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Saturday, March 09, 2013

I had my name because my mother changed hers. So what?
Posted by Jill | 11:06 AM
I can't believe that at a time when the right wing is spending its time obsessing about rape, and Iowa legislators are hoping to send women to jail for having a period, and NARAL has spent the last twenty years so paralyzed with fear about Roe being overturned that they've refused to contest any of the misogynist laws being passed in the Bible Belt states, that anyone is still talking about marital name changes.

And yet here we are. Still. After all these years.

Want to know why I changed my name when I got married lo these twenty-six-and-a-half years ago? It's not because it's easier, because it isn't. It's not because of any kind of retrograde patriarchal notion of assuming my husband's identity, because it isn't. It's not because I wanted to pass for Italian. It's not because it would be an easier signature, because my last name has two "Z"'s smack in the middle. It was really very simple. I spent my entire childhood being at the front of the line when it was by height, and at the back of the line when it was by last name, and I wanted to shake it up a bit.

My name isn't "Bernstein" because my mother changed hers when she married my father. Her name wasn't "Brum" because HER mother changed HERs when she married my grandfather. And that's about as far back as I know, thanks to Hitler and his minions. So what does the name I grew up with really mean as a "feminist statement"? Nothing. Unless we can go back and find an ancient relative who never changed her name, or who had a baby out of wedlock from whom we are descended, our names that some so-called feminists are trying so hard to keep are derived from the patriarchy anyway. So you might as well pick the name you want.

After all these years, and all the backward-pedaling that far too many legislators want us to do, why does anyone still think this is important?

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Blogger Elayne said...
Well, that first paragraph is a bit unfair, don't you think? Jill Filipovic in particular, and people in general, are able to fight on more than one front simultaneously. Feministe deals with the right-wing attacks on choice and misogyny and rape issues all the time, that's not to say culture issues aren't also valid topics for discussion.

Jill does have a more lengthy riposte at Feministe:
She totally acknowledges all the point her critics make, and then acknowledges this is an "agree to disagree" issues (which she probably should have done in her original article). Her main point seemed to be that identity is important, and that this "my mother and her mother and her mother before her" stuff is still going on today. We've seen incremental progress in so many other cultural issues, it's interesting to note how static it seems to be regarding name changes.

Anonymous Bill Murray said...
doesn't that mean you and your spouse should choose a name together, not you being the only one that changed their name?

Blogger Jill said...
I don't see it as unfair at all. The problem is that you have to pick and choose your battles, and frankly, reproductive self-determination and the overall Republican war on women is a far more important fight that an academic discussion of name changing and perpetuation of the patriarchy. If we're going to go there, let's talk about bridezillas and spending thirty grand on a party after a ceremony at which one's father still gives her away, shall we? Yes, the Republican war on women IS about perpetuating patriarchy, but how about we stop the bleeding there before we start insisting on a generation of people named Melody Birdsong or Katelyn Gianella-Lipschitz.

Anonymous e.a.f. said...
To me being a feminist has always been about having choices. Not having anyone imposing decisions on a woman. If some one wants to keep her own last name, fine. If she doesn't fine. I would have thought we were so beyond all of that by now, but I guess not.

It would appear the Taliban is alive and well in Idaho! What a joke those people are. Only in Afghanistan you say, no in Idaho also.