Can’t wait to become the new “Mrs. His Name?” Ever think about why men never change their title of “Mr.” when they get married, ever stop to consider what it means for women to only change her title?
When I started The Feminist Bride website, I would get two responses: an “oh boy!” with an eye roll because they were expecting a one-sided soap box conversation; and a “why are you bothering to get married then?” ignoring the fact that feminists, too, fall in love. I had even debated back and forth on whether to even use the “f” word as the blog’s namesake. Five years ago, the acceptance of the word was a lot more hostile.
Today, it seems the fire most people associate with feminism has warmed people up to it. According to Ms. Magazine, the number of women calling themselves feminists increased from 50 percent in 2006 to 68 percent in 2012. The New York Times came out with an article asking, Who Is a Feminist Now? looking at the change in attitudes (both ways) among celebrities.
In an Elle article, Amy Poehler, 42, said, “Some big actors and musicians feel like they have to speak to their audience and that word is confusing to their audience. But I don’t get it. That’s like someone being like, ‘I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it.’ ”
I highly recommend reading the article. It’s both a great indicator of change and an embrace of the word, but also a sobering account of how much feminism also needs to be understood better still.
I may be biased because I was (and am still) obsessed with The Goonies and love Raising Hope, but I think Martha Plimpton, 43, said it best, “We’re going to have to insist on correcting bigotry as it happens, in real time. And fear of women’s equality, or the diminishment of it, is a kind of bigotry. I think it’s important to remove the stigma associated with women’s equality, and as such, yes, normalizing the word ‘feminist’ and making sure people know what it means is incredibly important, whether we’re talking to celebrities or anyone.”
As Plimpton revealed there’s still a lot of initial bias when people hear the “f” word, which means it definitely deserves a second consideration before being discarded. For the people out there still thinking about it, since embracing it whole-heartedly, feminism has really given me some amazing gumption and sense of self that I never knew I needed or already possessed. While I may actually be on that soapbox, it’s important for folks to know that I’ve got some awesome company up here, both men and women. And there’s plenty room for more friends. The work laid out ahead of us is hard, but the benefits are great and we want everyone to enjoy them.
To read more about feminism and linguistics:
I created this ‘Name Change Cultural Spectrum’ for a lecture I gave at Tufts University this spring. I wanted people to understand where their decisions stand in the broader context of equality. For example, a lot of women who retain their surname but also incorporate their new spouse’s name through hyphenation will defend their decision as being progressive or feminist or seemingly more about equality. If you look on the spectrum, that one-sided name change is not as based on equality as we might like to think, especially since men typically do not join women in this one-sided hyphenation.
Also to show that existing name change culture does not encourage equality, I had to invent the term Neutronymics. Neutronymics is the adoption of a new name or combination of names created using the names of married individuals or the retention of separate surnames. It is meant to be a solution to those wishing to participate in neither patronymics nor matronymics and to increase name equality. Mutual hyphenation, the Scrabble Name Game and Surname Retention are all options people are aware of, but had never been grouped before or labeled. Labeling it gives it legitimacy and really puts into perspective the other options that favor one sex over another.
So when it comes time for you to get married and you’re not sure if you’re making the right decision that honors yourself and/or your partner – take a look at the Name Change Culture Spectrum. See where your decision places on the map and you’ll get a better sense as to whether you are helping to buck the dominating patriarchy, are alone in your name change decisions or are making a healthy decision that really promotes equality in your relationship and teaches women to value their name too. And if you’re a lady getting married, don’t forget to make the groom put in the same type of name change consideration you are putting in yourself!
The Lucy Stone League: Crusaders for more name equality!