The name game

Hat tip to Felicity for sending this one through for my attention.

Seems Michele Hanson at The Guardian in the UK has got a bee in her bonnet about someone else’s life.  OK, ok, so that’s what journalists do, but this one doesn’t sit easy with me.

Under the auspices of standing up for feminist values, Hanson has called out the Sun’s editor (and soon to be chief exec of News International, apparently) Rebekah Wade on her decision to take her second husband’s name after her recent marriage.  Wade (sorry, Brooks now) is, in Hanson’s view, disrespecting the achievements of feminist and suffrogettes.

“she’ll be letting down all those thousands of women, from 1850s Massachusetts suffragette Lucy Stone onwards, who have fought for women to retain their own names and independence. But there’s clearly no arguing with her. She will be Mrs Brooks.”

I would like to say; indeed she shall, Ms Hanson.  Because that is her choice.

It intrigues me that while critisicing Brooks for being, essentially, anti-feminist, Hanson also levels abuse at her for her lifestyle which is nothing if not an extreme demonstration of a woman succeeding and seemingly having an absolute ball in a man’s world.

“one has to contemplate her lifestyle, because it is relevant. It’s so full of grandeur: flying backwards and forwards across Europe for lunch, chumming up with prime ministers, trying to have news of her promotion delayed until after the general election because it’s so momentous (the promotion, not the general election). She’s the last sort of woman you’d expect to opt to take the back seat, yet here she is, giving up her own name like an ordinary little wife.”

I reckon you don’t have to like all women and their choices to be a feminist.  But I do believe you have to fight for their rights to make those choices.  And please ladies – stop putting each other down!

If keeping your name matters to you then keep it.  If you want to change it, change it. In this modern era of pre-nups, law changes to give married women status and the like, changing your name no longer signifies handing over your independence in the way it once did.

There are many reasons a woman may want to take her husband’s name (and indeed vice versa – I read this article on the BBC a couple of years ago which shows it does sometimes work the other way too!)  I love my surname and, like Hanson, am the last one of my line – what with both my sisters being married off, having changed their name, then produced more girls anyway!  But I want my children to have the same name as both their parents and double barrelling isn’t really an option with my name.

The issue is not whether a woman takes her husband’s name, but whether she has the choice not to.  Brooks had that choice (and indeed exercised it in her first marriage to Ross Kemp when she resolutely stayed Wade for seven years).  Please can we let her have that choice again, and not insist that her life is decided for her by a public jury of feminists?

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4 responses to “The name game

  1. Couldnt agree more. Surely the best thing is to have choice?

    By being draconian about hwo someone should behave isn’t progress in my eyes. Thats changing like for like.

    Its a name people, people get so het up about a name-change, it hilarious.

    • I think you are right Mal, its almost amusing that commentators like this don’t see the irony in their words.

  2. I tend to agree, it is a choice nowdays, not a smack in the face of feminism. Its not even performed as an official process in Australia through the registry any longer. If your identity is determined by your surname, you don’t stand for much in the first place. Making the choice to take on your husbands name has little to do with a woman’s independence.

  3. I too agree that it is a choice, and so it should be. There is a problem when it comes to naming your childrn though. Where I stand in the workplace I am seeing the fallout of naming choices. In my school (an independent school, so a large number of our mums are professionals with careers and businesses) there are families who take dad’s name, very conventional; families where the parents are Mr & Mrs when they come as a team about their child, but named individually in their public lives; two adult surnames, with the child double barrelled and so on. We have no families who have chosen to take mum’s surname, even when dad is stay-at-home and mum a high-powered executive, which is interesting.
    My problem is that I no longer know how to address the parents! ‘Ben’s mum’ is rather rude, she is a person with her own name. Ms anything is hard to say, it probably was designed to be written. Do I make a value-judgement if she doesn’t wear a ring and I call her ‘miss’?
    As I am very much older than all the parents, and they want a place at the school, I tell them from the outset that iIwill remember all the children’s names, but I hope they don’t mind if I call all mums ‘Mrs plus the child’s name’. I couldn’t give a damn what their marital status is, but I do care about their children. I think I get away with the universal ‘Mrs Child’ because I am too old to argue with, but it’s tough for my younger teachermates, these mums get very touchy!
    Interestingly, if I call a male doctor father ‘Mr’ by mistake, they let it go, but if I inadvertantly call a mother docter ‘Mrs’ I nearly get my head bitten off! What does that tell us?

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