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Feminism and Anti-Feminism

September 22, 2007

I went and had a beer with the other Sociology grad students yesterday (and a bunch of evolutionary psychologists, but I forgive them for that), and the topic turned to feminism and surnames. When AB and I got married we didn’t take each other’s surname, but not for any ideological reasons – I don’t want her last name and she doesn’t want mine. We have always wanted a common last name though, if only to assert to unbelievers that yes, we are just as married as a straight couple would be. Our plan is to both take her great-grandmother’s maiden name, which wasn’t passed on, and which was given to AB as a middle name. For various reasons this has not happened yet (what? We’ve only been married for four years!), but will in the foreseeable future.

T, a female grad student with decidedly feminist sensibilities, shared that when her and her (male) partner get married, she will take his name. She’s never been all that attached to her surname, and it is important to her partner for his wife and kids to have his last name. She’s aware that her lack of attachment to her name and his attachment to his name is part of their socially constructed gender roles, but it’s not something that she particularly cares about. I can respect that, even thought it surprised me. T said that people have accused her of being anti-feminist because of her willingness to take her husband’s last name, which I think it bullshit. After all, feminism is about empowering people to make their own decisions, not dictating what their decisions must be.

Feminist Police

So lay off telling people what isn’t feminist enough/is too feminist. It’s none of your damn business.

Badge from Feministing.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. lmw permalink
    September 26, 2007 1:58 pm

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I overheard a conversation last year between two women in my department in which the underlying idea was that no self-respecting woman who considered herself a feminist would take her husband’s name. I am married, and I chose to take my husband’s name. I am a feminist and so is my husband. It has nothing to do with our views toward men and women. For us, it was about sharing a name. It wouldn’t have mattered what that name was – whether it was his, mine, or some new name. But given convention, we chose his. It was easier. I have colleagues who feel similarly, but they have decided that since they have already started their professional careers with their maiden name, they will keep it. Anyway, I think you’re spot on. Individuals have various reasons for their choice on the matter, it isn’t anyone else’s business, and we should all work on being less judgmental.

  2. September 26, 2007 7:32 pm

    Exactly. And yes, I understand that the reason it is easier for a woman to change her name than for a man is because of sexist cultural assumptions and sexist institutions, but goddamn it, we are only human! Sometimes you have to make concessions and take the easy way out on things you deem less important so that you can focus on other things.

  3. VaxLam permalink
    November 16, 2007 3:41 am

    It is reasons such as this that have caused me to strongly consider what the meanings behind feminism really are. If it is equality amongst men that you seek, then why not advocate egalitarianism instead? If it’s total control and dominance over males then by all means consider your self a feminist. Because considering all that is going on right now, I have frowned greatly upon feminism. Since when was it about equality anyway?

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