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Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women

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In the last two years, the United States—its history, assumptions, prejudices, and vocabulary—have all cracked open. A woman won a state presidential primary contest (quite a few of them, actually) for the first time in this country's history. Less than a year later, a vice-presidential candidate concluded her appearance in a national debate and immediately reached for her In the last two years, the United States—its history, assumptions, prejudices, and vocabulary—have all cracked open. A woman won a state presidential primary contest (quite a few of them, actually) for the first time in this country's history. Less than a year later, a vice-presidential candidate concluded her appearance in a national debate and immediately reached for her newborn baby. A few months after that, an African American woman moved into the White House not as an employee but as the First Lady. She is only the third First Lady in American history to have a postgraduate degree, and for most of her marriage, she has out-earned her husband. In Big Girls Don't Cry, Rebecca Traister, a Salon.com columnist whose election coverage garnered much attention, makes sense of this moment in American history, in which women broke barriers and changed the country's narrative in completely unexpected ways: How did the volatile, exhilarating events of the 2008 election fit together? What lessons can be learned from these great political upheavals about women, politics, and the media? In an utterly engaging, razor-sharp narrative interlaced with her first-person account of being a young woman navigating this turbulent and exciting time, Traister explores how—thanks to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, and the history-making work and visibility of Michelle Obama, Tina Fey, Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric, and others—women began to emerge stronger than ever on the national stage.


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In the last two years, the United States—its history, assumptions, prejudices, and vocabulary—have all cracked open. A woman won a state presidential primary contest (quite a few of them, actually) for the first time in this country's history. Less than a year later, a vice-presidential candidate concluded her appearance in a national debate and immediately reached for her In the last two years, the United States—its history, assumptions, prejudices, and vocabulary—have all cracked open. A woman won a state presidential primary contest (quite a few of them, actually) for the first time in this country's history. Less than a year later, a vice-presidential candidate concluded her appearance in a national debate and immediately reached for her newborn baby. A few months after that, an African American woman moved into the White House not as an employee but as the First Lady. She is only the third First Lady in American history to have a postgraduate degree, and for most of her marriage, she has out-earned her husband. In Big Girls Don't Cry, Rebecca Traister, a Salon.com columnist whose election coverage garnered much attention, makes sense of this moment in American history, in which women broke barriers and changed the country's narrative in completely unexpected ways: How did the volatile, exhilarating events of the 2008 election fit together? What lessons can be learned from these great political upheavals about women, politics, and the media? In an utterly engaging, razor-sharp narrative interlaced with her first-person account of being a young woman navigating this turbulent and exciting time, Traister explores how—thanks to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, and the history-making work and visibility of Michelle Obama, Tina Fey, Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric, and others—women began to emerge stronger than ever on the national stage.

30 review for Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    I read this book in its release year, 2011, for a book prize committee I was on here in Philadelphia. At the time, I felt like the last thing I wanted to do was relive the unpleasantness of the 2008 U.S. presidential primaries. Imagine my surprise that, in addition to being smart, insightful, and highly informative on both race and gender in electoral politics, this book was also an absolute joy to read--the writing was so wonderful that I didn't want to put it down. Incidentally, all of the oth I read this book in its release year, 2011, for a book prize committee I was on here in Philadelphia. At the time, I felt like the last thing I wanted to do was relive the unpleasantness of the 2008 U.S. presidential primaries. Imagine my surprise that, in addition to being smart, insightful, and highly informative on both race and gender in electoral politics, this book was also an absolute joy to read--the writing was so wonderful that I didn't want to put it down. Incidentally, all of the other committee members felt the same--Big Girls Don't Cry won the prize, and Rebecca Traister came to town to discuss the book and accept the award at our big annual event. She was just as delightful in person as she was on the page. The 2016 primary makes it clear that a lot of the issues discussed in this book are still relevant. The fact is, the very first time we have a black president here in the U.S., it would be naive to think that racism would not play some sort of role in how at least some of the population views him. Similarly, the very first time we have a viable female candidate for president, it would be naive to think sexism would not play some sort of role in the way she is treated in the press and by some of the electorate. Denying this is not helpful, and the clear lack of soul-searching by those hurling the worst invective has been really depressing to watch. Perhaps some of this behavior is part of the inevitable growing pains from becoming a more inclusive and egalitarian society? (I hope that's what it is, anyway.) Either way, the insights in the book are just as vital as they were eight years ago. For that reason, I recommend this book unreservedly to all U.S. residents and anyone interested in U.S. electoral politics. Everyone should read Big Girls Don't Cry. Do it--you won't be sorry.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    Hmm. There is a wide-eyed, enthusiastic engagement here that would be appealing if it wasn't combined with an inclination toward comparing "the year that changed everything for American women" with the long and winding road of feminism and the fight for gender equality powered with a background white noise that smacks of the new girls critiquing the old broads. Maybe it's my greybeard status that has me feeling discomfited, and maybe I'm taking this tome personally, when it's just commentary. An Hmm. There is a wide-eyed, enthusiastic engagement here that would be appealing if it wasn't combined with an inclination toward comparing "the year that changed everything for American women" with the long and winding road of feminism and the fight for gender equality powered with a background white noise that smacks of the new girls critiquing the old broads. Maybe it's my greybeard status that has me feeling discomfited, and maybe I'm taking this tome personally, when it's just commentary. And maybe I'm just flat out wrong. Traister's enthusiasm for the subject is evident and engaging, but there are too many snipes from the author, and reportage of the same from others. The 2008 Presidential race was enthralling and historic on so many levels, there can be hundreds of books analyzing what happened from a myriad of angles. I was eager for a younger woman's opinion from a close-to perspective. What I did not expect was more rehashing of the divisiveness of "second wave feminism" from 40 years ago to be included in the analysis. I'd hoped we'd outgrown that. We all want a brighter future. And we work for it seeing in our rearview mirror the remarkable and courageous work of the women who came before.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Here’s the main thing: Rebecca Traister can write her ass off. If anyone was going to be up to the Herculean task of summarizing what went down in the 2008 elections with regard to gender, race, and class it was Traister. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I have already read a couple of the behind-the-scenes accounts of the election which were interesting, but ultimately forgettable. Reading Big Girls Don’t Cry brought back the most infuriating moments of the year leading up to the electio Here’s the main thing: Rebecca Traister can write her ass off. If anyone was going to be up to the Herculean task of summarizing what went down in the 2008 elections with regard to gender, race, and class it was Traister. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I have already read a couple of the behind-the-scenes accounts of the election which were interesting, but ultimately forgettable. Reading Big Girls Don’t Cry brought back the most infuriating moments of the year leading up to the election. This isn’t the just story of the candidates; it’s the story of how the 2008 campaign brought out the still-raw feelings of the women’s movement. It’s about how on one hand, women are more influential and powerful than we have ever been, but on the other hand, women hold only about 17% of the seats in the House and Senate. While I was reading the book, I couldn’t help reading sections out loud to my eternally patient roommates, like this: “What Palin so beguilingly represented…was a form of female power that was utterly digestible to those who had no intellectual or political use for actual women: feminism without the feminists.” I felt, quite often, like yelling, “Oh snap!”as if I were watching a freestyle battle and Traister was killing it against every sad sack pundit who botched getting to the deeper meanings of the 2008 election. When was the last time you read passages from a political book out loud because you found it so poignant and witty that you couldn’t help but share? Traister, a salon.com reporter who covered the election extensively, draws from own her reporting as well as acute analyses of MSNBC coverage, daytime television talk shows, and many, many print pieces. Incorporating such powerful voices as Melissa Lacewell-Harris, Jessica Valenti, Gloria Steinem, and Rachel Maddow, Traister examines the sexism endured by Hillary Clinton by both the conservative and liberal media, the divide among liberal woman voters, and the catapulting of Sarah Palin as the queen of “the new feminism.” Traister’s examination is not limited to the political world, as she also weighs in other American cultural markers such as the Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, and reactions from her colleagues. Most of the book focuses on Hillary Clinton and the media’s perception of her, calling her a shrew, castrating, and as legendary sack of shit Dick Morris put it, her “hiding behind the apron strings.” I’m sure that a lot of us remember hearing people say these things on TV, and being shocked when no one chastised them. Big Girls Don’t Cry goes into great detail about the Clinton campaign, especially the press coverage, which was different that year because so many women were in a position to report on a woman running for her party’s nomination. Traister also dissects the coverage of Sarah Palin, as well as that of Michelle Obama. She notes how many women were promoted to cover these women, making the presence of a woman in the anchor’s seat a media event for Katie Couric, old news when Diane Sawyer and Gwen Ifill and Christiane Amanpour became anchors. Women comedians were big news too, as they shaped the way we looked at the candidates. Traister covers the comedy angle especially well. One of my favorites is the line superdelegate Donna Brazile cracked to Stephen Colbert -”Look, I’m a woman, so I like Hillary. I’m black, I like Obama. But I’m also grumpy, so I like John McCain.” What I found most interesting in the book was Traister’s conflicting feelings about Sarah Palin and what a woman like that meant for the feminist movement. “I didn’t know which was worse: watching a grim cycle lurch once more into gear or acknowledging that the Republicans and John McCain, in their attempts to manipulate the female electorate, had walked through a door that had been left opened by my own party.” Despite Palin’s sex, she had nothing in common with the typically identified women’s movement; she didn’t believe in abortion, even in the case of rape or incest, she wanted to cut government funding that would disproportionately affect poor women of color and, not to belabor the point, she did seem like a perfect idiot. But despite her feelings about Palin, Traister still had to point out the sexism Palin underwent as well, even from liberal, feminist websites. The book is a reminder that while women may have come far, the 2008 serves as a glaring reminder that we still have a long way to go.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    “The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, flawed and unsuccessful though they may have been, the arrival of Michelle Obama on Pennsylvania Avenue, the cultural shifts and uncomfortable exchanges these women prompted, the eye-opening revelations about the progress of women in early twenty-first-century America were in fact the most rejuvenating things to happen to the feminist conversation in many, many decades. They created and nourished a new generation of politically engaged Americans “The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, flawed and unsuccessful though they may have been, the arrival of Michelle Obama on Pennsylvania Avenue, the cultural shifts and uncomfortable exchanges these women prompted, the eye-opening revelations about the progress of women in early twenty-first-century America were in fact the most rejuvenating things to happen to the feminist conversation in many, many decades. They created and nourished a new generation of politically engaged Americans and left us with a story worth telling, hopefully far into the future” (6). Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women by Rebecca Traister is a book with a lot to say about feminism, politics and what happens when the two collide. Even though I followed the 2008 election with great interest, this book makes me feel as if I sleep-walked through much of it. Traister writes from the personal perspective of a journalist covering the election, but who supported John Edwards and wasn’t sure of what feminism meant anymore. She writes about the connection between sexism and racism and the history of feminism. Even though I was aware of (and horrified by) the sexism that Hillary Clinton inspired from both men and women by daring to run for president, Traister exposes the sexism of the media in its coverage of Clinton. When Sarah Palin entered the race as John McCain’s vice-presidential pick, she also became a target. However, while Clinton was denigrated for being unattractive, shrill, or too manlike, Palin was applauded for being attractive and nonthreatening. “Palin was the kind of feminist who by dint of her large family and load-bearing husband managed to juggle family and a burgeoning political career, but who would support no medical, health care, family leave or labor policies that would make similar paths possible for other women” (236). Traister calls the situation a “Handmaid’s Tale-inflected universe in which femininity was worshipped but females denied rights” (236). Palin represented to the general public a female power that was palatable to those who had no use for actual women: feminism without the feminists. One of the things I really like about this book is Traister explores the idea of feminism and what it means: “Feminism’s history of fluidity and combustibility, which originated with its impossible goal of adequately representing all of the interests of a population that came in innumerable shapes, sizes, colors, and identities, also made it legitimately vulnerable to incursions from those of a different ideological caste. The trouble here was that the intruding group was at odds with what was perhaps modern feminism’s only truly immutable core value: a woman’s right and ability to control her own reproduction” (277). And I agree, that is the core value. A feminist can work outside the home or not (although I’d say most are a combination of both difficult worlds). A feminist can be brown, white, black, purple, gay, straight, bi or any combination of those. A feminist can be male or female. However, in order for a woman to truly have control of her life, she must have control of her body. So, can a feminist also be anti-abortion? The trouble was that the goal of outlawing abortion (as well as desires to limit access to birth control and sex education)—not as a matter of personal belief, but as a legislative goal—was not compatible with feminism if feminism in fact meant supporting women’s rights to pursue their life, liberty, and happiness on equal footing with men. Not believing in abortion personally was one thing. But preventing other women from exerting full control over their bodies and health, assessing their value as lesser than the value of the fetuses they carried, was, it seemed to me and many others, fundamentally antifeminist and antifemale (278). Exactly. But because this is a book about feminism and politics, Traister defends Sarah Palin, a woman who is nearly indefensible. However, when Traister (and others of NOW at the time) defended her against sexist remarks, I agree. Palin’s ideology of racism, bigotry, homophobia and xenophobia was disgusting at the time (and is still awful now as she has reappeared—unfortunately—in the media) BUT sexist comments about her should be protested, just as they are protested when directed at Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. Protesting sexism applies to all women, not just the ones we like and respect. I applaud Traister for writing a book that is packed with details yet is so well-written and a pleasure to read. Well, a pleasure except for the anger and irritation I felt when reading certain passages. The book includes a bibliography and an index, both helpful. My review is not as good or as thorough as it should have been, but my advice to anyone interested in feminism: read this book. Even though the book was written for the 2008 election, it’s applicable now as Hillary Clinton once again battles for the White House in perhaps the craziest election year America has ever seen. Even though the nominations for both parties are not official, it looks as though Clinton will face the most openly sexist and disagreeable candidate to ever (dis)grace the Republican party. She’s already been accused of playing the “woman card” (whatever that means) and I’m sure the comments will only get lower and more sexist as the election continues. Also, for those who read my rant/review of Roxanne Gay’s deplorable book Bad Feminist, this book reinforces my anger for Gay’s thoughtless and shallow discussions of feminism. She’s yammering on about shaving her legs and liking the color pink and worrying that disqualifies her as a feminist. Ridiculous. Once again, Gay, I encourage to read something (start with this book) and try to form worthwhile thoughts about feminism.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    This book focused on Hilary Clinton's 2008 presidential run, is extra fascinating in the dismal aftermath of her 2016 campaign. As usual, Traister provides compelling analysis, and tells some very good stories. This book is a combination of testimony from a reporter who covered the HRC campaign and the memoir of a young feminist, disappointed in the press (a number of reporters are raked over the coals here, including some lefty darlings) and the electorate but also in HRC the candidate and her This book focused on Hilary Clinton's 2008 presidential run, is extra fascinating in the dismal aftermath of her 2016 campaign. As usual, Traister provides compelling analysis, and tells some very good stories. This book is a combination of testimony from a reporter who covered the HRC campaign and the memoir of a young feminist, disappointed in the press (a number of reporters are raked over the coals here, including some lefty darlings) and the electorate but also in HRC the candidate and her machine. (Like Traister, I did not support HRC in 2008.) So much of this is great, but I was bothered by the way the personal bled into the professional, or perhaps that is better stated as the editorial bled into the reporting. It is stated several times, as if fact, that being a centrist is a bad thing. I disagree, I wish there were more centrists, and so this supposition that underlies a lot of Traister"s analysis is, to my mind, flawed. Still absolutely worthwhile for political junkies, 2nd and 3rd wave feminists., and those who want evidence that Palin led directly to Trump.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Written about the 2008 U.S. elections, this book offers a feminist perspective along with keen political commentary. It's especially meaningful to read as background to the 2016 election so far. Written about the 2008 U.S. elections, this book offers a feminist perspective along with keen political commentary. It's especially meaningful to read as background to the 2016 election so far.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Django

    When I first requested this book from the library, I mistakenly thought it was about the 2016 election. No, it's about 2008. And it is nuanced and thoughtful and asks all of the right questions, but I admit that I kept hoping it would magically end with coda chapters about the 2016 election. If 2008 is where the messiness in how we think about race and sex and gender and feminism came to a head, and about how different generations define those terms, 2016 is where they imploded. This is all to s When I first requested this book from the library, I mistakenly thought it was about the 2016 election. No, it's about 2008. And it is nuanced and thoughtful and asks all of the right questions, but I admit that I kept hoping it would magically end with coda chapters about the 2016 election. If 2008 is where the messiness in how we think about race and sex and gender and feminism came to a head, and about how different generations define those terms, 2016 is where they imploded. This is all to say that while this book should be required reading, reading Traister's last hopeful sentences about the "maddening path of progress" gave me such sad heartburn in 2019.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie Ingall

    I can't help comparing this to Gail Collins's When Everything Changed. Traister's book is much tighter (it has a narrower focus -- the 2008 presidential election and what it says about American attitudes toward gender and race), much less sprawling (Collins's book is this ungainly sweeping spew through American history since 1950) and much, much more pointed. I loved it and found myself doing the crazed nodding thing -- YES YES YES! OMG SO INSIGHTFUL! -- right to the edge of whiplash territory. I can't help comparing this to Gail Collins's When Everything Changed. Traister's book is much tighter (it has a narrower focus -- the 2008 presidential election and what it says about American attitudes toward gender and race), much less sprawling (Collins's book is this ungainly sweeping spew through American history since 1950) and much, much more pointed. I loved it and found myself doing the crazed nodding thing -- YES YES YES! OMG SO INSIGHTFUL! -- right to the edge of whiplash territory. Traister does the first-person reported thing absolutely perfectly -- the book is SO engagingly written, and her own feelings are perfectly integrated into the book without taking it into narcissistland. As someone with similarly tangled and evolving feelings about Hillary Clinton, I could completely relate. And Traister's a terrific stylist -- the book is dense but really readable, often funny, and the girl can sling a phrase. She's my new role model for first-person reporting. She's also very aware of her own privilege and the different schisms among women in a way I'm not sure Collins is. (Don't get me wrong, Collins is my favorite NYT columnist, and her book Scorpion Tongues is one of my fave cultural history books EVAH, and oh crap, am I doing that THING of playing women against women?? That would suck.) Anyway, I can't imagine I'll read a better piece of social and political history this year.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    The intersection of politics, media, & gender has never been so interesting! Critically looking at the role gender politics played in the 2008 race, with discussion about the effects on the future of feminism going forward. The author follows the 4 leading ladies of this story through the political storm & beyond, includes discussions with Gloria Steinem, Jessica Valenti, Melissa Harris-Lacewell (now -Perry), Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric, etc.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    This, my first time reading Traister's long form nonfiction, was utterly depressing/fascinating and well-researched. As I was still in high school, then just starting college during this (like many/most others) tumultuous election, I was nowhere near as tuned in as I was with the 2016 cycle, so this visit back 10+ years kept me rapt. The book seamlessly volleys between focusing on Hillary Clinton's first presidential bid, Sarah Palin's late entry on McCain's ticket, as well as the feelings of fe This, my first time reading Traister's long form nonfiction, was utterly depressing/fascinating and well-researched. As I was still in high school, then just starting college during this (like many/most others) tumultuous election, I was nowhere near as tuned in as I was with the 2016 cycle, so this visit back 10+ years kept me rapt. The book seamlessly volleys between focusing on Hillary Clinton's first presidential bid, Sarah Palin's late entry on McCain's ticket, as well as the feelings of feminists like Gloria Steinem and the younger generations voting and/or getting angry about a race for the first time. Whatever side or viewpoint was being discussed, Traister's subtitle is right on the nose, describing an election that changed everything for women in America. Both Clinton and Palin were perceived as fierce feminists (though quite different from each other on the biggest issues) and Palin was seen as picking up where Clinton left off when she bowed out at the end of the primaries, unable to gather enough delegates to garner the nomination over Obama. The one thing that most excited me, reliving 2007-2008, was how when it came down to the Democrats choosing either a woman or a black man, we all knew that that year would be a game-changer no matter what happened. The frustrating aspect of that of course is how often black women were picked on for being forced into choosing which was harder: being judged based on their race or their gender. For this reason I so loved how much page space Michelle got because she maintained her own personality and strength of opinions throughout the campaign right alongside her husband, not just going out there to support him, but speaking to her own thoughts as well. Unfortunately despite her brilliance she still got a lot of flack just for being herself, a black woman and a working mother- the list of denigrations go on of course, but she toughed it out and moved into the White House in the end. I'll never be able to look at (or stand up for) a female candidate the same way after the insight provided here, and I think that's for the best. 💪🏻 We can only keep moving forward and keep reaching for and beyond the glass ceiling.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Every presidential election year since I've been old enough enough to vote (absentee Florida ballot in 2000, represent!), I start out in pretty deep denial. An election again? No, it can't be time for that. There's not enough wine and Xanax in the world. If I have to listen to one more blustery, backwards, misogynistic, trigger-happy, etc., etc. But by, oh, September or so, I'll be a basket case, all frayed nerves and is-this-the-year-we'll-finally-flee-for-Canada. So reading Rebecca Traister's Every presidential election year since I've been old enough enough to vote (absentee Florida ballot in 2000, represent!), I start out in pretty deep denial. An election again? No, it can't be time for that. There's not enough wine and Xanax in the world. If I have to listen to one more blustery, backwards, misogynistic, trigger-happy, etc., etc. But by, oh, September or so, I'll be a basket case, all frayed nerves and is-this-the-year-we'll-finally-flee-for-Canada. So reading Rebecca Traister's book about 2008 was not an obvious choice for me, given that I rarely venture out of my protective cocoon at this point in the election cycle. But it was an incredibly interesting, insightful, and relevant/timely read, given the current state of affairs. *makes vague hand gesture at the world outside the cocoon* Traister sets out to do a lot with this book. It's not a straightforward account of the 2008 primaries and the election, nor is it even a deep dive into sexist (or perplexing) media coverage of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, although that's certainly explored throughout. Instead, Traister considers Hillary's progressive past, Hillary and feminism, the Second Wave versus the Third Wave, anti-feminism on the Left, the difficult legacies of non-intersectional feminism, feminist coalitions built on shaky ground, Palin's egalitarian marriage, and more, using the election as the frame through which to view 21st century feminism(s) and its opposition(s). Much like the average election year, it's shocking and disheartening, as well as energizing and hopeful.

  12. 5 out of 5

    GraceAnne

    Rebecca Traister's father and I were friends and colleagues when she was a very small child. I have followed her writing in Salon with great eagerness. This book made me very very angry all over again. Hillary was my gal, my hero, my role model (and my age). To go through once again the extraordinary sexism of that presidential campaign was actually quite painful, even in Traister's energetic and vivid style. I don't think she was as good to my generation of feminists as we deserve, but she reco Rebecca Traister's father and I were friends and colleagues when she was a very small child. I have followed her writing in Salon with great eagerness. This book made me very very angry all over again. Hillary was my gal, my hero, my role model (and my age). To go through once again the extraordinary sexism of that presidential campaign was actually quite painful, even in Traister's energetic and vivid style. I don't think she was as good to my generation of feminists as we deserve, but she recognized the virulent attacks on Hillary and called them out. She got it. And she wrote about it with clarity and passion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    For the most part, I enjoyed listening to this book about women in the 2008 election. There were a few sections I personally didn't agree w/the author's take, but it gave me a lot of interesting insight. However, I would say I prefer Ms. Traitster's latest book, All The Single Ladies, to this one. For the most part, I enjoyed listening to this book about women in the 2008 election. There were a few sections I personally didn't agree w/the author's take, but it gave me a lot of interesting insight. However, I would say I prefer Ms. Traitster's latest book, All The Single Ladies, to this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ayelet Waldman

    I love Rebecca's writing so much. This is a fascinating and moving ride. I love Rebecca's writing so much. This is a fascinating and moving ride.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

    Published in 2010... "The path toward perfecting our union has long been marked by semicircles and swichbacks, regress, tragedy, and surprising forward bounds. Small advances spark resistance, resistance that in return provokes propellant bursts of reactive fury." p 6. ..Lord. Here we are. After Clinton's loss in 2016, one of the things I realized -- after reading a lot -- was that it was remarkable that the left / the Democratic Party thought we could follow the first black President with the fi Published in 2010... "The path toward perfecting our union has long been marked by semicircles and swichbacks, regress, tragedy, and surprising forward bounds. Small advances spark resistance, resistance that in return provokes propellant bursts of reactive fury." p 6. ..Lord. Here we are. After Clinton's loss in 2016, one of the things I realized -- after reading a lot -- was that it was remarkable that the left / the Democratic Party thought we could follow the first black President with the first woman President. As if the center would hold. As if the history of America had never happened. As if progressive was some sort of straight line. "According to the columnist Maureen Dowd, the equation was depressingly direct: 'She couldn't move up until she was pushed down.'" on Clinton, p 24. Personally: that directly describes my own professional experience. "Steinem saw the change in attitude toward Clinton as quite predictable. 'It's always been okay for women to sing the blues,' she told me. 'Just not so good for us to win. We all know deep in our hearts if want to be loved we have to lose.'" p 298. I sit here thinking about this today, with a Democratic primary with multiple women candidates in it, and all I know is: You could probably do a "find / replace" on several of these essays, swapping in Warren for Clinton, and the essays would remain pretty accurate.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    How fascinating to read this recap of the women of the 2008 election, now with 2016 in the rearview as well. (Has Chris Matthews learned anything?) This book forced me to reconcile and reexamine my own thoughts about HRC's campaign in 2008; I realize now that I was still carrying much of my baggage/opinion from when I was younger, formed mostly through my own mother's opinion of HRC as first lady. By 2016 I was unequivocably Team Clinton - what had changed? Her, yes. But certainly me. I also enjo How fascinating to read this recap of the women of the 2008 election, now with 2016 in the rearview as well. (Has Chris Matthews learned anything?) This book forced me to reconcile and reexamine my own thoughts about HRC's campaign in 2008; I realize now that I was still carrying much of my baggage/opinion from when I was younger, formed mostly through my own mother's opinion of HRC as first lady. By 2016 I was unequivocably Team Clinton - what had changed? Her, yes. But certainly me. I also enjoyed the parts about Palin, Elizabeth Edwards, Katie Couric and other women central to the 2008 election (Poehler/Fey, Michelle Obama, etc). I love reading the takes on Hillary Clinton written by women who are +/- my age. (see also Brittney Cooper's ELOQUENT RAGE)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chinook

    This was good. It made me a bit weepy at times. It starts by looking at the Clinton-Obama primary race, then the rise of Sarah Palin with a side of female comedians, and then briefly touches on Michelle Obama and Hillary as Secretary of State. It was fun to see some of my own history of internet use in a book - I read Echidne of the Snakes and I loved Sarah Haskins and her Project Women comedy spots. And it was a good reminder of what happened, which I did follow in Korea but didn’t experience i This was good. It made me a bit weepy at times. It starts by looking at the Clinton-Obama primary race, then the rise of Sarah Palin with a side of female comedians, and then briefly touches on Michelle Obama and Hillary as Secretary of State. It was fun to see some of my own history of internet use in a book - I read Echidne of the Snakes and I loved Sarah Haskins and her Project Women comedy spots. And it was a good reminder of what happened, which I did follow in Korea but didn’t experience in the same way as i might have had I been in the US or Canada. I think I may try and read something about Clinton as Secretary of State and then What Happened.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Christina Lear

    Interesting look into the role of gender in the 2008 election including Hillary, Michelle, and Sarah Palin (I had forgotten about her!). It was interesting to read knowing what comes next for Hillary and I loved hearing about the tensions within the party and within feminism and how they were resolved or not.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steph

    p 54Watching Michelle [Obama] reminded me of the chill I got from reading about Elizabeth Edwards teaching her kids to stand in a stiff wind. Running beneath the presidential foot-dragging, the perforation of her husband's hype, her calls to readiness, was an arresting sense of caution and realism. She might have been the only one making the sober estimate of how hard this was going to be, of what a leap people would need to take to make this happen. "Change is scary," she told the Iowans. "It w p 54Watching Michelle [Obama] reminded me of the chill I got from reading about Elizabeth Edwards teaching her kids to stand in a stiff wind. Running beneath the presidential foot-dragging, the perforation of her husband's hype, her calls to readiness, was an arresting sense of caution and realism. She might have been the only one making the sober estimate of how hard this was going to be, of what a leap people would need to take to make this happen. "Change is scary," she told the Iowans. "It was scary for me to say yes to this. So I know." It seemed to me that she was carrying many of the burdens for her husband. He had the hope, she had the fear; he had the enthusiasm, she had the reluctance; he had the high expectations, she lived on planet Earth. In many ways, for those who doubted a black man's ability to run successfully for president, be they cynic or racist, Michelle worked as an interlocutor, as a stand-in for what she presumed would be the larger national experience: she doubted, shook her head, said no. But then her experience and the country's became further aligned: she took a chance on the guy with the funny name and slim prospects for success, because, frankly, she fell for him, just as the country was beginning to.p 155Debra Dickerson said it herself, even as she excoriated young feminists at Mother Jones: "Honey, you haven't seen sexism yet." Bingo. As Leslie Bennetts said in 2008, "We used to have a saying in the women's movement: 'It takes life to make a feminist.'" Much of what women learned about how their gender impacted their status—economically, socially, politically, professionally—came with time, with babies, with promotions and raises and marriages, with challenges that most young women had not encountered. That didn't mean that ten years later they would have voted for Hillary Clinton (though women over thirty did vote for her at higher rates than did their younger counterparts). It just meant that yelling at them about what they had not yet lived through was not going to do anyone any good.p 162In some cases the sentiments of dissenting young women were practically love letters from a purportedly ungrateful generation. Responding to Linda Horseman's piece about her mother issues, Courtney Martin wrote in American Prospect, "I have gained an immeasurable amount from the wise, older women who have challenged my views on this election and other issues within a context of complexity. These women have made me a better thinker, a better writer, a better feminist, and a better human. And because of them, I will not cower, but I promise to be grateful. I will not forget, but I must also move on. I will not be a dutiful daughter, but I promise to be an impassioned, authentic, and brave inheritor."p 163It was true, Steinem acknowledged, that many of her contemporaries "were not appreciated enough for the hard work and the sacrifice and so on. But you cannot now exact that price from your daughters. Even Susan B. Anthony said, 'Our job is not to make young women grateful. It's to make them ungrateful.'"p 260[Amy] Poehler did not bear any resemblance to Clinton; neither was she the world's most skillful mimic. From the start she had relied on the broadest possible identifying attributes in her performance: the big laugh and ravenous hunger for the presidency. But in comedy, as in real life, the arrival of Palin on the scene threw Clinton into new focus. Next to Palin, Clinton's good qualities—her brains, competence, work ethic, her belief in secular government and reproductive freedoms, her ability to complete sentences—became far more evident than they had been before there was another potential "first woman" to compare her to.p 295"Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world's unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid," said [Hillary] Clinton in her statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 13, 2009. "If half of the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women's rights in every country on every continent." When questioned about her commitment to women's issues by committeewoman Barbara Boxer, Clinton replied, "I want to pledge to you that as secretary of state I view these issues as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser than all of the other issues that we have to confront."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    Rebecca Traister has a way of really resonating with me. I finished All the Single Ladies stunned at how deeply satisfied I felt; that book connected with me on a personal level but also taught me new ideas and challenged my perceptions. It made me feel smarter for having read it, and the best part of non-fiction is always learning more about the world. In my excitement I begged my librarians to please get Big Girls Don't Cry. I thought I'd be too emotionally raw to get through this book -- and I Rebecca Traister has a way of really resonating with me. I finished All the Single Ladies stunned at how deeply satisfied I felt; that book connected with me on a personal level but also taught me new ideas and challenged my perceptions. It made me feel smarter for having read it, and the best part of non-fiction is always learning more about the world. In my excitement I begged my librarians to please get Big Girls Don't Cry. I thought I'd be too emotionally raw to get through this book -- and I was, but perhaps not in the ways I was expecting. I thought this was going to be a simple, biographical account of Hillary, Sarah, Michelle during the 2008 elections. I was going to roll my eyes at grand, sweeping declarations of a "post-sexist" revolution and go back to feeling glum about our current progress. Instead, I realised I was horribly naive. Never have I felt more like someone was putting words to this indescribable feeling I've been carrying around. Hope, defensiveness, optimism, ambition, loss, desire, so much damned sacrifice. This book showed me women were changing their roles everywhere. It gave space to political wives, to young women, to second wave feminists. Anti-abortion, conservative women, who want to claim feminism as theirs as well. Women running the news, women in prime time, women stepping up on daytime talk shows. As I write this, there is literally a dude that I like and respect denigrating Hillary in my twitter feed right now -- there's a chapter on the misogyny inherent in progressive men as well, and their inability to see it (and the vitriol with which they express their hate is always blindsiding, weren't these supposed to be the guys who get it?). This very much felt like a book I needed. It was validating. It explained why I've been feeling so hollow by identifying the troubling attitudes and issues that lay just beyond what I could articulate. It made it okay to not be happy. It made it okay to be mad at the left. -- It made me think of NZ's recent election, and helped me to understand why it felt like a loss to me despite the left winning electorally. This quote resonated with me; it really summed up how I feel about the NZ left: “This would be the last moment of the primary during which I felt as though I inhabited a different planet than everyone else in my party, that I had heard a different speech, seen a different person, been in a different room than everyone else. But I can't say that I was unhappy that they had heard what they did. If they thought Hillary was telling them to fuck off, that was okay with me. For just one last day, before I joined their ranks, I wanted them to fuck off too.” -- Oh, also. I don't have the greatest confidence in mainstream feminism. So, perhaps unfairly, I expected Traister's writing to let me down at some point on race. She continuously refused to do so. Much like Single Ladies, this book is inclusive and self-reflective of its limits. Best book I've read this year, hands down.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    This book was great! Did I love every word? No. But there was so much I DID love that I can overlook some things. This was a book about the 2008 presidential election with lots of analysis of the sexism that went down. But really, it was about Hillary Clinton. I learned a lot about Hillary. I learned that, before she was the First Lady, she was a super progressive politician and stood for a lot of things that I feel strongly about. Had I known that, maybe I would have supported her more in the pri This book was great! Did I love every word? No. But there was so much I DID love that I can overlook some things. This was a book about the 2008 presidential election with lots of analysis of the sexism that went down. But really, it was about Hillary Clinton. I learned a lot about Hillary. I learned that, before she was the First Lady, she was a super progressive politician and stood for a lot of things that I feel strongly about. Had I known that, maybe I would have supported her more in the primaries - although, let's be serious, I have an undying love for Barack Obama. So that "maybe" is pretty weak. What I did not like about this book is that the author is a staunch Hillary supporter. She talked a lot about Obama supporters being jerks to Hillary, but she did not cast a very nice light on Barack either. I don't know, that was frustrating to me. I also did not need to read pages and pages of her emotional reaction to things that happened to Hillary. I learned how she felt when Hillary won a primary, when she lost a primary, when she conceded, and when she become secretary of state. I'm glad she felt strongly, I did too, but truly I did not care how she felt. What I did like was... a lot of things! Jessica Valenti was a big part of this book, which I loved, because I love her books and her awesome website! My favorite chapters of the book were the Sarah Palin chapter and the pop culture chapter. Those two flew by to me, perhaps because I was very interested in those two aspects of the election. Sarah Palin is such a nutjob, and I love being reminded of that. The author talked about Tina Fey's sketches about Sarah Palin, and I loved those! It makes me want to look them up on youtube right now! One of my favorite, favorite parts was when John McCain appeared on the View. He was telling the View ladies that he believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution, and Whoopi Goldberg asked if she needed to worry about becoming a slave again. In your face, McCain!!!! Overall, this is a book for people who looooooooove politics. It was well-written, interesting, and engaging! Just with a touch too much emotion.

  22. 5 out of 5

    briz

    An at-times muddled, at-times searing take on the 2008 US election, and what it meant for the ladies. I picked this up on a party acquaintance's (?) recommendation, since I was seeking books through which I could dispense some of my #ImWithHer energy/zeal. Basically, I wanted a Hillary bio. This isn't a Hillary bio, so much as a broad overview of what the 2008 political stage looked like: Hillary, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Gloria Steinem, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow. In a way, this book is ef An at-times muddled, at-times searing take on the 2008 US election, and what it meant for the ladies. I picked this up on a party acquaintance's (?) recommendation, since I was seeking books through which I could dispense some of my #ImWithHer energy/zeal. Basically, I wanted a Hillary bio. This isn't a Hillary bio, so much as a broad overview of what the 2008 political stage looked like: Hillary, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Gloria Steinem, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow. In a way, this book is effective at positioning that moment in history - both my personal history (and why I thought the things I thought), and American history. It had never occurred to me how things like the rise of feminist blogs (Jezebel, Feministing, and shout out to the late, great Tiger Beatdown) with their snark and pithiness and angry, hilarious eviscerations were part of big cultural movements. I just thought... I had somehow stumbled upon them organically, as in a jungle? But, no, as with my crafting craze of 2005, my LiveJournal fanfic days of the early 00s, and my interest in data science, it's all just vogue stuff. Suffice to say: this book gives a macro clarity to all the feminist stuff that came up in the late 2000s. It's relevant now because, of course, Hillary is running again (and oh God do I need to stop checking the polls), and we also have big powerhouse political women like Elizabeth Warren thundering down from the Senate. The book's good at framing things, but it meanders a bit - and it's written, basically, like a book-length Salon/Slate/Atlantic article: so, snarky and pithy and not terribly concerned with structuring a cohesive narrative over multiple chapters. But - meh, I learned a bunch of things, it clarified some stuff, I give it a B.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    An engaging and highly relevant feminist look at the 2008 election. Traister brings her trademark perception and insight into the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, as well as the supporting roles played by Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama. The chapters about Clinton, in particular, are striking in how little has changed between what Traister reported about 2008 and what we are seeing in 2016. On that note, however, the chapters on Palin hold up less well; Big Girls Don't Cry was An engaging and highly relevant feminist look at the 2008 election. Traister brings her trademark perception and insight into the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, as well as the supporting roles played by Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama. The chapters about Clinton, in particular, are striking in how little has changed between what Traister reported about 2008 and what we are seeing in 2016. On that note, however, the chapters on Palin hold up less well; Big Girls Don't Cry was written at the height of Palin's popularity, and Traister's assumption that Palin represented a viable alternative to liberal feminism has collapsed as Palinism glided seamlessly into the appalling sexism of Donald Trump. Nits aside, despite having covered the election myself for newspapers in Texas and Denver, I learned a lot about media coverage of the Clinton campaign that I either didn't see or didn't perceive – and which I found to be especially illuminating as the 2016 campaign veers toward its much-anticipated finish.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I really appreciated this book. Its prose and research is nothing extraordinary, yet, it brought back an exciting time in my young political life when women and the nation as a whole confronted the dilemmas of our first viable female presidential candidate. I was an early Hillary supporter, while my mother, author of "Courage and Cloth" a book on women's suffrage, broke for Obama. I don't recall much of the sexism and arrogance Traister rakes up here, but such muck was certainly out there. It's e I really appreciated this book. Its prose and research is nothing extraordinary, yet, it brought back an exciting time in my young political life when women and the nation as a whole confronted the dilemmas of our first viable female presidential candidate. I was an early Hillary supporter, while my mother, author of "Courage and Cloth" a book on women's suffrage, broke for Obama. I don't recall much of the sexism and arrogance Traister rakes up here, but such muck was certainly out there. It's eye opening to hear her relate the smarminess of various liberal TV news personalities during the primary season. I appreciate Traister's recounting of her own ambivalent journey in the context of the larger friction between feminists of different generations and temperaments. It's exciting to read this book in the context of Hillary Clinton as superb Secretary of State, with what I see as limitless horizons before her. I would be proud to cast my next presidential ballot towards that highest glass ceiling and celebrate as Hillary finishes what she came so close to in 2008.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sassafrass

    This was fascinating! I can't believe I'm even saying this, but I was completely engrossed in this book. There is no way I would have read this if I hadn't been forced to in a challenge, but I really thought that this was fantastic. I've never really defined myself as a "feminist". I've always believed what I believed but never put a name on it. But listening to this audiobook has me wanting to look a little more closely at that. I also appreciate that feminist is not a "dirty" word no matter how This was fascinating! I can't believe I'm even saying this, but I was completely engrossed in this book. There is no way I would have read this if I hadn't been forced to in a challenge, but I really thought that this was fantastic. I've never really defined myself as a "feminist". I've always believed what I believed but never put a name on it. But listening to this audiobook has me wanting to look a little more closely at that. I also appreciate that feminist is not a "dirty" word no matter how hard others try to make it so. But, what I loved the most is revisiting the 2008 campaign melee. OMG, the fervor, the vitriol, it was amazing how engaged all the world was. It didn't matter which side you were on, people were really into politics. And no matter who you voted for, you have to admit that it was pretty darn cool we almost had a woman in the oval office. But, who knows, 2016 is just around the corner...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This was actually a really difficult book for me to read in the context of the 2016 presidential campaign, even though it is about the 2008 election -- and primarily about the Democratic primary contest between Clinton and Obama. A lot of the pain and anger, sexism and racism that reared its head in the 2008 election cycle has been on simmer the past eight years before returning to full boil this summer/fall. And it was just really, really hard to read about how things played out and how little This was actually a really difficult book for me to read in the context of the 2016 presidential campaign, even though it is about the 2008 election -- and primarily about the Democratic primary contest between Clinton and Obama. A lot of the pain and anger, sexism and racism that reared its head in the 2008 election cycle has been on simmer the past eight years before returning to full boil this summer/fall. And it was just really, really hard to read about how things played out and how little has shifted in public opinion since that time. Extremely well written and thoughtfully nuanced, though -- I highly recommend it, if you have the energy to spare. It may be political "ancient history" by now, but still extremely relevant for good or ill.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Godfrey

    This book can be a bit overly packed with feminista blogging info and statistics, even for those of us who believe in feminist issues. However, I got very FIRED up reading this retake on the 2008 election and the heavily sexist slamming of Hillary Clinton... and yes, even Sarah Palin. Lots of facts/details of media coverage of Obama and Clinton point out how we still have a long way to go to accept female presidential candidates. Let's just say I'm ready for Hillary to run again! Moreover, it's This book can be a bit overly packed with feminista blogging info and statistics, even for those of us who believe in feminist issues. However, I got very FIRED up reading this retake on the 2008 election and the heavily sexist slamming of Hillary Clinton... and yes, even Sarah Palin. Lots of facts/details of media coverage of Obama and Clinton point out how we still have a long way to go to accept female presidential candidates. Let's just say I'm ready for Hillary to run again! Moreover, it's fascinating to read about the huge brouhaha between feminist/black/minority factions and who believed their brand of feminism should dominate national politics. Let's hope women have grown from the 2008 experience and will be more aligned for the 2016 election!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    This is one the best books I have ever read on the intersectionality of gender and politics in American society. Traister encompasses racial tension, class conflict, generational communication, and just about everything else you can think of to convey her thoughts on the fascinating election in 2008. It perfectly encompasses all that I felt as I worked on Hillary's campaign - from my frustration with people like Penn to my fury at the misogynistic press and punditry, and from my jubilation durin This is one the best books I have ever read on the intersectionality of gender and politics in American society. Traister encompasses racial tension, class conflict, generational communication, and just about everything else you can think of to convey her thoughts on the fascinating election in 2008. It perfectly encompasses all that I felt as I worked on Hillary's campaign - from my frustration with people like Penn to my fury at the misogynistic press and punditry, and from my jubilation during her wins and devastating heartbreak at her concession speech. This book is, hands down, one of my favorite books of all time. I highly recommend it to anyone with a brain.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I really enjoyed this book... and I don't read a lot of non-fiction. Featuring Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Elizabeth Edwards, and Michelle Obama, with nods to Tina Fey and Rachel Maddow among others, Ms. Traister discusses the role of women in the 2008 primaries and presidential election. Her own reactions to how the media portrayed women during this year-long event resonated strongly with me, especially since I see similar dynamics playing out now, in 2016. This is a smart, engaging look at w I really enjoyed this book... and I don't read a lot of non-fiction. Featuring Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Elizabeth Edwards, and Michelle Obama, with nods to Tina Fey and Rachel Maddow among others, Ms. Traister discusses the role of women in the 2008 primaries and presidential election. Her own reactions to how the media portrayed women during this year-long event resonated strongly with me, especially since I see similar dynamics playing out now, in 2016. This is a smart, engaging look at women, politics, media, and feminism. Loved it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathrin

    It is so interesting to read this book in the middle of the 2016 election, knowing what was ahead for the protagonists. It really allowed a look back and reminded me how far we have come, even though there is still a long way to go. When I thought about the 2008 election before, I really just remembered Hillary as the first female contender for a presidential nomination and the kind of sexism she faced. But this book also sheds a light on Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin and what they had to deal It is so interesting to read this book in the middle of the 2016 election, knowing what was ahead for the protagonists. It really allowed a look back and reminded me how far we have come, even though there is still a long way to go. When I thought about the 2008 election before, I really just remembered Hillary as the first female contender for a presidential nomination and the kind of sexism she faced. But this book also sheds a light on Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin and what they had to deal with. This has been my third Rebecca Traister book and I just love her work.

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