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Rebecca Traister talks about “Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women”

Rebecca Traister found many of the gender conversations during the 2008 elections painful but necessary.

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Q. How about Christine O’Donnell? What do you think about her campaign? How is sexism at work there?

In a very complicated way. The stuff I saw the night she won the primary – which is, guys on the news pointing and laughing – I found myself so taken aback by that. I sort of wanted to say, look guys, if somebody had asked you yesterday if this woman had a chance you would have said no. And she’s just proved you wrong. So why is it that you’re laughing at her?

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There is no question, I think, objectively speaking, that Christine O’Donnell is a terrible candidate. She is unprepared. She is not particularly engaging, experienced, or articulate on the subjects with which she is presented on the campaign trail. Her politics, to my mind, are horribly conservative, terribly conservative. There is no question that she deserves an enormous amount of criticism. However, the way her gender has had an impact on this is the national obsession with her shortcomings. Let me tell me, around this country right now, there are lots of male candidates who are unprepared, inarticulate, inexperienced, young, and ill-suited to the jobs they are running for and we don’t know any of their names. We have national cameras in Delaware, where Christine O'Donnell, who is hugely behind in the polls, is a candidate in a comparatively small state and yet she has somehow became this figurehead for women in politics.

Q. When you look at the midterm elections, which female candidates are you excited about?

Alex Sink [Democratic candidate for governor in Florida] I feel very excited about. I think she’s just a fabulous candidate. Both of these women are on the line, but Patty Murray [incumbent Democratic candidate for US Senator from Washington State] and Barbara Boxer [incumbent Democratic candidate for US Senator from California] are terrific candidates. And I’ve been very excited about Krystal Ball [Democratic candidate for Congress from Virginia]. She is 28 years old and she has had a totally fraught campaign.

Q. As an author, what did you most hope that readers would take away from your book?

I want those people who lived through the 2008 election – and in many cases suffered through it, on one end or the other – to think about the history that we all made and we all witnessed. I really want those of us who were pained by it or who were exhausted by it to understand the way that living through that election changed our country. Because I believe it did.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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