Edwards vs. Clinton

The senator's wife said she's happier than Hillary. Is this dust-up about presidential politics, or the politics of motherhood?

Published October 26, 2006 7:49PM (EDT)

And here we hoped the intraparty digs might wait till the presidential primary season. Last week, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, apologized to her husband's colleague (and likely rival for the 2008 Democratic nomination) Sen. Hillary Clinton. Why? Well, Edwards had allegedly been snide about Clinton in the press, telling Ladies' Home Journal, "She and I are from the same generation. We both went to law school and married other lawyers, but after that we made other choices. I think my choices have made me happier. I think I'm more joyful than she is."

It's hard to know what to make of Edwards' remark. Maybe it was just a not-so-nice way of explaining her own lack of interest in running for office -- but it feels like an incredibly tardy rebuttal to Clinton's oft-quoted 1992 statement on her own ambitions: "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life." And, I kind of hate to say it, but Edwards' comment also reminds me a bit of a "Sex and the City" episode in which Charlotte quits her job to stay at home with her husband, and starts shouting, "I choose my choice, I choose my choice" on the phone to her doubtful friend Miranda.

Anyway, Edwards, who has been on a tour promoting her memoir, wound up getting a little extra publicity for her book. She also said in a statement that Ladies' Home Journal misrepresented her remarks, and that "this is particularly true with respect to my comments about Sen. Clinton, who holds a serious and demanding public office while I am largely home, joyfully I must admit, with two lovely children." The magazine stands by its transcript, and regardless, Edwards called Clinton to apologize last week.

It's very heartwarming that the duo was able to make nice and move on, but it's also disheartening that some women -- even cool women like Edwards -- feel the need to deride their counterparts over work/family choices. Some women work outside the home, some work from home, some work as primary caregivers for their kids and some do none of the above. I for one would be a lot more joyful (to use Edwards' odd word) if we could all just choose our choices and not have to defend them.

By Marisa Meltzer

Marisa Meltzer is a freelance writer in New York City. She is coauthor of "How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time," which comes out in April.

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