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BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY by Rebecca Traister

BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY

The Election that Changed Everything for American Women

By Rebecca Traister

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4391-5028-3
Publisher: Free Press

Salon staff writer Traister makes the compelling argument that the 2008 election campaign changed the role of women in national politics.

Hillary Clinton was the first woman to win a presidential primary, and while her hard-hitting, tough campaigning made her the target of sexist vitriol, both she and President Obama received more primary votes than any other presidential candidate in history. The author writes that the 2008 election was wholly transformative. “Over a period of just a few years,” she writes, “the United States, its assumptions, its prejudices, its colors, shapes, sizes, and vocabulary, had cracked open.” In addition to Clinton, Traister sees the choice of Alaska’s first female governor for John McCain’s running mate as another strong indication of this transformation. Sarah Palin reflected this idea in her first press conference, saying, “It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left eighteen million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out that the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that class ceiling once and for all!” In 1984, at the age of nine, Traister’s mother let her pull the lever for the Walter Mondale ticket, which included Geraldine Ferraro as the vice-presidential candidate. Twenty-five years later she was torn between voting for Obama or Clinton. Although she ended up choosing Clinton, her indecision reflected a rift between older feminists such as Gloria Steinem, for whom electing a woman president was the only priority, and younger women like herself, who were tired of the “earnest piety” of traditional feminism and wanted “to get over ourselves a little bit, to dispense with the sacred cows, to question power and cultivate new ideas and leaders.” Traister’s dissatisfaction with Democratic centrism had made John Edwards her first choice, but her commitment to Clinton deepened by what she perceived to be a sexist media gang up against her.

A nuanced look at how the recent election shaped—and was shaped by—gender.