Not that she let’s John Edwards completely off the hook, but this passage by Caitlin Flanagan describing Rielle Hunter is appalling:
…his (former) mistress, a known hellcat who has been flummoxing boy-men since the ’80s and whose rage over Elizabeth’s book is held in check only (and here I’m admittedly basing my speculation largely on what I’ve come to learn about women’s dreams and desires) by her hankering to live in Tara. Hers is not an intelligence or an ambition difficult to plumb, and her dream is almost certainly to have Elizabeth shuffle off the mortal coil so that she can instate herself in the North Carolina pleasure dome and become the fun, hip, “Being Is Free,” bleached-blond, super open-minded, videographing, Power of Now stepmom, a prospect so hideous that it makes Elizabeth Edwards’s last-chance book tour look like what it is: a desperate attempt to protect her sweet, sad children from the influence of this erstwhile cokehead and present-day weasel after she has died.
Really? I harbor no love for Hunter — she was the second party in a deceitful conspiracy that brought down the progressive presidential campaign that I supported — but this seems like an absurd attempt to throw the rhetorical kitchen sink at her. Ta-Nehisi calls it “gender-nationalist,” and I think that’s right in the sense that only Hunter and Elizabeth Edwards are really granted any agency in the piece, whereas John Edwards, party one in the previously mentioned conspiracy, is a dolt who decided to blow up a campaign that was incredibly important to millions of people…why exactly? Because Hunter is a mean slut?
Certainly writing a piece that focuses on Hunter ties in much better with an examination of the life and beliefs of Helen Gurley Brown and gives Flanagan license to critique revisionist feminist historians who would turn Brown’s “how to win a millionaire” guidebook into a liberatory text. And while the magazine-long-form is long, it’s not infinite, so one can excuse the absense of a socio-biological (or whatever) critical framework to explain John’s actions. However, none of that explains the vitriol directed at Hunter, who for all her flaws was not the one tasked with being faithful to a partner or honorable to a movement.