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Film Clips, Chapter 5

Part I

CBC online archival series

Divorce: Alimony agony (1992)

CBC Prime Time News, 3:10

Divorce: Custody laws discriminate against fathers (1982)

Canada Watch radio clip, 6:03

Girl from Divorced Family Refused Job (1991)

As It Happens (audio clip), 8:56

Divorce: To have and to hold a marriage contract (1986)

CBC TV, 4:46

This CBC archival series offers clips ranging from the 1968 changes in the Divorce Act (McKie, pp. 86–89) to the 1986 marital property act, and beyond. The issues include changes in support obligations through the 1980s (p. 87) like the reduction of alimony; the lobbying efforts for more custody awards to men (pp. 90–91) by father’s rights groups; attitudes towards divorce and children of divorce (pp. 97–98). Students can compare how marriage and divorce was contracted in the 1980s with recent changes (pp. 101–103).

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. How have support obligations changed with changes to divorce law in Canada since 1968? Who gains and who loses with these changes? “Alimony agony” was featured in 1992. Do you think the same issue is being felt today?
  2. How far have father’s rights groups come in changing the tendency of judges to award custody to mothers? Are there other social circumstances that might have contributed to this? If you have any observations of custody awards, expand on whether or not you think these father’s rights groups are still active and evaluate the validity of their arguments.
  3. The Marital Property Act of 1985 was designed to ensure an equal division of marital property. How might a marriage contract change the application of this law? Are these contracts fair? Under what circumstances would you sign a marriage contract?
  4. What social attitudes are evident in the case of “Girl from divorced family refused job”? This happened in 1991. Do you think these attitudes still exist? If not, what has changed them?

Part II

The Impact of Divorce on Children

TEDxUCSB, Tamara D. Afifi, 19:33

Afifi begins by describing a classroom exercise in which she surveyed students’ “experiences of parents” communication patterns when growing up. She notes that the impacts of divorce on children vary widely according to the family and situation and the child’s personality. All children experience short-term effects when their parents divorce. Some experience more effects in the long term than others (McKie, pp. 95–98). Afifi notes that the same effects are true for children whose parents do not divorce but who are in constant conflict. She reviews trends in the differences between children of divorced parents and children of still-married parents, noting that even with our increasing acceptance of divorce, children seem to be having more problems now than ever before. This is attributed to changes in the reasons for divorce (p. 97) and the relationships children are having with their parents (see the documentary Hyper Parents and Coddled Kids).

Afifi focuses on parental conflict (p. 97) as having the greatest impact emotionally, physically and in terms of stress for children, and notes research that this is heightened by the parents staying together instead of divorcing. She ends the talk with six important things that parents can do to lessen the impact of divorce and conflict for their children.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Why is parental conflict the more important issue to focus on when considering impacts for children? How is our divorce law in Canada acknowledging these findings in how children are dealt with in cases of divorce?
  2. Afifi insists that the impacts of divorce vary widely among children. Can you give some personal observations to support this point or the impacts of divorce that she and the text enumerate?
  3. Under what conditions are Afifi’s six suggestions for what parents can do best realized? What circumstances prevent parents from following these six communication rules?

Part III

Inside a Sharia Divorce Court

The Guardian, 6:30

This short video gives two examples of the issues and circumstances surrounding divorce requests before Sharia courts in the United Kingdom. As in Canada, these portray a religious dissolution of marriage that is separate from civil divorce (McKie, pp. 94–95). And as in Canada, one Imam notes “The only power we enjoy (is) the moral support of the community.”

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. From this brief portrayal, how are men and women’s requests for divorce or marital dissolution handled under Sharia law? The text notes some Ontario courts referred cases to similar Islamic tribunals in Canada, provided both parties were willing. What are the problems or benefits with this?
  2. In what sense are Sharia religious law courts like Aboriginal restorative justice circles in Canada? If you have some understanding of the latter, expand on the similarities and differences.
  3. Would you submit to Sharia law in your marriage? Why or why not?

Part IV

Why Men Cheat

CBC Doc Zone, 45:15

This documentary looks specifically at why men in monogamous marriages commit adultery. It starts with a brief social history of cross cultural prevalence of polygamous marriage, attributing it to the hormonal and genetic make-up of men who “cheat.” Taking an essentialist stand, the documentarians note that testosterone and risk-taking drives adulterous behaviour. Marriage and the fidelity of women was traditionally a means of ensuring paternity. (As an aside, it is mentioned that monogamous marriage is now “unravelling” with women gaining social power in the family, workforce and political institutions: this can be linked to Helen Fisher’s TED talk listed here for chapter 16.) Social monogamy is differentiated from sexual monogamy and one commentator believes that “imposing monogamy” on men “incentivizes divorce,” that we all engage in a “false narrative that equates sexual fidelity with love.” This video does not relate directly to the chapter on separation and divorce, but it does look at the issues from the essentialist perspective that often frames everyday conversations.

Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Sort out the essentialist from the socio-historical arguments about monogamy and infidelities. Why do we consider essentialist arguments and research based on “science” to be a definitive answer to our views of monogamy?
  2. What has been omitted or downplayed in this presentation? What other kinds of research would you add to fill out the social constructionist side of the debate?
  3. Is taking an essentialist stand on cheating unfair to men? Is it unfair to women?