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.

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