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The History of Divorce

Today is a research day and the big storm threatening to hit California as been tossing rain against my window all day. It’s a cozy, wonderful day for research. But tomorrow the real storm blows in and I pray that I can make it out of the driveway because the Divorce Dress has another photo shoot!

Tomorrow Kay and I will be photographing (hopefully!) a storm drenched model in the Divorce Dress on a steel train trestle in Santa Cruz near the Boardwalk, in one of the biggest storms to hit our area in 25 years. I cannot wait for the unknowns that storm will bring and of course I am worried about being cold and wet, and how the heck are we going to write our on-site haiku if it’s just sheets of rain pouring down. I’m going to dream about the wind and the force and wake up ready to put that Divorce Dress right in the eye of the storm that all of you divorcees have seen full force! Wish us luck!

Although I am busting out of my skin excited about tomorrow, I have to say that I am pretty satisfied with diving into some of the wedding and divorce statistic work this afternoon. Specifically today was set aside to research all the different wedding traditions and really get to know the big powers behind what we feel about weddings, about the institution, and yes, my main goal was to find out about the history of the wedding dress, the real white mccoy.

It’s funny how I WAS going to research weddings, but ironically, I typed in divorce. Up pops photos of divorce cheap plastic party tiaras, divorce cakes, and celebrity divorce party shenanigans. That wasn’t what I needed so I went to the history of divorce on Wikipedia. What I found really helped me put the institution of divorce and the stigma of divorce into perspective.

I have been mainly hearing stories from people and their divorces on our photoshoots and in bars. Mostly I am on a one-to-one human connection girl and contribute on the artistic side of this Divorce Dress project so it was fun to go elbows deep into some facts. The quick peek at divorce facts in other countries really opened my eyes. Not in a way that there is a right way or a wrong way for divorce, but in a way that made my little heart thump. There are as many right ways to look at divorce as there are countries on the map! So if you’re thinking that you are in the wrong somehow by getting a divorce, yes, analyze your feelings, get to the root of it before getting a divorce, but if it’s just about stigma it is calming to take a look at how divorce has changed and been manipulated, not in just this country but in all countries, and also over huge spans of time. Most countries have become more lax in their stance on Divorce, but some, specifically Middle Eastern countries have become more restrictive than they had been in the past. So, my point? There is no right way to skin a cat. Politics and religion have loads to do with where and how divorce is analyzed, as does the growing force of liberalization the whole globe over.

Not shockingly, it looks like divorce is not supported by most churches. But did you know that in some United Methodist churches, that you can find church-lead divorce ceremonies? I learned other facts, too, like in Japan between 1603 and 1868 only Japanese men could divorce their wives, but could do so only by writing a letter. Dear Suki, Sianara Sweetheart! Now they have divorce ceremonies called Rikon-shiki.

Here’s a little fact: English poet John Milton, in the 1640’s wrote these so called “divorce tracks,” all spelling out how passionately that he believed men and women should be allowed to divorce solely on the grounds of “spousal incompatibility.” There were stringent laws in England at that time refusing divorce for any reason. He was highly respected, but his views confrontational at the time for arguing in favor of divorce publicly at all, but more-so because Milton wanted to push into society this idea of a “no-fault” divorce.

By the 1850’s in England, a separated woman, who became known as a “feme sole,” could regain her own civil rights. Now that’s progress! I also found the statistic saying that in today’s America, liberal states have higher rates of divorce and that liberal countries have restructured FROM divorce regulations insisting that a divorce would be granted only on the grounds of adultery and extreme cruelty, to a “no fault” divorce where both parties just have to decide to call it quits and sign the papers. That doesn’t surprise anyone, does it? Especially when liberal means that the population is sloughing off old standards of proper place, questioning roles in gender equality and questioning who is allowed to have a voice and why. But that John Milton I mentioned above was a republican (gasp!), which until around 1860 was a liberal. He was a very progressive, much needed voice in a time when men could own women. He didn’t change a thing, but still he was heard!

In Israel, there is a funny law that mandates that children who were born from adultery can only marry other children born from adultery. Could this be one of those “well-meaning” religious ways of steering family values, helping families who haven’t had a cheating parent appreciate how valuable commitment is…but ironically the opposite side of that statistic wasn’t posted. If that’s the case, if they weren’t just punishing women through their children for the mother’s wanton sins, then shouldn’t there be a statistic also noted somewhere on the divorce rates of each group and it should be proven that there is a correlation of higher divorce from adult children who came from adulter-ing folks than from folks who had never cheated on one another. (I’m pretty sure they don’t think that adultery is a gene in the blood.)

Pop Quiz: Can you guess the three countries who still don’t have a system, governmental or religious, for divorce? The Philippines, Vatican City and British Crown Dependency of Sark.

Some countries have just recently provided divorce processes. Get this: Ireland allowed divorce only since 1996, Chile since only 2004, and Malta recently joined the majority in 2011. Some regions in the Amazon don’t promote marriage at all, therefore divorce is obsolete.

And in conclusion, the statistic that everyone is curious about: Today’s American marriage lasts an average of eight years, sounds suspiciously like the seven year itch!

Societies frown
On changing views of union
Then they take it back
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