Keeping your maiden’s surname is not feminism

In the last few months, I came across several articles online (blogs and newspapers) mentioning that ‘keeping your maiden name after getting married is a feminist choice’.

Honestly, I don’t see an ounce of feminism in keeping your maiden surname…. Actually it should be of no importance at all!! where do feminists stand when they flock to comment on internet forums fighting against the common practice of changing their surnamnes after getting married? Why is that such an important issue for them?

Freedom is having a choice. I only see respect for women’s rights in front of  laws that in some countries allow women to change or to retain their names/surnames as they like.  Not having a choice, either way (not changing/changing it by law/tradition), means your freedom and your rights are restricted.

Journalist Heather Long mentioned in her article appeared on theguardian.com on October 6th 2013 that Greece laws don’t allow women to change their names after getting married since 1983 and that Greek feminists applauded such news as a feminist victory at that time. Now, it is even possible for them to add their husband’s surname to theirs. Yes, but the point is… they can’t get rid of theirs though! So it is not widening women rights horizon, in fact it is restricting it!

Italy, still ‘ruled’ in its legislation by a very strict Catholic lobby, approved the same bill years ago. Yet, it went from forcing women to adopt their husbands surnames to forbidding women to change it! My mum, back then still married, had her maiden surname reinstated nearly overnight and this caused quite an uproar in her life, after signing papers with a different surname for twenty years.

I was born in Italy and I still hold the citizenship, because Italians citizens are allowed to have the dual citizenship.  After I got married in U.K., with a British citizen, my choice was to change my surname and to get my husband’s one. To me, it was like a sign of a new, fresh life… I felt like I was the half of a whole and I didn’t see any reason why a feminist couldn’t adopt her husband’s name (see also this article http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/09/changing-your-name-to-your-partners-last-name-as-a-feminist-choice/). Given that in U.K. women can choose, I happily changed it and did everything I had to at the deed poll, in a very simple way. To be honest, my intention was to abandon it anyway, even if I wasn’t going to get married. My original surname was a torture for the British people to pronounce and….I also didn’t want to be identified as someone coming from a certain country, given that my accent doesn’t give that particular detail away.

Unfortunately, I was soon able to discover that I was going to be stuck in a limbo forever, thanks to a foreign regulation that some British feminists consider as progress!!

My passport is on its way to be binned because it won’t ever be possible to UPDATE it (meaning that the only way I have to make my maiden identity belong to the past is to give up the citizenship, surname and all). The Italian law states you can try to update your papers… yet, it is more of a hoax than a choice, because unless your surname causes you embarrassment (as in John Asshole..) or exposes you to public bullying and ridicule you can’t change it.

From wikipedia.it:

“In Italy, despite the Civil Code, art. 143-bis, provides that “the wife added her surname to that of her husband” the current legislation on family law stipulates that the wife retains her surname at birth and this addition is not reported in any document (identity card, driver’s license, passport) thus remaining entirely theoretical.
You can add, on request, in official documents of the words … XXX married, but the woman who really wanted to change the name then adding that her husband should undertake a bureaucratic practice with an uncertain outcome.”

In Italy, according to the Civil Code, children born to legally married couples automatically take their father’s surname or their mother’s surname if chosen different. At the moment, there is a petition online to give the opportunity to choose to add the wife’s surname to the husband’s, with no issues about choosing which one the child will bear for the rest of his/her life (http://www.change.org/it/petizioni/proposta-di-legge-in-10-articoli-per-il-doppio-cognome-paritario-al-parlamento-italiano-ai-ministeri-di-giustizia-e-interno-e-al-dipartimento-per-le-pari-opportunit%C3%A0).

As a woman who changed her surname in a foreign country, following the Italian law I could file papers to an Italian court and wait for 6-7 years to see the outcome… Lawyers already discouraged me to do that because no matter what in Italy you can change your surname only under serious circumstances and MARRIAGE is not one of them. So what’s the point of a law stating you can add or change your surname if it won’t ever be done? Mmm… poking fun at women’s rights again!

Dear feminists……  The legislation regulating the impossibility to change your surname doesn’t include, for your own information, abuse, rape and domestic violence perpetrated by your father, for example. That means that even in the case you wanted to change your maiden surname (which is your father surname!) in the presence of reasons to reject that surname, you can’t. This is NOT feminism, in my opinion. It does even limit your human rights, to be honest!

Therefore, how is it considered as feminist progress to go from switching your maiden name with a man’s surname to a patriarchal ruled legislation concerning the same matter? I don’t see any particular progress to be tied up to a man’s surname anyway (your father is a man, not a woman!).

I regret to say that me and many other Italian migrant women who chose to change their names after marriage don’t understand where the argument pushed by some British feminists comes from. Do they feel to be compelled to adopt their husbands’ surnames by society? If yes, they should get the relevant information before getting married and not to adapt to what society says or thinks because British women do have a choice. The British regulation in the matter is fantastic and it leaves a wide choice concerning the subject. As it is in Sweden for example.  I’d bet you wouldn’t feel so ‘feminist’ if you were stuck in a limbo with papers belonging to two different countries with two different surnames and identities with no chance of ever changing the situation! I don’t think it is the personal situation I’m in that changed my perspective, I don’t see this issues as a feminist one at all, it is a bureaucratic mess though!

A few days ago, on the forum I’m a moderator of, a friend of mine posted a topic about the same problem. Germany allows women to change their surname and adopt their husbands’, if they like. Maria, my friend, chose to change their surname and found herself in the same paradoxical plight like I am. Even worse, because she is the mother of two children (born in two different countries) and her children have two different parents on both birth certificates!!!!!!

One identity in a country, one identity in another, just like Jason Bourne.

Call that feminism as much as you like… I call it regress.

Merlin

Bibliography:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10165068/Younger-women-embrace-feminism-by-keeping-maiden-name.html

http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/09/changing-your-name-to-your-partners-last-name-as-a-feminist-choice/

http://thefeministwire.com/2013/04/feminism-me-name-change-for-love-actually/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/06/women-change-name-after-marriage-greece?CMP=ema_565&et_cid=51861&et_rid=8212135&Linkid=http%3a%2f%2fwww.theguardian.com%2fcommentisfree%2f2013%2foct%2f06%2fwomen-change-name-after-marriage-greece

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