The Hillary Hangover in US Politics

While Australia’s first female prime minister begins her first post-election parliament, a new book in the US looks at how close (and how far) America was from its first female president.

Rebecca Traister’s Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women looks at how both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin put gender back on the political agenda in the 2008 election. The book ranges from Palin’s rhetorical wrestling of the debate away from Clinton (Palin’s early address argued “Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!”) to the misogynistic implications of Clinton nutcrackers.

A Slate review points out that “Even the traumatic fight between younger and older feminists about Hillary… Traister considers the ‘most rejuvenating thing to happen to the feminist conversation in many, many decades.’” The review goes on to place the book in the contemporary feminist debate of “what the movement lost by becoming less communal and more concerned with personal empowerment”.

In an interview with Salon, Traister talks about how she personally came to support Clinton, because only Clinton was “redefining how we view women and our expectations for them in public and political life”.

Despite writing her next book on Palin, Traister is less positive about the former Alaskan governor. She sees the demonising of Palin in the media as “the fault of Republicans who thought they could bring her in as a toy, a young attractive Hillary replacement.” And as for the political future of Palin she jokes that when the next presidential race comes around in 2012 “she’ll run for president, or emperor, or master of the universe, or whatever position is available”.

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