Cheri Young. Andrew Young's actual wife, with whom he has three children. Here's another one who stood by her man, even while he was claiming, to "save" his boss, that he'd impregnated Hunter. According to Young, Cheri was terrified of the plan, but went along anyway: Via ABC News, "'She thought it was crazy and was scared to death,' Young said today about his wife's initial reaction. Eventually she relented, he said, as Edwards insisted that it was not illegal and that no one was going to get in trouble." She is the woman who got fooled. Via Oprah, "'Later that night, Andrew and Cheri say they had a call with John and Rielle. '[John said] this was his chance. 'We've worked so hard. I'm so close,' " she says. 'Then Elizabeth—he laid that on us. That she was very ill. She was going to pass very soon. He couldn't let her know this'... We didn't think about the consequences. America was fooled. We were all fooled.'"
Peripherally, we also have Edwards's mom, Bobbie, and daughter Cate, two women he is often photographed with on his way in and out of the courthouse, looking gentle and kindly and often like a doting son or father. Who knows what Edwards truly feels, but knowing what we do know about the man, it's unlikely that he's unaware of what he's doing here. He's "using" these women, or his lawyers are, to help make him look better, to boost his standing, to help us see that there is goodness in there. Maybe they're complicit in it. But we haven't heard a thing from them, have we?
There you go: Women who, one after another, are frail, dead, slutty (and therefore not credible), and married to someone with whom Edwards had a bromance, a man allegedly completely under his spell and possibly even in love with him. Not a one of these ladies is in any way a representation of female power. But maybe those are exactly the kinds of women that a guy like Edwards, and his cronies, prey upon?
Of course, this is a trial involving John Edwards, a man who had an affair and impregnated his mistress while his wife battled cancer. It's not as if we expect him to make woman-affirming choices in terms of who he bilks or uses. But as we take in the twists and turns of the rest of the trial, listen to the voicemails, wonder if Young or Edwards is lying, mount horror against the wrongdoing or sheer audacity of it all, let's take a moment to note the women: Cheri Young is expected to take the stand, but Elizabeth Edwards is dead; Bunny Mellon is blind and too frail to testify, and may not have known what was going on at all; Rielle Hunter, though she may testify, is already a witness who lacks credibility. It's almost Shakespearean, the levels of this tragedy; the women it has touched now tainted by scandal.
Still, while men may have orchestrated the bad things that happened here, at least some of these women may be at fault, too. Let's not paternalistically ignore them just because that fits into our ideas of what women should be.