Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Post on Post: Marriage and the Modern

Image from brookadelphia

There are some things in this life that are hard to puzzle out. Like feminism. That's probably lost me a lot of readership. But I've thought long and hard for many years now about how a modern (or post-post-modern, if you will) woman should go about engaging with the world, and negotiating her femininity, and I also thought it would be cool to do a post on post post modernism...

Now, this isn't a chance for me to be prescriptive or explain how I think the right way to be a woman. (Not that a similar post isn't in my head right now!) Nor is it a place to get cranky with others in the comments section - just more to ponder some of the choices made and why we make them. But I should say at the outset that there's nothing that makes me angrier than people - men and women - who just don't consider the issues at all. Those who think that you need 'balls' to achieve, and the list goes on. (I'm reminded by the scene in Legally Blonde where the cool feminista lectures everyone on using 'ovester' instead of 'semester'...He he.)

But the issue I really want to look at here is marriage.

Image from Golly Molly

I'm in my mid-twenties, and more and more people around me are partnering up in marriages or de facto relationships. And I guess I have been surprised at how many of these women (the married ones) have changed their surnames. I began to wonder, am I post-modern and all the new po-po-mo gals are doing it differently? Some feel the same as me, and others wonder about the future of marriage itself.

For me, I couldn't imagine having a different name to my own - it would be like assuming a different identity in marriage, and I really like the one I have. (The identity and the name.) I also can't help but think it has some disturbing throwbacks to women-as-chattel.

But I am not opposed to weddings or the institution of marriage, despite hating the exclusiveness of marriage being only for heterosexuals and the throwing of the bouquet. I know that's not even the most offensive part, but I can't stand being harangued into a group of giggly, slightly boozy gals trying to catch a bunch of flowers.

I'm all for getting my competitive on, but how humiliating!

But then I've also been to a lot of weddings of proud and independent women who have had beautiful services and thoroughly lovely receptions which don't smack of inequity in any way.

So is there a way to have certain strong beliefs and reservations about marriage and still get married? Is it really all or nothing? Do I accidentally sound like a SATC neurotic voice over? And then there's the complicated part of what name do the children have. This is a question which a lot of thought has gone into, and I still don't know where I sit.

Perhaps a good answer would just be to commit random acts of feminism - this is a fabulous list which I think I might print out and keep in my wallet!

I'd love to know what you all think. Is there anything you have thought long and hard about concerning feminism? Do you even adhere to the label? What gets your goat when it comes to the behaviour of others? Will you, or have you, kept your name? Will you change it? Of course it should go without saying that men and women can answer all of these.

By the way, the most fabulous necklace ever is available from the fabulous Brookadelphia (it's like Brooklyn and Philadelphia! How can that be?!) on Etsy, the best place from which to buy anything. Check out their other fabulous creations - you will not be disappointed!


  1. I loved this:


  2. Excellent article Wakili! Thanks for posting it up - couldn't have said it better myself.

  3. I'm with you on the bouquet throwing - I just get embarrassed for everyone involved!

    As for the name change, I don't think it should be assumed these days and it certainly carries an historical whiff of chattel, but I feel it gets tricky when kids are involved. I know quite a few women who professionally use their 'maiden name' (should it be in inverted commas now?!) and take their husband's surname for the kids' schools etc. Yes I imagine you're signing up for a world of pain as far as bank accounts and general bureaucracy are concerned, but you gotta fight the good fight!

    ....And I'm packing my post-its from now on :)

  4. Great post, Alikatze. I totally agree with you that the children issue isn't easy, but I figure that although the bureaucracy issues might be annoying, I'm prepared to challenge them!

    Don't get me wrong - if I get a letter addressed to 'Mr and Mrs X' I'm not going to cry about it, but I'll just correct it later.

    Surely the world has enough ability to adapt to new forms of family, like hundreds of step-relations etc - I don't think a new name will throw it for a loop? And if it does, well that may well be more of a reason not to change mine :)

  5. Like you, I think that changing my name would seem way too much like changing a part of my identity. There are those who say "why shouldn't you compromise for love" and I guess that's a fair point, but I just don't think it should be assumed that it is always the woman who will. I don't care about the kids' names - hell, let them choose if they want to - but maybe i'm so relaxed about it cos I know that (a) i'm not getting married, and (b) i'm not having kids.

    Also thought I would mention that in Pakistan, some women take it to a whole new level... one ancient tradition (still followed by an alarming number of women, including many of my liberal, wealthy, western-educated friends) is that when women get married, they actually take their husband's FIRST name as their SURNAME. Bizarre. And somehow kind of scary ....

  6. Natasha - you raise a really good point which I should have foregrounded in my post: the assumption. I think that's what my main fight is really all about - there are plenty of good reasons to change or to not change your name, but the assumption that it should go either way 'just because' is angry-making.

    As for the first name as surname? Yikes!

  7. Kate - I have to confess I do get irritated with the mail addressed to Mr & Mrs X (especially when it's from my grandmother or someone else trying to make a point, but even if it's just from someone trying to sell Foxtel packages).

    After the wedding lots of people would ask "so, how are Mr & Mrs X doing?", and I would respond as though they were talking about my in-laws... Lots of fun! But it didn't work so well when hubby's MOTHER kept calling me Mrs X. Ggggrrr.

    I later heard about a friend's mum who used to be extra-militant on the phone: when someone called asking for Mrs X, she would say "she doesn't live here" and would give the caller her mother-in-law's phone number! Heeheeeeeee!

  8. Ooooh - guerilla tactics - I like it!

    You're probably right - I would get annoyed at the Mr and Mrs inquiries too, but I shall have to think of pithy ways of combating. Referring to the in-laws is definitely at the top of my list!

  9. Conversation in a Common Room of an Oxford College the other day:

    Post-doc female friend of mine asks a bunch of male students: Would you insist that your wife change her name?

    Boys say (in different ways): We'd prefer it, but wouldn't be too bothered... although we would defintely make the kids change their name.

    I say: Is that a bit like saying that the mother of the children isn't as much part of the team? In other words, so long as my offspring has my name (and my scent), it doesn't really matter about the woman who pumped them out?

    [Of course, I don't want women to have to change their names, but I do think it's disturbing how unequivocal men are about their children having their name.]

    Boys: Some nervous laughter

    Post-doc woman asks: So would you change your name? Because I am having serious concerns about my boyfriend wanting me to change mine. I see it as a loss.

    Boys: It's not a loss...it's just that we wouldn't because it's emasculating.

    Post-doc woman: So you concede that it's a loss of power.

    Boys: Hmm...


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