This is another post in the long established tradition of posts highly likely to offend some of my closest friends. I will still go ahead with it, because as Christopher Hitchens said, one cannot be half a heretic. I do not think that keeping my thoughts inside would make for better friendships; in contrast, I think that better friendships are formed when all the cards are on the table, for better and worse.
With that in mind, let us quickly move to the toxic subject of women’s last names. In particular, the taken for granted habit where women take on their husbands' names upon marriage.
I will leave the discussion of the marriage institution for another time. What is clear, for now, is that this habit of women taking their husbands’ names comes from the not too distant past, barely a century ago, where women were generally considered their husbands’ chattel. If that is the case, then why do women still do it?
I would argue they do it because they are still living in a male dominated world, a world in which the women’s right revolution still has a while to go before true gender equality is taken for granted. My problem, therefore, is not with women taking their husbands’ names, but rather – why do they choose to take their husbands’ names in the first place when they should know better?
The answer I expect to get from most women would be the same as the one I get from non believing Jewish friends when they’re asked why they still circumcise their sons: social conventions. To which I will answer – so what?
Social conventions have been proven wrong many times, if not most of the times. Remember that social conventions regarded women as inferior property till a hundred years ago, and blacks as inherently inferior till much more recently – if not within your life time then certainly within your parents’. I won’t even venture to discuss where social convention used to have religion and the key role religion played in peoples’ lives, roles that even the majority of today’s believers would cast aside in favour of the secular state. Yet all these changes had to come after some sort of a struggle; no power holder gave up their power out of their own free will (a sad testimony indeed for humanity as a whole). What I am therefore trying to say to the women of the world is that our world, their world, your world would not get any better without you sticking up for yourself.
If I try and dress myself in imaginary women’s clothing, I guess I would consider taking my husband’s name were my last name to be along the lines of FuckMeUpTheAss and my husband’s something as exciting as Wildstar (note I fully acknowledge many of us really like it up the ass; that goes with what I am trying to say here). Such a contrast does not apply to most marriages, though, which brings me to conclude with this statement: women will never find themselves truly equal until they stick up for themselves, and the first theatre for such a confrontation should be the one involving the person they love the most. If you fail there, expect to fail everywhere.
Image by Sarah Parrot, Creative Commons license