Thursday, 24 July 2014

Insert your name here

Why do women give their children the father's name?

I have two nephews and they both have our family name. My brother and sister-in-law are getting married next year. She's my sister-in-law anyway. I'm not bothered about bits of paper in that way. But why do my nephews have my brother's name?

I realise this is probably not a popular opinion, but you know the men just shoot sperm, right? Women carry the baby, make it part of their body, put up with the endless lectures about how their body belongs to someone else now, get treated like shit in the labour ward. Then the baby gets a man's name? WHY?

I once worked with a Pakistani woman, I'll call her Asha. She was heavily pregnant, and married. The trainer said Asha didn't have the right paperwork, and Asha asked her why not. Because your surnames don't match. Asha explained that Arabic women don't take their husband's name on marriage. "Oh," says the trainer "So you married a man with the same surname as you and that's why you didn't have to change it?" I mean, really. And people say Arabic cultures are backwards and women-hating.

The Spanish and Portuguese Latin Americans, and Caribbean naming systems give children the mother's name. Because mothers, and women, are important. They don't hand all credit to the sperm-shooter.

My name is my identity. It's my place in the world. It's who I am. Why would I give that up to someone else? Just because he's a man. Just because he married me. Why do women change their name? Go from your father's property to your husband's? I can sort of understand it if you're having children because it's less confusing if everyone has the same name, but why can't he take your name?

Stewart is my great-great-great grandmother's name, and she got it from a man, but she passed it down as hers, until my great-great grandfather changed it. Her son had her name, until he didn't anymore, and now I have it.

I get the feminist backlash thing - oooh, they say I can't change my name and I'm going to prove I'm really feminist by doing it! I accept that the Western naming conventions are going to stick you with a man's name, but you can stop that. There is no feminist gain in swapping one man's name for another. And there is no feminist gain in double-barrelled either. There is one name. Yours. Start now.

I will never have children, but if I did my name is worth more than a man refusing to marry me. A man who will not marry you is not worthy of your child's name. I cannot even begin to explain how much the name Stewart means to me. It's not my legal name, but it is my real name, and that's why I write with it. If a man wants your child to have his name the very least he can do is marry you, although that would make no difference to me. They would still be Stewart. If he can't or won't accept that, if it's so desperately important to him that his sperm gets to call the surname, that child is still yours. Your body, your strength, your sacrifice. And he can fuck off.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Phoned in

My good friend Lisa has prompted this post. She used to work on a sex line. Everything I say below is entirely my interpretation - I neither claim nor want to speak for Lisa, and nothing I say from here on in is a representation of her views, or a view of the work she did.

This is probably a bit outdated too, because who phones a sex line these days? But the issue of wanting an immediate woman is an enduring one. From men who will wank on a bus or heavy-breathe down inappropriate avenues like directory enquiries, any woman with a voice and a body is fair game to some.

My least favourite newspaper is The Sun. I know you probably think it's The Daily Mail, but The Daily Mail is funny. You can clutch your pearls and swoon to every headline. The Sun is currently slut-shaming a young woman who gave blowjobs to 24 men in a drunken pursuit to win a "holiday". She was then presented with a £4 "holiday cocktail". Hahaha. How hilarious. We done you so good. You slag.

Apart from triple-strength antibiotics, if such a thing exists, nobody needs to tell that lassie anything. If she wants to give 24 blowjobs she can have at it as far as I'm concerned. If anything I'm more surprised that 24 grown men would allow their presumably average penises to be on display to that many people. And after they're drunk too. I'm impressed that her mouth was good enough to combat the brewer's droop. She's pretty much a heroine.

Catering to male sexuality is very, very easy. As they're always so keen to tell us, it's just boys being boys, isn't it? I refuse to believe most men are so basic and thick. If it was possible for men to display their penises in the same way that women can display their breasts this might be a whole different argument. At the same time, my personal sexual preferences beyond him being a man are between me and my sexual partner. I, and no doubt they, have many tales to tell, but theirs are not mine to share.

Male sexuality is not a weird and awful thing, in general. Are some men so awful to women because their sexuality scares them, or because women's sexuality scares them? Is wanting sex with something "weak" such a terrible thing? It is to some of them. They hate women but they want them, but their clumsy pick-up lines and jokes about basements and gaffer tape don't go down that well. Who knew?! And the "Lesbians just haven't had good sex with a man!" idea. Really? Are they going to have good sex with you? I can pretty much guarantee that they're not. I'm willing to bet good money that most men who take a keen interest in lesbian sex are those who couldn't satisfy a woman with a guidebook and a torch. It's all about taking their sexual opportunities, slight as they may be, and saying they're sold out. That's right, sexually inadequate men! Lesbians are, to you, sold out.

Phone your sex line. The woman on the end doesn't give a flying fuck about you. But don't delude yourself about your own sexuality, or your sexual needs. That's how you end up hurting people. Don't be ashamed of what you need or want. Just wonder about how you want to get it in real life without terrifying someone.

Sexuality is not bad. Application can take a bit of work.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Open for business

I try not to comment on American political matters, because they've frankly got nothing to do with me, but the SCOTUS ruling yesterday, essentially saying that corporations are not only people but have religious consciences, and the right to make others conform to that, is quite breath-takingly awful.

I did get a very amusing scene in my imagination of Obama headdesking his way round the Oval Office, but the people who support this probably hate him too.

I wonder if women who support the SCOTUS decision about Hobby Lobby would be fine working for a Muslim-owned company that insisted they wear a burqa, or a Jewish-run company that insisted they eat kosher, or a Sikh-run company that insisted they couldn't cut their hair. Of course the decision was only intended to give so-called Christian companies special privileges, but no one could possibly object to other faiths using it to implement their own ethical or religious beliefs on you.

Except all the people who support this law would scream bloody murder. "What about my rights?!" "I'm being persecuted for my Christianity!!!" "WAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

The 16 other forms of birth control still supported aren't really the point here. The point is that your employer - some faceless CEO you'll probably never meet, and if you did s/he'd probably run off for a fumigation afterwards to get the stench of underling off them - now gets to decide what you do with your life. What contraception you put in your body. What additional medical costs you'll bear for having the temerity to own a vagina.

The people who are fine with this are fine with this because they agree. There are unfortunately women out there who hate making decisions and taking responsibility for themselves, and love being patted on the head and guided round their own lives by faceless corporations. What if this corporation decided its female employees couldn't use contraception at all? You have to keep giving birth until your womb prolapses, and you're begging your employer to let the 11-year-old work a few hours a week off the books because you can't afford to feed all these children? Would you be fine with that? Maybe you would. But that doesn't mean everyone else has to be.

That's the danger of this ruling - where next? The bible has some pretty unpleasant things to say about women. It's fine for a Christian company to impose its beliefs on you but not a Muslim one? Believe me, if as a woman you want a decision- and autonomy-free life, our friends the Saudis have some extensive ideas about that.

You can't take other people's rights away because you personally don't need or want them. If you support that, then you can't complain when someone comes to take away yours. Except you will complain - loudly, bitterly and extensively. I hope it's nothing too important to you. The door's open now.