The Name Game

When feminism came on the scene in the Nineteen Sixties (I am intentionally not referring to the suffragette movement of the preceding century) women began to question their role in marriage, society, work situations etc. A society can only benefit from people questioning certain aspects of it. Nothing is written in stone, after all, in the non-Muslim world, that is.

I have often said that you cannot have a half-revolution. By its very nature a revolution, passionate as it has to be, means an about turn, and usually these events go from one extreme to the other and then sort themselves out after a while.

I am not disputing the benefits that women have gained because of the feminist revolution. These were propitious ideas whose time had definitely come.

One of the results of feminism is that women no longer wanted to be identified by their husband’s surname. Nobody was going to tell them what to do any more and they didn’t want a man’s surname. So they kept their maiden name.

The irony of all this is has been discussed on blog sites following the publication of Rita Panahi’s article in The Daily Telegraph.

Rita Panahi asks why the wives of Labor politicians keep their maiden name and, as a matter of fact, we now have a First Lady, the sartorially deficient, Therese Rein, who will not be known as Mrs Rudd.

As Ms Panahi says the feminists are quite happy to keep their father’s name but not their husband’s. Well, so be it, but I hardly see how they are collecting brownie points for female rights by being named after one man rather than another.

I frankly don’t care what name they take. They can call themselves whatever they like since I wonder if marriage is not outmoded. There seems to be no point in it since couples live together as man and wife and even have children together in a perfectly legal arrangement nowadays.

And as for today’s women reverting to white weddings once again, please give me a break. Are these women really trying to pretend that they are virgins?

I’ve been to weddings where the flower girl is the couple’s daughter. I’ve even been to a wedding during which the bride was obviously expecting. In fact, when she ordered her dress she actually announced that she wants an outfit “with room to grow.”

Wouldn’t it be better to stop the pretence and just agree to live together for as long as it lasts?

Now for the question of whose name children should adopt. Should it be the father’s? the mother’s?, a hyphenated concoction, or any other name they invent?

In my opinion, there is a problem with naming the child after the father. There are many fathers who are supporting or believe that the child named after them is their progeny. We all know that is often a delusion, for the only true parent who can claim parentage is the mother. As I always say to a man who claims paternity without real proof, “yes, you were there at the delivery, but were you there at the conception?”

So it’s more logical to name the child after its proven parent, the mother. Since the advent of DNA testing the problem of identifying fatherhood can be overcome by a simple test at birth. If the mother agrees to the test and the child passes it, then the child can be named after the “partner” who fathered it. If not, then the child should take the name of the mother.

This would also simplify matters when it came to questions of inheritance.

In my opinion, it would be more ethical and so much kinder to men who have been conned over the ages. Think of those poor fellows who once separated from their partners are still paying child support for an offspring who is not their’s.

It is for this reason, that in Judaism, for example, a person is regarded as being Jewish if his mother is Jewish. The traditionally euphemistic explanation is that the mother has a greater influence on the child’s upbringing. Sounds good, but unconvincing. Let’s face it, only a Jewish mother can vouch for her child’s Jewish heritage.

To sum things up then, first of all, I don’t understand why young people get married nowadays when the institution of marriage has changed so much. If they choose to get married, however, then they can call themselves whatever they like, as long as they don’t pretend that they are taking a stand on feminist rights.

And finally, and this is my most serious point, the child should take the surname of the mother because one never knows who the real father is. That problem can be overcome, though, with a paternity test at birth. This is a dare and I wonder how many women would accept my challenge.

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5 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. Lili I tend to agree with you and with Rita Panahi. I really don’t see how women think they are making a feminist statement by keeping their maiden name when that name also comes from a man. I think if you are going to bother to get married than change your name otherwise dispense with the traditional side of things and just live together. I’m in a happy loving long term relationship with no intention of getting married so the name issue is not one that concerns me. However if we ever have kids and that is a big if, then it might be an issue as I would like my child and I to share the same name.

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  2. Agree with you and Rita Panahi 100%. Some women need to be smarter about picking their battles. Picking one man’s name over another is not a feminist statement I want to be making, if I ever get married that is.

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  3. I think Emma and Christine are missing Lili’s point. If kids were named after the mother, then daughters (and sons!) who keep their own name after marriage are keeping a woman’s name.

    But, anyway, the statement that women who keep their own names are making isn’t that it’s wrong to take a man’s name. Rather, it’s that it’s best to keep your own name. Men certainly think that’s best. Why don’t 80% of women?

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