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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 08:13 am (UTC)
Hi Justine,

I started reading your blog a month ago and find you quite fascinating. You remind me somewhat of my best friend, a self-proclaimed aloof, a rebel, a ballbuster. However even a cactus has a soft interior, so it must have been flooring when the person you've been married to for almost 10 years cuts off your credit card as if he were making an executive business decision.

I read Elon's article in HuffPo. He made some valid points, though didn't exactly take the high road, bringing Dude into the matter (now we know his real name!), and suggesting that you potentially may have married him for money.

I was a little confused when I read: "I even had to endure her attempt to enjoin my companies, which would have required her participation and permission in every significant corporate decision."

You clearly stated (http://moschus.livejournal.com/140610.html) you wanted him to retain all voting rights when you requested 10% of his stock in Tesla and 5% of his stock in SpaceX, so I'm perplexed why he was trying to portray you as a vindictive media-hound trying to prevent him from running his business when you stood by his side for so long.

Even if you have no voting rights, the fact that you would have stock, could muddle things, I guess? My unsolicited opinion: Let him have SpaceX. The fact that you barely had a husband because he micromanaged the shit out of building spacecraft as well as running another company definitely is unfortunate, but let him have it - you have enough going for you.

You have never failed to acknowledge his accomplishments, yet it doesn't seem like you have received appreciation from your ex on how you made his dreams your dreams while sacrificing your own dreams for many years of your life. I don't mean your dreams in mere regards to your career aspirations (do vampire novels really compare to Space travel), I meant in the sense that it probably would have been nice to have a husband who was there to change a diaper and spend Christmas together without a Blackberry. I think you need an apology more than you need 5% of SpaceX.

Now, I know this all sounds rather corny, but the same I believe is true for Israel and Palestine. Read this great article. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/opinion/25atran.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

You don't believe that Elon has a capacity to think beyond numbers, so by asking for these tangible things (which you admit you don't really need), it seems to me more like you're probably just trying to reach him on his level.

What jumped out at me in your itemized request wasn't the 6 million in cash, or the alimony, but the fact that you wanted that fucking car (which he evidently invested more TLC into than his marriage). Is that what you really want (despite it's coolness)?

- Y
moschus
Jul. 11th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
The car? Not anymore.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 11th, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
So if he says he spends almost all his non-work hours with his kids, and we read into that comment:

a) he doesn't spend much time with his kids, because we know works around the clock.
b) isn't being a parent hard work?

In many ways you both are right, and you both are stubborn and a tad self-righteous...

Elon: "I only wear T-shirts"

I think most people in divorce are this way - you both just express your case much more eloquently.

Your lawyers aren't exactly incentivized by a settlement - so why don't you both go out to icecream - have a real chat - and be done with it this weekend? Don't stand each other up.

Also - you don't need to be the rich one to be the cool one. You're pretty badass.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 11th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
Word Girl!
Ahhhhmmmm. Word Sweetie! Rock on. Please ask Dude and also yourselves to check out Dan Nocera's presentation at PopTech...now it is all MIT'y etc. but does it work? Hmmmmmm.....I bet it does. Here is the link: http://www.poptech.org/danielnocera

Hope the kids are well. Welcome to Thunderdome - New Earth style. Nothing to hide. Nothing to fear. Because all is from a place of integrity and love. All that is.

xoxoxoxoxo

You are from Canada correct? Well it is time for some Irish! (and not the fighting kind....the fun at the party kind....that do fun things but ain't scared and don't take no ca ca) I know you will get it. Off for a Sunday Mint Julep in honor of you....And, I don't even really know you but we understand each other I do believe......

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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