First off, I would just to like to begin that I am a HUGE fan of the Kennedy family and think they have made some great contributions to our nation. If I am being completely honest with myself, I have even thought about how cool it would be to marry INTO the Kennedy family so I can become apart of America’s most historic and powerful family.
However, something always did strike me as “odd” when I look at the Kennedy family. I could never really put my finger on it, but the recent discussions we had in class really opened my eyes to some new things that I have never thought of before, such as the influence that Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the mother of JFK, RFK, and Ted Kennedy, among others, seemed to posses in the family and that she could have been the real person that was really driving and preparing their sons for success. Two important things just came out of the sentence: the fact that it surprised me how much influence Rose had and how the family seemed to only prep their SONS for success. This really made me think; WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN OF THE KENNEDY FAMILY? It seems like all we ever hear about is John F. Kennedy this, Robert F. Kennedy this, Ted Kennedy this, and Joseph Patrick Kennedy III that, but I want to hear more about some of the Kennedy family women, who I may add have gone on to do some quite impressive things. Just to prove my point about the men being the face of the family, I visited the popular website “Ranker,” a site that features polls on almost anything that is reported to have at least 49 million monthly visitors. Lucky for me, I found a poll where the people ranked their favorite Kennedy Family members in order, and the ranking went as follows: John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr., Maria Shriver, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and then Caroline Kennedy.[i] Not only are the four most popular Kennedy’s males, but less than half of the top eight are females! And out of the top eight, the list does not even include Jackie Kennedy, who I thought for sure was going to be ranked in the top five!
I think that this poll, no matter how informal it may have been, shines a lot on one of the most important issues I think we face in America today; the sad reality that women are still viewed as inferior to men in regard to political, social, and economic status.[ii] Look at some recent examples in the United States that just go on to back up this point; Hillary Clinton, a former Senator and Secretary of State, lost the Presidency to Donald Trump, not only someone who has never held office, but someone who did some very VERY question things during the campaign and his lifetime; the fact that men still get more promotions in the workforce over women, even with laws and regulations in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening[iii]; and even in sports a study conducted by the University of South Carolina showed that 72% of all airtime on the television is related to three men’s sports (football, basketball, and baseball), leaving the other 28% up for grabs between almost every other men’s collegiate sport and every single women’s collegiate sport.[iv] Things are like this are truly despicable, and if we want to get to a place where women are finally given the proper respect they deserve, we need to start putting them at the forefront of society and honor them for their achievements, so why don’t we begin by honoring some of the great iconic women of the Kennedy family that the American public never gets to hear about!
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One of the most forgotten in my opinion is Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who seems to get lost in the mess behind the accomplishments of her brothers. However, what Eunice did is nothing short of remarkable. A former Ambassador to France, not only did Eunice do a great job at raising her kids with her political husband Sergeant Shriver, she was able to create what is now known as Special Olympics. This is a very important topic to me as I have worked with Special Olympics several times in the past few years and I think what the organization stands for is great. The sad thing about this is that I did not even know she was associated with the Special Olympics before I read a few biographies of her! This sort of stuff is not something that should be hidden, but instead embraced today. It is shocking to me that JFK and Ted Kennedy are often revered in the public eye for the character when both have had a scandalous past to say the least, but their sister Eunice who I have not found to be involved with any controversial topic, is hidden in the shadows.
Another woman who was not even ranked in the top eight Kennedys, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, made a very substantial impact on our country. The daughter of RFK, she would go on to become the Lt. Governor of Maryland in the late 90s and serve for eight years. One of the most interesting things I came across when researching her was an article that discussed her political career on CNN that stated, “And certainly it was not assumed, even by the election-oriented Kennedys, that the girls in the family were meant for the job.”[v] This quote only goes on to reinforce the fact that the ladies of the Kennedy family were expected to take a backseat to the men and simply cheer them on, which is a very demoralizing thing that has to hurt the self confidence of any child, let alone a child whose father was a Senator, whose Uncle was President, whose other Uncle was a Senator, and whose Grandfather was an Ambassador and has to deal with all that added pressure.
My final point about the ladies of the Kennedy family has to do with their titles. Now, as we know, the women of the family were not encouraged to seek these lavish offices like the men, but many of them went on to be Harvard Graduates, Lawyers, Ambassadors, Prize winning Authors and so much more. However, almost every woman that I encountered was identified by their husbands or fathers standing, which is reinforced by this picture below.
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Individuals like Rose Kennedy is identified as a the daughter of a Mayor when we all know what kind of impact she had on building this families legacy and icon-ness. Kerry Kennedy is identified as the Divorced Wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, not as a noted Human Rights Activist. And finally Maria Shriver is identified as the first Lady of California through her husband at the time Arnold Schwarzenegger, not by her accomplishments as a journalist where she won a Peabody Award or an Emmy Award winning Executive Producer.
[i] “Members of the Kennedy Family.” Ranker. Accessed April 06, 2018. https://www.ranker.com/list/members-of-the-kennedy-family/reference?var=7&utm_expid=16418821-392.lsOpfJzUQlqASOnl6bIBPA.2&utm_referrer=https://search.yahoo.com/.
[ii] Lee, Marcia. “Why Few Women Hold Public Office: Democracy and Sexual Roles.” The Academy of Political Science 91, no. 2 (Summer 1976). Accessed April 6, 2018. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2148414.pdf?refreqid=excelsior:a64b5b93ed0c2f748db2e787e82801e8.
[iii] Silva, Herminia IbarraNancy M. CarterChristine. “Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women.” Harvard Business Review. September 07, 2017. Accessed April 06, 2018. https://hbr.org/2010/09/why-men-still-get-more-promotions-than-women.
[iv] Swann, Jennifer. “March Madness Exposes How Little Viewers Care About Women’s Sports.” TakePart. March 29, 2015. Accessed April 06, 2018. http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/29/college-basketball.
[v] Donnelly, Sally. “Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Just like Her Father?” CNN. July 26, 1999. Accessed April 06, 2018. http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/time/1999/07/26/kennedy.townsend.html.