for Elizabeth and Sheryl ...

Cunning & Shrill United

by Peggy Aycinena

Elizabeth Edwards died yesterday. Born in 1949, she was 61 years old at the time of her death. My own sister, born in 1947, was 51 years old when she died in 1999. Both of these women succumbed to the ravages of breast cancer, and both of these women were described at times as cunning and shrill. I have only one answer to this last ...

You go, Sister!

For pity's sake, the women who were born in the late 1940's were raised in a society that still honored sublime women, women who knew they were meant to be seen and not heard, women who were advised that if they showed themselves to be too smart, they'd never marry. If they were perceived as authoritative, they'd be described as shrill. If they showed mastery of the politics of the Game of Life, they'd be characterized as cunning.

Let me ask you this: Is Steve Jobs ever described as cunning or shrill? No? This, despite the fact that he's widely reported to be both authoritarian and a master at the politics of the Corporate & Commercial Game of Life? Again, to both Elizabeth Edwards and my late sister, I have only one comment …

You go, Sister!

Despite the most cunning and shrill of attempts by the society around you, you prevailed. That society that told you to hurry up and wait – hurry up and get a college eduction, and even an early start on a career, and then go home to raise a family and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

… for Your Man to come home from the office.
… for Your Man to come home from his meetings.
… for Your Man to return from his company off-site team-bonding events.
… for Your Man to return from his travels.
… for Your Man to return from his career, his concerns, his competitions.
… for Your Man to return from his Game of Real Life.
… for Your Man to spend time with the children.
… for Your Man to spend time with you.

Just Wait and Wait and Wait.

And then, finally, when the kids are almost raised and you think you might start to enjoy your middle years with Your Man, he goes off and finds what is currently referred to as a younger model, someone who will make him feel like a Real Man again, someone who isn't cunning, shrill, or – godforbid – middle aged.

And John Edwards? Is he listening? Does he care? Does he know that [for a certain subset of women in America today] he's among the most detested of men? John and his sordid tom-catting around with a member of his election staff. John and his pathetic inability to acknowledge paternity of the child that resulted from that relationship. John and his public defense that his wife's cancer was “in remission” at the time, so his crime of disloyalty was ameliorated. John, who worked – in concert with cunning Elizabeth – to embroider a boldfaced lie that the child [the poor, poor child] was the daughter of a different man. Does it get any more cunning or shrill than this?

So, a question for those of you who are part of my sister's generation, Elizabeth Edwards' generation: How are you feeling today? Sad? Moved to silence? Overwhelmed by the landscape of Elizabeth Edward's life, the years of her journey, the evolving social expectations within which she was born, grew, triumphed, and died? I have only one comment for you …

You go, Sister!

Those of us who have followed in your hard-won footsteps, honor you. We are better, stronger, more able and empowered because of your efforts. I end with only one comment for Elizabeth and Sheryl ...

Thank you.

December 8, 2010


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