A woman’s name…

I am totally fed up about all the talk about women’s surnames and the like. The latest article to grate on my nerves is this one, from today’s issue of The Hindu. The article, written by Michele Hanson of the Guardian, rankles with every sentence. I mean, what’s the point? A highly successful media person, editor of Britain’s largest tabloid, decides to get married, for the second time. Post-marriage, she decides to take on her husband’s surname. So? So, one person, Michele Hanson whose article a large UK newspaper is willing to publish, decides to rant. She questions her decision, points out that she had broken through the glass ceiling, been the terror and envy of most men in the business, and yet has decided to give up her maiden name. Not just that, Michele Hanson also asks why she did not choose to take her first husband’s name? Was she insecure? Was she jealous of his own fame? Is she taking on the second husband’s name because he is just a fledgling writer? A nobody? WTF?

I don’t get the point at all. If a woman is free, post-marriage to retain her maiden name, she must be equally free to take on her husband’s name, right? Apparently not. Because, these self-proclaimed feminists say it’s a huge let-down of thousands of women since the 1850s, who have fought for their right to keep their maiden names. But, wait a second! I was under the impression feminism was about choice, the freedom to take a decision and not be asked to explain it to all and sundry. This questioning seriously threatens the idea of feminism as a movement for equality and freedom.

Also, Hanson’s contempt of “mere wives” is so insulting that I cannot ignore it. She says, in her article,

“I’m trying to get over my dislike of her lifestyle, so that I can concentrate on the business of taking your husband’s name when you marry. (…) She’s the last sort of woman you’d expect to opt to take the back seat, yet here she is, giving up her own name like an ordinary little wife.”

Two things jump out at me when I read these lines. One, Hanson has a problem with the person and her lifestyle and not her decision. Two, Rebekah Brooks nee Wade, is just an “ordinary little wife.” I mean, WTF? Why is it so demeaning to be a wife? So what if Rebekah Brooks, after all these years, decides to change her name? Is she any less of a woman, less of a feminist, or less of a media executive because of it? I doubt. Because, whether you change your name or not, you continue to be the same person. Because the name is an identity. If someone is comfortable being Mrs. So-and-so, who are we, or Michele Hanson to question it?

Rebekah Brooks/Wade/Kemp/whatever else she wants to be is an individual. She has every right to decide how she wants to lead her life. No woman should have to be forced to make the popular choice, just because she is a perceived feminist. Also, being feminist does not mean being non-sentimental. Hanson calls Brooks a fluff deep down inside, at the very beginning of the article. Now, being a fluff is insulting? I would love to be called romantic. I may be feminist, equalist or humanist, but I am still a woman. I still love being pampered, taken care of and cherished. Does that make me less of a feminist? I should think not!

3 thoughts on “A woman’s name…

  1. Ana Gabriela says:

    Names are a basic element of our identity. It represents unions and alliences, being part of something and yet being unique at the same time. When we fought for women’s rights, we fought to be EQUAL to men. We fought for the RIGHT to have a CHOICE. Not the obligation to please society by doing the opposite of what society prescribed. So if a woman, if any woman, decides to use one name or the other it is her own and personal choice.

    Sadly though, there are many extremists whose ignorance limits them to the power of labels. They stick to preconceptions due to their inability to look what hides behind those social symbols and preconceptions. Furthermore, when such limititations exist in journalists, they end up having nothing better to write than gossip and pathetic rants.

    I understand your anger. Personaly, I consider these the women who set us backwards in our search for gender equality today.

    AG

    Precisely Ana. My friend tells me I am being reactive rather than rational. But, I suppose that’s because this article really hit a nerve.

  2. Kumar says:

    I feel women should retain her last husband name till she get married to a new guy..That will help to identify herself in the society..if she want to retain the her maiden name then its fine but she should feel free to convey about her previous surname.That shouldn’t be a problem.whatever she retains but should disclose,whether it is maiden name or last husband surname.Specially to the current person she is in date with.

    It’s a name. An identity. It’s her choice. Also, marriage is incidental. It’s not the be all and end all of life. Why is this so difficult to get?

  3. selvan says:

    Hillary Rodham Clinton retained her maiden name.Among the Nairs of Kerala they
    used to get the family name or tharavad from their mothers’ side.In other communities also this system can be observed. But the subordinate position of the woman has remained the same in spite of all these cosmetic changes. If I remember correctly one of the two children born of the liasion between Dora Russel and the American free-lance photographer Perry was accepted in the Russel family. Perhaps because of the high social status of Bertrand Russel it was accepted. Other than this there has been no other instance of names losing all meaning.

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