Mothers in the Media.

by Meredith O'Brien

 

During the past week, Time Magazine feted what its editors considered to be the “100 world’s most influential people,” two high-profile wronged wives of politicians publicly aired their disappointment with their spouse’s behavior, and a well known reality TV show wife/mother who was promoting her book had to endure embarrassment on national television as she fielded questions about her husband’s rumored dalliance.

 

How are these stories related? We’ll get to that in a minute. First let’s look at the Time Magazine list. I spent a lot of time examining it. Here’s what I found: Of the 100 global influencers, 29 were women. Of those 29, nine of the brief write-ups about the female honorees mentioned their kids and/or their maternity. When it came to the 71 men on the list, four of the essays about the male honorees mentioned their children and/or paternity.

 

At the same time, Italy’s first lady, Veronica Lario, used her influence to complain to the press (for the second time) that her husband, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was behaving like a sexist scoundrel and was paying an inappropriate amount of attention to attractive young women. After Berlusconi lashed back at his wife through the media, Lario announced that, after 19 years of marriage and three kids, she was finished with him. “This time, he went beyond the limit with this latest public humiliation,” Lario told a journalist. “I want to close this chapter on this marriage.” By week’s end, after even the Vatican rebuked Berlusconi, the prime minister’s approval rating remained unchanged, at around 66 percent.

 

Meanwhile, a wife of a two-time U.S. presidential candidate took to the U.S. airwaves on the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss her husband’s infidelity, the possibility that he fathered a child with his mistress, whether she loves him and how she copes with her terminal cancer diagnosis. After Elizabeth Edwards told Winfrey that the only gift she requested from John Edwards some 30 years ago when they got married was his fidelity, Edwards, the author of a new book called Resilience, explained why she hasn’t left him. Saying that her husband took care of her during some of her darkest moments – when their first son was killed in a car accident, when he literally fed her when she didn’t have the strength during her first bout with cancer – Edwards said she didn’t want to define her marriage by his one affair. However when Edwards was asked if she loves him, she said, “That’s a complicated question.”

brenda bengis
05.13.09

I was glad to read your article. I have been thinking about Elizabeth Edwards a lot these days because she seems to be in a no win situation. I do not believe she is a "victim" in the traditional sense. Yet this is a woman who is dying of cancer and has suffered so many losses, the worst naturally being the death of a child.

One look at her and you can see the effects of the cancer and suspect that her life will be short. I believe we should step back and be less judgmental and accept that her situation is unique. Elizabeth is a bright, articulate woman who is making an attempt to define herself while she can.

She knows her husband's life will go on for decades, but hers will not. It seemes clear to me she wants to be remembered after she is gone. She claims she wrote the book for her children yet she has been undeservedly villified for doing so. The book, regardless of what critics say, is her story as only she can present it - the good, the bad and the ugly. It is her choice to present it as she sees fit.

Considering her uncurable cancer, questioning why she is staying with her husband I believe is absurd. Her days are numbered and the litigation involved in a divorce could take years considering the vast assets involved. Also custody issues would have to be argued and decided that no doubt would drain her emotionally. In her condition there is no upside to going through a divorce that I can see. Without a divorce she gets to see her children 100 per cent of the time and she can spend her precious days as she chooses without sitting through endless depositions and court hearings and dealing with the media attention that a divorce would attract.

As for the double standard Time Magazine uses in discussing its 100 most influential individuals, while it is nothing new it is disturbing. With the likes of Brad Pitt and other celebrity dads proudly showing off the children I would have hoped the pendulum might have swung a bit more by now so that a resume that includes parenthood on the checklist would be more balanced.