I’m doing a thing right now that I don’t usually do, but I’m so worked up about it that I can’t help myself. A piece by Catherine Deveny popped up in my Facebook feed today, posted by a woman I greatly admire, who agreed with the sentiment in the article.
The more I read it, the more I felt myself being belittled, attacked and marginalized, and the more I felt that the argument being put reduced my relationship with my husband to some patriarchal dominance game in which I was the unwitting slave to his Lord of the Manor.
Anyone who has ever met my husband will know that’s complete rubbish, and most of the people who know me will think the concept flat out hilarious.
You do know what Stockholm Syndrome is?
You do realise we won’t get anywhere nodding and smiling?
You do realise your internalised misogyny is showing?
This is the problem for me… I see no issue what-so-ever with taking my husbands name (or the reverse, or leaving it all the same quite frankly) and from my perspective that’s a perfectly legitimate position to have. I find it FAR more problematic to express my social, political or theological perspectives on a relationship between consenting adults. But there’s the rub… I’ve got Stockholm Syndrome and internalised misogyny. I have an unbalanced view of the world which leads all my conclusions to be skewed… in effect, we can’t talk about this. We can’t talk about this because you think I’m compromised, that I’m not capable of making my own decisions, forming my own opinions or saying what I actually mean.
I have no problem with people making choices they know are wrong. Just own it and stop defending it. I know I should be a vegetarian for environmental reasons. I’m not. I like meat. I know it’s wrong.
“Yep. I took his surname because of society’s expectation. Also he would be upset if I didn’t, and his family would give me hell. I like being liked. It makes me feel like he owns me and that makes me feel loved and secure. I know it’s sexist.”
Look up Stockholm Syndrome. Look up internalised misogyny. Look up cognitive dissonance. You’re welcome.
Choices they know are wrong.
The funny thing is, I don’t have to defend it, and I’m deciding right now to not allow someone to make me feel that I have to. My family understands our story, and there is nothing in it that I have to defend. We made mistakes, sure, we had our first daughter VERY early, and that could have gone VERY wrong (I don’t recommend having a baby after being with someone for 3 months, it’s not ‘wrong’ but it’s not recommended) and we stumbled through getting our lives and our relationship in order. That’s OK.
I don’t have to convince someone on the internet that my husband doesn’t feel like he owns me, nor do I feel owned. What I feel is included, not the same. When we were engaged, my husband had a pout one day because I had an engagement ring, something I could wear to show people proudly that I was in a serious relationship with someone to whom I had made a commitment and who had made a commitment to me. So, I went out with my best friend, and we found him a ring. Something that matched mine in design but would fit his big man-fingers, and then I asked him to marry me and wear my ring. Happiest guy ever.
Both my husband and I have parents for whom, marriage didn’t work out. For all of my husbands life, he lived with family who didn’t share his name. I don’t even know what my mother’s face looks like, she hasn’t looked at me since I was 18 months old, and she no longer uses the name I grew up with.
We’re the first generation of our families in a while who have pulled this stuff together. Maybe it’ll last forever? Maybe it wont, but we’ve promised ourselves and each other that no matter what, our girls are going to know a different life than we did. This is in no way meant to say our parents were bad, or that we had terrible childhoods, we didn’t, the man who raised me was a great dad, and the woman who raised my husband (with the help of his big sister) is a wonderful woman, but we missed things. I know for example that when I was in labor, I asked for my mother… a woman I don’t know, but in that moment I WANTED her, I wanted that connection with someone who would understand, and it wasn’t there.
That will never happen to my daughters.
My husband and I wear the trappings of our marriage proudly. We love all of the ways that we’re traditional (the rings, sharing one name, having a mortgage… OK that last one maybe less) and all of the ways that we’re not (he’s very home oriented while I’m the one with more ambitions outside the home, he has more shoes than I do, and I’ve been training in martial arts since I was 4 while he once got in a bit of a wrestling match… one time. He’s so zen *g*)
97% of the people who are going the ‘It’s her personal choice stop tearing Mrs. Clooney to shreds’ are in a marriage where the woman has changed her name. Sad, disturbing and typical how people’s subjective choices get in the way of the reality of understanding enabling systemic sexism. Or even understanding the issue. Which is not suprising. These people are the ones saying ‘it’s just easier’ ‘but I wanted to’ ‘but I hated my surname’ ‘my father was an arsehole’ ‘it’s just easier’ ‘why do you keep going about this’ ‘my husband would have been happy to change his name but I ended up doing it’ ‘because tradition’ ‘it’s just your fathers name anyway’. (No. it’s not. It’s your name. And using that logic you are not taking you husband’s name but your father-in-law’s name.)
This position has no room for someone like me. It wasn’t easier, paperwork blows chunks and I still haven’t done it all! I’m a split personality on paper, I keep finding Cassandra Jones in my wallet or on my tax return etc. Trust me, it’s easier to leave it the hell alone. My surname was fine, I have a family tree that goes back 1500 years and I’m intensely proud of it. My father is a wonderful man, and yes, Jones was MY name.
None of that negates the fact that I DID (and do) want to share one name with this family that I’ve created with my husband. My girls are part German and part Welsh, they know words from three languages and learn about the history of their people… their last name is quite German, so their first names are Welsh. We’ve used a million little threads to tie our lives together, to build into everything we do that we’re a family, that we’re in this together. No one owns me, and no one owns my daughters, but we are a part of something together.
The problem is none of that matters does it? It’s not really my choice at all, because I have internalised misogyny that I may not even be aware of and it’s forcing me to behave this way. What kind of rational discussion can we have from that position? Nothing I say matters, because I don’t really understand what I’m talking about, I’m so brainwashed I can’t see it. I’ve been placed in a box with all the other silly women who don’t know what they’re talking about or what’s best for them and are either delusional or lying. It’s great, this placing women in boxes business, isn’t it, so much easier than practicing acceptance for opinions and positions other than your own.