Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sir Names

Many of my friends know me as a rabid feminist. If ever I grumble about sexism in this country, I suddenly morph in the eyes of others into a hairy-legged monster who refuses to have doors held for her and likes to verbally abuse men.

It's true that, living in a cold climate, I have little need for regular hair removal outside of the summer months. This is more of a "granola" stain I've received from living in the Pacific Northwest for 7 years than it is a feminist protest to the inequality of grooming standards.

Despite the utter nausea caused by thinking about the absurdities of gender roles, there is nothing that irritates and dumbfounds me more than surnames. Although in recent years many women have chosen to keep their "maiden" names and hyphenate them with their acquired, married names, most women still opt to swap out the old for the new. For example, Sally Jensen marries Tom Wilson and, in professional settings becomes Sally Jensen-Wilson, while in her social circle is known as Mrs. Wilson. This is something that has long irritated me. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for a woman to change her name.

I have struggled to come up with a solution to this problem. Of course it would be far too controversial to instigate a trend of men taking on the woman's name after marriage. I assumed I would jump on the hyphenation bandwagon, and would simply add an extra name to my own. For a while now it has actually been my hope that I could find a man who was supportive enough of this decision to take on this new hyphename as his own as well, though I was never stupid enough to expect it.

On thinking about this "solution", however, I was faced with a new problem and a new realization. I didn't want my children to introduce themselves and sound like "law firms". "Hi, I'm Janie Hensel-Samson!" It just doesn't work. Not only is it an unnecessary mouthful which would inevitably be abbreviated to "Jane Samson" anyway, but "Hensel" is simply the name my mother took when she got married, which she exchanged for her original "Tovey", which was the name HER mother took when SHE got married, and then.......oh my gosh! Surnames are SIR-names!

I realized (with an obvious slap to the forehead) that virtually ALL last names are simply male names. Women only have first names, with a few exceptions (and these are only technicalities: Cooper, for example, is essentially gender-neutral, though historically there would have been no female barrel-makers because women didn't work outside the home), and any attempt to keep my maiden name was a step in the wrong direction.

I'm certainly not ashamed of my maiden name. I'm fond of my father, and I LIKE the masculinity my last name provides. I'm also fond of my mother, however, and if I have kids I'd like to be able to pass on a bit of her as well. The next logical step was to name my kids with first names, but ended up with children named Avner Rick-Kath-Thompson, which was just stupid.

Of course any attempt to do weird things with names will fail. No matter how much I stress gender-neutrality/ -equality, tradition/laziness will take over. My kids will always be known as The Lastname Children. However, traditions begin somewhere, and my solution is the simplest at all: Screw surnames. There's no legal requirement to give your child your own surname. There's not requirement for a surname, period! So, all of my children will have different "last" names, which will simply consist of a middle name. Ezra Winter, BreƱa Holland, Avner Trenton, Eden Black, Zuriel India (or whatever, teehee!).

Anyone with a measurable IQ will instantly point out to me that all of those "middle names" can also be surnames. This is true. But I still win.

1 comment:

Jessie said...

Everyone will think they're all from different fathers. I would never force my kid to have a hyphenated last name, I think that's just mean. I went to school with a girl named Carly Ebel-Wheat, and I always felt sorry for her.