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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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Jul. 13th, 2010 06:42 am (UTC)
Re: My Take - A male's perspective
Who is this guy?

I'm pretty sure they met their freshman year in college and married for love, not because she was trophy wife material. Trophy wife implies you sit on a shelf looking pretty, and it's evident that Justine is razor sharp, edgy, and no "trophy." This isn't to say she isn't bangin.

From a woman's perspective TR is insult to injury, but not the root cause of hurt, whatsoever. You're having trouble in your marriage, you go to a counselor, it's the third meeting, the counselor probably agrees with you since you make a damn good case - this pisses off your single-minded husband, and he cuts off your credit card and it's over in 1 day. Your entire life together. gone. Your identity was significantly shaped by this guy, and now you're at rock bottom and don't have any cards to play because the game is fucking over. So you have to pick up the pieces, and everyone sees you knocked down - the victim - even though you rather people see you as strong. So you fight.

The fact that both have been hurt from eachother most likely enables them both to be nicer to the people they are with, and to appreciate the things that they had taken for granted from each other when they were lost. Elon must have dreaded being deemed inadequate in Justines eyes (even if her resentment was deserved), but god damn it, she had his kids, toasted his fucking english muffins, hosted his parties, listened to him vent about work drama, and put her own ambitions on hold because she believed in him. And she deserves a fair settlement, and to be treated with more care. I think they both need to make compromises (she needs to accept non-cash stuff and try the course of least interference and E should try to pull strings to give her liquid assets, noting he seems to be able to pull of miracles in his entrepreneurial endeavors- may as well use that scrappiness to find a peaceful end to your divorce.) Neither is starving or lacking. Justine didn't even mention in her blog that Elon pays $50,000 rent for his place with TR. Justine seems to be doing fine, too. Being that every night I worry/panic how I am going to pay for rent at the end of the month ($900), I think both forgot their modest roots. But then again this fight isn't about money at all (money in their case is just a weapon / power play).

Yeah, I'm not going to lie it's got to be annoying that someone you see as your equal is with a 23 (now 25) year old model slash actress with her alleged wit and sincere interest in quantum physics. She's lovely, yes. But Justine has what they call "soul power." And she's still got it going on.

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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