Queen Jane’s Failure

Queen Jane’s Failure

Jane Fonda. One of the most famous women alive. A recent biographical New Yorker article described her as “the actress, philanthropist, feminist, political activist, model…blogger, fitness advocate, licensing magnet and memoirist…”

The paradigm of the successful modern woman.

But what made the deepest impression on me in the New Yorker article was the tragic speech Fonda made at the wedding of her son, Troy. Troy, her second child, was born during Fonda’s marriage to politician Tom Hayden (the second of her three failed marriages).

The groom’s father, Hayden, spoke first, and then he turned over the podium to his ex-wife. Here is the New Yorker’s account of that speech:

“Pulling a sheaf of papers from her purse, Fonda looked concerned, tense…She began by apologizing: ‘Unlike Tom, who can speak extemporaneously, I have to write everything down.’ For Troy, she continued, Hayden had been ‘the parent.’ ‘I was usually off making a movie somewhere. Tom was the one who had dinner with Troy every single night…'”

Jane Fonda. The actress, philanthropist, feminist, political activist, model, blogger, fitness advocate, licensing magnet and memoirist.

But in this long list of accomplishments, “mother” was absent during the formative years of her children’s lives.

Which made me remember that some of the people society considers its most successful are actually, in their personal lives, some of its profoundest failures.

And some of people society considers “failures” (for example, the woman at the class reunion who’s embarrassed to confess that she’s “just a mom”) are actually, deep down (and High Above) truly its most successful.

*”Queen Jane, Approximately” by Hilton Als (New Yorker, May 9, 2011)


  1. so true! thank you to encourage us, woman who hace chosen to be MOMS before everything else, in spite of this cheker and antigonism from society;
    recently Jane fonda gave an interview in a french paper; the main title was: “at 70 i love sex”………………. Pathetic!
    But this is the galout in which we live and in which we have to fight in order to bring some kedoucha in this darkness…exile of Edom isn’t it?

  2. I have to say in her favour that it seems as though she came to the same sad conclusion that you did, and realises far more than those who glorify her just what she has lost along the road to stardom.

    If anything it was some kind of public confession: I may be his mother but I didn’t do what I should have.

    She’s still using her public persona to deliver an important message, even if it might not have been her intention. Not only that, she complimented her ex-husband publicly for doing HIS best, despite his profession. Go Jane!

  3. That she recognizes it puts her ahead of where she’d been. How many mothers will shift gears and focus because of her speech? She failed then, she was part of a generation of absent moms, but she can make SOME things better.

  4. gotta love JewishMOMs. Working so hard to judge all moms favorably…

  5. I don’t think she was admitting failure as much as saying “In our family the usual roles were switched – I was out there making money and my husband provided the nurture”. She was giving credit to her husband, where casual onlookers and society in general might have not. I think it very unfair to turn an act of hakarat tov into some sort of confession of failure.

    Parents are meant to be a team. Whatever parent has to go out an work will have regrets. No parent wants to miss out on even the small things with their children. Yet giving one gift to the family (income) comes at the price of not being able to give other things.

    • Unfair, G-d forbid ! I was trying to see her speech in a positive light, and I certainly didn’t mean to imply that one was at the expense of the other: Quite the opposite! I was admiring her ability to do both, and in public to boot.

      hakarat hatov and cheshbon nefesh are two separate actions, which is why they have two separate names, and are two separate mitzvot that greatly encourage personal growth and tikkun olam.

      only good intentions on my part, sorry to mislead.

  6. BS”D
    Why feature Janes dismal record as a mother, for the pathos engendering, “There but for the grace of G-D go I?” We are Jews and do not need to hold our own lives up against any iconic female of any nation. We answer to a higher order and organize our busy lives differently from any other nation, BH.
    But for the record, Jane had a terrible childhood. She was a product of a multiple marriage family, and countless extramarital relationships. her own mother suffered loneliness and rejection, and concurrent machalot Nefesh which eventually led her to take her own life violently. Jane never thought her mother loved her, and perhaps one can see how she may not have had the best education regarding what being a mother means.

  7. I am well, old, and I never have been able to say, ” I am just a Mom,” but even when I say, “I am just a homemaker,” I do not say it in a denigrating manner. I say it with the same quietude and modesty that one might say, (if one were able), “I am a mountain” or “I am a river.” I have to admit I then observe what you do. Some people will ignore you, some women will try to make you feel “better” about the matter, personally I listen for the tone in the voice, the sound of one who perfectly understands the greatness of such, as a Mother and Homemaker themselves. It tends to go very nicely with Spiritual and Compassionate and Intelligent. And does not rule out working for the Supreme Court of America (necessarily).

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