That which we call a Chickadoodle by any other name…

So, I’m really tired of everything being an attack on women/feminism. In a recent op-ed piece, Jill Filipovic takes on women who take the last name of their husband when they marry, saying that their reasons “don’t make sense”. She says that your name is your identity, while pointing out at the same time that if we all have our father’s last name, then nobody’s name is really their own.

Sorry, Jill, but just because it “doesn’t make sense” to you that some women actually don’t like their last name, and just because men don’t change their last name as often as women doesn’t mean that they deserve shame for it. (I know I’ve referred to this in at least one prior post—there’s a damn good reason my mom took my dad’s last name. It’s not a name I’d’ve wanted to keep, either, with how much teasing I’d’ve had to put up with.) I’ve known several women who have changed their names (whether through marriage or just by a legal process outside of marriage) because they were abused by someone who shared that last name. Are you going to tell them that that’s anti-feminist? As for men, maybe they just don’t care about their last name as much. Maybe it never occurs to them that this particular avenue is open to them, but I don’t think that’s due to malicious intentions.

Filipovic goes on to say that there’s a power in names. This is very true. But we are allowed to express how we all feel in different ways. Maybe I’d feel more powerful in taking my husband’s last name (when I get married) because I feel that it makes us as a couple also a whole, single unit. Maybe I’d feel more powerful keeping my own. And I’d hope that every woman makes her own choice, because the point is that this is a personal choice. Choosing to take my husband’s name will never mean for me that I am submitting myself to my husband’s authority, or that I will give up my identity. Making the choice not to will not mean that I think I’m better than my husband, and that he should submit to me. At the end of the day, no matter what my name is, I will still be Chickadoodle.

Saying you’re a feminist, but then saying “Oh, no, you can’t choose that”, or assuming without any information that something a woman does is not a choice, flies in the face of freedom that feminists have fought so hard for. It’s just as condescending when someone who claims to be feminist says that I don’t know what’s best for me while assuming that I just haven’t explored all my options. Many women in my life have done many different things with their maiden names upon marriage. Some hyphenated, some kept their maiden name, some made it their middle name, some just chose to take their husband’s last name. (Note that I used the word “chose”—Unless there’s something I’m not being told, I’m pretty sure nobody I know was forced into whatever they eventually wound up with.) You can think it’s wrong all you want, but trying to force—or shame, as is the case here—someone into doing it your way is just as wrong as saying “Well, since I’m the husband, you’ll take my last name, massage my smelly feet every night, and put up with all the shit I’m entitled to put you through as a man without a peep of protest.” (For the record–and I think I mentioned this in the other name-change post–my parents have a friend who took his wife’s last name upon marriage. I don’t know the reason, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t force him, so with that said, it doesn’t really matter to me why he did that.)

One other thing: How does a man changing his last name make more sense? Filipovic says that this is the case several times toward the end of her op-ed, but does nothing to explain why this makes so much more sense, other than that she’s a feminist and she says so. She does not come right out and say this, of course, but it is strongly implied. I can see the argument that the woman bears the children, but hey, there’s got to be some male somewhere in that equation. I’m not saying that women don’t do the majority of the child-bearing work, but there are a lot of men out there who do everything in their power to make that work worth it, both during the pregnancy and after the birth. The point is that it took two people, and so you can’t just say, “The baby is only the wife’s” if you really believe in equality. And what about childless couples?

Me? I’m not married yet. When it happens, I’ll pave my own path, thanks very much, whether it’s as Chickadoodle [REDACTED] or as Chickadoodle [Husband’s last name] or some combination thereof. I’m not going to judge my friends on their choices either. Well, unless it’s McGillicutty-Fitzgibbon-Jingleheimer-Schmidt. Then I might. But only because I’d wish for a name that awesome, myself. The point is that I’d stay quiet because I’d be happy that two more people have found happiness with each other, and if someone else judged them or me, I’d tell them that everyone’s name is their own business, thanks for your concern and good freakin’ day.

If you want people to respect your choices, respect theirs. Don’t tell me that I can’t change my last name from [REDACTED] (which I am liking more and more as a last name, brackets included) to McGillicutty-Fitzgibbon-Jingleheimer-Schmidt if that’s the name of the man that I marry, and it’s a name I like more than my own. Don’t tell me that I’m compromising my identity when you have no idea who I am.

Relative Risk: Life’s Full of Choices

Life, as the title of this post says, can be thought of as a series of choices; of risks, and our responses to them. There’s always a chance that something could go wrong, as we are made painfully aware of day in and day out by sensationalism in the media telling us every little thing that goes wrong, and then making it seem like it could happen to anyone else at any time. It’s true: my cookies could spontaneously combust in the oven, or I could get salmonella from eating the raw cookie dough. Something could suddenly get into the water supply. I could have an adverse reaction to a vaccine, or contract a disease that I’m not vaccinated against. However, I still bake and eat the cookie dough. I still drink the water. I still get my recommended vaccines and I go outside and have contact with actual people who might have germs whose names I’ve never heard of. The point is, I’m still alive and healthy and happy, and my cookies are still delicious. Except when they burn.

I’m not saying that we should go out and take stupid risks; rather, we need to learn how to accurately assess the risks we take. Too strict, and we confine ourselves to existing in bubbles. Too lax, and we don’t exist much longer at all, or if we do, it’s from sheer luck. I do put a good deal of trust in modern technology that pasteurizes my food and filters my water and creates the vaccines I get, but I also do rely heavily on my own intuition, and think about what I’m doing before I do it. I don’t take risks whose possible negative consequences would be things I couldn’t cope with.

So, I don’t eat cookie dough (or anything uncooked) that has farm fresh eggs or raw meat. I wash my hands regularly, but I also play in the mud a little. I don’t smoke or do drugs, and I have one drink or less when I choose to imbibe. I go to the dentist twice a year and get a yearly physical exam. I don’t drive when I’m not awake enough. I stick to sidewalks and well-lit areas. I don’t leave drinks unattended when I go out. I take my vitamins and drink my (soy–I’m lactose intolerant) milk. I don’t play with knives, or with fire in uncontrolled environments. (I have to qualify there because I use a gas stove/oven when I can—I prefer them.) If there were ever to be a water boil advisory, I’d heed it. I’m still shaky on flying in airplanes because I have issues when heights and enclosed spaces are mixed, but I know that’s all in my head and I’m working on it.

My dad works for my state’s department of health, drinking water section. He’s the one who really hammered this philosophy in, but even at that, we do have different preferences for the risks we take. For instance, he loves riding his bike to and from work up and down a crazy hill that I’m not really even fond of driving in a car. He’s been in two accidents, and each time, his helmet probably saved his life. He also came out of the more recent accident with more ugly injuries, and I really wish he wouldn’t take that risk, but he does. As for me, I stick to mostly clear residential roads with nothing too gnarly when I ride my bike. We each know the risks we’re taking, and we don’t accept more than we want to.

As a side note, people are often shocked that we don’t have a water filter or something at home, especially given my dad’s profession. The reaction is often something along the lines of, “But if anyone knows how dangerous the water is, he would, right?” Well, yeah. That’s why we don’t have a filter. Our water is not dangerous. It also tastes just fine, which is something a lot of people around here filter for. I don’t quite understand it, since I can never taste the difference, but hey, whatever works. Just don’t expect us to have a nice filter in our fridge or on our tap when you come over.

I’ve also been asked how I can eat cookie dough with no issue but would never in a million years eat raw meat. First, I think the texture and taste would be gross. Second, from what I’ve gathered, raw eggs are by and large safer than raw meat. So, tell me I can get salmonella from eating raw cookie dough all you like; believe me, I’m aware of it. Unless I get salmonella, though, I’ll keep eating it. If I do get sick, I’ll reconsider the relative risk. Until that day, I will happily gobble down my unbaked bliss, and if you don’t like it, more cookie dough for me!