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.