Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yam Erez Takes on Taking Your Husband's Surname שמרי על שמך המשפחה

I’ve inserted my responses into excerpts from Kate Roiphe’s article on Why It's OK To Take Your Husband's Surname:

…the entire debate over keeping one's name is only an issue for a small portion of the country, since roughly 90 percent of American women automatically assume their husband's names upon getting married.

Since when do minority members’ opinions not count simply because they’re in the minority? And since when should one to whom an issue is important not keep that issue alive just because the views underlying it are unique or unpopular?

The movement to keep maiden names began in the 1850s in Massachusetts, when a suffragette [make that suffragist - Y.E.] named Lucy Stone decided to keep her name when she married an abolitionist named Henry Blackwell [Check it out!]
…until the feminism of the 1970s brought a resurgence of interest to the issue, almost all women, including highly educated career women [does anyone know any “career men”? Or “family women”? - Y.E.], changed their names to their husband's when they married. Having children, however, presents a conundrum:

Ah, here we go again: Count on those pesky women to create conundrums by that annoying habit they have of having children.

…hyphenating is socially irresponsible…

Socially irresponsible? Try instead “a challenge”. Guns are socially irresponsible. Failing to properly educate our youth is socially irresponsible. Not providing for the needs of the weaker sectors of society is socially irresponsible. Perhaps Roiphe needs a reminder of the meaning of “socially irresponsible”.

Even more impractical is the recent rise of fiercely egalitarian couples inventing a third name out of the components of their last names.

Why impractical? And even if it is, should all decisions be based on practicality? Imagine what life would be if we all did only what Roiphe decrees practical…I know several couples who went this route and not only do I applaud them, their names sound no less fake (or “authentic”) than the rest of ours. I suppose the name Roiphe is the prototypical authentic-sounding name.

In most cases the new, fake-sounding name obliterates all ethnic resonance:

It’s all in the way you look at it. Once the Rosecons explain their choice to me, it actually honors both ancestries, instead of obliterating (only) one. What’s wrong with that?

Not to mention that from a purely logistical standpoint it has become much more difficult to change one's name since 9/11, due to security concerns. For anything other than the assumption of a husband's name upon walking down the aisle, one faces added bureaucratic hurdles like court orders, fees, and long waiting periods, as the Wall Street Journal reported in 2003.

Oh, well if the WSJ warns us, then we shouldn’t take this on. It’s surely too stressful for us delicate ladies. Hello―if America is in the throes of the culture of fear, it’s a problem of society, not of the women who wish to retain their birth names.

I live in Israel, which, as you might have heard, has been the site of a few terror incidents and therefore faces some security issues. Changing one’s name here is not only easy, but more common than in the US.

Lucy Stoners who fervently believe that we will not be free until naming practices are "equal."

Why the quotes around “equal”?

But how can they be [equal]?…We might prefer equal naming practices, but how in a practical sense could they be implemented?

Uh, Roiphe, have you heard of this thing called databases? Computers? Toto, we’re not in Ellis Island anymore.

…there is something unsatisfying about either the bride or groom giving up their names.

I couldn’t agree more, Roiphe.

Interestingly, over the past 10 years, fewer and fewer women have kept their maiden names.

Doesn’t preclude me from dissenting from that view.

These days, no one is shocked when an independent-minded woman takes her husband's name…

I am. Not only am I shocked, I’m continually astounded. And I’m not “no one”, Roiphe. Did you ask me? Or the Lucy Stoners [no quotes around them]?

…it may also be that the maiden name is no longer a fraught political issue.

Wrong. It’s precisely political. If not, then why did Rodham slide into second place? Is it not disturbing to be a citizen of a country wherein a spouse’s name choice could actually affect her partner’s chances of getting elected to office?

…giving in to bureaucratic pressures is easier than clinging to one’s identity. In a mundane way, having the same name as your children is easier.

Perhaps. But is the easiest route necessarily the most satisfying? Since when do thinking, intelligent folks do the easier thing? And what about divorcees? Do they not regret that not only they, but now their children, bear the name of someone whom they no longer love, or even have come to despise?

Certainly it works to take one’s husband’s name; that doesn’t make it right. Slavery worked fine too―for the slave-owners. For me, the idea of giving up my name stuck in my craw; it was not an option.

…you can maintain an extremely confusing relationship to your own name (or names).

Oh. So now confusing equals cute. Before, confusing was “fake”, “socially irresponsible”, and “impractical”.

There's something romantic and pleasantly old-fashioned about giving up your name,

Old-fashioned? Yes. Pleasant? Not here.

…a kind of frissón in seeing yourself represented as Mrs. John Doe in the calligraphy of a wedding invitation...

Picture me sticking my finger down my throat. But first let’s talk about your frissón. Suppose I were to say, “You know, I get a little frissón whenever I see a swastika. It’s such an elegant ornamental figure.” Of course you’d be aghast; perhaps you’d exclaim, “But it’s a symbol of oppression!” And suppose I replied, “What’s the problem? It’s just a symbol.” Yes, just a symbol―and I feel the same way about women copping out and taking their husband’s names.

What I call the semi-copout is keeping your surname but assigning your husband’s surname to your children. What message does this send to your children, especially your daughters? Something like, “I was willing to buck the system, but I only had the energy for my generation. Now you’ll have to start all over again from Square One.”

Why put one’s children in the same dilemma you made a conscious attempt to resolve? Ignore those who ask, “And what will she do when she gets married?” The question is both smug and loaded: It’s implying that your decision to buck the system and society’s norms is going to cause your daughter anguish. While it may cause them a slight degree of anguish, any discomfort is heavily outweighed by my daughters’ consciousness of what their hyphenated surname stands for. All the talking and exposure in the world couldn’t have been more effective at passing on my legacy of feminist values to them.

At the same time it's reassuring to see your own name in a byline or a contract.

“Reassuring”? As in “I was afraid I didn’t exist, but I do: Here’s proof”? I don’t need the proof of being published. I’m Miriam Erez every day, in every situation.

Like much of today's shallow, satisfying, lipstick feminism:

How can it be both shallow and satisfying? Oh…you mean like reading a trashy novel? That’s how you describe today’s feminism? Sorry, Roiphe; not this feminist…

No comments:

Post a Comment