I came of age in the bra-burning days of the early 70s. Ms. Magazine was just hitting the stands, and Roe v Wade was winding its way through the courts. Confession: I never burned my bra. As someone who developed late and had longed forever to wear one, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Nevertheless, I did then and do now consider myself a feminist.
From her vantage point as a journalist covering the 2008 election Traister, who is also a senior writer at Salon, has masterfully woven together the many threads that made up the women’s vote and done so with enough behind-the-scenes drama and conflict to make it a real page-turner. She writes of the immense struggle between those who supported Clinton, those in the Obama camp, and those who fell in step behind the all-hell-that-broke-loose storm known as Sarah Palin. McCain appears as barely a footnote, a dubious distinction of his own making.
It was a time when the modern-day women’s movement would clash with the expectations of the “old guard” (that would be me) and when women of color would find themselves under intense pressure to choose between race and gender. Anyone who thought the “women’s vote” would be some homogenized block must have felt like the end person in a game of “crack the whip.”
While scores of other modern day countries had elected female leaders going back to Indira Ghandi of India in 1966, it would not be until the 21st century that the U.S. saw a woman in a serious position to ascend to the highest office in the land.
As a Hillary Clinton supporter, I fiercely believed that it was her time and, by extension, our time. Clinton embodied the dreams of my generation of feminists who had bloodied our feet kicking down the doors that today’s younger women sometimes seem to stroll through without a second thought. I felt betrayed by these women who in such numbers were now giving their allegiance to Obama and I was not alone. The conflict tore apart friendships and turned family gatherings into battlegrounds all across the nation.
While a Clinton win promised a future where any little girl would finally know she could be anything she wanted to be in this country, black women were also considering what the role model of a black president would mean to the youth in their communities. It was a tough time for women voters, and the media had a field day pitting us all against each other.
As the first woman to make a serious bid for the White House, it was not unexpected or even surprising that Clinton would be the target of sexism, but the extent of it and some of the places it came from no one could have predicted. She was called “Shrillary” for being too strong, accused of playing the “woman card” when she showed emotion, and vilified by her own party when she would not acquiesce to the old boys’ network and gracefully hand the baton over to Obama. But Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama took their hits, as well.
This book, however, is far more than just a rehash of a campaign. It delves deeply into the forces in play during this historic time that would forever change how we looked at ourselves as women and as feminists. In Traister’s own words: “The story I aim to tell is one about the country and its culture, how we all reacted to the arrival of these surprising new figures on the presidential stage and what they showed us about how far we had come and how far we had yet to go.”
Traister holds up a mirror in which every reader will see a bit of themselves. To say much more would be to give all the away all the good stuff. This book is an eye-opener for every woman of every age, race and political persuasion. And men will learn a thing or two, as well. I couldn’t put it down.
Want to win a copy for yourself? Simply leave a comment about who you supported in the 2008 campaign and a little bit about why.
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