NY Magazine writer Rebecca Traister is one of the best political journalists around. Her commentary is always smart and opinionated, but doesn't skimp on nuance. You might know her from her NY Magazine piece about sexist sex (really) that went viral in October, or her book about the 2008 election, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Woman, which charts Traister's experience covering the 2008 primary, when she, a former John Edwards supporter, found herself becoming an unlikely fan of Hillary Clinton, a transformation that came in response to the media's—and the left wing's—sexist derision of Clinton. It's a book that demands revisiting during this primary election, for reasons that should be obvious (e.g., check out the comments I get whenever I say something about Clinton that isn't "WAR CRIMINAL").
Traister's got a new new book coming out next week, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, and it's the one I really want to talk about. It's a study of single women's political influence, and the forces at work that have often tried to undermine that influence—see: John "Women and Kitchens" Kasich, marriage framed by conservative politicos as a cure for poverty, et terrible al.
I interviewed Traister yesterday over the phone about All the Single Ladies and we'll be running that interview in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, the book's excerpted here. It's a fascinating discussion of single women's influence on public policy:
...the expansion of the population of unmarried women across classes signals a social and political rupture as profound as the invention of birth control, as the sexual revolution, as the abolition of slavery, as women’s suffrage, and as the women’s-rights, civil-rights, gay-rights, and labor movements that made this reordering of society possible. By their very growing presence, single women are asking for a new deal from their government. The Democratic platform, suddenly more liberal than it has been in a generation, is more liberal largely in response to this new segment of the American population.
Raising the minimum wage? Two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women. Forty percent of working single mothers would benefit directly from an increase in the minimum wage, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Paid family leave, a third-rail issue for decades, now back in conversation? Well, it would benefit all families, but especially struggling single mothers; so would the government-subsidized early-education programs touted by both Clinton and Sanders. Paid-sick-day legislation is fundamental to a world in which women are primary earners and no one is home to care for sick children or elderly family members. Promises of free college and lowered student debt likely appeal to the women who now outnumber men on college campuses.
The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for those women seeking abortion, has gone largely unchallenged by mainstream Democrats for decades. But in Congress, California representative Barbara Lee has proposed a bill that would reverse it, and Hillary Clinton recently became the first mainstream Democratic presidential candidate in history to campaign vocally for its reversal on the grounds that it is a restriction that disproportionately limits the ability of poor women of color to exercise their reproductive rights and make decisions about whether and when to have children.
You can read the whole thing here.