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no angel

What I thought was interesting about the blog post my ex-husband published in the Huffington Post was how he, unwittingly or not, invoked the age-old "madonna/whore" complex even as he (by implication) warns against the danger of thinking in "cliches" (in this case, the cliche of the successful middle-aged man who dumps his first and aging wife for a younger woman). Which speaks to some things that have always frustrated me about how this culture views women.

He says:

It is worth mentioning that [his fiance], as anyone who knows her would attest, is one of the most kind hearted and gentle people in the world. The cliché that has been propagated, of me abandoning a devoted wife to "run off" with a young actress, could not have been more falsely applied.

I've met his fiance and I think she is very cool (and smart and witty and a talented actress besides). But my ex seems to be suggesting that the nature of a woman's character is somehow directly responsible for actions that he himself either did or did not take. Which falls in line with the idea that it's "the other woman" who is always "the homewrecker", that she is the one to be blamed for "stealing" the man (no matter that the man allowed himself to be "stolen").

(No one is responsible for the end of my marriage except my ex-husband and me, but that's not the point I'm trying to make here.)

Of course, what my ex is really saying is I did not have sexual relations with that woman before I was officially separated, and no one can fault him for that, or for defending the woman he soon plans to marry. But he does this through a rejiggering of certain female stereotypes. His fiance, he is assuring us, is not and was never "the other woman" or "the homewrecker". Both of these stereotypes carry the connotations of whore, which is the "ultimate" degradation of reducing a person to her sexuality (what's more, that evil female sexuality that kicked us all out of Paradise and continues to plague and victimize helpless men). She is instead "one of the most kind-hearted and gentle people in the world". She is an angel.

Because he's also (wittingly or not) juxtaposing her against me, pulling me into the 'cliche' as the 'devoted wife' even as he states that this cliche could not have been more 'false'...

...because he then, a couple of paragraphs down, goes to some length to assure the reader that Dude (whom he makes a point to identify in full, and also to claim that Dude was a "friend" of ours throughout the marriage) did not play a role in our divorce. By saying this, he is implying -- "framing" -- that, in fact, Dude might have done just that. (This is a rhetorical device called 'apophasis', where you communicate one thing by stating its opposite.) He also refers to Dude as my "long-term" boyfriend, which might make a reader wonder, How "long-term" could he be if they just got divorced?

(We started dating nine months after my separation, but that's not my point either.)

Of course, what my ex is really saying is, Justine is no angel. Which is fine; I will admit that I am infinitely more complicated than that (and so, for that matter, is his fiance).

But if I'm no angel, then what am I? What are the options? You're a good girl or a bad girl. You're a madonna or a whore. And if his fiance is the good girl, then I must be...?

And then he swings into the rest of it, including his interpretation of the events surrounding our divorce. Which I won't get into here, but needless to say it puts me in a less than flattering light. One might even use the word (and say it with me, boys and girls): golddigger. And what is a golddigger but a glorified....[fill in the blank]?

So by saying that he is "correcting the record" about our divorce, by putting himself forward as the final and real authority on the situation, he is also defining a certain kind of reality in which his fiance and I get slotted into our "proper" places.

And I must roll my eyes.

I agree whole-heartedly with my ex about "the danger of cliches". People cannot and should not be reduced to cartoon characters. And women should have the freedom and dignity to exist in a space that does not involve pedestals of any kind (whether you're still on it, or you've been knocked off it). That is not truth. It's distortion, and it hurts.
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Comments

(Anonymous)
Jul. 11th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
Sorry to post this as anonymous...
but i can't remember the openID url.

when i saw the blog post by elon musk in the huffingtonpost, the first thing i thought was "good for him!" i followed it by googling you and found your blog. after reading it, i still think "good for him." i think that he has the right, as you do, to speak to this issue. true, you have made it all very public. this is what writers, do, you have said. so, i think he deserves to do the same - not to be painted as a bad person who left his wife and 5 kids and ran off with an actress, since both of you agree that that is not the case.

after reading this post, i can appreciate it for it's analysis of his essay, but i would have to assume based on reading this, that his post was not inaccurate. is that the case?

you are a brilliant writer and thinker (who doesn't need me to say it) and i wish you the very best. as someone who will never see a million dollars (let alone 80), though, i find it hard to relate to your struggle. i'm truly asking these questions that follow, not being flippant: in a divorce, what is fair? why is spousal support fair, as opposed to child support? why is it fair to have a percentage of stock in a company that you didn't build? i don't understand the divorces of the super wealthy. they just don't make sense to me. it would seem to me that if a husband supported his wife and she did not have to work, but she is capable of it, spousal support wouldn't be necessary, right? I would think that child support, a home, and whatever you built TOGETHER along with whatever you had before you entered the marriage would be fair. but i am just a common person. i wouldn't have anything much to split if this happened to me.

anyway, good luck! i wish you and your ex the very best. i hope and pray that you get what you perceive to be fair and that you find the peace that you're seeking. sounds like you both deserve it. thanks. Tiffany T.
moschus
Jul. 11th, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
Re: Sorry to post this as anonymous...
I didn't make it public -- Venturebeat did, and I reacted to that, and then the whole thing just snowballed.

Oh, I consider Elon's version of things to be about as accurate as he considers *my* version of things. Our case is not as simple and straight-forward as he makes it out to be, for one thing, and his victory wasn't quite so clear-cut. He takes some liberties with certain numbers. Trust me, if he had offered me a genuine 80 million dollar deal, I would have jumped at it. Also, Elon tends to assume that things revolve around him (ie: I'm writing about the divorce, thus I must be writing about it in order to pressure him to do something in some way). He has a kill or be killed mentality which means he's quick to assume the very worst about my own motives. But it's my "story" just as much as it is his, and my viewpoint is worth just as much.

And -- what is fair? -- it's a good question, and I've been wrestling with that from the beginning. What's fair is to be treated with respect, and not to be pressured or bullied or dictated to or treated like a second-class citizen or derided or dismissed or manipulated. Just saying. Also, now that I'm no longer so angry at him -- for a while there I was dealing with some genuine outrage and fury -- and now that I'm happy and in love and moving on, how I'd answer the question is different from how I would have answered the question two years ago.

The whole issue of "maintaining living standards" has to do with the kids -- the idea being that they shouldn't be "induced" into preferring one parent over the other but should have similar lifestyles at both residences. In our case, that's unrealistic, and I don't expect that -- I will never be flying my kids around in a private jet, for example (I know, I know, boo hoo for me...:)

Spousal support is to give the less-powerful spouse enough time to "get on her feet" and get her own income going. It's not meant to be forever.

And community property has to do with the idea that marriage is a partnership and the two of you built a *life* together that goes beyond paychecks (ie: maybe the woman didn't "work", but she contributed in other ways and that she herself in the role of 'wife' has a value that should be acknowledged and recognized, and made a very real investment of a very real chunk of her life that could have been dedicated to other things). The legal question has to do with the responsibility the more powerful person has toward the less powerful person.

To be perfectly candid: when this whole process started, Elon was still considerably cash-wealthy by anyone's standards (I know this because when you're getting divorced the law requires that you have access to this information). He refused -- and refused -- to negotiate, and by the time mediation rolled around a year and a half later, he was cash-poor and living on "borrowed funds" (he blames the legal fees for this, but trust me, the legal fees weren't nearly enough to be the sole cause, nor our combined living expenses). The reason why my side requested stock in the first place was because we couldn't ask for cash (because he no longer had it). So the idea behind the request for the stock was supposed to be along the lines of: I'll take the risk with you, and if it doesn't pan out, fine, you're still off the hook, and if does, well, then it's no skin off your nose anyway. It wasn't because I felt I "deserved" it (but I do feel I deserve something, yes), it was meant as a kind of compromise. I would rather take cash than stock. But when the man has already become conveniently cash-poor, and there are five kids involved, you can maybe understand why I wouldn't want that cash to be spread out over twenty five years. The problem with the deal Elon offered me was that there was relatively very little offered upfront (even the house wouldn't be in my name for two years, so I wouldn't be able to sell it and downsize immediately) but would keep me tethered to him for an extremely long time with no guarantee of security (and again, because of the kids, this is something I think a lot about). I would rather have one bird in the hand than five in the bush.


Edited at 2010-07-11 06:15 am (UTC)
(Anonymous)
Jul. 11th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry to post this as anonymous...
Ah! You see, I knew there had to be more to it! From reading your blog and now starting to read some of your work, I just didn't see you as an unreasonable person, unless of course, you were a brilliant actress. I thought about it quite a bit after my post and I can understand why when you're building a life and one spouse is out in the world inventing or starting businesses or whatever, we should still look at it and say, were it not for the wife taking care of the family and the household, the husband would not necessarily be ABLE to do those things. That's the trade off and that is worth HALF. I never even thought about the standards of living due to the children. They might prefer one over the other if the lifestyles are not comparable. thank you for your openess and honesty. This is why you are such a great writer. I am so sorry that you have to go through this and I truly pray that you will get a FAIR day in court. You deserve it and for what it's worth, you have our support! xoxo! Tiffany T.

I wan

About Me

I'm the author of three published novels: the dark fantasies BLOODANGEL and LORD OF BONES (Roc/Penguin) and the YA supernatural thriller UNINVITED (MTV/Simon&Schuster). I also have stories in the MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE ROMANCE 2 and ZOMBIES: ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HUNGRY DEAD. I'm working on a psychological thriller called THE DECADENTS. I am divorced, with sons, and live in Bel Air.

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