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

In This Review

Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women
By Rebecca Traister
Free Press, 2010
352 pp. $26.00
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While many Americans remember the 2008 presidential election as the triumph of an African American, a number of others remember it as the defeat of two powerful women: Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and Sarah Palin in the general election. Traister, one of the most powerful voices in a new generation of American feminist writers, explores the conflicted terrain on which many left-liberal American women found themselves first angered by what appeared to be unfair and even sexist treatment of Clinton at the hands of the press compared to the much softer coverage of her male rival -- and then feeling unaccustomed pangs of sympathy for Palin as much of the establishment press made her a figure of derision. Michelle Obama -- yet another dynamic professional woman, caught up in the contradictory expectations that surround a First Lady -- also, in Traister's view, had to navigate a treacherous path. Traister has a lot to say about what this series of events reveals about the state of American culture and American feminism, and her clear style and analytic bent make her both an entertaining and an enlightening guide. That Clinton, Palin, and Obama have all become more visible and more powerful since 2008 signifies something about the power and creativity of American women; Ginger Rogers is still dancing as deftly as Fred Astaire, and still doing it backward and in high heels.