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—and pointing the way forward—Traister was the one to do it. As I was devouring Big Girls Don’t Cry over the weekend, I couldn’t help but read sentences out loud to my companion, 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, “Ooooooh shit!” as if I were watching a freestyle battle at a Brooklyn bar and Traister was killing it against every sad sack pundit who botched getting to the deeper meanings of the 2008 election. I mean, 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?
So beyond the fact that Traister is one of those people who seems born with a pen in her fat little baby hand, she also has a gift for laying out all the gory details, and then zoning in on the most resonant take-away. Like this:
To have voted for Hillary, to have deviated from my peers, had sometimes made me feel as thought I wore a big red H on my chest, but learning to acknowledge and embrace my affinity for this woman proved to be not only an extraordinary political experience, but one that reshaped my appreciation for a certain kind of powerful woman.
I have never seen my own learnings from the election of 2008 so accurately summed up. Though I didn’t end up voting for Hillary in the primaries, watching her run, weathering the intergenerational storms of feminist dialogue that ensued, fighting back against misogynist media—all served to change the way I understood my own reaction to women in power. Forever.
Traister’s book is the final, digested chapter, in many ways, of all of the media coverage we watched with such dedication. But it is also the first chapter of a new era, one in which feminists really start to reckon with the ongoing fault lines that finally broke apart under all that stress.
If you’re in the New York area, and want to hear Traister speak about her book, The NARAL Pro-Choice New York PAC is hosting an evening of cocktails and conversation with her on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 from 6-9pm. For more information and to buy tickets go here.