Elizabeth Edwards (1949-2010)

“We feel a lot of affection for public people and project our fantasies of something like perfection on them. . .and it turns out they’re not only imperfect, they can be deeply disappointing.”


I mean, it’s not like this surprises me or anything, but seriously? It’s no wonder we have such a hard time dealing with all of our political and civic problems; we’re still waiting for someone Perfect to come along and fix everything!

Elizabeth Edwards was a smart, capable, strong woman who loved her children and her family, someone who apparently thought it was more important to stay married to a man she obviously cared about, and to stay focused on the objectives upon which their lives and their marriage was built, than to avoid “betraying her following.”

What following is that, that she would have so woefully betrayed? The one who idealized her? Who thought it was appropriate to advise her to “focus on her children” or for her and John to “take care of each other”? How condescending! How about those who found her to be “domineering, aggressive and opinionated,” but still worthy of their admiration? Do any of these feel they are worthy of her consideration?

How dare these people, who know virtually nothing of this woman, her personal pains and joys and triumphs, the intricacies and cohesion of her marriage, feel they have a right to judge or criticize? Even the tone of the article, written in apparent tribute, condescends, with its referrals to her substantial hips and frumpiness, to this “hearty woman of substance.”


Can this article not be written without buying in/selling out to the culture of lookism and female-body-criticism-masked-as-praise we are so saddled with everywhere we look? Does the size of her hips have anything to do with the contribution she may have tried to make to better this country? Are we supposed to imagine John to be that much more noble because he stood by her, despite her frumpiness and the fact that she had the nerve to get cancer, twice?

“We all have very firm opinions about marriage. . .What it consists of, how far it stretches, what kind of deal it entails, and a woman whose husband humiliates her publicly just invites us to dilate on the subject, for our own sakes.”. (Stacy Schiff)

John didn’t humiliate Elizabeth publicly. John betrayed her, yes. But he didn’t broadcast it around the world — others did that. Why do the American people of the 21st century take it so personally when a public figure has an affair? What can we POSSIBLY know of their lives, their marriage, their choices, their struggles? What can it possibly have to do with us?

Jan Hoffman, the writer of the article, redeems him/her self a bit with the final paragraph, although the gist of it comes from Elizabeth herself:

“With her messy, tarnished life, Mrs. Edwards could never become the idealized role model that supporters from so many corners needed her to be. But did that mean she failed them?. . . Fallible, three-dimensional. On the day before she died, she wrote on Facebook: ‘There are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.'”

4 Responses to “Elizabeth Edwards (1949-2010)”

  1. December 17, 2010 at 12:36 am

    Thank you thank you thank you. Though it was written about one woman’s life and the criticism surrounding her, it’s just as important a piece for any individual caught in the spotlight.

    You know, every time I see a message saying you’ve posted, it always lights up my day.


    Be well.

  2. December 17, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I wish you would post a link to the article. That said, you know and I know every f*cking article about a woman is going to comment on her looks. That’s how it is in the U.S. No one ever says anything about a male Senator’s or Congressman’s looks. No one ever comments on the looks of the husband of a female public figure. But if it’s about a woman, I would LOVE to see an article that never once mentions what she looks like. It’s not gonna happen, not in my lifetime, I’ll bet.

    “A hearty woman of substance” means, in code, “fat and ugly”, kind of like “cozy” in real estate parlance means “small”. I remember when Hillary Clinton was considered frumpy. Then she changed her hairstyle a few times and she got criticized for being too focused on her looks. You just can’t win.

  3. December 17, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I think we take greater offense at a public personality having an affair and “publicly” humiliating the spouse because they are in the public eye so it stands out far more when it does come to light. It’s bad enough to have cheat on your spouse but when the entire world will know and talk about it, it somehow seems far worse.

    Of course we can never know what really went on. Maybe he asked her for a divorce and she wouldn’t give him one. I suppose as humans we naturally take sides with the person whom we think is innocent. I know thats what I automatically did but your article does make me stop and think about it now. She may not have been the innocent victim.

    I read the same article you mentioned and also thought it was extremely odd, mean, and stupid for the writer to discuss Elizabeth’s looks.

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