"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And while we're on the topic of marriage:

We got our first card in the mail today from a relative who can't make it to our wedding next Saturday, and it was of course addressed to:

Mr. and Mrs. Daniel [Daniel's Last Name]

I had been preparing myself for that, but it still bothered me. It bothers me that people assume I'm taking his last name. That they assume I want to be called "Mrs.", and that they just assume I'm okay with having my first name erased entirely. I would be a little irked either way, but it somehow feels much worse that this particular card was from my own aunt and uncle. They live out of state and have never met my fiance, and I imagine they never even knew his name until they saw it on our wedding invitation, and yet they still presume to let the name of this person they have never met completely erase the name of the niece they have known since birth.

I get that this is "tradition", but I see it as glaring evidence that our society's attitudes about women are still. fucked. up.

Since it is obvious that it will be my fate as a married woman to spend the rest of my life explaining to others what I prefer to be called and why, here are the choices I have made. I will be taking my husband's last name. I have never liked my last name much, and I like his, plus my last name is every bit as tied up in patriarchal traditions as his is, so I see very little difference between the two. I would opt for hyphenation if that sounded even remotely okay, but it just doesn't really work well with our names. I always have and always will prefer "Ms." to "Mrs." I see no reason for my title to change on the basis of my marital status, and I therefore will not answer to "Mrs." And I can't even begin to describe how much I hate -- HATE -- when women are referred to as "Mrs. [Husband's First Name][Husband's Last Name]". My mom was uncomfortable with the fact that I refused to address our wedding invitations in that way, but I totally couldn't even bring myself to do it. And if you want to know how deeply ingrained patriarchy is in our society, just try addressing something with a wife's name before a husband's and see how people react. SO ridiculous.

I really am bracing myself to encounter this over and over throughout my married life. And I'm not happy about it.


Lynne said...

Amen to that. I completely agree with you about how messed up it is when a married women is called Mrs. [husband's full name]. Why do women have to inherently lose their individually and identity after marriage?

I'm currently single, but I've been in a couple serious relationships where marriage was brought up. One was against me keeping my last name. He felt I wasn't as serious about the prospect of marriage if I kept my last name (utterly ridiculous). The other boyfriend was confused at first (he grew up in a VERY conservative family), listened to my views, and afterwards understood and didn't question it.
Lots of women have chosen to keep their last names, for personal and/or professional reasons. My calculus teacher at college kept her original name. (And she has some stories about situations that have come up, ones that would never occur for a man)

Another point you make that I like, is about how "Ms." applies to all women, single and married. Few people that I talked with understand this. They often think Ms. = single, which is untrue.

Sorry about the long comment, but I get little overzealous about these sort of topics!

Tracey said...

Thanks for commenting, Lynne. Yeah, I didn't even mention Dan's preference or reaction to the whole name thing. It means a lot to me that he let me know that if I had chosen to keep my last name, he would have supported it. We both acknowledged that our families would probably think it was weird if I did, but in then end that wasn't the deciding factor.

I got into the last name conversation with some pretty conservative co-workers once, and they let me know that they would be totally pissed if their brides-to-be refused to change their last names. I thought it was especially interesting when one of them explained that he grew up with the fantasy of marrying the perfect girl and starting a family that all shared his last name, and it would be really hard for him to deal with not getting that.

Like you said, it was as if a woman who doesn't want to change her name is somehow less in love with her husband, or that she won't be as loyal or faithful. And don't even get me started on the whole "carry on the family name" bullshit.

Lynne said...

Oh, yes, I didn't even think of the "carry on the family name" deal. Well, that would actually strength my case, since I'm an only child of only children. If I don't keep my last name, the family name dies with me... not that that would be a deciding factor for me, but I know of lots of men who would stress this point til their lungs gave out.

Anonymous said...

I thought you might appreciate this, since it pretty much echoes your sentiments.

Anonymous said...

It is a tradition that seems without base at this point in our society. However, this relic is in good company. When are we going to get rid of the engagement ring in our society?!? It's a tradition that implies ownership and inferiority. It needs to end.

Bodies in Motion Massage said...

I took my husband's last name during my first marriage and went through the identity crisis of learning to recognize my name when it was called or written down. Then I divorced. No sense keeping the name and not the husband. I took back my maiden name. When I married again, I told my fiance' that I had changed my name twice and I wasn't doing it again and he was and is cool with that. Afterall, he says, its no skin off his nose what I want people to call me.

trish said...

Love your blog, BTW.

Have you considered changing both your last names to a totally new name? That was the solution that my husband and I came up with. We spent quite a few months choosing a new last name together. Then we just had both our names changed by court order. Yes, it took some effort, but both of us are very happy with our new names, going on 7 years now.

Tracey said...

trish: I love hearing about couples who take that option, because I think it's so lovely. We did discuss it, but we liked both liked his last name better than any combination we could come up with, and we just went for the most pleasing-sounding option.

Coming up with new names strikes me as the least problematic choice, since even my "maiden" name only represents my father's side of the family and erases my mother's. No name from my family history could possibly be free from patriarchy.

CJ said...

I've been married for almost 21 years and it still pisses me off to be called Mrs. Eric [last name]!

When my sister-in-law got married a couple years after I married her brother, she looked at me and said, "I'm taking Chris' last name. You know, we're Catholic and we don't plan on getting divorced."

I said, "That's interesting. Does anyone get married and plan on getting divorced? Even non-Catholics?"

Congrats on the upcoming wedding!