What Would Claire Booth Luce Have Thought of Elizabeth Edwards and Rielle Hunter?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
May 6 2009 2:05 PM

What Would Claire Booth Luce Have Thought of Elizabeth Edwards and Rielle Hunter?

Hanna , I hear what you say about moxie. What interests me about Edwards is that she doesn't fit any clear mold. She seems at once very strong and very vulnerable. One almost feels that in the very fact that she has lived with advanced cancer for such an extraordinary length of time. On the other hand, Susannah's close reading of the passage about Rielle Hunter is spot-on, to my ear. In this description of how the affair began, Edwards uses language that implicitly depicts Rielle as a fierce, amoral hunter (her last name, after all), and John as little more than biological silly putty; if Elizabeth doesn't quite make John out to be an innocent pup, she does suggests he is merely too pliable. The agency is all the Huntress's.

I suppose that's natural; most of would be angry at the other woman, especially if she's as touchy-feely as Rielle sounds. Do any of you remember this Newsweek piece by Jonathan Darman about his encounters with her? If I were Elizabeth, I'd be both threatened by Rielle's brand of sinuous femininity and put off by it. If you buy the portrait painted in the Darman piece, Rielle seems to possess a brand of sexual wile that I can’t help feeling is somehow more deeply associated with womanhood, to this day, than almost any other quality. When I read about these women, with their New Age sensitivity, their way of leaning in close at the bar and asking "What sign are you?" I often find myself thinking they're the true "XX" and I'm, say, X and a 1/2.


What's interesting to me about the passage Susannah posts is how you can see that Edwards sort of feels that too, otherwise she would never use words like "target." The Rielle that Edwards writes about is just a new version of Crystal Edwards from The Women. She sees something she wants and doesn't hesitate to wreck a marriage to get it. These days, though, Crystal Allen doesn’t sell perfume at the perfume counter; she is into astrology and cleanses and freelance video work. In this reading, Elizabeth, of course, is the wholesome wife (Mrs. Stephen Haines) played by Norma Shearer; only the movie doesn't end with her reconciliation with her husband. It ends with her on a talk show, sharpening her nails a bit. And who could blame her?

Meghan O'Rourke is Slate's culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother's death, is now out in paperback.



The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer


Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.


Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.