As many of my friends know, I consider myself to be something of a feminist. What confuses me no end is that so many of my colleagues and friends do not. I often wonder if it’s because the word has lost its meaning, or gained unwelcome connotations. To me, though, it’s simple. I advocate equal rights (social, political and economic) for men and women. I personally believe that anyone who does not follow that principle is out of date.
Women, in Britain at least, have more rights than ever before; perhaps this is why some are so apathetic. Would they remain so blasé if they had yet to win the right to vote, or keep any money they earned? I hope not, but I really don’t know anymore.
In my team at work one woman got married last month and another is getting married in August. I queried whether either of them had considered not changing their name after the wedding. The former had not even considered it. The latter gave the excuse that her husband had a “better” surname (ever heard a man use this line?). I’m not suggesting that there’s a perfect solution, just that unthinkingly assuming your husband’s identity when you marry is somewhat archaic.
What about the quasi-feminists, who keep their own name, but give the children their husband’s? That offends me even more. A woman has to go through the hell of monthly periods to even be able to get pregnant. Not forgetting carrying a baby for nine months, having a complete body transformation, giving up drinking and pushing out the equivalent of a watermelon through her vagina. Then there’s the likelihood that being a mother is going to be a hell of a lot more detrimental to a woman’s career than being a father is to a man’s. And him? He gets to orgasm and give the baby his surname as a reward.
I want you to imagine that I am good at my job (tough, yes, but just go with it…). Imagine that I’m a graphic designer, or a barrister or an author. My name is my identity; it is my brand, my reputation. All of my professional life has been completed under this name. Now imagine that I change my name. Search for me online and my great reputation won’t be there anymore. Former colleagues or contacts looking for me might stumble at the first attempt, and give up. It would take a brave (or stupid) man to contemplate such social and professional suicide.
Fortunately in our post-feminist world we have a choice, and the ability to intellectually defend that choice. I am within my right to keep my name, and to pass it on to my children if I so wish. I also have the option to change my name. In this age, I am lucky that I am able to make this decision.
Unfortunately in our post-feminist world many people don’t consider this choice. As I say, I don’t have an answer to the problem, but it infuriates me that it doesn’t even get considered most of the time. A woman is rarely questioned for giving up her identity; it would be shocking and emasculating for a man to give up his.