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March 25, 2011 / Anna Louie Sussman

What Nawal El Saadawi and a music teacher in Iowa have in common

A story out today in the New York Times on rising divorce rates in rural America surprised me for its incredibly old-fashioned kernel of truth inside: women’s economic empowerment leads to happier, more liberated living.

From a woman who went to college and got a master’s degree, on divorcing her high-school educated ex-husband:

“As we get more education we get more confidence and more income,” Ms. Vermeer said, “women are saying, ‘Look, she finally had the guts to stand up and walk out.’

I will never get tired of hearing statements like that.  Compare it to leading Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi’s thoughts in an interview I did with her for The Nation:

Within a household, the individual woman must have power. It’s not easy—it means political rights, economic independence, knowledge. A lot of women are afraid of loneliness, so when they see a woman who can live alone, then they think, “Hmm, I can do that.” But you need an example, and that is why I am proud to say I have divorced three husbands.

Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Nawal El Saadawi, Mohamed Yunus, Nicholas Kristof (I hate to say it, but he’s been a very vocal proponent of the economic empowerment of women) and their ilk still rule the day.  As long as we’re mired in capitalism, must we play the game?  Hmm…

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