My Last Name and Your Abortion are Connected

7 Oct

recently wrote about the notion in feminist circles that a woman who takes her husband’s last name is submitting to the patriarchy. I’ve received some criticisms that I didn’t necessarily expect. A few comments have said that by writing on this issue, I’m “fussing” with something unimportant. First off, my blog deals with feminism in general and the name thing is certainly apart of that. Second, I think they are totally wrong. Things like abortion, domestic violence, and victim blaming may be the big topics in feminism, but it isn’t always the best plan of attack to tackle such issues head on.

There was an episode of How I Met Your Mother where the characters began pointing out annoying habits each other had. When it was pointed out that the character Lily was a loud chewer, it was all you ever noticed. Often times we see things in our society and because they seem normal (i.e. they’ve always been that way), and we never challenge them. Once people are given the tools to understand why something is wrong, they begin to open their eyes. As a result, opening people’s eyes to the problem with the assumption that a woman takes her husband’s name opens their eyes to so much more. Abortion is a volatile subject and most people have very strong opinions. As we know, many people are anti-choice because their parents are and that was how they were raised; they never question why it might be wrong to force a woman through an unwanted pregnancy. For some of them, experiencing their own unwanted pregnancy opens their eyes. For others, by talking about ‘small’ things like surnames, the patriarchy is challenged on an issue that isn’t divisive. Challenging the assumption in North American society that women take their husband’s last name confronts the patriarchy and if people begin noticing all the areas that are ruled by the patriarchy, we can loosen its grasp on society.

When somebody tells me I am “fussing” with topics like surnames, I get a little irritated. The issue of surnames may, in the grand scheme, be unimportant, but it can create a domino effect. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the patriarchy isn’t going to fall in a day. Just like the game Jenga, we have to pull the bricks out one by one. We need to challenge victim blaming, street harassment, definitions of masculinity and femininity, and assumptions surrounding traditional gender roles. The fact that women still receive flak for keeping their maiden name tells me that this is in fact a problem worth tackling. When abortion is easily accessible for all women I would bet the farm that women will no longer face criticism for keeping their maiden name. Maybe when society stops assuming a woman will take her husband’s name, society will stop assuming all women view pregnancy as a blessing and that all women want to be pregnant. These topics are intertwined. Feminism is not just ‘one’ thing and we will not be able to solve just ‘one’ thing. Someday, soon I hope, the entire structure the patriarchy will collapse. So I am going to pull out the surname brick from the support beams and hope that that one brick will be enough to trigger its collapse. If it isn’t, I’ll pull another brick, and another, and another, because my surname is connected to your abortion.


6 Responses to “My Last Name and Your Abortion are Connected”

  1. Amanda October 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Every little step we take is a step in the right direction. People don’t seem to realize how heavy the hand of patriarchy is in this country/culture. My mom changed my last name to her maiden name after divorcing my father, and people are always confused (and often think I was born out of wedlock) when they realize what my last name is. It irks me to no end, and I’ve had many a debate with former boyfriends over why I don’t feel my last name should change again (after all, I went through a hyphenated period before the final name change. So, in the end, i’m glad you “fuss” over these “trivial” things, because handfuls of small things quickly become a big, messy pile.

  2. Serena October 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Great point – this is why intro to Women’s Studies classes can be so eye-opening for people. A lot of students start to notice that, yes, girls did all the chores in their family, while the boys just had to take out the trash. Or they notice that they do their boyfriend’s laundry. Questioning patriarchy in our daily interactions with people is VERY important. I didn’t wake up and realize that I was a feminist all in one fell swoop. There were little pieces of the puzzle that started fitting together before I embraced the feminist moniker.

  3. Steph L. October 7, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    I’ve been a feminist all my life – when I was in elementary school I remember disliking how the school guard would open the car door for me, I would actually race him to the car to get there first. As a kid I realized the practice of “giving away” women at marriage was stupid and implied property.

    But I do plan on taking my husband’s name when I do marry. It is for reasons all my own, one reason among others being that I feel little connection with either side of my family. I’ve also considered taking on an old family name.

    Keeping or changing a last name should be up to the individual. Period. I don’t care if someone keeps it the same or changes it or both the wife and husband take on each other’s last names. Please give me the same courtesy.

    I guess the challenging part is naming the kids – A friend of mine’s parents seem to have this figured out. When they married, they actually combined both of their last names into a new one for their kids. I think thats pretty cool.

  4. Not Guilty October 8, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    Ya don’t even get me started on the marriage stuff. I remember thinking about being ‘given away’ when I was a kid and very indignantly decided *I* was independent and nobody was going to give *ME* away.

    I half want I keep my last name so I can give the finger to societal expectations but making my boyfriend happy is more important. Just gotta keep telling myself that… LOL

    For convenience purposes, my boyfriend has done my laundry, and cleaned the bathroom while I did the dishes. So far we seem to have a pretty equitable relationship. That being said, we fully intend to paying somebody to clean because we both hate it. I am certain not all men are okay with spending money to clean when they have a girlfriend/wife right there to do it…

  5. Spring October 9, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    I have kept my last name through two marriages and I believe women keeping their last names is a step in the right direction. I am the only married woman in my rural area that I know of who has kept it although some have gone the route of hyphenation.


  1. Tweets that mention My Last Name and Your Abortion are Connected | Abortion Gang -- - October 7, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Not Guilty, The Abortion Gang. The Abortion Gang said: new post: My Last Name and Your Abortion are Connected #prochoice […]

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