Big Girls Don't Cry

Big Girls Don't Cry

The Election That Changed Everything for American Women

Book - 2010
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Baker & Taylor
A journalist and feminist explores the ways the 2008 election brought issues concerning women and power, sexism and feminism into the national spotlight, and what it means for the country, all the while weaving in her first-person experience navigating this turbulent time.

Blackwell Publishing
REBECCA TRAISTER, whose coverage of the 2008 presidential election for Salon confirmed her to be a gifted cultural observer, offers a startling appraisal of what the campaign meant for all of us. Though the election didn’t give us our first woman president or vice president, the exhilarating campaign was nonetheless transformative for American women and for the nation. In Big Girls Don’t Cry, her electrifying, incisive and highly entertaining first book, Traister tells a terrific story and makes sense of a moment in American history that changed the country’s narrative in ways that no one anticipated.
It was all as unpredictable as it was riveting: Hillary Clinton’s improbable rise, her fall and her insistence (to the consternation of her party and the media) on pushing forward straight through to her remarkable phoenix flight from the race; Sarah Palin’s attempt not only to fill the void left by Clinton, but to alter the very definition of feminism and claim some version of it for conservatives; liberal rapture over Barack Obama and the historic election of our first African-American president; the media microscope trained on Michelle Obama, harsher even than the one Hillary had endured fifteen years earlier. Meanwhile, media women like Katie Couric and Rachel Maddow altered the course of the election, and comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler helped make feminism funny.
What did all this mean to the millions of people who were glued to their TV sets, and for the country, its history and its future?
As Traister sees it, the 2008 election was good for women. The campaign for the presidency reopened some of the most fraught American conversations—about gender, race and generational difference, about sexism on the left and feminism on the right—difficult discussions that had been left unfinished but that are crucial to further perfecting our union.
The election was also catalytic, shaping the perspectives of American women and men from different generations and backgrounds, altering the way that all of us will approach questions of women and power far into the future. When Clinton cried, when Palin reached for her newborn at the end of a vice presidential debate, when Couric asked a series of campaign-ending questions, the whole country was watching women’s history—American history—being made.
Throughout, Traister weaves in her own experience as a thirtysomething feminist sorting through all the events and media coverage—vacillating between Clinton and Obama and forced to face tough questions about her own feminism, the women’s movement, race and the different generational perspectives of women working toward political parity some ninety years after their sex was first enfranchised.
It was a time of enormous change, and there is no better guide through that explosive, infuriating, heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious year than Rebecca Traister. Big Girls Don’t Cry offers an enduring portrait of dramatic cultural and political shifts brought about by this most historic of American contests.

& Taylor

A journalist and feminist explores the ways the 2008 election brought issues concerning women and power, sexism and feminism into the national spotlight, and what it means for the country, all the while weaving in her first-person experience being a young woman navigating this turbulent and exciting time.

Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2010
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781439150283
Characteristics: 336 p. ; 24 cm


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Jul 09, 2011

I’ve read a lot of books about the 2008 presidential election but none represented my feelings about it as well as this book does. For feminists, this book is like a look inside our hearts and minds.

The author writes about the political events of 2008 but she is also not reticent about sharing her opinions and feelings, which vacillated. She started out supporting John Edwards and disliking Hillary Clinton but transitioned to admiring Hillary a great deal and supporting her candidacy (as I did) and then finally came to love Obama (as did I).

As the author says, younger progressive women tend to have a blind confidence that a woman will eventually become president in their lifetime. Therefore, they were unperturbed about voting for Obama this time around. But for many of the 2nd wave feminists (now middle-aged), Hillary Clinton was probably our only chance to see a woman elected president. Understandably our passion about her candidacy ran deep and wide.

The extreme reactions of voters and the media to Hillary Clinton are amply discussed. Hillary has been quoted as saying that she is a blank slate in the sense that people react to her from their own prejudices and attitudes that are independent of her. The vitriol directed at Hillary was so intense that it prompted many women to jump down from their spots on the fence and run to her defense.

In the process of talking about Clinton, Obama (Barack and Michelle), Palin, Couric, Steinem and all the rest, the author writes insightfully abut our culture’s persistent ambivalence about women, (especially older women), about feminism and what it is and isn’t, about racism and how it lives on, and about white men with power who don’t want (or, more rarely, are willing) to share power with women and people of color.

The book is excellent. Don't just read it; buy it.

debwalker Dec 10, 2010

"Rebecca Traister's so-very-smart and lively book about the 2008 presidential campaign, called Big Girls Don't Cry, teases out how our reigning cultural narratives about femininity and "playing nice" came to wield so much power during the campaign and, finally, in the voting booth."
Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2010


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