Divorce: The New Pop Culture Topic

nora ephron bookI love Nora Ephron and her take on pop culture. When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies. I felt her pain in Heartburn. I don't think her neck is too wrinkly and she has a killer sense of humor.

But Nora and I have to part ways on the issue of divorce. I caught her on Morning Joe talking about her involvement with a new Huffington Post project -- a page dedicated to divorce. For her, she said it was important to find humor in the hard things in her life.

But not everything about divorce is humor-worthy. And that's my concern with the new divorce page -- that portraying divorce as a pop culture topic will diminish how we view the uglier aspects of divorce, like domestic abuse, where there is no humor.

That thought hit me hard as I listened to Ephron and looked at the new HuffPo page. I don't talk about it often because it was a lifetime ago, but I divorced my first husband because of domestic abuse.

I may be giving away my age here, but it's been close to 30 years since my divorce. It's been almost three decades since my ex-husband pushed me down a flight of stairs. A good long time since he pulled the butcher knife on me and I was able somehow to make my way past him to the door, leaving that apartment for the last time and wondering where in the world I was going to go. I worried about the stalking and not being able to get a restraining order, which was a big concern because I was a broadcast journalist in a pretty small town -- it was easy to find me even if I didn't live with him anymore.

I still haven't been able to find a piece of humor in any of that.

In her introductory post for the section, Arianna Huffington says she hopes the new page will be sort of an "everything you wanted to know about divorce but were afraid to ask" resource. But domestic violence isn't a topic that fits in well with pieces like Seven Oddball Divorce Stats or how to act on those post-divorce dates. But it is a very real part of the topic of divorce.

I hope Arianna will have the courage to allow this new section to become an actual resource with fewer celebrity stories and make room for those that could be a true resource for spouses, mostly women, to turn.

I hope, as my good friend Julie Marsh believes, that it will. But for that to happen, the writers must have the freedom to write about the side of divorce many don't like to think about -- the violent side.


Image via Amazon

Joanne Bamberger is the author of the political blog, PunditMom and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post Politics page. Her book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media Are Revolutionizing Politics in America will be released in early 2011.

feminism, in the news, media, politics, divorce


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Julie... JulieMarsh

No. No humor in that whatsoever. And given your personal experience, I don't blame you one bit for being less than enthusiastic about the new HuffPost section.

I do think that humor can be a part of helping women (and men too) escape from harmful situations - the realization that life and love and enjoyment exists beyond their current circumstances. However, I also think that concrete resources and strategies ought to be part of the guidance offered on HuffPost.

kathy... kathykate

I am the constant cynic and satire is my language. Nothing here is good; divorce is painful forever, even if the bastard isn't chasing you with a butcher's knife. Making this a 'lifestyle' type page rather than educational resource is doing a disservice to the many desperate for help, and those also done playing house. Either way, lose lose. thanks for great post, and may your heart bear no more pain.

Tina Verno Stevens

Jo, There is NO Humor in ANY of it. I know your story and you know mine. I have two friends (one male, one female) who are suffering through it right now and I pray for them every day. This resource could be better spent on concrete ways to help - which are sorely lacking. I will never forget the comment you made to me those 30 years ago: "If they made it as expensive to get married as they do to get divorced, no one would get married." Its not just only about the money - as a society the vows we take are not seen as a priority any more. We do what we want, when we want, and for over 50% of the population everything else, including family and partners - be damned. Love you.

Rolling Rolling

Joanne, thank you so much for saying what needed to be said, and doing it in such a courageous and dignified way.  

Pundi... PunditMom

I've hesitated to write too much about that period of my life because it was so difficult.  But I've wondered a lot lately whether it's helpful to put stories out there so other women will talk about it and find the resources they need.  What do others think?

Loralee Choate

You continue to amaze me, friend. NO ONE should endure abuse. I am sick that it happened to you and that you have those things in your memory.

I deal with, well...almost everything with humor. This is not exactly a good thing, I realize, but it is how I cope.

However...I also know that others do NOT cope the same way and there needs to be a great deal of sensitivity to topics like that.

My rule of thumb is that the person that went through the experience gets to deal and cope and sort it out however is most helpful to them, without everyone shaming them for how they go about it.

It's a fine line to walk between dealing and cheapening something, though.

I utterly agree with Julie on how HuffPost needs to structure this page.

Britt Reints

My initial thought was "yeah, no humor at all in that!"

But then I realized all of the jokes my mother and I have made about the domestic violence we endured with her ex-husband.  Sometimes if you don't laugh, you'll cry, and you just get to a point where you can't cry anymore.

Britt Reints

And for the record Joanne, this is the second time I've heard you mention this time in your life recently and it has been really, really powerful.  It's an amazing thing to see how far you've come.

When you're living with domestic abuse, it's easy to see yourself as part of a certain "class", and you look at all the normal people and want to be THAT.  It's encouraging to see how much of THAT is capable after domestic abuse.

Pundi... PunditMom

Loralee & Britt, I guess I've hesitated to write about it or talk about it because I didn't want people to think "Oh, poor her!"  But then, in this world of social media, as I read more people's stories and was moved by them, I found power in that to allow me to share, hoping that it would maybe allow someone else to get out of an abusive relationship.  That, plus the whole 'domestic abuse injuries as pre-existing conditions' and not covered by many insurers sort of pushed me over the edge.

It is hard to find the right balance in terms of addressing these issues.

nonmember avatar Eggs

You are so right that there is nothing funny about either perpetrating or being the victim of domestic violence, and when violence infects a marriage and/or propels its end, there is nothing funny about that either. Been there, framed the restraining order. But, I would submit for consideration the possibility that humor can, in the right circumstance and handled with great care, be a tremendous aid in surviving the initial separation from the abuser and healing over the months and years to come. There was nothing "funny" about hiding out from my ex in a decaying hotel with my two-year-old and my three dogs, but I promise I could have you rolling on the floor in tears of happy laughter over the many adventures our motley crew shared during that time. I found so, so much strength in being able to laugh and love during our exile, and I've shared it with many in a way that helped not just them but me. My reinvention during the time leading up to and following the end of my marriage is a source of great joy today--and I express it in terms which are, at least to me, hilarious--but I do that without ever letting the perpetrator off-the-hook. I think it would be great if there was a public space to do this.

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