“Starter wife”?


I know that Elon Musk has said and done some stupid things publicly, but I had no idea that his personal life was also such a mess. His first wife, Justine Musk, has some stories to tell. It seems he regarded her as his Starter Wife, who he tried to shape into his Trophy Wife, and who he then discarded when she was sufficiently obliging.

Still, there were warning signs. As we danced at our wedding reception, Elon told me, “I am the alpha in this relationship.” I shrugged it off, just as I would later shrug off signing the postnuptial agreement, but as time went on, I learned that he was serious. He had grown up in the male-dominated culture of South Africa, and the will to compete and dominate that made him so successful in business did not magically shut off when he came home. This, and the vast economic imbalance between us, meant that in the months following our wedding, a certain dynamic began to take hold. Elon’s judgment overruled mine, and he was constantly remarking on the ways he found me lacking. “I am your wife,” I told him repeatedly, “not your employee.”

“If you were my employee,” he said just as often, “I would fire you.”

He maintains that same transactional, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, and treats his assistants like disposable crap.

Here’s a good lesson for anyone thinking about asking for a raise. In his biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” author Ashlee Vance tells us what happened when Musk’s assistant, Mary Beth Brown, asked for a big raise after working for him for 12 years.

According to Business Insider:

In response, Musk told Brown to take two weeks off, during which he would assume her responsibilities and see if she was really critical to his success.

When Brown returned after two weeks, Musk told Brown he didn’t need her anymore.

Musk also told Vance that he offered Brown another position at the company, but she never returned to the office again after that.

That is also, by the way, a really out-of-character article for BoingBoing. It essentially blames Brown for asking for a raise from a billionaire, and tries to advise her on the proper way to be an indispensable corporate slave. I guess that it would also explain to Justine Musk that, despite having five kids by him, she was a terribly inadequate Starter Wife and deserved to be discarded by Musk.

Comments

  1. doubter says

    I thought the article was typical for Boing Boing, in that there is no consistent editorial voice. If Rob Beschizza, for instance, had written the entry, his take would have been a little different…

    And yes, this does reveal Elon to be a dick. It’s a prime example of why I shouldn’t look too closely at people whose accomplishments I admire.

  2. says

    Well yeah, but I expect he’s a pretty typical CEO. You can’t really afford to judge companies and products by the dickishness of their executives, or you’d be living off the grid, growing and hunting your own food with your home-made bow and arrow, and making your own clothes from animal skins. So that’s life.

  3. says

    And no matter how many highlights I got, Elon pushed me to be blonder. “Go platinum,” he kept saying, and I kept refusing.

    Um. Is that a thing, where men expect their trophy wives to go blonde?

  4. latsot says

    @doubter:

    There is (deliberately, I assume) no consistent editorial voice for Boing Boing but the contributors are generally consistent in not being dicks, Carla Sinclair included in my experience. This article surprised me, it was more than a little dickish. I agree with PZ that it is not typical for BB.

  5. latsot says

    @cervantes

    You can’t really afford to judge companies and products by the dickishness of their executives, or you’d be living off the grid, growing and hunting your own food with your home-made bow and arrow, and making your own clothes from animal skins.

    Yeah I can and no I wouldn’t be.

  6. cartomancer says

    Xenophon’s dialogue with Ischomachus on how to train your wife suddenly seems progressive.

  7. doubter says

    @latsot: Looking at the entry again, it does seem out of character. She seems to echo and support the assumptions of the Business Insider article.

    I really hate the “humans are commodities” world view. I remember having to take a business course at community college. One day, the instructor exhorted us to treat our careers as if we were one-person corporations doing business with our employer. Screw that – I’m a worker.

  8. latsot says

    @cervantes:

    Really latsot? Tell me what consumer products companies have virtuous executives. And how do you know that?

    Oh, OK, I thought the goalposts were over there where you left them but I see now they’re on fucking Mars. OK, knock yourself out.

  9. Siobhan says

    @cervantes

    Well yeah, but I expect he’s a pretty typical CEO. You can’t really afford to judge companies and products by the dickishness of their executives, or you’d be living off the grid, growing and hunting your own food with your home-made bow and arrow, and making your own clothes from animal skins. So that’s life.

    This is just further evidence in support of my “eat the rich” policy, though. “Most CEOs are terrible human beings”… and? We need to accept terrible human beings who are rewarded for their anti-social behaviour?

  10. unclefrogy says

    ghee whiz “the great man” is a schmuck who would have thought it?
    is it possible that in a market / capitalist society these kinds of people are rewarded with power and influence. It does appear that selfish ruthless egoists do have an advantage both in acquiring great wealth and in holding on to it. Not a monopoly however but highly favored surely.
    What would a society be like if was based on a more egalitarian cooperative form that de-emphasised winner take all ruthless competition?
    How would such a society handle new ideas, new understanding and innovation?
    uncle frogy

  11. mond says

    What would a society be like if was based on a more egalitarian cooperative form that de-emphasised winner take all ruthless competition?
    How would such a society handle new ideas, new understanding and innovation?

    I often wonder how many amazing ideas, works of art etc. have been lost to history because the people who would have generated such stuff have not been able to thrive in their current set up?

  12. says

    There would be Halls of Honor, like museums, in which the great works of the most notable contributors were on display. Perhaps great contributors would get some kind of medal (designed by a great artist, naturally!) to wear, if they wanted to, which might give them some perks like extra whipped cream on their latte’, or preferred parking places, or to be able to jump a line. Lets imagine there were some great contributors whose contributions were so amazing it was hard to keep track of their value to the civilization – then, they might get a menu of award requests programmed into their medal, with a cooldown; once a week they could get extra special sushi (!) or perhaps once a month a first class upgrade (otherwise, first class upgrades are randomized among the passengers by a lottery system) or – whatever. Instead of scarcity-based currency there would be honors and rewards. Perhaps some of the greats (or “pretty awesome!”) might offer their works as honors and rewards – a great piano player might offer a preferred seat at their next performance to a great surgeon. It’s still scarcity-based but it’s human-centric not centered on ‘who can collect the most pieces of paper or numbers in a computer that have something to do with piles of shiny metal.”

    I’m sure we humans have enough smart people that we could figure out something that would be interesting and beautiful. But we won’t, because those that are neither interesting nor beautiful. Civilization has been captured by the power-hungry and opportunistic.

  13. Rich Woods says

    @mond 14:

    I often wonder how many amazing ideas, works of art etc. have been lost to history because the people who would have generated such stuff have not been able to thrive in their current set up?

    Lots, I suspect. The next Mozart may well have died in infancy of a preventable disease in a slum on the outskirts of Mumbai. Poor lass.

  14. vytautasjanaauskas says

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say anything that wasn’t mind crushingly stupid. Don’t know why he is so well liked or why people take him seriously.

  15. militantagnostic says

    Siobhan @11

    This is just further evidence in support of my “eat the rich” policy, though. “Most CEOs are terrible human beings”

    What makes you think such terrible human beings would taste good? Although, with enough hot sauce you can you probably eat anything.

  16. Vivec says

    @19
    Not to mention that the green-drink health woo millionaires of today have nowhere near as much meat on them as the decadent burgermeisters of ages long gone.

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