Bump and ring highly visible for work.
I am pregnant and engaged; both things involving the same handsome man (just to clarify). The pregnancy was entirely unplanned, but in no way unwanted (we are thrilled and excited), and the engagement was entirely planned (not due to knocking me up, so he assures me). Obviously at the moment my partner and I have different surnames. The first decision about surnames we must make will be the surname of the wee one, as he (yes, I had to find out) will arrive before we get married. But that is irrevocably tied up with what my name will be in the future. I had always, even after discovering feminism, been comfortable with the prospect of changing my name at the time of marriage. Although that has not changed as such, I now have a dilemma. Due to recent deeper involvement with feminism (research and starting this blog) I find the idea of changing my name to his rather troubling. The reason I was fine with it before recently is because I was never that attached to my given name and, due to re-marriage, always had a different surname to the rest of my nuclear family. I didn’t want this to happen when I made my own family, I felt very strongly about the symbolic nature of a family all having the same name. I was fed-up of being the odd one out for the first part of my life.
Me, him and our first baby purchase for the boy.
Recently though, as my involvement with feminism, and therefore my feelings about the cause, have deepened, it has lead me to question this. As well as a family all having the same surname, what I also think is very important, mainly when it comes to bringing up my children, is teaching them that men and women are equal. When two people create a child it is a 50/50 effort. Ok, so men don’t have to surrender their bodies to the cause, but that’s not their fault, and my partner for one is making up for that by looking after me as if I were royalty. So if this is a 50/50 thing then shouldn’t the name be too? I like the tradition of having a double barrelled surname with one name from each parent. Nice and equal; symbolically representing the forming of a new family by creating a new name. The fusion of both of our families to make a new one.
“But then what’s the problem?!” I hear you cry. The problem is, he doesn’t want to change his name; not at all, not one bit. I am more than happy to put our two surnames together in a pleasing order and for all of us to take this on as our family name. As a woman, I was brought up in a world where surnames are flexible. Keep it, add to it, change it all together; whatever you like really. My mother has been married twice and has a child with each man, and both times has chosen to change her name and give me and my brother the names of our fathers. It was her choice to do so and she is very comfortable with said choices, but she has always emphasised the idea of choice to us. So, in essence, I am used to the idea that one day I will change my name; most men are not used to this idea. For most, they haven’t even considered it due to the patriarchal society in which we live. One in which, historically, men rule and their names are more important than ours.
So I am left with a dilemma. Either I change my name to his and we all have the same name, or I stick to my feminist values and go for the option where the kids and I have (what I deem to be) the feminist version and he has a different name. I am unsure whether I feel so strongly for the double-barrelled version due to wanting to set my children a good example and have that symbol of equality, or whether I am worried that I will no longer be considered a feminist if I ‘just’ take his name. Beyoncé, always a strong female icon, but especially since her recent forays into outspoken feminism, has changed her name to Knowles-Carter. But, so far as I can tell, her daughter Blue is simply Blue Ivy Carter. No Knowles in sight. It would trouble me for my children to have a different name to myself; after everything I will have been through to create them, surely I deserve an input into their family name? Although on the other hand my mother is no less my mother just because she has a different surname to me, and in no way was I ever made to feel like I was the odd one out amongst the three people I grew up living with, despite them having a different family name.
Does the symbol of equality that a double-barrelled surname provides really matter? Or are the actions of how you live your life more important? I am filled with rage if anyone ever calls me Miss and I’m sure Mrs will bother me just as much after I am married. Ms and Mr are equal titles for men and women; they represent equality. But that really is my choice alone; the surname of my fast-developing family is not only my choice. I want to, and must, consider the feelings of the man who is my best friend and partner through life.
After much discussion we recently came to a deal that I think could suit everyone. If I compromise my feelings on the matter and we all take his surname, then I get final say on the first names of our future children. What do you think? Does that seem fair or logical? How would you, or have you dealt with this situation? Is this business of names really important in the battle for equality? Do I still get to wear my feminist badge if I take my beloved’s name and discard my own? How far should your beliefs affect the decisions you make when it comes to the feelings of the one you love most? Will it make me a bad role-model to my children if I concede?
Comment down below, tweet me @MyFeministLife or email me firstname.lastname@example.org