I Don’t

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.

Is a marriage truly equal if a woman’s identity is based on her marital status and a man’s is not? Join Tifanei and Fem2.0 for Sunday’s Twittercast about marriage and feminism!

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. 

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  • hey girlfriend–welcome to patriarchy! Where women are invisible-ized! Where your sexuality is tied to marriage and having children! Where the tax code is set up to keep the little woman at home! Where women are raped and sexually abused and go crazy from not being believed! Shall I go on, or would you rather just commit suicide right now?????

    Hey, I’m in no mood for pussy-footing around the situation because I have seen enough! Right now I’m not a happy feminist warrior because it seems to me that the U.S. is in a moral/ethical vacuum and I’m mad as hell and not taking it anymore! I’m down on people right now. I’m down on people worrying more about CYA than doing the right thing.

    Women hold up patriarchy as much as men do by going along with tradition. There are reasons those traditions are in place and it is to support a social order in which the dominant class gets its needs met at the expense of all others. That’s the bottom-line, baby. That’s how the world has been constructed since…well, read The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner if you want to know…

    Ok, so that’s the bad bad bad really really really bad bad bad news. The good news? There is, believe it or not, good news. Gather ’round sisters! Lissen up! Can you dig it? The patriarchy is collapsing right now, right in front of our eyes!!! This whole banking fraud disaster IS the last straw! Institutions that hold up the existing social order are coming apart and here’s what WE need to do: we need to assist them in coming apart! We need to turn the spotlight on the fraud, greed, cover-ups and wholesale smarmy lying that has turned Washington DC into a country club for liars.

    Furthermore, if we don’t get unified as women’s movement and start showing some muscle, then we will have lost an unparalleled opportunity to call this system out for what it is. It’s a paradox of human consciousness: real change happens when you accept what really is. How the hell we gonna know what to change if we don’t know what it really is?????????? The reason for a woman changing her name has its roots in ownership, the husband’s ownership of his wife and her children, and in controlling who has access to her so that he doesn’t have to support any children that aren’t his and so that his wealth will be passed on to his heirs and his heirs alone.

    Are these fightin’ words? Yep, you betcha. I’m fighting mad right now. I needs me a goddam bully pulpit…

    But will it matter???? Not so sure. Not so sure women want to know the truth. Not so sure women are ready to fight. They’ve got kids that need raising, jobs that need doing so they can bring home the bacon. Many have husbands they’re afraid of…seriously afraid of being abused or killed by their husbands.

    What’s a women’s movement to do??? Stop taking the man’s name? We did that already!!! Hate to pee on your party, sistagirl, but we did that already in the 70’s and that was good but that ain’t it!!! That’s not enough!!! So, do I think you’re wasting your breath? I’m just not sure, sistagirl. I’m just really really really aghast about the world right now. News coming down seems to suggest that the U.S. is working with Afghanistan in order to quash Al Qaeda, and that President Karzai of Afghanistan is signing off on laws that sell women’s right down the river. And that’s the way it has been in all the social movements I’ve witnessed: first let’s save the country and then we’ll worry about the human rights. First let’s save the fraudulent banks and then we’ll worry about all those people showing up in tent cities across America. First let’s win the war on terror and then we’ll worry about those women whose husbands have the right to rape them every four nights.

    We are living in critical times. We are at a turning point. Patriarchy is more visible than ever, and you can observe it imploding. If WE WOMEN don’t get our act together in a powerful way right now, we are cowards, we are idiots. I’ve been putting out the call over and over and I’m hearing nada, nothing, bupkus. I’m not hearing outrage from anyone but me and you and a few other radical women who have had it up to their eyeballs for so long their ordinary everyday voice is a goddam scream…

    But hey, everyone!! Hope you have a nice weekend! Remember to take all those idiotic Facebook quizzes and send your so-called friends stupid virtual crap! And let everybody know what TV programs you fill your brain with so that you can barely even tolerate reading a long blog post!!!!

    furiously yours

  • Samantha

    This is really interesting. You brought up some points that I hadn’t really thought about before, so thank you for that. You’ve definitely given me some things to think about!

  • Thanks for sharing. I thought the points you brought up are interesting (thanks for the Ms’ thing – I never thought of it that way). However, I guess I look at the whole marriage thing/changing your last name differently. What I will say is this: As a single woman I have thought about whether or not I want to change my last name or not. When I was younger, I said yes because I wanted to move away from the ID with my father. Now that I am older, I am proud of my last name and would be proud to maintain that last name for life. However, now I’m on the I’ll consult God on this and figure it out by the time I actually go down the isle train.

    Looking to one of your patriarchy argument, I wanted to point out that there is another Spanish language tradition that keeps both names, the maiden name following the married name. I like this because both parents names get passed down to the children. Since I discovered this tradition, I have enjoyed it as I feel it allows both the woman and the man to pass on their names and this capability counters some of the patriarch issues that you and Madama bring up.

    Finally, I think the biggest issue is dealing with people that feel it is unacceptable or not an indication of a true union if a woman decides to keep or hyphen her maiden name. To me, a marriage is a union between a man and a woman and the important thing is the actual union not the outward symbols of that union (this includes rings, wedding ceremonies and last names). What is the use in making a fuss that a woman didn’t take her husband’s last name if they are divorced a year later? How is their union? Are they one body? Have they worked out how they will share and run their household? etc etc. This is what we need to discuss with those who are planning to get married or are married. Whats in a name if the partnership isn’t working? Patriarchy or no patriarchy, maiden or no maiden name there is a problem with marriages in the United States – we need to solve that problem and leave the naming to the man, the woman and their god(s).

  • Thanks for giving this inspiring article. View my very own!

  • WonderWoman

    I must admit that I have always mindlessly filled out the Ms. box…. after reading your article, it infuriates me too, and I’ll adopt your practice. Thank you! It’s terrifying to think about the other potential sexist traditions I mindlessly support…

    Also, your boss’s response “that’s not what marriage is about” confounds me. Isn’t marriage supposed to be about compromise and valuing each other? Isn’t that exactly what the new mixed name you suggested is?