The non-profit organization, that I currently work for, arranged for me to attend an all day seminar with lunch provided. One of the many objectives of these seminars is to network. As I looked around, I noticed that most everyone already knew each other. So, I began to do what my mother taught me best…become nosy.
I scanned the room and noticed two older women discussing what they probably didn’t consider to be feminism.
“I didn’t even know who she was. She introduced herself to me and I just starred at the woman! You see she was using her new name. I remember _______. I didn’t know her without that maiden name.”
“I wish I would have kept my maiden name.” The other woman commented after sitting there for a moment.
My ears perked and I interrupted their conversation (of course, I had to). After I introduced myself and explained my interest I shared a conversation with them that I had just had with my boss at one of my jobs.
“He told me that it was narcissistic for me to want to keep my name and then my immediate manager, who is a woman, told me that I was nobody. She told me that the only way I should ever want to keep my last name is if I was a doctor or someone ‘important’.” What I didn’t share with them was that my boss also told me that he wouldn’t marry his soon-to-be wife if she kept her last name, because it showed a lack of commitment. The two women shared their opinions with me. One was divorced and one was still married. They both wished they would have kept their maiden names or at least hyphenated.
Marriage – a union between two individuals. Is it in fact a union if a man is fearful or taking a woman’s last name because of how is reputation is permanently defined?
Consider that the Hispanic culture used to traditionally put de before their last names. For those of you who missed mandatory Span101, de translates to of (Maite de Garcia). Many of women now completely eliminate de in protest to the connotation that they are property.
This got me thinking… why do we take the man’s last name? Why are we rearranging our lives, but men aren’t? You can argue that men are too. And I would agree, but then why do we need to leave behind our family’s name and take on someone else’s if our husbands aren’t doing the same?
Maybe I just have a strong value in reciprocity in relationships, but this really, really gets to me. My boss had told me that the reason why it’s so demeaning to a man that a women keeps her last name is because it signifies detachment and “that’s just starting off wrong.” I asked him well what if we just created a new name? Or a combined name? (Smithevans/Evansmith)
“C’mon Tifanei, that’s not what marriage is about. That isn’t the tradition.”
Well, I have a load and a half to say about traditions, but I left it at that and continued to work. Why do I have to embody the entire tradition or else? Can I enjoy the beauty of a marriage without demeaning, denouncing, or giving up a part of me? I have pride in my last name, just like you do.
Have you ever considered why in your dentist office they ask women to define themselves by your marital status, but men are not?
Please select Mr. Mrs. Ms.
What does it say about our culture – about us individually – that we not only are still printing it on paper, but many of us check the correct box and don’t blink a second time at it? Some women tell me that they always chose ‘ms.’ “…because it’s no one’s business.” To me that’s just a half step and a misrepresentation. I don’t check it at all. If they want to know if I’m married they can have a seperate box that my husband should fill out as well and if they can’t tell that Tifanei is a female’s name then they can put another box, too. Or they can be happily surprised when they call my name for examination.
Cross-posted with permission from Ironic Intimacy.
Tifanei is a 3rd yr. University of Cincinnati student, Communication major. She advocates and interns for the Arc – an org that advocates for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also volunteers for women helping women, the UC’s women center, and works part time as a CSR.