Published by Simon and Schuster on September 14th 2010
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Rebecca Traister’s new book All the Single Ladies just hit shelves last month, but I’m here to remind you about her last book, Big Girls Don’t Cry. Though I first read it at the end of 2012, I’ve found myself seeking out bits and pieces over the last few months and can’t believe how similar the story is eight years later. So similar that some passages read a bit eerie in their familiarity. If you’ve yet to read it, this really is the perfect time to pick up Big Girls Don’t Cry.
“A pattern was emerging in the liberal, privileged, predominantly white climes in which I worked and lived: young men were starry-eyed about Obama and puffed with outsized antipathy toward Clinton. Swearing up and down that it wasn’t about her sex, they’d reel off dozens of reasons for not wanting to vote for her. But I was made uncomfortable by the persistent note of aggression that marked their reactions to Clinton, and puzzled by the increasingly cult-like devotion to Obama, a man whose policy positions were not so different, after all, from those of his opponent.”
The first half of the book is a look back at Hillary Clinton’s rocky relationship with feminists, the ill-advised plan to avoid emphasizing her gender during the 2008 election, and her eventual loss to Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. More than just a history of events, the book chronicles Traister’s struggle to choose sides—an Edwards supporter left to battle with herself over whether or not to support Clinton. While her struggle was familiar to me the first time I read the book, I felt it acutely this election cycle.
“It was humiliating to be undecided in the weeks, days, hours before the first primary in my memory in which my vote would make one iota of difference. John Edwards’s disappearance from the race had shown me that supporting him, while in general accordance with my political beliefs, had also provided a cop-out. Had I been able to vote for Edwards I would not have had to get my hands dirty by choosing between two similar candidates whose differences increasingly seemed to swirl around their race and gender. I would not have to admit, or even consider, the role my gender and my feminist politics might have in my decision making.”
But Hillary Clinton was not the only woman making history in the 2008 election. Traister also looks at the way Sarah Palin entered the race and used her own conservative version of feminism to rally supporters, examines the women who covered the election in the media, and notes the importance of the new First Lady, Michelle Obama. Whether you’re with her, feeling the bern, or watching from the sidelines of this election, Big Girls Don’t Cry is a fascinating, incredibly relevant look back at “the election that changed everything for American women”.