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inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #0 of 78: Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 10 Jan 11 13:23
    
I am so pleased to welcome Rebecca Traister to Inkwell.vue!

Rebecca Traister is the author of Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election
that Changed Everything for American women. She has written about
women
in politics, media and entertainment for Salon since 2003. She has
also written for the New York Observer, Elle, The Nation, The New York
Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and many other
publications. She lives in Brooklyn. 

Leading our discussion is The WELL's own Fawn Fitter.


Freelance writer Fawn Fitter is a feminist, a bit of a political
junkie, and a founding host of the WELL's Byline conference. 


Thank you both for joining us for the next couple of weeks.
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #1 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Mon 10 Jan 11 15:11
    
I've been admiring Rebecca Traister's writing about women and politics since
her first piece on the topic for Salon. Her most recent piece ran on
Saturday -- an article about the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and how,
ever since Traister's book came out, Giffords's name has come up repeatedly
as one strong example of the future of women in American politics.

I'll circle back to the topic of the book -- the 2008 presidential election
and its ramifications for American women, both in and out of politics -- in
a bit. But let's start out by dragging the conversation 3 years forward.
Rebecca, do you think this past weekend's tragedy is gender-specific,, and
what kind of effect (if any) do you think it's going to have on the future
of female politicians in the US?
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #2 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Tue 11 Jan 11 13:11
    
Hi Fawn, and thanks Lisa for such a great introduction. What a sad way
to kick off two weeks of conversation, but of course, Fawn, it's
absolutely the story that we've all been thinking about for days now.
Your question is a great one. As to the issue of whether the shooting
was gender-specific: I think it's impossible to know at this point what
motivated it. Obviously there's been a lot of conversation about
political rhetoric, mental illness, the targeting of Giffords, previous
death threats, but the truth is that we still know very very little
about why this happened. What we know about the context of the
situation is gender specific: Giffords is the first American female
politician who has been targeted in an assassination attempt. In a very
broad sense, the gendered angle follows: we now have more female
politicians. Giffords is a member of a generation of young, ambitious,
tenacious women who have entered congress, governor's mansions, state
legislatures. She was the youngest woman elected to Congress. So in
some very broadly-drawn sense, there is certainly a gender story here;
when we have more women political leaders, more women will face the
dangers of political leadership in a country filled with guns and
people eager to use them. I am not sure whether or not the event will
have any immediate, discernible impact on the future of female
politicians. This is a story with so many angles -- guns, mental
illness, the power of the media, language, security, the state of
affairs in Arizona, the tragedy of all those injured and dead in the
attack, the questions about Giffords' potential recovery -- that it's
just difficult to imagine what we'll take away just yet. Certainly,
Giffords -- who as I wrote in Salon has been one of the most energetic,
effective and competitive women in politics in recent years -- was
not, until this horror, a politician about whom many people outside of
Arizona knew a lot. In a terrible, tragic way, the horror of the attack
makes visible the figure of the successful, female politician, a
politician who was doing her job in the most direct way possible --
meeting with constituents in the district she represents. This might be
very wrong, but if anything, I think that learning more about
Giffords, her career, her politics, her approach to campaigning and
winning and serving, might further inspire women to follow in her
political footsteps, and the tragedy of the shooting would not deter
them. More broadly speaking, though, I do wonder if a violent political
climate, the threat and language of hate and opposition (that comes
from both sides of the aisle) might deter lots of people, men and
women, from seeking office in coming years. It's all just so scary. 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #3 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Wed 12 Jan 11 00:06
    
Speaking of the language of hate and opposition, one of the early
chapters in your book talks about the misogyny directed at Hillary
Clinton during the 2008 campaign. She was painted as being too much a
woman for the Oval Office, and yet -- by virtue of her ambition -- also
somehow not womanly enough. And then along came Sarah Palin, who (for
the most part) wasn't criticized for her femininity OR her ambition.
From my point of view, at least, the right wing was lauding Palin for
the very traits for which it was demonizing Clinton. What did you make
of it?
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #4 of 78: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 12 Jan 11 12:36
    
Along those lines, I'm wondering if you think women in politics have
found their own 'voice' yet? I always thought Hillary Clinton and now
Sarah Palin came off trying to sound like tough guys, instead of just
being themselves and letting their own voice come through. Hillary
apologized and said she "heard the message", and I expect Sarah to pick
up a gun and go off shooting with Dick Cheney at almost every moment.
I never get a sense of who they really are. That wasn't the case with
Gabrielle Giffords, she comes across as quite genuine.
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #5 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Wed 12 Jan 11 15:14
    
Well, the reactions were a little more complicated than that, in that
both women had been, historically, praised and criticized for reasons
having to do with gender. Palin was criticized, or questioned, about
her abilities to lead and mother simultaneously -- during her time as
governor and as a vice-presidential candidate. It's also important to
note that a lot of the criticism (as opposed to celebration) of Palin's
brand of femininity, and her pit-bull-in-lipstick brand of aggression,
came from the left. Sometimes it came from feminists! Sometimes it
came from me! So there is a degree to which ideological opponents
looking to discredit a candidate will pick up the nearest stone
possible to hurl. Unfortunately, when it comes to  female candidates,
the stones are often related to gender and its expression. 

But it's also true that the different kinds of receptions that the
women earned had to do with their different self-presentations, which
in turn, I believe, had a lot to do with generational difference.
Hillary was from a generation in which in order to succeed as the often
the only woman in the room, the key was to hide your femininity as
effectively as possible, to try to pass as male (and therefore, as
competent). We saw this in her direct campaign strategy, led by Mark
Penn, who openly urged her to try to convince the American public that
she was their "king." Sarah Palin comes from a generation that, thanks
in large part to the feminist victories of Clinton's peers, felt far
more comfortable with power, and in her case, combining power with some
very traditional expressions of femininity. For the record, while I
had lots of trouble with Palin's winking brand of womanliness, and even
more trouble with those in her own party who celebrated her for that
kind of femininity (ad exec Donny Deutsch called her a "feminist ideal"
because she wore skirts, and said he wanted her watching his kids), I
think we get into troubling territory when we demonize it, because
history and politics show us that traditionally beautiful, feminine
women -- especially young ones -- have their own set of troubles being
taken seriously. Part of what pushing for true gender equality will
mean is seeing a spectrum of possible self-presentation for women: we
should be able to see, and seriously consider, candidates who are old
and young and pretty and plain and right and left and smart and stupid.
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #6 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Wed 12 Jan 11 15:26
    
Hi Ted, I just saw your question and it's a great one. The question of
finding a voice is one that Hillary herself raised. She told a
reporter in New Hampshire that she thought that women had still not
been able to find the full range of voices in which they might express
themselves. And finding her "voice" was something that I think she DID
manage to do by the end of her campaign. That said, I think Hillary's
voice is a naturally tough one. I don't think that was inauthentic. I
just think it wasn't ONLY tough. And for years she'd been trained that
she could ONLY be tough if she wanted to be taken seriously. Once, when
she admitted regret about the health care debacle of 1993, she was
roundly castigated for showing weakness. So there had been a lifetime
of experiences that had shown her that to show vulnerability of any
sort would hurt her. But I do think she found a balance by the end of
her time on the road -- simultaneously tough, direct and human -- and I
think that balance made her come across as far more genuine than she
had sounded in the past. 

As for Palin. I'm also not sure the shooting thing is inauthentic. I
mean, the ACTUAL shooting thing, maybe, as criticism of her
caribou-hunting prowess has recently demonstrated. But the fiercely
competitive Palin? I believe that's who she really is, and that it's
been who she really is since she was dubbed Sarah Barracuda playing
high school basketball. So I don't fault her for a competitive,
aggressive voice, even though, as her ideological opposite on nearly
every issue she addresses, it also drives me nuts. 

But your larger point, about the authenticity of Gabrielle Giffords
voice -- yes! And that's not all -- what about Amy Klobuchar, Debbie
Wasserman Schultz, Jennifer Granholm, Kirsten Gillibrand, and to be
fair to the right, Susana Martinez and Nikki Haley? Again, these are
members of another generation of women, a generation whose easier
(though not easy!) access to powerful positions has afforded them the
possibility of feeling a lot more comfortable and confident being
themselves, whatever or whoever those selves might be. 

That said, I think we should also be wary of prizing authenticity in
female candidates too much. Not because it wouldn't be great if they
were authentic and spoke in their true voices, but because we don't
want to be holding them to a different or higher standard than their
male compatriots. Politics for some time has been a study in
performance art. Male candidates perform their own images -- as tough
guys and bowlers and hunters and happy family men and corn-dog
enthusiasts -- and there's no reason to think that female candidates
will or should behave differently as they advertise themselves to an
image-conscious electorate. 
 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #7 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Wed 12 Jan 11 16:28
    
You're also bringing up another thing that happened a lot with Palin
-- the whole attempt to redefine "feminism" to include any woman who
has achieved politically or economically, even if she then fails to
support, or even actively opposes, policies that would allow other
women to do the same. You referred to it succinctly as "[a] vision in
which personal empowerment had no correlation to progressive policy." 

In making it easier for women to embrace a female candidate, did the
2008 election also make it easier for women to embrace female
candidates who aren't necessarily pro-woman, in a sort of "What's the
matter with Kansas" way? And what do you think that portends?
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #8 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Thu 13 Jan 11 15:42
    
The issue of redefining feminism is about a couple of things. The
first is that feminism's definitions and boundaries have always been
very fluid, up for debate. Since the dawn of time, the evolution of the
fight for women's rights has involved an enormous amount of contention
-- about abortion, pornography, sexuality, race. There's never been
one club with guidelines. My thinking on this has shifted even since
the book, in which I write about Palin's "faux" feminism. Of course I
still agree that she and the mama grizzly candidates she supported in
the last election actually worked in opposition to the further
empowerment of women; of course I would still vote against all of them;
of course I would never even remotely suggest that anyone should
consider voting for them simply because they were female. But I also
became slightly dismayed by the talk of how they weren't real
feminists, not because I felt it was unfair to them, exactly, but
because I thought it distorted something about feminism. There's no one
who gets to decide who is a feminist or not -- no membership office,
no renewal applications. Feminism will belong to those who fight
hardest to define and embody it. And publicly throwing certain women
out of the club only reinforces an antifeminist accusations that
feminism is an exclusive club. 

There is so much more to say on this - the broader question of whether
more women is good for women -- but I got caught between a story
deadline and a reading tonight. More later tonight or tomorrow morning!
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #9 of 78: person of crevice (obizuth) Thu 13 Jan 11 19:54
    
just got here and got caught up, can't wait to hear more. rebecca, i 
LOVED teh book. 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #10 of 78: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Fri 14 Jan 11 11:45
    
I am in the middle of the book and loving it, as well.
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #11 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Fri 14 Jan 11 13:14
    
Thank you! I'm back now, to continue where I semi-left off. Fawn,
about the issue of embracing female candidates who aren't necessarily
pro-woman. I don't think we have to (or should!) embrace them, vote for
them or support them. But I do think that we need to recognize that
they in themselves represent part of a move toward gender equity, in
that they take the place of MALE candidates whom we oppose and who
aren't necessarily pro-woman. In other words, were we to imagine true
gender equity, it would include as many women to vote strenuously
against as women to vote FOR. And in fact, that comes with a larger
idea. Because if we want to move toward a more gender equitable future,
but expect that it will be filled only with brilliant and admirable
women with whom we agree, we actually set a bar way too high, and that
hurts women. It hurt Hillary, for example. Lots of feminists did not
support her because she wasn't the kind of woman or candidate they'd
dreamed of as the first woman, because in the absence of female
candidates, we'd created a fantasy of how smart and able and
collaborative and wise the first woman would be. And then it turned out
she was a compromising, maneuvering, slick politician -- like a
million male politicians before her -- and so she was a disappointment.
We have to begin to absorb the fact that if we're talking about a
future in which there is really an even playing field, that field would
be populated by women were were smart and stupid, and right and left,
and young and old, and admirable and disappointing, and corrupt and
moral, who we love and who we hate -- just like all the male
politicians who have been so varied in their qualities for hundreds of
years! 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #12 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Fri 14 Jan 11 13:20
    
I see your point, and yet I am wrestling with the idea that feminism means
whatever the people who shout the loudest say it means, because that
suggests that anyone can call anything feminism and have it be true!

Do you think there were any moments (what the old Ms. magazine would have
called "click" moments) in the 2008 election for people who hadn't really
given a lot of thought to gender and politics?
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #13 of 78: A mundane ideal? (robertflink) Fri 14 Jan 11 13:34
    
I like the spirit of post #11 in that it voices the need to accept
leaders (and other humans?) as part of the humble clay from which they
arise.  How democratic and egalitarian!  

Is it progress when we learn to accept the species as it is rather
than how we want it to be?  I suggest yes!  

We may come closer to the "ideal" when we eschew idealism.
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #14 of 78: Sam Delson (samiam) Fri 14 Jan 11 15:11
    
I'm reading the book and enjoying it.

Liesl Schillinger's review in the New York Times contrasts "Big Girls
Don't Cry" with Anne Kornblut's "Notes From the Cracked Ceiling."
Kornblut wrote that 2008 was "a severe letdown ... (that) set back the
cause of equality in the political sphere by decades."
Why do you think your analysis is significantly more optimistic than
Kornblut's?
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #15 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Fri 14 Jan 11 23:14
    
(For anyone reading this who doesn't have a WELL account, please email
your questions for Rebecca to inkwell@well.com. They'll be posted so
she can respond to them.) 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #16 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Sat 15 Jan 11 14:11
    
"anyone can call anything feminism and have it be true!" -- But alas,
that's true! The idea that there's ever been a rule book or a set of
prescribed guidelines for what feminism means might comfort us in
moments like this -- when the meaning of the word is contested so hotly
from the left -- but the fact is, since its inception, the "women's
movement" has been split left right and center over issues of race,
class, faith, pacifism, sexuality, leadership, pornography, everything
you can imagine. And of course it must by its very nature be a
constantly evolving, only very loosely defined movement, because
representing "women" means representing such a varied set of
perspectives, priorities, experiences etc.. It's a movement that has at
many points in its history been built on discord and disagreement. I
personally think this history, while creating an incredibly combustible
movement, also gives feminism its strength,  because it offers the
possibility of steady evolution. 

All that said . . . I think that part of identifying as a feminist,
and the key to defending it from what you view as a perversion of it or
misinterpretation of its goals is being loud and persuasive and as
clear as possible about what you believe it to stand for. And so for
the record, I believe that working against reproductive freedom is an
antifeminist act, because it privileges fetal life over female life,
because in limiting women's abilities to control their bodies, their
health, their reproduction, their sex lives and their families, what
you're keeping them from participating fully and equally in the
democracy, on personal, economic, professional and political levels. I
believe that working against reform that would make health care more
available to more people is fundamentally anti-woman. I believe that
doing damage to social security is anti-feminist, because women rely on
social security disproportionately more than men. I believe that
feminists who believe in equalizing opportunities for women should
support progressive labor and leave policies that would better allow
women to balance the physical demands of motherhood with maintaining a
work life and economic independence; I believe that it is incumbent on
feminists to support equal pay and anti-discrimination legislation when
it comes to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and age. And
anyone else out there who wants to call herself or himself a feminist
is welcome to do so, but I would eagerly have tough conversations and
fight for my views on each and every one of these subjects (and so many
more!) with them. And that's my best guess at how best to keep a
women's movement vital and strong. 

Whew. Now I feel tired. 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #17 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Sat 15 Jan 11 19:42
    
Standing ovation!

When you were writing the book, the 2010 elections hadn't happened yet. If
you could update the book to take that election cycle into account, what
would change?
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #18 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Sun 16 Jan 11 15:17
    
I wanted to address the earlier question about the different
perspectives of my book and Anne Kornblut's book Notes from a Cracked
Ceiling. I certainly can't speak for her, but I would venture a guess
that our perspectives were different for no more fundamental a reason
than that we had different perspectives! I know, not very gratifying a
response. Also, Kornblut is a political beat reporter, and so she may
have a grimmer idea of the gender dynamics specific to Washington,
whereas my beat, and my book, covers feminism more broadly, so some of
my optimism is drawn from pop culture, from the blogosphere, from the
media. But also . . . if you read my book, you'll see that I'm not all
sunshine and light. A lot of my book is devoted to chronicling the kind
of sexism and double standards that leave Kornblut so depressed, so I
get where she's coming from. It's just that -- again, perhaps because I
have spent years writing about gender dynamics more broadly -- a lot
of the sexism I was chronicling wasn't a surprise to me, I didn't see
at as a step backward. Rather I saw it as the exposure of attitudes
that we like to pretend we've gotten over but which of course we
haven't. I feel like the exposure of them was really good for us when
it comes to moving forward. Nothing is every going to get better if we
just keep on ignoring the gender, race, class and sexual imbalances
that still exist. I think that seeing it all hang out, as happened in
2008, spurs a lot of people into talking and thinking about moving
forward, which in the big picture is good for progress. Does that make
sense?
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #19 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Sun 16 Jan 11 23:09
    
I'm surprised that anyone was surprised by sexism
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #20 of 78: (fom) Sun 16 Jan 11 23:49
    
Joining in the standing ovation for #16.

Also for the book, which I loved -- I found it riveting. (I'm an old 
second-wave feminist who went to consciousness-raising meetings in the 
sixties, etc.)

I'm wondering how you envision Palin's political future, and worrying that 
there might be other women like her out there who will get somewhere 
even if Palin doesn't. At the same time, I want there to be women emerging 
throughout the political spectrum. It's confusing. 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #21 of 78: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Mon 17 Jan 11 08:42
    
As I read the book I am remembering what it felt like in 2008. That
progressive male sexism that was everywhere. In my little neck ofthe
woods this translated to really disliking the pro-Hillary folks in our
area (Asheville, NC). I worked very hard for Obama and, for the most
part, found the men to be ok, not voicing huge hate for Hillary
herself, but strong dislike for her supporters. I found myself agreeing
at times and being uncomfortable with it at times. I also was reminded
of how, as a Jew, I am always doubly upset when a Jewish person does
bad things (Bernie Madoff for example). Like they should know and do
better just because they are Jewish. Makes no logical sense, but there
it is. I felt the same about Hillary Clinton. I wanted her to do and be
better because she was a woman. I resented her reliance on Mark Penn
and wanted her to make smarter choices. I supported Obama even as I
could see that Hillary was probably more progressive, or had been more
progressive. But she wasn't perfect and I wanted her to be perfect. 
Like you, Rebecca, I was originally an Edwards supporter because of the
more progressive plans he was talking about.
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #22 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Mon 17 Jan 11 09:30
    
Regarding this, from fom, "I'm wondering how you envision Palin's
political future, and worrying that there might be other women like her
out there who will get somewhere even if Palin doesn't. At the same
time, I want there to be women emerging throughout the political
spectrum. It's confusing." Agreed about it being confusing!!! Also,
with regard to envisioning Palin's future, I'm not sure there's anyone
out there clairvoyant enough to actually do this~ The one thing I can
say I sort of ruggedly admire about Palin (and I use that word
advisedly, but mean it in the following way: that every time a woman
defies expectations, she expands possibilities for other women to defy
them in other ways) is that she is utterly unpredictable. I thought she
was toast after quitting her governor's job, thought she was toast
after she defended Doctor Laura's use of the N-word, I think she's
toast now. But every other time, I've been wrong. All the conventional
wisdom and history in the world seems absolutely lost on her. This is
terrifying in some senses, in that as a politician I wish Palin COULD
be stopped, but really fascinating in other ways, when you consider
that all the conventional wisdom in the world (or at least in the
United States) has been built around male conventions, and that as soon
as you get new people into the mix, the rules that we've come to
believe are unbendable begin to shift. A more cheerful example is
Barack Obama: a history of racism and resistance, the absolute surety
that young people do not show up at the polls -- all historically sound
predictors of the impossibility of his presidential win -- wound up
being proven wrong by his election. 

As for the terror that other women like Palin will get somewhere if
she doesn't: yes, it is terrifying. But I would argue not by its nature
particularly more terrifying than the notion that other men like Palin
(ideologically speaking) are getting places. We're not used to seeing
our ideological enemies take female shape to such a powerful degree,
and it's unsettling and in ways that are very complicated, far more
terrifying to us than seeing them in male form (because that we're used
to -- see all of history!) But again, part of my argument -- tough as
it is to keep my mind wrapped around it when I see Palin talking about
Giffords shooting -- is about not expecting that women are by their
natures going to be superior to the men who have been driving us round
the bend for generations. (Not, I hasten to add, that all men drive us
around the bend! Just that we're so used to seeing politicians -- those
we root for and those we consider it our responsibility to stand
against -- who are men, that it doesn't discomfit us to hate or love a
male politician in the way that it unsettles us to feel either for a
woman)

Also, to Fawn, about being surprised that anyone was surprised by
sexism: I know! Me too. But think about the world we live in and the
messages that get transmitted. Everywhere you look, you hear warnings
about "the end of men," the fact that women get more college degrees
than men, the fact that job loss during the recession has left more
women employed than men. There is a pervasive message out there that
gender issues have been more than adequately redressed, and people hear
and absorb that message, a) because it's there b) because it's easier
than admitting that gender parity is an extraordinarily complex
prospect that is going to demand a lot more work from all of us. The
vilification of powerful women is so great that it leaves lots of
people believing that women rule us all -- never mind the 17 percent of
congress, the backwards media messages, the obvious anger toward
women, the hypersexualization or princess-ification of little girls,
the fact that labor and leave policies, old attitudes about domestic
work and workplace expectations, leave women terribly disadvantaged
when it comes to trying to maintain economic independence while also
hit the ever-higher bar set for motherhood. Obviously, I could go on
and on!    
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #23 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Mon 17 Jan 11 17:34
    
My problem with the Palins of the world isn't so much "expecting that
women are by their natures going to be superior to the men who have
been driving us round the bend for generations" as it is expecting that
women, as women, will be supportive of other women. Which I suppose is
naive, because it imagines that all women will define "supportive of
other women" in the same way, and that's as impossible as all men
defining "supportive of men" in the same way.

I think lots of people have ALWAYS believed women rule us all, if not
openly then as the power behind the throne. 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #24 of 78: Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Tue 18 Jan 11 09:18
    
Fawn, I think that the as you suggest above, even the assumption that
women are going to treat other women well, and be supportive of them,
is a high standard and a frankly impractical one. It's not a matter of
it being naive, I don't think. I just think that when a group is shut
out of power for long enough, we develop this idea of how much finer
they would be if they just had the access to power. This is how we get
the idea that women would naturally be more collaborative, supportive,
peaceful leaders. And many of them would be! (There is research,
actually, that suggests as much, but it's so impossible to know if that
research is based on how things would be if we had TRULY equal
opportunity, or on the assumptions we make about women and their innate
behaviors based on the imparities and expectations of current
reality!) But those are precisely the standards and assumptions that
led people to be disappointed in Hillary, as Julie points out above:
she voted for the war! She was a compromiser! We thought she'd be
better! We wanted the first woman to be perfect! Now, I am with you in
my personal desire for women to be supportive of other women. I think
it's incredibly important, and in my personal life, it may be one of
the harshest standards to which I hold the women I know. It's not a BAD
expectation or hope. That said, I wonder how that plays out when we
get to situations like we saw in the midterms, when we had several
women running against women. I am anxious to see that dynamic become
more and more common -- after all, we don't blink an eye when a man
runs against a man; that's the norm! But if we expect women to support
each other, how will we ever get used to them competing against each
other -- not just across party lines, but in primaries? This happened
in New York this year: a young woman named Reshma Saujani challenged
longtime incumbent Carolyn Maloney from within the party and many
people were horrified! And I understand why, but I also understand that
competition and challenge will be part of a bigger picture of actual
political equality down the road, and so we have to clear space for it
in our imaginations and our heads. But again, that doesn't mean that
it's not absolutely incumbent on all of us to point out the ways in
which Palin does not support other women (though, interestingly and
grimly, what she did by going out and stumping for women in her own
party -- the "mama grizzlies" -- in the midterms was a hell of a lot
more supportive of women than anything the Democratic party did for its
women in the midterms!). But obviously, the fact that she pushes
policy that would impinge on the opportunities of other women to
exercise their freedoms and rights MUST be pointed out, repeatedly and
loudly. 
  
inkwell.vue.401 : Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
permalink #25 of 78: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Tue 18 Jan 11 10:47
    
"Pushing policies that would impinge on the opportunities of other women" is
exactly what I meant by "not supporting other women," but you said it so
much more precisely. The idea that women should vote for other women based
on their gender alone, regardless of their actual policies, seems odd, but
as you point out in your book, there was definitely a strain of that going
on.

To get a little meta for a minute, you'd been writing about the election as
it happened. Did you always have the idea for a book in mind, or did that
come to you after the fact?
  

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