The enigmatic billionaire is well known for his soaring business ambitions and a penchant for risk-taking. But he also has a reputation for being a harsh, controlling employer. He’s been accused of sexism, bullying, and even sexual harassment at various companies. And some people speculate that the same hard-charging approach to work carries over into his personal life.
One of those is Elon’s first wife, Justine Musk. The author and mother of five sons wrote an essay during their messy divorce proceedings 2008. The essay has drawn renewed attention this week after the recent launch of Mr Musk’s biography. In it, she describes “warning signs” even on the night they were married.
“He was a man who had a hard time accepting that women can be intelligent and capable in their own right. He thought that women were sex objects and that men should always be the dominant force in any relationship,” she writes. “He made it clear to me on our wedding night dance that he would be the alpha in this marriage. He was the one who would read my thoughts, decide my future, and tell me how to live.”
After the messy divorce, Justine went on to have children with another man, but they split in 2012. He has since remarried and now shares five children with Canadian singer Grimes. The pair welcomed their first child in 2020, X AE A-Xii (pronounced six axe ass eleven’). The CIA’s archeological program inspired the name, which created the Lockheed SR-71 spy plane.
In her 2010 Marie Claire essay, Justine describes how she was warned early on about the harsh treatment she’d receive at the hands of the man she married. She says that just a few months before their wedding, Musk told her to sign a financial agreement. It was an agreement he stressed was not a prenup but that she later learned was worth $20 million.
It’s an eye-opening glimpse into how the power dynamics Musk prefers at work might leak into his relationships. It’s also a reminder that, for all his genius, Musk is human.
The 2010 Marie Claire essay has been re-tweeted over 13,000 times and widely shared online. It’s worth reading in total if you can stomach it. It’s not salacious, but it reveals the kind of hard-line behavior that many women endure in marriages that don’t work out. The piece reminds us that we need to take women’s experiences and media more seriously. If we did, we might be less inclined to snarkily slam an allegedly misogynistic man who’s also an incredible innovator. And who knows, the world will be a better place.