Celebrating Divorce

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The nation has a rising fascination with matrimonial discord. Apart from improving the ratings for “Real Housewives” shows, divorce is often looked at as a sad unavoidable reality. Two news items remind us that divorce is actually something to celebrate. The New York Times reports that Iran’s divorce rate is skyrocketing. And also this week, David Boies and Ted Olson did a phenomenal job of in the Ninth Circuit panel’s hearing on the appeal of Perry v. Schwartzenegger, the Proposition 8 case.

In Iran, divorce has shot up for reasons that should be celebrated. One of the overlooked achievements of the 1979 Revolution in Iran is the sharp increase in women’s education. Decades later, this educational investment has begun to pay dividends in women’s increased economic freedom, as women now outnumber men at universities and the level of women in the workforce has nearly tripled. These women have better options, so they resist patriarchal norms that reduce them to the subservient wives within early and often-arranged marriages. Although men have far greater freedom to divorce than women in Iran, women can incentivize their husbands’ cooperation by settling over the payment of a mehrieh, which husbands are expected to pay upon marital dissolution under Islamic law. In essence, women contract away rights to get out of marriages. Women also engage in other, more creative, tactics, as exposed in the pathbreaking documentary, Divorce Iranian Style by Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini. In that film, now 12 years old, women jockey for any advantage to escape unhappy marriages.

Iranian conservatives argue that divorce should be curtailed. What had been “Marriage Day” is now renamed “No Divorce Day.” Their presumption of Iranian clerics is that divorce is a bad, destructive thing.

Divorce, however, can be liberating. This is no news to feminists, but public discourse has taken a turn against divorce in the past few years in the United States, even though rates remain quite high.   (continue reading the rest of the post here)

-Darren Rosenblum

cross-post from HuffPo

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