First 4 pages of my paper…

Siarra Nielsen

Professor Lindsay Christopher

English 102

13 August 2013

Divorce: An American Tradition

On one of the most important days of his life, Kris’ friends and family gathered around him to celebrate. As they looked over photographs from his wedding day, they smiled. Kim was very beautiful and had been a gorgeous bride. Kris held up his glass of wine and made a toast. While his wine sloshed in his glass, his dad gave him a pat on the back as a gesture of encouragement. Kris recounted how, 72 days earlier, he had married one of the most beautiful women in the world, and how at that very moment he knew he had made the right decision. That right decision was not marrying Kim but coaxing her into signing a prenuptial agreement before they tied the knot.

Prenuptial agreements, also called prenups, are very common nowadays. They serve as contracts to divide property ahead of marriage, as a plan for divorce. As described in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, prenups can be as common as wedding cake.

What an interesting culture we live in, where we make plans for our divorces before we are even married. It’s almost as if we know that our marriages are doomed from the start. As marriage mentor and author Ramona Zabriskie writes, every American woman wants to feel “cherished” and to have that one person to “cherish” unceasingly. She explains that such a “priceless gift” is not for simply anyone; not for the random person on the street nor even for a close family member.  My dear friend Ramona explains that to fully “experience the closeness of cherish,” a lady must chose a life partner. To “cherish” and be “cherished” in return, is “the real why” women get married. Likewise, Zabriskie argues that every man wants to find his “quest” to “conquer” and prove his manhood. She maintains that a man’s “quest… is utterly tied to his identity. He believes that what he does is who he is” (34-42). So it’s not as if marriage has lost its appeal, because statistics show that 90% of all Americans get married at least once in their lifetime (Wolfinger 2). It seems more appropriate to identify the culprit of divorce as an alteration to accepted societal standards, drastic transformations in the economy, and individual circumstances.

Changes in Society:

Nicholas H. Wolfinger, the Assisant Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences and of Sociology at the University of Utah, enumerates many reasons why divorce rates are so high in his book, Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages. One reason, that I find most fascinating, is that divorce has lost its “stigma.” There are hardly any negative connotations associated with divorcees. He persists that, “Americans’ acceptance, or at least tolerance, of divorce has increased to the point that generally it is no longer construed as a moral failing” (Wolfinger 2). In Sociology courses at Clark College, I’ve learned that our American society almost always places blame on the individual. Americans place “a high premium on individual achievement,” and rarely look to our “sociological imagination.” When a culture places value on using the “sociological imagination,” that culture has the ability to see beyond individual circumstances for relation to “massive cultural or historical processes,” or essentially, the bigger picture (Newman 9). Is it not interesting that our society, who usually places blame on the individual, would look for a sociological explanation for divorce?

In those terms, I feel it is imperative to look at divorce from a sociological perspective. Returning to Wolfinger’s claim that divorce has lost much of its “stigma,” Wolfinger asserts that this is due, in part, to the mainstreamed “divorced characters… in today’s movies, literature, and television shows.” He rationalizes that the divorce self- help books in every bookstore contribute to society’s growing desensitization to the topic of divorce as well (2-3). The fact that there are thousands of books on coping with divorce is a sign that divorce is prevalent in today’s society. It’s also proves how cyclical divorce is. Our society suffers from high divorce rates, so our society needs books on coping. Our society has books on coping, so it’s alright to get divorced because other people get divorced and it’s not the end of the world.

If we look at marriage and divorce as they were in the beginning, they bear hardly any resemblance to modern American practices. According to the US History Online Textbook, colonial America did not practice divorce until the New England Settlers arrived with disdain for the Catholic Church. New England Settlers “sought to recreate society” and with their changes, they brought divorce (“The New England Colonies”). The Roman Catholic Church, in fact, was one of the first institutions to formally “outlaw” divorce, as stated in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. The encyclopedia goes on to read that the authority of the Catholic Church “carried into future centuries and influenced lands as far-flung as Ireland, Latin America, and parts of the South in the United States” (“Divorce”). It’s too bad that those influences didn’t carry on to mainstream American culture.

World War II was another huge factor for high divorce rates. As many women sought to help the war effort, they found new power. Women entered the workforce in unparalleled numbers and the sudden push to return home, in the 1950s, caused for some contention between the sexes. We tend to look at the 1950s as a time where few divorces occurred because, compared to today’s numbers, 1,070 divorces per 100,000 marriages, is comparatively low to modern times. However, the 1950s mark the beginning of an era. With the 1960s, came the great divorce boom. As women graduated from higher education and gained steady employment, they no longer felt the need to remain trapped in their miserable marriages. The divorce rates loomed from the 1960s to 1979, and in the midst of that timeframe, people demanded change. The feminist and sexual revolutions where the vessels for that change (St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture).

Returning to the concept of “stigma,” the feminist and sexual revolutions “combined to give divorce a more positive image that reflected the right of women to be liberated and independent” (St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture). As women felt compelled to act on their rights for independence, the sudden outbreak of AIDs tamed the divorce rate back down in the early 1980s. While yes, it would be wonderful to tame the divorce rate again, I’m not a fan of the AIDs method.

Works Cited

Bramlett, Matthew D., and William D. Mosher. “Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States.” Family in Society (2002) Gale Opposing Viewpoints. Web. 12 Aug. 2013.

“Divorce.” Encyclopedia of Gender and Society. Vol. 1. 2009. Web.

“Divorce.” Encyclopedia of Sociology. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. 2001. Web.

“Divorce.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. 2013. Web.

Howell, Marilyn. “Building Social Relationships: Intimacy and Families.” Sociology 101. Clark College, Vancouver, WA. 12 Aug. 2013. Lecture.

Newman, David M. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life. 9th ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc., 2012. Print.

Our Families, Ourselves: Changing Families an Introduction to Marriage and Families. Intelecom. 2007. DVD.

“Predicting Divorce.” Encyclopedia of Mathematics and Society. Vol. 3. 2012. Web.

“The New England Colonies.” US History Online Textbook., 2013. Web. 13 Aug. 2013.

The Way We Live: The Common Ground. Intelecom, 2006. DVD.

Wolfinger, Nicholas H. Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages. 2nd ed. New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.

Zabriskie, Ramona. Wife for Life: The Power to Succeed in Marriage. Salt Lake City: Leicester Bay Books, 2013. Print.


12 thoughts on “First 4 pages of my paper…

  1. Ramona Zabriskie writes, every American woman wants to feel “cherished” and to have that one person to “cherish” unceasingly. She explains that such a “priceless gift” is not for simply anyone; not for the random person on the street nor even for a close family member.
    I think this is supposed to be in quotes, given the “writes” portion of the sentence intro, did she write that or are you paraphrasing what she wrote? Then I would use a word like “Zabriskie proposes that…” or something along those lines, otherwise it seems like it’s a direct quote of what she wrote, does that make sense?
    The only other thing I have is that I’m confused as to what your purpose is here? Is it based on the fact that divorce is no longer looked down on and is a normal thing in our society today? It is a very interesting read, but I may be reading into it wrong. The essay seems to have too many quotes and not enough of your own words too, but again, I’m not an English teacher, so I could be wrong! My paper could be total crap and yours could be a spot on A+. I’m not an expert! Great start!
    Word count: 207

    1. The words are not in quotes because they’re my words. I grafted quotes in to a paraphrase as per MLA standard.
      My purpose is to argue the reasons for divorce. My thesis, as stated in the paper is, “It seems more appropriate to identify the culprit of divorce as an alteration to accepted societal standards, drastic transformations in the economy, and individual circumstances.”

  2. Wow! You GO girl!! Very well written and cited….I enjoy your writing style. It flows and is easy to follow. I lived through the changes in our culture. At least I remember the 60s through a child’s eyes, then as an adult in the 70s & 80s. The horrific revelation of the AIDS epidemic was bone chilling. It was no wonder the divorce rate slowed down. A person was only as ‘safe’ as the faithful commitment of their mate ( and their own commitment).
    I’m lookinf forward to reading the rest of your paper:)

  3. Hi Sierra,
    You have a ton of great information and a great start to your essay. I’m interested to read the rest of the paper. I can definitely see that we will have some differences in opinion where divorce is concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe in the sanctity of marriage and the value and importance of pledging yourself to one person for life. I also agree that in modern America people do take divorce lightly, I believe you were referencing Kim Kardashians 72 day marriage? Obviously that is an extreme example of divorce and not typical. I think where we start to disagree is when you stated ” It’s too bad that those influences didn’t carry on to mainstream American culture.” Would you really want to live in a country where a church or organization dictates your personal decisions? and I definitely wouldn’t say the education of women nor their entry into the workforce as a catalyst to divorce. I would agree that the independence of women allowed them to leave unhappy or abusive relationships. Divorce is a messy, awful, multi faceted and personal decision. I think to really explore the reasons behind divorce we would need to look at the whole picture and attempt to understand the dynamics of marriage and why they fail. I don’t believe this can be accomplished by simply reviewing statistics. You are a very skilled writer and again I’m interested to see the completion of your essay.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts!
      And I agree entirely that Kim and Kris (yes I was referring to the Kardashians) were not the normal divorce scenario. However, they reflect what’s considered acceptable in modern times because of their famous status.
      Also, I find it interesting that you disagree with the correlation of women’s education levels corresponding with divorce rates. There was a study done by Stacy Rogers (a researcher published in the Encyclopedia of Gender and Society) who did a study on the correlation of women’s earnings and marital contributions with divorce. She found that the more financial contributions that the wives made, the more likely those women would initiate divorce.
      I also like that you asked me about my comment regarding the Catholic Church’s stance on divorce and it carrying over into modern times. After reflecting on what you said regarding church organizations dictating personal decisions, I have to say that I agree with you. That doesn’t sound like such a good idea.
      Thanks again!!
      ❤ Siarra

      1. Actually Siarra I would agree with Noell on this one although I would look at it in a slightly different fashion. Since I just covered that era last quarter, I wasn’t shocked by your findings over divorce rates skyrocketing. Probably mainly doing with the fact that I am a hopeless romantic dude when it comes to my girlfriend and I, but I think marriage is a life thing. I would actually agree with both of you though concerning women of the 50s and 60s because both of it is true. I’m sure that there was women, who were totally invigorated by the “women’s revelation,” however the idea that its ONLY those ideas is plain ridiculous (no offense intended :P). For instance if you and your husband had grown up in the 50s, instead of today where you are raised to treat women and men as equals. I don’t think your relationship would be the same. I’m sure there were TONS of MARRIAGE FOR LIFE people during that time, but the Women’s Rights Movement became a sanctuary for women who were sick and tired of not being able to combat the unhealthy and abusive life styles they were living in.

        -Jacob 😛

      2. I adjusted the my paper to reflect a different approach to the Catholic Church’s divorce policy. Thanks for the suggestion, Noell!

  4. As someone who has had parents who have both been divorced twice, I agree that divorce has lost its stigma. But I believe it is for several different reasons. If you think back about even 150 years divorce was not as common. Standards of life have changed, and I think the biggest reason back then that divorce was not as common is because women were not often employed then. If they were to get divorced then where would they have gone, how would they have fed themselves. Now that women are more equal to men they now have the ability to get divorced and still be able to take care of themselves. Not only that but until 1969 it was very hard to get a divorce. In 1969 Ronald Reagen passed the first law that made it acceptable for no fault divorces. With no fault divorces it makes it possible to get a divorce without either party having done anything wrong. Instead of couples working out their problems they can now easily go get a divorce. I believe that Reagen passing this bill is what really made the divorce rates rise up so quickly. However the only way to know for sure is if Reagen had not passed this bill at all. Hopefully this gave you some information you hadn’t known yet.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts! I agree with you! The only thing I would like to add is that Reagen didn’t pass the no fault divorce law in 69. California legislature passed the no fault divorce clause for CA in 70 and all the other states followed suit 1 by 1.
      ❤ Siarra

  5. When I am going through the student blogs I always look for the blogs that catch my eye. Meaning that I do not really like to comment on the free writes we do in class, or the blog that are just reiterating what we did in class. I kind of find them boring, just as boring when I am writing what we just went over. Anyway the first thing that caught my attention was. That you posted your paper and I loved the title. For me the title was so powerful because it points out what has actually become the truth for many marriages. Being able to actually read a part of another student’s paper is also cool. I also knew by reading the title that the paper would be interesting. As I was reading the first page I found myself really paying attention because of the details you used in your introduction. I found myself baffled. Did your paper say that Kris announced at his wedding as he was giving a toast, that he was happy because he had coaxed Kim into his new bride into signing a prenuptial agreement? I am not going to lie as I read I had to move back into my seat and re read the paragraph. Oh my goodness just the beginning had me blown away, so I hope that I get the opportunity to get the answer to my question from you in class. Sierra good luck with your paper.

    1. You are so sweet! Thanks for your compliments and your interest!
      I find that divorce is way too common nowadays, too.
      And in the beginning of my paper I was using an anecdote that reflected Kris’s attitude 72 days after their wedding. I’m sure he was pleased that he and Kim had filed prenups before the wedding, but I was referring to the day they filed for divorce (only 72 days later) because it meant that Kim couldn’t take his basketball money.
      I’m glad that I made you think about divorce from a standpoint that makes you question society.
      I look forward to reading your blogs too!
      ❤ Siarra

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