Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Surnames


from here
Here’s something that I’ve been chewing on for no particular reason lately:

In the chapter on marriage in How to be a Woman, Caitlin Moran says this (from page 194): “When else do you get named something else? On joining a nunnery, or becoming a porn star. As an ostensibly joyful celebration of love, that’s bad company to be in.”

But here’s what I’ve been finding confusing (it doesn’t even affect me! Why, brain? WHYYYYY?!): women who - for damn-the-patriarchy reasons - refuse to change their surname when they marry usually have no problem keeping their original surname, WHICH IS THEIR FATHER’S SURNAME, thus continuing the whole patrilineal thing for at least their generation. AND some of those women also go on to give their children their husband’s name. The only way to get out of the system, therefore, (for those who want to) is to either change one’s surname upon signing up to feminism or to sit with one’s husband-to-be and a phone book* and pick one you both love.

Free advice. And tonight I’ll be able to fall asleep slightly faster.


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*And, possibly, if you really want to think ahead, a baby names book to make sure that your current favourites match any potential new surname. If you’ve always loved the name Tom, for example, it helps not to have the surname Morrow. You’re welcome.

7 comments:

  1. Ha ha ha. I feel better from the 'medicine' I just had. :)
    I think Terry Morrow would be better.
    Speaking of surnames...
    I saw a food shop (closed down) called Calories Schmalories.

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    1. It's possible my sinus is pressing against the part of my brain that interprets puns and has therefore rendered me incapable of seeing the link between Terry and Morrow... ?

      Knowing that shop is now closed makes me laugh. WE'RE TRYING TO BE HEALTHY, OKAY?! It's no joking matter. Dieting is a [adopts Lano voice] Serious. Business.

      P.S. My face hurts.

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    2. I was just thinking T. Morrow (as in TuhMorrow) would be better than Tom (where you pronounce the 'm') Morrow. Don't worry about it. Your brain is probably working fine.
      The Calories Schmalories place sold milk shakes and the likes - I was trying to work out if they were like - "Calories! Who cares?!" or "Calories - Let's count them!"
      I hope you feel better real soon.

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  2. I'm not married or anywhere close to it, but if/when it happens I fully intend to keep my surname. It's not for any particularly feminist reasons (I get the logic about your surname being your father's anyway) but rather because I feel it's an indivisible part of my identity. It works well with my first name, it's the name my PhD is in, it's the name my career is built around (which includes having published a variety of stuff - so if I were to suddenly change my name people wouldn't be able to make the connection, which would make life difficult) and I think I'd feel really weird changing it. I think the whole point of feminism is to give us *choice* - so whether you change your name or not, or decide to be a stay-at-home or working mum, or have 12 kids or none at all, or any of the five million other choices women make, is really no one else's business. I really wish we as women could stop beating each other (and ourselves) up about our choices and just be thankful that we have the freedom to make them.

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    1. I've heard doctors give the same reasons for keeping their surnames as you do; unfortunately I achieved nothing worthy of surname-keeping before I was married, so was able to ditch mine without a fuss! But now I kinda wish I could go back in time and do all of this thinking before my wedding day, because I'd love to live in a world where mail to my husband and me is addressed to both of us as people rather than as Mr and Mrs [his full name]. Patriarchy isn't a great choice.

      I guess I'm saying that yes, choice is tops and we all - no matter the gender - should respect others' rights to choose as they like, even if we don't agree with the decisions they make. Some choices are wrong, though... And I'd like to have made (and to make in future) my choices fully informed and prepared to be consistent with them.

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    2. I suspect part of it is also because I'm too lazy to go through changing all the paperwork... :)

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    3. It's now months later, but I've been meaning to come back here for a while and say: I think I misunderstood what you were saying at first, but you're right - I did make it sound like all women should follow my instructions rather than working it out for themselves, and I agree that that's not okay. Each woman should make up her own mind, based on her own convictions, enjoying her freedom to be able to do so and without judgment from others who make different choices. Sorry for arguing the wrong point, and thank you for graciously letting it go.

      I like the laziness reason, too - if I'd have known how much of a drama it'd be, I would have thought it through much more thoroughly (even after 5 years of marriage, one of my super accounts is still in my old name because I haven't had the appropriate documents signed by a JP and sent to them. *sigh*)!

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