Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Patriarch

Senator Edward Kennedy died last night. I admired what I understood of Kennedy's legislative abilities and accomplishments. I was happy to have seen him during a roll call vote in the Senate one day in the 80s, when I visited Washington D.C.

As I was waking this morning, I vaguely heard the news report talk admiringly about how after his brother Robert's death, the youngest of the nine Kennedy children became the family patriarch.

Um, yeah, that's because he was the only son left alive, and by definition a "patriarch" is male. Why the admiration for his maleness?

Imagine if Eunice Kennedy Shriver had the opportunities available to her brothers during the 50s and 60s? She managed to do some impressive work without the law degrees Robert and Edward, or the grad work her other brothers had before they went to WWII.

All the money and privilege that helped the three brothers achieve political office and power makes me wonder how the women of that generation fit in that family, what opportunities they had, what pressures, what restrictions.

How many more restrictions and pressures women who didn't have that money and privilege experienced, and how many of those restrictions and pressures are products of patriarchy?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it is interesting that they had to have a man as leader. But I think he really did function as a surrogate father to JFK and RFKs children. It will be interesting to see what happens now, and which of the next generation (if any) serves as the family leader!

    I must say, everything I've read makes me think it would have been very hard to grow up as a girl in that family. BUt maybe Eunice Shriver was able to do what she did BECAUSE she didn't have all the pressure?