“Women want to be her, men want to be with her.”
Whenever I hear that aspirational (and incredibly heteronormative) adage, one woman comes to mind: Kim Gordon. The Sonic Youth bassist personifies cool. She co-founded a band whose groundbreaking noise — and I use the word ‘noise’ deliberately — inked the blueprint for ’90s indie rock. She’s fearlessly feminist. She has killer, oft-imitated style. She’s cooly confident, but isn’t afraid to be vulnerable despite her tough-as-nails exterior. She’s mysterious. She’s proof positive that old doesn’t equal obsolete; at 60, she’s an indie rock icon who wears her age with pride. I want to be Kim Gordon when I grow up.
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She’s also a class act, as evidenced in her exclusive interview in the May issue of ELLE, in which she opens up about the end of her 27-year marriage to Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore. (When news hit that the pair was separating in 2011, music fans practically rioted.) Gordon speaks candidly about Moore’s infidelity, but declines to name the woman he kept seeing after she confronted him. “We never got to the point where we could just get rid of her so I could decide what I wanted to do,” Gordon tells ELLE. “Thurston was carrying on this whole double life with her. He was really like a lost soul.” (Perhaps I’m being an uncharacteristically rosy-cheeked optimist, but I don’t believe that last part was a dig; I think she was being empathetic.)
Of course, not long after ELLE hit the stands, people began speculating on who this homewrecking jezebel must be — including, incidentally, Jezebel, which ran an article entitled “Is This The Woman Who Broke Up Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore?”
PLEASE. I’m pretty sure that THURSTON MOORE broke up Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. But, where infidelity is concerned, we so rarely assign the blame to the man — ESPECIALLY when that man is a revered, mild-mannered, shaggy-haired indie rock pioneer. We don’t want our heroes to be bad guys; we want to blame the Other Woman, that mythic villainess who renders otherwise good guys completely powerless with her feminine wiles. (You know, because MEN CAN’T USE JUDGEMENT AND REASON WHEN THERE ARE BOOBZ PRESENT.)
And it’s not just our heroes; us ladies also have a hard time believing the guys we were sure were good guys are actually bad guys. Ragging on The Other Woman saves a certain amount of face; it can be hard admitting to yourself — and others — you bet on the wrong horse (see: the whole age-old and tremendously flawed “she stole my otherwise fantastic boyfriend!” trope). Tearing down The Other Woman also offers temporary comfort to recently betrayed, rage-blind ladies — hell hath no fury, etc. (I recall many a late-night bitch sesh from my early 20s with newly scorned girlfriends, wounds still raw: “She’s a trashbag with cankles. Also: nice trucker hat.” Or something similarly uncharitable. What can I say? Children are cruel.) Other women, meanwhile, pile the blame on themselves — “If only I were younger/prettier/smarter etc.” In fact, we blame almost everyone BUT the man in the equation.
WTF is with that? Whether we blame ourselves or blame other women, we’re reenforcing that ol’ societal chestnut that cheating is somehow always the lady’s fault. If you don’t think that this is a thing, remember when Kristen Stewart was caught cheating on Robert Pattinson with Rupert Sanders? Remember who was forced to publicly apologize? It was sure as shit wasn’t the married man with kids.
We’d all do better to take a page from Kim Gordon and recognize that relationships — and the flawed people attempting to navigate them — are complicated and sometimes they don’t work out. Without assigning blame at all.
Jen Zoratti is a Spectator Tribune columnist and a freelance music journo. Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti.