Insecure or conservative or stupid women are bowing to the wishes of their husbands

One formula for op ed writing is to annoy your readers. Another is to lay out some set of actual or imagined social phenomena onto some Procrustean ideological bed for interpretation.

This lazy and infuriating piece of fluff from Catherine Deveny in the Age which is headed by the words above follows both formulas. I doubt she wrote the words in the headline – which are the subbie’s condensation of the wisdom she imparts in the article. But the summary is fair enough. It’s a lazy piece of linkbait and sad to say, here am I falling for the bait.

I won’t dwell on Deveny’s argument much, but she claims that any women who change their name on getting married are bowing to the wishes of their husbands. She offers no evidence of this whatever – not even an anecdote. She claims that those who argue it’s easier are just rationalising, because it’s actually easier to keep your own name. Again, no evidence.

Well the Troppo poll that I ran yesterday came up with no evidence to back her claims up – unless those people who said that convenience was one reason women changed their name were lying too.  Of 23 commenters, not one reported any pressure from husbands.  Of course it’s not a representative sample, but it is at least evidence. I asked people to try to be as factual as they could yesterday, so as not to influence the way people reported their experience. So if anyone wants to make any more strongly opinionated comment (or any other comment) below, please do.

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Down and Out of S
14 years ago

My wife only appended my surname to hers after emigrating to Australia. Before that, she had used the traditional Vietnamese order of her surname-middle names-personal name order. Now she uses personal name-former surname-MY surname in all IDs and bureaucratic correspondence. The name change was her wish – not mine.

There are advantages for her using my surname. She’s on a two year temporary spousal visa. Once that period ends, she needs to convince Immigration that the marriage is “genuine”. (That is, it’s not some marriage of convenience where she gets to stay in Oz for some monetary trade.) If she passes the interview, she goes permanent – and using my surname helps. Mind you, I think living together under the same roof and paying the same bills helps even more. :-)

I actually preferred her name the way it was, but she likes using my family name.

David Rubie
David Rubie
14 years ago

Nicholas, Grace is a great middle name (my first daughter has that as her middle name). It seems to flow better once you’ve got a better matching first name.

Joshua Gans
Joshua Gans(@joshua-gans)
14 years ago

as a matter of convenience uses either Mainikis or Gruen depending on whats easier in the context.

Meaning, I suppose, that she doesn’t mind it when the teachers at school call her Mrs Gruen. Likewise with us: Agnes just thinks it’s cute when they call her Mrs Farrell.

We are noticing what hasn’t been noticed up to now in this discussion — that many people quite comfortably use different names in different contexts. Most often it’s the given name that changes, whether it’s an anglicisation or a nickname, but there’s nothing to limit a person to one surname either.

pablo
pablo
14 years ago

My better half is of Polish origin and without any prompting from me, took my four letter surname as her own. Although I like Gmytraschievitz, I can understand her POV.

Damien Eldridge
Damien Eldridge
14 years ago

I’m single, so my views might well be irrelevant. Like Nick, I think it is a bit of a storm in a teacup. People should be free to choose whether or not one or both partners change their surname. Nonetheless, I may as well state my own preference, for what it is worth. I would prefer it if both partners kept their own surname, but the children took the husband’s or male partner’s surname. (I think I would be just as comfortable with the children taking the wife’s or female partner’s surname or even tossing a coin as to which surname is used. I think all children of the same parents should have the same surname, however. Having said that, using the surname from the male parent represents the smallest alteration to the traditional convention. As such, I think it is probably prefereable.)

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
14 years ago

Some folks use hyphenated names and inflict these on the children. What happens in the next generation – four names and then eight? If the names rights for the children are the main issue then the most obvious resolution is to have two kids and name one each – and toss a coin for the accidental third??

This is slightly off topic but you might find it interesting. My Dad’s parents were a ‘mixed marriage’ – RC and CoE. The deal was that the girls would be baptised Catholic and the boys Church of England. Sound fair. But grannie had Dad baptised Catholic on the side when hubby was at work. I only found out about this at his funeral!

Jezery
Jezery
14 years ago

My Dads parents were a mixed marriage – RC and CoE. The deal was that the girls would be baptised Catholic and the boys Church of England.

I think that was fairly common years ago. My grandmother’s family was the same, although they alternated rather than split by gender. My grandmother was RC, her sister was CoE (both born 1910’s).

Backroom Girl
Backroom Girl(@backroom-girl)
14 years ago

It took my Dad quite a few years to get used to the idea that I was still using his surname. As a little protest, he used to address letters to me alternately using my maiden name, maried name and the hyphenated combination. It has also never bothered me that occasionally people call me by my husband’s surname.

But I always thought that women taking their husband’s name was only a social convention anyway – as far as I know, you are legally the name you are born with unless you go to the trouble of changing it by deed poll, but you can call yourself anything you like, as long as it is not with intent to defraud.

And I agree David R that Grace is a good middle name – it graces my second daughter.

Laura
14 years ago

I agree that there’s no grounds to insultingly assume that women are stupid or conservative or being pressured by their husbands to change their names. But Nick I don’t think you’re giving fair acknowledgement to the fact that the woman taking the man’s name is a pure demonstration of the patriarchal bias which still structures our society. It would be fair to say it is only symbolic nowadays, but still.

Men taking women’s names is very rare, and probably always when it’s done, it’s accompanied by some sort of explanation. Women seldom have to explain why they take the man’s name.

I wonder whether same sex partnerhips involve much name-changing?

Backroom Girl
Backroom Girl(@backroom-girl)
14 years ago

Nicholas, even though usually Catherine Deveny manages to get right up my nose, this time I did find that my initial reaction was to agree with her. Well, not so much that women are insecure or stupid, just that I was a bit bemused that this issue is still there to be argued about. I guess I just assumed that by now, so long after my own feminist trail-blazing :-), the whole thing would have been a non-issue by now.

My own personal stance is probably with Laura, in that it does seem fairly determinedly patriarchal and if it really was just a matter of people picking a name that they liked better (as I acknowledge many people on the other post said it was), there should be a lot more blokes going for their partners’ surnames.

As far as the kids go, the hyphenated option never appealed to me (while some names might go together rather well, I suspect most double-barrelled names are pretty ugly and there is that whole next generation thing.) But even there, perhaps it is a way to intially give your children both their parents’ names, with the expectation that once they were old enough, they could choose which one they preferred and then only have one to hand on to their own children. (I did once know a brother and sister with a double surname who had each chosen to go by a different one of the original names.)

Brendan Halfweeg
Brendan Halfweeg
14 years ago

Isn’t it good enough that women aren’t expected by law or religion or social convention to change their surname? Now they have to justify to feminists their free choice to change their name? Socialist agendas tend to look darkly on individualism, and a left wing feminist accusing women of gender betrayal does not suprise me. You can have your liberty so long as you agree with us. All power to women to change or not change their name as they see fit, it is their choice. This sort of nonsense reminds me of the sort of treatment dealt out to workers who would cross picket lines. Maybe the left should go the whole hog and call themselves the idealogy of peace.