More Weak Sauce from the "Weird News" Section

by Shaker Vanshar

You can almost hear the frustration: The divorce of a prominent couple proceeding in a civil manner, even with a fantastic amount of money involved? Shucks. What's a yellow journalist to write about?

I'm referring to the divorce of Steve Wynn, a prominent Las Vegas casino owner and developer, and his wife and business partner Elaine Wynn, treated with delightful (for some value of "delightful") weird-newsyness here. Aside from the author's minor incredulousness that a divorce can proceed civilly, what I find really irritating is the immediate reinforcement of a sad trope in the popular media: That divorce is all about a woman stealing a man's hard-earned money.

As far as I can tell, we have here a very successful married couple who also happen to be business partners, who got a divorce and split up their combined shares in a company in which they are both very highly ranked (Steve is the Chairman of Wynn Resorts Ltd; Elaine was and remains a director of the company). It's PAINFULLY obvious that in this case they both worked hard to gain those assets, and are amicably splitting them up, as, I dunno, grownups might be expected to do.

But the whole thing is framed as a loss for HIM. HE'S paying her off, rather than receiving his share while she receives hers. If this article hadn't mentioned that Elaine Wynn was a director of Wynn Resorts and had been involved in its growth, her value to the company outlined and praised by her ex-husband, you'd have no idea from reading the surrounding text that she had anything to do with the business.

By talking about "the most expensive divorce ever," the implication is that she's a gold-digger—and you see this narrative all the time when divorce is discussed in the media. ANY woman getting her share of the marital assets in a divorce is somehow "taking" something from her husband, regardless of what she contributed in terms of time, support, or even direct earnings. Not only is there the implication that she has somehow not earned it, but there's the implication that she didn't really share ownership in the first place; a married couple's assets are really the husband's, apparently, and only by leaving him and taking from him does she have any ownership herself.

The splitting of assets in a hetero divorce, even in cases when one spouse earns substantially more than the other, is rooted in the idea that a marriage is a (legally recognized) partnership, and that both spouses, regardless of monetary earning potential, share the risks and rewards. And yet we are consistently told that only the man's contributions count, even unto completely disappearing the literal, financial contributions of a woman to her partnership's wealth, painting her as a parasite.

And if it is so easy to dismiss the contributions of a woman who is otherwise quite privileged (white, cisgender, straight, and wealthy) to a marriage that is ending on amicable terms, is it any wonder that the marginalized find precious little voice?

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