The web is a wonderful place.
I am finally catching up on all my blog reading which, much like my blog writing, has dipped into near non-existence of late. Slowly, slowly however I am clawing my way back into the ether world.
I also finally got myself organised and have a feed-reader thing. So now, I have my people onto you. Or those of you I know about.
One of the blogs I enjoy but don’t visit with sufficient frequency – What We Said – had an interesting post about name changes on marriage by Emily. In response, Span posted on her own site the following post.
Name changing on marriage is a no-brainer for me. Mostly because I have no intention of getting married. But also because in Vietnamese culture, women do not take their husband’s name on marriage.
I was always very confused when people called my mother Mrs (my father’s family name). Who were they talking about? And they were always very confused when I explained what my mother’s family name was. Who was I talking about? Why was my name different to my mother’s? And anyway, what difference does it make when there are only about 25 family names in Vietnamese?
Um was not the avant garde of Viet feminists, retaining her name because she held some belief that she was resisting her status as chattel in a married relationship. No, my mother is very much not a feminist. I recall her saying to me at an early age when I was fighting with my brother that I was not supposed to argue with him because he was male, older and stronger. She also told me at the same time she was asking me to desist from battling my bro that when I married I should always defer to my husband in an argument otherwise he would not remain my husband. I was, oh, I don’t know how old – maybe 6 or 7. Salutary lessons for a 7 year old – how to keep the husband you don’t have by subjugating yourself and your worthless opinions.
No, my mother just did what tradition and culture dictated.
Traditional Viet weddings symbolically pass the woman over to her husband’s family. The groom comes to the bride’s house and asks her family if he can take her. The dowry that he must bring represents a form of payment for the wife, who will become the husband’s newest acquisition in his working household. Husband and wife together offer tea to all of the woman’s family to thank them for looking after her up to that point in her life. Then husband and wife trundle back to the husband’s family and offer tea to all of them to ask them to accept the wife into the family. It’s time consuming.
Even though this ceremony passes the bride into the groom’s family, the bride retains her father’s name and does not take on her husband’s.
If I were to marry, there would be a lot of baggage about whether to change my name. The answer, if you’re curious or had not already guessed, is that I would not. I like my name. It took me a long time to become reconciled with it, so I’d like to keep it, thanks. And I am not disappearing post marriage. To not, follows Viet culture. To do so, would be to follow the mainstream of which I am now a part but which is too patriarchal a gesture for my liking. (That is not to say that Viet culture is not patriarchal; it is.) I expect that I would discuss the issue with my partner, too. Although I suspect we both already know the discussion will be brief.
Some of my acquaintances get defensive about not keeping their name on marriage around me, presumably because I am an unapologetic feminist. I bandy “feminist” about like I’m comfortable with it. Because I am. But it does not mean that I judge people for their decisions. At least, not all the time.
I am curious about why people do, or do not, change their family name. The rationale that an entire family should share the same family name for unity’s sake strikes me as insupportable. I agree with Span’s reasoning. I met a family who had a plethora of surnames: Mum & Dad each kept their families’ names and, when the first child was born, a coin was tossed to decide which surname that child would take (Dad’s as it turned out). The second child took the Mum’s remaining family name, thereby carrying on her name, too. I do not know what happens if there is a third child. They were a delightful family unit.
I do not understand why the article Emily refers to says that the woman should ensure that her female children carry her family name? Why not any of the children, or half the children? How does ensuring the female children carry the woman’s family name undermine the tradition? I have wondered about this myself: if my partner and I were to have a child together, whose family name would the child take? I am inclined to think the child should have my partner’s – because there are fewer of his names floating about the world than mine. And if we were to have a child, that child would probably be the first of his family’s next generation, whereas it would be – oh, maybe – the 30th (give or take) of my family’s next generation.
And in any event, why does the decision whether or not to change one’s name on marriage affect the decision regarding what name any child of the relationship should have?
I agree with Emily that choice is relevant, but more than that – thinking about the issue is what is important. I would prefer we lived an examined life, and if there is value to the individual of doing what the mainstream dictates, fine. And if there is not, then an analysis of the reasons for acting one way or another will provide the solution for an alternate path.