Monday, January 01, 2007

Feminism and changing names...

Another paper is brewing in my head -- the politics of personal identity and feminism.. The core worry is why it matters that a married woman take her spouse's name. Is the feminist pressure to keep 'your own name' the same for same-sex couples as it is for hetero couples?

Of all people, hubby caught crap within his grad department for MY decision to take his name when we got married. The fact that I was 21, it was 1990 and I hadn't done anything (including get a BA) in 'my own name' didn't seem to resonate with the feminists in his department. Many of them were actually mad at HIM for my decision -- like I'm some weak-willed little thing who was easily taken advantage of and pretty much 'name-raped'....

OK... those of you who know me in real life -- take a minute to stop laughing...

really ... I can hear you laugh from here...

For the rest of you -- if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm pretty strong willed. Hubby is also very open mineded and seriously gave me the option to keep my original name.

I guess what kind of chapps my butt about this issue are the following things..

1) I grew-up as a child whose last name was different than her mother's. It was a pain in the but to explain that I was Me C. and my mom was Mom M. By 7th grade, I started telling her to use my last name with the school and things got better. I didn't want my vanity and my politics to cause that kind of troule for my own kids. I also didn't want to have to fight or negotiate with hubby about the last names of our children -- and have the kids split their names. I know my pals PB and PF have a neat deal set-up, but that is their deal and wasn't mine in 1990. Why can't feminists accept this choice of mine about my own name?

2) "MY name' is my FATHER's last name. Talk about continuing the patriarchy... I should continue the name that my father gave me instead of the name of the man I CHOOSE to be with? This makes no sense. Especially considering that my father's family isn't all that influential in my life. On the other hand -- were I to take a last name that really means something to me, I'd take my mother's maiden name -- that side of the family has been and still IS my extended family.

3) Why the F is it any of their business what my last name is and why I decided to take his instead of mine? If the government has no right to determine what I do inside my woumb, why should feminists care how I sign my checks or what my diplomas read?

aargh...

anyway, I'm thinking about a personal identity paper (metaphysics, I think) concerning this issue and feminist's take on it...

since personal narrative is relevant to feminist thought -- it might be a good idea.

7 comments:

Bella Sultane said...

My mom chose to take my dad's name, mainly because her maiden name was long and hard to pronounce. When I marry, I intend to hyphenate. I like my last name, but also would like to share a last name with my husband.

I've also come across the knee-jerk "keep your name" and "take his name" camps. Both strike me as somewhat annoying - I don't think that there's such a thing as a universal 'right' decision when it comes to names.

Anonymous said...

Could you just make up an entirely different name like from scratch or it does have to be his and yours?

BTW, Philosophy Factory, I insist that you guys share your opinion on the name front thing. I want my next marriage to work too.



Divorcee From Hell-e-o

andy said...

Is that a genealogy thing?

andrea said...

You definitely thought the whole thing through, and that's what matters. I wonder how I would have felt differently if my last name were my dad's, since I don't ever see him, instead of my mom's, who's a super close friend.

I think for same-sex couples it's much more common for both to keep names, hyphenate, or make up a new one, and I think that's because there's less of a feeling of "tradition" when you don't have one man and one woman, but people do what is empowering for them. What's not helpful is to act like a douchebag about someone else's decisions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm getting married and taking my fiance's name in November, and a lot of those around me have been surprised and even offended. There is, again, the sense that I'm not going to get my PhD in my "own name," but I dislike my last name, and while I love my father, I don't love most of his extended family (I, too, actually considered changing my name to my mother's maiden name and simply keeping that).

My fiance has expressed support for anything I'd like to do. My mother has, too, although she reminded me that the reason she kept my father's name after their divorce was that it was my name, and she really liked having the same name as her daughter just for convenience. All of this, plus disliking my birth last name and wanting to take the name of the man I'm choosing to be with, as you mentioned, convinced me that I do want to change my name. It's nice to hear someone else express similar feelings more eloquently!

Anonymous said...

This is completely superficial, but for me it will depend on how much I like his name versus my current name.

Super Babe said...

I think the important thing is whatever personal reasons each one has for taking (or not) a different last name. In my case it's certainly not feminism, but more of a cultural thing (in my country we don't change last names when we get married -- we all have 2 last names: dad, mom). But to me it all comes down to other people respecting whatever choices we make ourselves :)