea.
TL: This Sunday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. How do you think the narrative surrounding 9/11 has changed since that time, if at all?
SF: The “Terror Dream” chronicles a moment in which all our defenses were down. So a lot of our raw fears and anxieties as a culture were on display. As we moved away from that moment, the reaction was less visible. That said, because we never confronted that as our reaction, it still lies there beneath the surface ready to be provoked the next time we face another crisis moment.
The thing that strikes me the most about the 10th anniversary is how little we’ve really grappled with the deeper meaning of the American response to the attacks. When you look at the immediate coverage, which was wall to wall, there’s very little that’s insightful or even willing to engage with the deeper questions. Mainly what happened was that we just went back into our burrows and buried ourselves in reality shows and have not confronted any aspects of our reaction, which is tragic.