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16Apr/110

Rebecca Traister’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry”

Rebecca Traister's BookI finished (in March; this post has been sitting as a draft for a bit) Rebecca Traister's "Big Girls Don't Cry," a chronicle of the 2008 election cycle from a feminist perspective, with a particular emphasis on Hillary Clinton's primary run.

Traister articulates very well on how Clinton's primary run affected her, as well as how it was viewed in different corners of the feminist community, from older second generation feminists to the younger generation.  I'm not going to go into a full-on book review or anything, but I did want to talk about something that Traister talked a lot about: sexism among Obama supporters against Clinton supporters.

I think this is a particularly important issue for feminist men or progressive men.  I didn't support Obama in the initial three-way primary race (I supported Edwards; guess who feels a bit stupid now?), though I ended up supporting him after Edwards dropped out.  But I think we need to face some facts and it's pretty simple: there was rampant sexism from the left against Clinton.  The only thing that really needs to be said on this point is that feminist men have a responsibility I believe to call out their male brethren on this when it happens.  But 'nough said on that point.

I think a more important point made in the book is the fact that Obama (and McCain obviously) didn't really surround their campaign staffs (particularly initially) with a lot of women.  The whole fraternity like vibe of the Obama atmosphere always bothered me, and Traister's books talks a lot about it influenced a lot of their policies.  Similarly, Clinton's Mark Penn-ran campaign, which discounted traditionally Hillary Clinton stalwarts (many of them women) in favor of many of Bill Clinton's male advisors.

What does that mean?  Well, I'm always interested how well organizations, be they companies or political organizations, fare in their marketing/outreach towards women, and how that compares to how many women are actually working to put together their campaigns.  I suppose it's interesting that according to Traister, depsite the faults of the Obama campaign, it worked pretty eager to engage women early on in the campaign, and although Edwards began earlier (and in more radical ways with his hiring of feminist bloggers), the "losers" of '08 were candidates who didn't engage women enough or explicitly until the end of their campaigns: Clinton with her final acknowledgement of both her place in history and the attacks against her, and with McCain's ludicrously misguided and stupid choice of Palin as VP.

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