Monday, August 02, 2010

What's in a [last] name? NOT THAT MUCH. So get over it.

There's been lots of hullabaloo lately about "feminists" getting married, and changing their last name to the Evil Evil Man's last name, and how this MUST MEAN that these feminists are NOT feminists -- THEY ARE IMPOSTORS!!! They are SARAH PALIN!!! RABID PANIC!!!!

Seriously, people?  THIS is what we need to fight about? A freakin' last name?

Feminism's treatment of non-cis, not-heterosexual, non-white women is not stellar. That's a big strike against it. Some feminists are working to correct that, learning to check their privilege and actively work to help those that need it most.

But then... other "feminists"... pull this crap : Can I be an Appendage to a Man But Still Call Myself a Feminist? 

Really? Just because a woman decides to get married, she can't be a feminist? Just because she decides to change her last name, she's not a feminist? Just because she does the dishes while her partner is working 12-14 hour shifts at work, she's not a feminist?

If that's what "the cool feminists" do, then no thanks, dude.

Maybe I'm the one who's all backwards. I mean, here I thought "feminism" was about women breaking free of the roles imposed on them by outside parties (otherwise known as the kyriarchy), and pursuing their own happiness, their own dreams and ambitions, instead of someone else's.

Apparently, "feminism" is being part of the FemBorg. It's all about teh manhatingz. And if you break the rules, even just a little bit... YOU'RE SARAH PALIN!!!!

Now, since social equality is all about doing the dishes, does that mean I'm the patriarchy? Because Freddy's the one who does the dishes at home (his and mine). And the laundry (his and mine). And the cooking -- his and mine, even though I'm the vegetarian who requires special meals.

Is there a Feminist Handbook where I can look this stuff up? The rules are starting to get confusing.

I make Freddy do all the household chores (because I'm a lazy bum, and I spend all my time blogging and tweeting). But... I like pink. And I wear dresses. And I shave my legs (er... most of the time). And my armpits (slightly more often than my legs). 

Can I still be a feminist if I wore a pink dress at our wedding?

Can I still be a feminist if I got married?

Now, if you're going to tell me that I'm a bad feminist for getting married when same-sex couples and couples where one or both partners is trans can't, then I'm going to agree with you. Getting married was a selfish move on my part, very self-centered. If you want to take away my feminist card for that, then I'll agree with you, and hand it over.

But if you're going to tell me I'm a bad feminist because I got married in a dress and had a party, I'm going to laugh in your face.

And the name thing? Are you bleepin' serious?

My last name was "Cox." Have you ever taught high school with the last name "Cox"?

You should try it. It's fun.

You don't even have to teach high school -- an ex-boyfriend's friends thought it was HILARIOUS to ask me, "What's your middle name, Sucks?"

Freddy's last name is WAY COOLER than "Cox." First of all, there are a bazillion Coxes around. (And I'm not related to any of them.) Freddy's last name? Totally unique. And pretty.

When I get an email address assigned at work, I don't have to have numbers or anything weird after my username -- it can just be "firstinitiallastname" because THERE ARE NOT SEVENTEEN BILLION OTHER PEOPLE WITH THE SAME LAST NAME IN THE DISTRICT.

That's pretty nifty, I think.

Had I had Freddy's last name when I graduated college, I bet the university would have sent me MY diploma in the mail, instead of Renee Marie Cox's diploma. (There were 5 of us with the same last name in the College of Liberal Arts that semester, if I recall correctly.)

You know what else has ALWAYS bugged me? That my last name (Cox) was shorter than my first name (Cristina). I HATED that as a kid. I wished I could have gone by my mom's last name, Donovan, because THAT one was a decent length.

Freddy's last name? LONGER THAN THREE LETTERS.

So I changed my last name when I got married.


I am "an appendage."

Meh. Good to know.

Come on, people... Don't we have bigger fish to fry than last names? 

Women are bullied into unwanted and unnecessary C-sections daily, and our maternal mortality rate has risen thanks to this. Doesn't WOMEN DYING rank a bit higher than their chosen last name? 

Or what about the women who will die because of lack of access to a safe abortion

Or what about the legalized discrimination against trans women? Denying protection to our most vulnerable sisters, which will inevitably result in (even more of) their deaths.... but that's NOT NEARLY AS IMPORTANT as your last name!!!

Dunno... seems like there are better things on which to spend "feminist" blog space than petty name-calling. No?


  1. I get annoyed by this, too-- the closed-mindedness of it, the judgment. I figure helping out when your partner/spouse is super busy is part of being a good spouse/partner. I suppose there would be a problem if that woman's fiance refused to help her in the same way if it were she who were working so much, but we don't know if that's the case.

    The taking of a name is a very complex issue, especially if you plan to have kids since the kids will have to take *somebody's* name and one or the other parent will get left out if you don't both share a last name. It doesn't have to be the woman who takes the name, but if her doing so means she's "erased her identity" then doesn't the man do the same if he takes hers? Some people have started hyphenating or combining their names, but not all names lend themselves to that.

    Feminism is a very big, wide-spread movement... which means many, many people fall under the label. And anytime that happens, you'll end up with extremists who can give the entire group a bad name. Take the Tea Partiers, who have turned the Republican party into a joke. Out here I also see extreme liberals who advocate for all sorts of crazy stuff.

    The nice thing is, only you get to decide what labels to put on yourself, and you get to decide how to embody those. You can't always change how others will think of them, but you can stand up and say, "Hey, I'm a feminist, and I believe in this and that" and lead by example. I can say I'm still a feminist even though I took my husband's name and stay at home with our kid(s)-- because I still support and advocate for equality and women having the freedom to make their own choices. If other feminists disagree with me on that, well so be it. You can't ever make everyone happy anyway.

  2. To me, it seems that feminism ought to be about protecting women and ensuring they have the freedom to make their own choices. If a woman CHOOSES to take a husband (and/or his last name), shouldn't we celebrate that she has the freedom to make that choice and work to see that these types of freedoms are afforded to all members of society? Once you start telling a woman (or anyone, really) that a certain convention MUST be followed, aren't you taking away a person's freedom of choice?

    And honestly, if/when I get married and we start talking chores... I really won't mind doing the dishes. Out of all the household chores, it's one that bothers me least of all; it's WAY better than scrubbing a toilet or changing the kitty litter! (Truth be told, I kind of enjoy it in a sick, OCD way. There are worse things in the world than playing with a sink full of warm, bubbly, soapy water--it's really rather relaxing.) So again, I guess as long as it's a person's choice and not something unwillingly thrust upon them... what's the big flippin' deal whose last name they choose?

    Soooooo, yeah. I agree with you. Iz 'cuz you'z smart. :-)

  3. Karen Kaiser7:17 PM

    How much thought do women TRULY give to concept of name in the first place? (Slightly more than men, I would suppose.) Most women have their father's last name to begin with. Most take their husband's last name because that's what we do. And why are last names so important? They show to whom someone BELONGS. They are for inheritance purposes. It's the way things are now, and life as we know it cannot function without them, but ultimately, they are a sign and a device of patriarchy.

    But I think the major complaint is that most women take their husband's name without thinking about it, because it's expected of us, much like shaving. And every justification in the world is just that: a justification for a system that is by design stacked against us.

    I took, and kept, my now ex-husband's last name because it's half as long as my father's last name (which is three times as long as my mother's maiden name. Enjoy the math problem!) That's my sole justification. But I know I don't really have much of a choice, unless I want to pay money to take on a completely new name. Perhaps what people should be trying to be figuring out is this: how to change the system of naming to not be about ownership and inheritance through the male line.

  4. Anonymous8:10 PM

    I'm with Jennifer. So many people - and God knows, not just feminists - spend lots and lots of time worrying about form when it's substance that really matters. Just do whatever the hell you want! If you're a woman, minority, GLTB, whatev, just do it!

    People, myself included, basically don't care. Make your own choices, don't let anyone tell you differently.

    Oh, and as for Freddy's last name, I think "Gaymalesex" is absolutely lovely.

  5. Hi Criss!

    Yes, much of feminism these days seems to be about trivial issues like this. There are a lot of rules and, as I've found from posting on some feminism blogs, even politely and reasonably disagreeing with them likely means they will demonize you. This isn't all feminists, though.

    The issues you raised are important ones and they are being discussed in some circles. If you want intelligent, meaningful feminism, I suggest you read Bitch magazine. Their website has a lot of stuff:


  6. I convinced my (now) ex-wife to keep her "maiden name" and when our son was born he had her last name as a conscious choice we made. There are plenty of people carrying my family name. My son is the last one carrying his last name beyond my ex-wife.

    I'm all for choice - and don't in any way condemn your choices.

    I also think it important to recognize that it is easy for all of us to fall back into old or "bad" habits and/or to not really go deep into the issues that divide us by gender as well as simply by being separate people in relationship.

    IF - in the future the two of you choose to have children, things Can (though they don't necessarily) get far more complex - in terms of expectations and similar.

    A simple example of common gender differences (which I found true in my first marriage) is how women and men are different when separated from their baby child (you may be different of course). For me, as a man, I didn't think of my Baby (he's now 23) when I was at work. It would have been painful and tough to think of him while I tried to focus upon my job (which was only 24 hours/week). Women commonly think of their babies while working and worry and otherwise think clearly of missing their baby and similar while at work.

    I'd try to understand some of the condemning that Clarissa and others may do, while not feeling you have to be as she/they feel is necessary. I'd try to be conscious of how easy it is to be "equal" in general, while when the pressures escalate or the chips are down, we readily fall back in our gender roles.

    You're fine - relax!

  7. So, you're a bad feminist if you take your husband's last name, but a good feminist if you keep your father's last name?


    Would love to read the "feminist" blog that prompted your response!

  8. "Once you start telling a woman (or anyone, really) that a certain convention MUST be followed, aren't you taking away a person's freedom of choice?"


    Though I suppose there is something to be said about making the decision out of a conscious, well-thought-out discussion, vs doing it just b/c "it's what you do." I could see objecting to the latter-- but not the former (that's my issue with things like birth and circumcision, etc-- do it b/c you have made a conscious decision to go a certain route, not just b/c it's what's expected).

  9. Criss: I had a teacher whose last name was Cox, so I can understand all the 'little jokes' that can be used against someone with a really 'outthere' surname.

    That's an interesting way to look at it, Kelly. I never really put it together that that was what the others were saying until you clarified. So, thanks. That's absoLUtely true!

    And, thank you, Marcy and Karen. I couldn't have said this better. I can understand how someone can object to taking on someone's last name as a matter of tradition but as a matter of choice (even within the limited context that one currently has), I really don't see what the problem is.

    Here is a link to an article based on this very subject.

  10. Kelly -- There's a link to the post I'm responding to in my post (though I think my color scheme makes it hard to see the links... argh. I'll add text to clarify).

    I think we're still in that stage where we're too close to the past, where A was the default option, that some people feel that NOT taking option B is a threat to "the movement" or is "disrespectful" to the women who fought for option B to be an option in the first place (but they don't realize that forcing all women to take option B is just as oppressive and wrong as forcing all women to take option A was). A big part of that is the fact that so many women still take option A by default, without thinking about it, and that so many men still think women MUST take option A because they said so.

    Don't know how long it will take for us to get to a point where taking option A is as radical, or as common, as taking option B (or C, or D, or Q...) But at the moment, no matter what a woman chooses, she's going to be "marked."

    "You took your husband's last name? Why were you so willing to give up your identity like that?"

    "Oh, you kept your maiden name? So you're one of those radical feminists, huh? Do you shave your legs?"

    "Oh... you're hyphenating? What about the children? Won't they be confused? What if your child with a hyphenated name marries another person with a hyphenated name? WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO THEN??"

    No matter which option we choose, we're going to p!ss off some group. So, I guess I just need to blow these angry people off... :P

    (Geo -- my husband is the last of his family with his family name, so that did also play a part in my decision to change my name. However, if the child I am currently growing had been a girl instead of a boy, I fully planned to encourage her, if she decided to get married [to a man], to have her husband change his name to hers, to keep the family name going. If nothing else, because it is a cool last name. :P )

  11. People in the know recognize that feminism is about empowering women in whatever role they decide to have in life. But throughout the decades there have been people against women gaining equality, and these people have created a quasi-definition for feminism. Unfortunately, some would-be-feminists and self-claimed feminists have begun to believe this quasi-definition instead of the real definition.

    Feminism isn't about man-hating, refusing to do the dishes, refusing to shave, and having a high paying job. Feminism is about women doing what they want to do, whether that be having a big wedding or never getting married; having 15 kids or being childfree; being a stay-at-home spouse or being a CEO. Whatever the woman chooses, we should help her do it.

    In terms of names, then, this applies as well. If she wants to switch names, go ahead. If she wants to hyphen, go ahead. If she wants to keep the name she has, go ahead!

    Oh, and the name I have right now? It's not my father's name. It's MY name, thank you very much.

  12. LOVE your blog. thanks for your comments yesterday - you are so funny and you made me laugh. i can't wait to read some of your older posts, too. i'll be back often. come visit me, too. so happy we've connected! xoxo

  13. Criss - thank you. Found the link and... attempted to have a dialog. Sigh. I see you've read how it has turned out.
    Honestly, I was interested in her point of view... and really did have me thinking for the last day about feminism, my own choices in name changing, my own biases. I posted what I thought were reasonable responses & questions and --- slam. Thank you for your response. Here, and there.

  14. Kelly: I had been avoiding catching up on the comments... at this point, I just find it amusing. Anyone who thinks differently is a troll, period. And she doesn't respond to any arguments, she just calls names...

    Being called "unfeminist" by someone like that is actually a compliment :P

  15. Anonymous12:43 PM

    I also *gasp* changed my last name when I got *gasp* married. The funny thing is, my husband and I got into a huge argument (probably the biggest one we'd had in our relationship at that point) because he DIDN'T want me to change my name to his. He just thought it was weird that I would change my name.

    Basically my only reason for changing my last name was that I wanted to have the same last name as my children. We talked about giving our kids different last names (we have 4 kids so it would have been 2 his, 2 mine), hyphenating or giving them all my last name. In the end I changed my name. I don't think it's that big a deal, quite frankly.

    It is absolutely preposterous that someone would make a judgement about me based on me changing my name alone.