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Apparently I can't be a feminist because I changed my name when I married.

(463 Posts)
dustandfluff Wed 21-Nov-12 22:00:19

I heard someone (a feminist writer dunno who) on Radio 4 a few months ago saying women who change their names when they get married are not feminists.

. I have long been interested in feminism and women's rights. I appreciate the feminist arguments against changing your name. I had my reasons but I don't think that's relevant here. To me this sounds as though to "be" a feminist you have to meet a particular standard.

I think this is the kind of thing that puts a lot of women off the movement.

Opinion s anyone?

NotGoodNotBad Mon 26-Nov-12 12:43:25

Ooh, I made the point and now I'm finding it tricky to answer! Easier I think to say what feminism is that what a feminist is. So in my book, feminism is about equality between men and women in terms of, for example

- voting rights
- rights to property ownership
- salary
- rights to self-determination (marrying who you want, not being forced to carry and give birth to children you don't want, etc)
- right to an education
- sharing of housework and childcare

As things stand, in nearly all cases "equality" equates to improving the rights of women rather than improving the rights of men. To my mind it also includes responsibilities, e.g. taking responsibility for yourself financially, though I guess this would be more controversial. Also, biological considerations should not be lead to unequal treatment, e.g. if women get 6 months maternity leave so they can breastfeed, men also get 6 months paternity leave, not a paltry 2 weeks or whatever they get now.

A feminist, then, is someone who believes that women should have equality with men, and tries to act accordingly.

MiniTheMinx Mon 26-Nov-12 12:40:50

Someone made the point that changing your name is no worse than keeping your father's name with no analysis of why we carry our father's name.

Changing your name perpetuates this problem over and over again. You children will carry their father's name.

Christian names are interesting....christian because children were christened and given their name in church, when church records were the only records of birth and death. The name is given by the parents and sanctified by the church!

Children would be known as "clementine" son of........smith (smithy as in shoes horses) a way of distinguishing man's property rights over his children and his wife.

So unless women actively seek to become the chattels of their husband why change their name to his? because to do so locks the practice into perpetuality.

Actually a sock in the eye for men, must surely be that once a child is registered and given it's LEGAL name, the child becomes a legal entity owned by the state!

But then that begs the question whether the "legal person" is the same as the actual man/woman/child. If the two are separate as they are under law the good news is, do what you like grin

seeker Mon 26-Nov-12 12:17:03

A feminist is someone who, when she makes choices, or, in fact, does anything, considers the impact, not just on herself, but on other women and the way other women are perceived. It does not become a feminist choice just becase a woman makes it - women are quite capable of making anti feminist choices!

Blistory Mon 26-Nov-12 11:39:13

"So, for those with an understanding of feminism, why not just say 'stuff this', and stop shaving/tittivating/wearing 6 inch heels? Social pressure? How do you expect to change anything if you don't make a stand? It's almost as if you are saying that to wilfully do something harmful is better than doing it in ignorance"

Easy to say but when you realise just how much of a stance you would have to take in every day life and conversation, it gets draining. Can't blame anyone for picking their battles but there are somethings that are easy and I guess a lot of us think the name changing is a no brainer to take a stance on.

It's the assertion that a feminist choice is being exercised that is annoying most on here from what I can see. You can choose to do something non feminist without rejecting the feminist theory behind it but when you choose to do it, and continue to believe that choice alone makes it feminist, well, that's where it no longer makes sense and your understanding of feminism is called into question.

namechangeguy Mon 26-Nov-12 10:59:34

Could somebody then explain to me who qualifies as a 'real feminist'? (as per NotGood's post at 10:08).

I think that a lot of women do make a stand, and a lot more of us make a stand on some issues, but not all. It's hard to break out of a lifetime of conditioning. I think this is equally true for men and women.

namechangeguy Mon 26-Nov-12 10:43:01

So, for those with an understanding of feminism, why not just say 'stuff this', and stop shaving/tittivating/wearing 6 inch heels? Social pressure? How do you expect to change anything if you don't make a stand? It's almost as if you are saying that to wilfully do something harmful is better than doing it in ignorance.

There's the rub, Blistory <also shaved her legs last night, and put mascara on this morning> We do so many things which are unfeminist without even thinking about it. It can be quite uncomfortable, even painful, to realise that I think.

HullyEastergully Mon 26-Nov-12 10:26:43

Or, if you prefer, your thoughts and choices are not those of a feminist.

HullyEastergully Mon 26-Nov-12 10:26:21

That's fine, as long as you don't call yourself a feminist, exotic and expect others to agree that you are one!

Cos er you ain't.

Blistory Mon 26-Nov-12 10:13:15

Feminism can't be about choice until there is equality - why is that so difficult to understand ? Whilst many posters may have very valid and considered reasons for the namechange, the fact remains that many women do it simply because it is expected and they encounter pressure if they don't. Changing your name should be an active choice not one that is the default position and is expected simply for historical reasons.

Whilst I chose to shave my legs today, it wasn't really a choice when you consider that my reason for doing so was because I couldn't face the prospect of sitting on public transport with hairy legs on view in case anyone commented or thought it was revolting. I don't think not shaving is revolting and can live quite happily with hair on my legs so why the hell did I do it ?

And yes, I shouldn't care what people think but I do and it's so deeply ingrained. So yes it was a choice but not a free choice so how much was it really my choice after all ?

exoticfruits Mon 26-Nov-12 10:12:36

So basically, exotic, you think you should be able to do as you please and to call it feminism? And to have other real feminists applaud you for these choices

Yes and no!

I should do what I want-I don't need to call it feminism-some as explained isn't. Why should other feminists applaud me? confused

exoticfruits Mon 26-Nov-12 10:09:54

I keep saying -choice for all women! But apparently this is not on-we can only choose what certain women tell us we can choose.

Some of my choices are not feminist ones. If I made the feminist choice my DH would have done half the child care and I should keep my career going. The fact is that he would go up the wall at home and I adored being at home with under 5yr olds and wouldn't have missed it for any money. He is ambitious and I like a job where I am busy and interested but, as long as it earns a comfortable amount, I couldn't care less about money or status. Even when I started teaching I knew that I never wanted to be a Head or even a Deputy. If we happened to have been the other way around we would have done it the other way around. If I wanted to keep my name I would have kept it. If I wanted to be Ms I would use it. I don't need someone telling me what I should do.

Why should fit some quota where he is stuck at home climbing the walls and I go off to work dripping tears I don't know!

We do what suits us. DH is better at ironing and likes it so he irons -choices are not to do with others.

NotGoodNotBad Mon 26-Nov-12 10:08:47

So basically, exotic, you think you should be able to do as you please and to call it feminism? And to have other real feminists applaud you for these choices?

HullyEastergully Mon 26-Nov-12 09:53:06

what do you think feminism is exotic?

exoticfruits Mon 26-Nov-12 09:48:31

I can't see how feminism is me having to think what some self appointed woman tells me I should think. How am I better off?
I have already been told the individual doesn't matter, but I would hate to live in a world where the individual doesn't count.
I can't see why a woman telling me what to do is any better than a man telling me what to do. I prefer a free choice and my brand of feminism is women having the right to choose for themselves and not what the most strident woman in the group happens to think they should choose!
I am not subservient to men-the name doesn't make me subservient-the name is personal choice and trivial. I am never going to be Ms, but don't really care if it is the default-it is again trivial.

worsestershiresauce Mon 26-Nov-12 09:40:03

They were good enough reasons for me. In answer to the questions, no she didn't tell anyone what to call her, and no one liked to assume anything so by default asked me. It was a pain, as she hadn't told me either! She doesn't call herself Ms ownsurname btw. Ms (to her) is apparently is code for divorced!

I don't see myself as subservient to men by following a convention that gave me 1. a nicer sounding name, 2. a cohesive family name (I want my children to share a name with both of us) and 3. less confusion for everyone else.

I don't expect people to agree with me though, it was something that worked for me.

That, Morris, is why I didn't bother. I am still Miss to the bank. The passport only got changed because I needed a new one. I was quite passive about formally name changing, but active about it socially. Hmm <ponders the whole shebang>

MorrisZapp Mon 26-Nov-12 09:14:27

I have a friend who changed her surname upon marriage. It took her weeks and weeks of letters, phonecalls, form filling and endless admin to get it all sorted.

At one point I said to her, well I suppose if its this much hassle you could just have your bank statements arrive with your own name on them. She looked at me as if I was mad.

Her choice, of course. But changing your surname isn't easy, its a pain in the arse.

Presumably if your sister didn't tell anyone otherwise her name is still Ms Ownsurname Worcestershire - I really can't see what's confusing about that. I don't assume a woman has changed name or title on marriage until she tells me she has or I see it on a letter or something.

HullyEastergully Mon 26-Nov-12 08:59:14

They only have to ask once, hardly that demanding...And if the default position was Ms, that gets rid of half the question.

Funny how so many other countries manage with different surnames without the entire social fabric imploding.

NotGoodNotBad Mon 26-Nov-12 08:52:57

So worsestershiresauce, if all these are good reasons for name changing, why aren't men queueing up to change theirs?

worsestershiresauce Mon 26-Nov-12 08:51:07

I changed my name because it is easier for everyone in a family to have the same surname. My sister married before me, and didn't. Lots of people have called me to ask me what they should call her (no one really knows whether she is a Miss, Mrs, Ms, double barrelled etc) so I figured it would be better to avoid this confusion when I married. My maiden name is also quite awkward and ugly to say together with my first name, so I was quite glad to swap.

NotGoodNotBad Mon 26-Nov-12 08:40:08

"Only relevant in that feminism is about choice."

Aaargh, exotic, for the 10th time, feminism is not about choice!

seeker Mon 26-Nov-12 08:27:30

Exotic and married, are you saying that any choice a woman makes is automatically a feminist choice because it is a woman making it?

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