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.

A Husband By Any Other Name…

I’m going to comment on a topic I’m probably not qualified to comment on: name change after marriage. I’m not married, nor have I ever been. Given that I’m still in college, hopefully this is not surprising. I have thought about this issue from time to time, though, and what I’ve come up with is this: “I’ll figure it out later.” Considering I’m working towards a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and not planning a wedding, I’ve got rather more important things to worry about at the moment.

However, I was putzing around the internet this morning, and when I saw this article, I got all fired up.

Here’s the tl;dr version: Lazaro Sopena wanted to change his last name to his wife’s so that her family name could be passed on. Every government agency okayed it when he got a new passport/social security card/etc, but over a year later, his DMV slapped him with fraud charges and suspended his license until he could get his name legally changed. But apparently that’s something only women can do in marriage, despite there being no law in his area that says anything about this, so he’s stuck.

So, there’s no law either way in Florida, and yet it “only works for women”? I call BS. Through my parents, I know a couple where he took her last name, though they are from Germany. Those crazy Germans and their notion that whichever name change works for a couple is acceptable… Really, though, I don’t get it. How can you say that it only works for women when there’s no law? Okay, if you look in the article, there are only nine states that explicitly “enable” a man to take the woman’s last name upon marriage. Why is this even an issue of fraud, though? The man in this story has a clear, believable reason, and every other freaking government agency allowed him to change his name with them without freaking out. I read a comment to the effect of the state wanting to squeeze all the money they can out of it. Given the times that we live in, this wouldn’t surprise me, but wouldn’t the state surely get more money if this guy could go work more and earn more and thus pay more in taxes? Just a thought.

Side note: After reading this article, I did do a little bit of digging on the marriage name change laws in my county, which is NOT in Florida. It was unclear at best on if the name change is a legal one or not without having to file for a court-ordered name change when it’s a wife taking her husband’s last name, but it did say that some agencies require it for anything but the “traditional name change (female taking the male’s last name)”. At least it was clear about having to check with other agencies about what they require in the non-traditional case. I just hope that these other agencies have clear and consistent rules. No wonder this is such a headache!

Also, about this:

“Apparently the state of Florida clings to the out-dated notion that treats women as an extension of a man,” said Lazaro’s lawyer, Spencer Kuvin, with Cohen & Kuvin in West Palm Beach. While it was unusual for a man to seek to be considered an extension on his wife, Dinh’s case raised important issues for gay marriage, he noted.

Why does one have to be considered an extension/property/whatever of the other, anyway? Perhaps the one person really doesn’t like their last name, and would like to change it so that they/their offspring won’t be teased. I know how that one goes—a couple of uncreative classmates in middle school tried to sexually pun my last name. It was so bland and stupid that I just sort of rolled my eyes and didn’t respond, other than telling them to shut up and get a life. As stupid as that was, I’m incredibly glad I didn’t have to deal with my mom’s maiden name. Now that everyone’s all grown up, it’s sort of a family in-joke, but we don’t overdo it, which was the main problem. It’s a last name where, if you’ve heard one joke, you’ve heard ‘em all.

Maybe it’s just convenient for the couple to have one last name, and hyphenation would have been too long, so they worked it out and they liked the husband’s name better. Maybe they did it because that’s all they’ve ever known and it’s not motivated by giving oneself to the other person. We are kind of living in a new age, after all—one where a marriage is often seen as the union of two families, rather than one family giving a child to the other. As mentioned in the article, especially with the growing acceptance of gay marriage, the question also arises: what if a man wants to take his male partner’s last name? What if a woman wants to take her female partner’s last name? This debacle encompasses so many issues that it’s impossible to go into depth on all of them in a single blog post.

Any way you slice it, though, the biggest WTF moment in all of this is that it took the DMV more than a year to act on this “fraud”. (Come on—this guy was not knowingly pretending to be someone he wasn’t. He thought he was officially Lazaro Dinh, working and paying taxes and loving his wife.) Who wasn’t checking the requirements, that this didn’t become an issue until then? Maybe this guy should have, but who can honestly say that they haven’t forgotten at least one important detail while planning a wedding? (Well, besides those of us who never have…) And anyway, even if he had, it’s the job of the DMV to double-check that this guy had everything in order before telling him that his name change was okay. I guess a lot of this has to do with laws (or a lack of laws) concerning name-changing in the case of marriage, as well as the expectations that accompany a marriage.

I hope this guy gets everything straightened out in the end, both in changing his name and getting his license back. Considering that one agency is refusing to let him make the change he needs to be okay with the other simply because he isn’t a woman taking a man’s last name, though, I’m not optimistic.