exactly that

There there, little girl…

Mzbitca of What a Crazy Random Happenstance wrote a post about the annoyances of trying to deal w/ a hyphenated name on official paperwork.  It’s not the name that is annoying, but the inherent sexism and incompetence of presuming that a woman just naturally takes her husband’s when becoming married (or that her husband didn’t take her name).

Name changes at marriage are particular pet of mine, b/c I believe that it is a woman’s choice whether or not to change her name, and that their should be a more balanced way to decide whose name is going to be used by whom.  When The Guy and I were married it didn’t take a lot of talk to decide that we would both hyphenate.  To The Guy, it was no major deal.  To me, that simple agreement was a sweeping gesture that he really did value me as an equal in our partnership.  It also made the necessity to get married a little easier to swallow, given that I already view marriage as an extreme form of privilege.

The decision to hyphenate has been filled w/ it’s plenty of obstacles, on both our parts.  When I read mzb’s post I immediately related to it on so many levels.  It aggravates me to no end the way that no one can wrap their heads around the fact that I do not go around as Mrs. Hislastname, despite how many times I correct them.  People just presume that I changed my name.  The inherent sexism in that assumption is dizzying at times, but nothing new to my female experience.  Additionally, the concept that The Guy also hyphenated his name is so alien that no one can grasp it, despite it being embroidered on his uniform in two places!  I can not count the number of times people have assumed it was a mistake and took it upon themselves to correct it on whatever thing they are looking at, even after being corrected by us themselves.

So, when during the discussion at WaCRH someone barges in and pretty much discredits our experiences by telling us that these presumptions are not sexist, I get a little indignant.

What an evil refinance man! He had the AUDACITY to assume that you had your husband’s last name. This is the 21st century, last I checked… Men by now should expect that women want them to be mind readers.

And then,

No, assuming that a woman takes her husband’s name is not sexist. The tradition may be sexist but assuming the name of a wife is also name of the husband’s is without judgment. It may be lazy and incompetent in the area of legal documents but not sexist (sic)

I tire of going to feminist/womanist blogs where trolls feel free to wander in and tell us what is or isn’t sexist/racist/homophobic/ablist, and anything else that often is discussed in this sphere.  The assumption that a member from the non-marginalized group can somehow understand the experience on the same level as the person directly affected by that oppression reeks of unchecked privilege.  Whether it be someone at Renee’s place telling her what is or isn’t racist (b/c it turns up in virtually every thread), or here, where this troll is telling women on a feminist blog what is or isn’t sexist, there is always one person who insists on telling the marginalized group what they really mean, and then becoming outraged when they are called on it, often accusing that person of reverse racism or reverse sexism, or some other made up nonsense like that.

And, no, I have not read The Second Sex, but I am thinking I should.  If my statement that men are seen as default, and the male experience as the standard, where being female and woman is akin to an audiophile sound system in a new car (an option you have to pick up) is so 1950’s, as this troll would have me believe, then I am not alone in that decade, and in fact, in damned good company.  Just because one man hasn’t heard that “quaint” argument in a while doesn’t make it less relevant right this very minute.

The tendency to come into a feminist space w/o so much as doing the precursory Googling or checking of Feminism 101 and expecting to have your opinions seen as equal is lazy.  Presuming to tell women in there own spaces what is or isn’t sexist (or a PoC what is or isn’t racist) is the equivalent of patting us on the head and saying “There there, little girl, let me set you straight”.  It drips of condescension and doesn’t start you off on the right foot w/ the blog mistress.

People who truly wish to be allies, and not just trolls know this.


Comments on: "There there, little girl…" (5)

  1. glad to see you back – btw.


  2. […] my online community can be for me, the tolerance and the safe spaces we attempt to create (although not always successfully) and the way we strive daily to show that all bodies matter.  I forget how quickly some people are […]

  3. The Real B said:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that the wife does not have to take the husbands last name. She shouldn’t have to. But the problem with paperwork comes up when the wife decides to use only part of the hyphenated last name. For instance, we have here Mrs. Moore-Smith. She goes to the doctor, and there she goes by Smith. Doc writes her a prescription and she goes to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy she goes by Moore (her maiden name.) She drops it off, without letting them know about the two last name thing. 1 hour later she’s back and pissed because it’s not ready because the people working behind the counter couldn’t find Mrs. Smith, not knowing she is really Mrs. Moore. She then tells them it’s hyphenated, like on all forms of her ID.

  4. […] to refer to her as “Will Smith’s wife” or “Jada Smith”.  I mean, I just wrote about this sort of thing the other day, but why the fuck can’t people seem to use the name that she obviously prefers?  She is a […]

  5. Anne Onne said:

    Yes, I know, it was a headdesk moment. I have so much respect for bloggers like Renee and Melissa. For you and Mzbitca too of course, but especially for high traffic bloggers, because the sheer amount of trolling and ‘I will tell you what you will and won’t find offensive, so there!’ posts. They just don’t get that as someone not in the group in quesiton,they don’t get to say it’s not offensive, because it could never offend them to begin with! I can see why they think this way: every time we have a media furore over racism or sexism or another ism, the commentary is normally mostly from the point of view of white men. We present all the issues through the lens of the privileged, and as a result, just mostly get a lot of agreements that it’s not really that sexist or racist, and that they’re not really nasty people etc. In short, society covers for people’s actions.

    Sometimes I feel harsh for being blunt to someone who doesn’t get it (sometimes very blunt, sometimes quite tactful), but then I remind myself that they have the rest of the media and internet in which to be mollycoddled. I think a lot of them just really need some netiquette lessons. Respecting the rules of the webhost is really very basic.

    @ The Real B: evidently people should stick to one name where communication between different departments or companies or whatever would dictate that everyone knows the name. It’s up to individuals to make sure that paperwork and all relevant things are under the same name, with all variations clearly explained (quite a headache, I know!). I know teachers here in the UK often keep using their birth name professonally, for the sake of their students even if they change to their husband’s name or hypenate. I don’t know whether that’s a trend altogether

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