Monday, February 2, 2009

Names and Women

I have been wasting time lately on looking for old friends. It occurred to me that one can mine the "Friends" lists of Friends for people one knows and invite them, thereby finding out who lives where and what they are up to. It is fun.
It is frustrating.
Men are there, to be plucked like apples from a tree for your "Friends" list. Joe Dixie then is Joe Dixie now.
But the women? More elusive. Married and not going by the same name you knew them as when you knew them in high school or college or the early years of a job. Or even if you were at their wedding, now 25 years later, they might be remarried and have a new name again.
I kept mine when I married, though it was accident that gave me the reason to follow through with that whim.
I anticipated much progress for "women's lib" in the 80's, after I had been told in 1976 that I should not bother to go into architecture because women would just quit to have babies, and after signing up anyway to find I was one of 3 girls in a class of 80 some architecture students, and after giving up due to a terrible couple of quarters where the instructor would not give me or the other girls the time of day or any critique or guidance on our projects. I switched to interior design school where the genders were represented more equally and treated more fairly. There, one of the senior projects was to, at great expense, make a resume to be printed at a print shop and a portfolio of photographs and design statements of our projects. Without thinking, I used my full name on those items. So keeping my own name when I got married that summer meant I didn't have to redo the expensive resume and letterhead. I might not have had the nerve, "women's lib" progressing or no, to fight the tradition and keep my maiden name but for the great investment in the resume and portfolio coupled with the odd notion that a quirky last name might be of benefit in a creative field.
I wasn't too worried about bucking tradition because I figured it would soon be the norm. What did it matter that a woman had a different last name than her husband and maybe even her kids? It was my name. I expected keeping ones name for life to become "normal".
But apparently few of my generation or even generations since have felt this way. Making it very difficult to recognize from a first name and a 50-plus-year-old-face in a photograph whether Sue Harper is the Sue Wilson I knew in college or not.
What happened to "women's lib" anyway?
Why hasn't this been part of the "progress", that women get to keep their names their whole lives?
Women, why haven't more of you kept your names when you married?
Men, do you really need a woman to take you name to feel married? Why don't YOU encourage women to keep their names?


Anonymous said...

Interesting... indeed, you, my mom, and my grandma are the only women I can think of that have kept their names... I like the idea of keeping that link to your past while moving into your future.
M. McCarthy

Andrea said...

To answer your question...Because my maiden name is a mouthful and I was delighted to take on a simple to spell and pronounce last name when I got married.

In this post you seem to be urging women to hold on to their 'heritage' (i.e. their names), and in a prior post you seemed to praise Obama for realizing that hanging on to one's heritage can be detrimental.

I realize that just sounded trite, but I don't mean to be, rather your own thoughts in both posts illustrate my thought-- that tradition and heritage is more important in some cases, and with some people than it is in other circumstances, or for other people. We all have our reasons and reasoning for the choices we make, and those reasons are rarely simple and easy to define.

goprairie said...

i don't recall praising obama for that - i do recall praising him for respecting the original heritage of the intent of the constitution!
the name thing is not so much a heritage thing to me as a gender bias thing. the name is, afterall, only the heritage of your father. your mother and her mother and her mother -and your father's mother and her mother and so on -are erased from any heritage in naming. instead, the assumption that both members of a couple will take his last names is something i thought would fade away as gender discrimination and bias faded away. I do know a man who took his wife's last name and i know a few couples who made up a new name based on both or out of whole cloth or thin air. a name is just a label, but the taking of the man's last name seems . . . like a remnant of a past where women were not equal with men and became their property once married. we are past such ideas, we vote, we work. but we still take their names, becoming invisible to friends who try to find us later.

Chuckles said...

So, just out of curiosity, and if you're willing to share, what last name do your kids have? Our ex-daughter-in-law kept her last name but both of our grandkids have their dad's last name...

goprairie said...

Kids have dad's last name. So do the kids of all the women I know who kept their names. That's were any progress at all falls apart in terms of a gender bias issue. One of my friends said she had bigger fish to fry like getting a job commensurate with her degree where she would get paid the same as her male classmates and once she got that job, making sure she got listened to and was given significan reponsibilities. She said she gave in on the name thing to fight higher battles. And what TO DO with the kids? We are smart people and so it should not be too hard to figure out a 'fair' answer, but we let this on slide. At least in terms of being able to be found by old friends, just sticking with the name you always had is good. I do know one couple where the whole family uses the wife's name, but now his friends can't find him I suppose. I know a couple who made up a new last name out of parts of each. Now no one can find either of them. Hmmmmm. Maybe the adults should keep their names and give the kids a hybrid?