Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: Big Girls Don't Cry

Hillary Clinton has recently announced what most had been expecting: that she would run for president once again. After her last attempt in 2008, the question on the minds of many was whether she would ever run again, but the question that has plagued most is why Hillary was never voted in the first time.

Rebecca Traister tries to answer that question in her book covering the 2008 convention, "Big Girls Don't Cry". While many saw Hillary's loss as a big disappointment, Traister instead argues that her run had opened new opportunities for women's equality.

Focusing intently on Hillary's run, Traister tries to dissect a woman that has won the ire of both politicians and citizens. During the 2008 campaign, Hillary was attacked for her looks, her intentions, and her decision to stay with her cheating husband. What Traister also points out is that her critics did not only include the Clintons' expected opponents. Even feminists had a problem with Hillary. Women such as Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem could not give Hillary their expected support, although they were women and especially because they were feminists. Hillary Clinton was even able to turn away some of her closest allies as she reported in her own biography.

So what is it about Hillary that nags at our conscious and patience? As Traister points out several times throughout the book, it's her flip-flopping on key issues. One minute she's pro-same-sex marriage, the next minute she's refusing to sign a bill to allow same sex marriages. She supported the war on Iraq although she was strongly against the Vietnam War. She worked on behalf of migrant workers in her early political life, but then became 'adamantly against illegal immigrants' while serving in the Senate. It was clear that as Hillary began seriously deciding a run for the White House, she became less principled in what she truly believed in. This was confirmed more in her attempt to appease conservatives during her Senate tenure, by pitching a naïve newbie role in need of mentoring to who was once her most debilitating critics.

As Traister points out in the book, part of Hillary's problem is that she is an appeaser. She is willing to say and do anything to land that humongous opportunity at the White House. But Hillary Clinton has always been the first among many opportunities: the first Valedictorian to graduate from Wellesley College, the first female attorney to sit on the Watergate scandal, and the first woman to win a Senate seat after a very brief representation of the state. Unfortunately, along her path to White House stardom, Hillary has crossed a very dangerous line from opportunity to opportunist.

While a negative image of Hillary Clinton is portrayed throughout the book, Traister still manages to glean a positive outlook for women's progress. While Hillary played a major role in the 2008 campaign, she was not the only woman to make headlines throughout the ordeal. There was Sarah Palin, who was able to arouse and irritate the emotions of pundits and supporters alike. Let's not forget the heir to the household ketchup staple, Teresa Heinz; the powerful attorney, Elizabeth Edwards, and the black first lady, Michelle Obama. All shared one common thread with Hillary Clinton: they were successful, professional and powerful. Their only difference? Hillary was running for first female president, and they adopted the typical American political role of first ladies. Regardless their differences, each woman brought her unique challenge to the campaign: infidelity, stereotypes,  racism, and unimaginable wealth. The more Americans discussed these women, their roles, and challenges, the more women's issues were brought to the forefront of every household, newspaper and political sphere. More importantly, their representation in the 2008 campaign changed how Americans were starting to perceive the importance of a woman in politics.

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