Life Chat: changing your name, marriage & feminism

So this isn’t a fitness or nutrition post by ANY stretch of the imagination, but I often blither on with lifestyle nuggets on here don’t I, so we’ll squeeeeeeze this into that and call it content, shall we?!

To change or not to change? That is the [feminist] question…

adult bridal bride brunette
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

In all seriousness, I wanted to share this post for a few reasons –

  1. it’s something I struggled with before making my decision!
  2. I have friends going through the same thing and making choices right now
  3. feminism is something innately important to me, my fiance, my friends, practically anyone I’m close to, so why miss an opportunity to bang on about it?

I guess I first ‘woke up’ to feminism at university whilst studying English Literature and being introduced to feminist theory, as well as the writings of various key people – Mary Wollenstoncraft, Virginia Woolf, Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir… because in Somerset it wasn’t really a thing, everything was very white, middle class patriarchal and let’s say ‘local lads’ expressed distaste for feminism (one of the reasons I tend to find going back to the South West a real struggle, and I’ve been known to cause a scene in our local pub over it when some bloke at the bar thought it was acceptable to play with my top and bra strap… I don’t think so!)

I’ve subsequently spent quite a bit of time swinging like a pendulum – “I’d NEVER change my name if I get married” (my struggles with the institution of marriage itself are something we’ll save for another time, but I don’t need to say much more than I’ve attended 3 of my parents’ weddings, none of them to each other…!) but I also LOVE the idea of transformation, I’m names-and-characters obsessed (hey, writer!) and I have gone through periods of liking the idea of a name change.

I found myself, once engaged after a ridiculously perfect proposal in Santorini, torn. My feminist principles dictated I shouldn’t change my name, right? It’s a relic of patriarchal possession, being passed from father to husband.

My love of name changes, characters, transformation and identity shifts, not to mention the cliched, unoriginal, but [un]fortunately true fact that I quite like my actual fiance (shocker!) also stirred an irrational, compelling urge to take his last name.

And at other times, I wavered, hedged, sat on the fence, grappled with it all, and wanted to double barrel.

Conflicted, I spoke to an old friend, Joy, who is far, far more intelligent than I will ever be, and also a feminist. It sounds odd, but I almost needed permission from someone smarter, entire galaxies more articulate and lightyears more well-thought-out than myself, who I knew also believed wholeheartedly in feminism… plus, I happened to know she’d gotten herself married, and chosen to change her name.

I felt like I needed to know how her much more capable mind reconciled the disparate fragments of this socio-political-emotional-mental-minefield.

couple hugging each other
Photo by Studio 7042 on Pexels.com

Ultimately, she told me what I suppose I’d reasoned out in various, wriggly, squiggly lines and tangled trains of thought, and stumbled across in various things I’d read both online and off, but needed permission to believe.

Feminism is about choice.

Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women.

If you rail against feminists making a ‘patriarchal’ choice to change their last name upon marriage, it is worth pointing out that keeping your current name is no more feminist because (with few exceptions, like the Spanish way!) naming conventions dictate you ALREADY have a partiarchal name – your father’s.

Not doing something you really want to do, because you feel it violates feminist principles, is actually in itself violating those principles.

There is, these days, nothing to stop you changing, or keeping, or double-barrelling your name – which is now the exact position men have always been in. Just because they chose not to change their names historically does not mean you have to make the same choice now. You have the option. Which is great.

If you want to change your name, you are no less feminist for doing so. In fact, if you don’t, you’re pretty much cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Similarly, if you don’t want to change your name, you are not a freak, a pariah, someone who shouldn’t be getting married at all… it is just as valid, just as legitimate…

So what did I do?

You probably already know by now that I double barrelled, and I made this change legally before getting married (we’re not getting married for a year or so yet either, no official date set… #superchilled) in large part because, practically speaking, it made sense for me to start my new law career under the name I intended to change to.

Ultimately, the Boy would also have double barrelled, ideally, for symmetry and whatnot (he was totally up for this), but given that he was already working under his name and known by it, we decided practicality trumped symbolism and all that jazz, and he continues with his name.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how something that’s a symbolic act means so much and yet so little at the same time…

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to the world, but it matters to you. It doesn’t have to mean anything, so you can toss a coin if you really want, but it equally can mean quite a lot, particularly if you like the idea of shedding or gaining parts of an identity, or if you’re particularly romantic about the whole thing… whatever. The gist of this post is:

Feminism. Not. A. Stick. So stop beating yourself up with/about it…

PS. F*ck the patriarchy…

B xoxo

If you’re thinking of changing your name and need reassurance that it is still feminist, as some people do, try this article for size… it’s not Pulitzer prize winning journalism or particularly well written but I like the gist of it ❤

blonde hair blur daylight environment
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com
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