A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (educator, activist, world citizen)
When I got married, I made the conscious choice to share a last name with my husband, in our case I took his name. This shocked friends, as I have always been a bit of a feminist, always fighting for equality of the sexes. The reasons were highly personal, but it was the correct choice for my marriage and my life. In my artistic endeavors, I still use my maiden name and made it my middle name to ensure that part of my identity remained intact, or at least that was my intent.
Little did I know, that my identity would be tied to my husband no matter what I actually did with my name. My biggest disgust comes when people call me Mrs and then his first name, completely ignoring that I have an identity at all, that I ever had an identity.
But I do, and I always have.
The reality is, marriage and the idea of Mrs stems from the antiquated idea that women are property of the men they are married to (or owned by as the indication represents). In the old days, women were indeed considered property. Women were subjects of their husbands, no more no less. Today, thankfully, the world is different.
Or, so we are told.
While our proclamation of equality has changed, I don’t really think the foundation of our ideologies has actually changed. This is evidenced by the umpteen times I have been addressed as merely the Mrs in my husband’s name: Mr and Mrs his name, not mine. Yes, I believe we should be partners with a shared last name. That is why I choose to make his last name mine (it was my wedding gift to him even). But it should be my name and his name and then our shared last name, indicative of a partnership, rather than ownership.
Sadly, this is not how the world is representing equality. Fact is they are discounting equality, as the entire point of equality is the fact that I as an equal woman have the right and privilege to choose what is the best choice for my partner and I. Society does not practice what it preaches.
Fact is, I continue to be considered a subject of my husband by people of multiple generations. And this isn’t limited to me. I hear all the time about friends who face the same issue, especially in a relationship where the woman has achieved a title such as doctor. There is an assumption that the man is the doctor not the woman. Government agencies insist on always listing the man first. When I got married and added my husband to a bank account I had had for several years, they insisted on making him the primary account holder, even though it was and had always been my account (I left that bank by the way). Further, as a practicing genealogist, I find it difficult and sad to see all the women who have had their identities erased in history, only to be named Mrs husband.
Our society has created a problem that will continue to condemn the practice of equality as a mere illusion.
We connect our identities and the identities of others to the names we use and are given. When I am called solely by my husband’s name, I am basically equated to nothing except that which my husband represents, without regard to what I have contributed to the world. When one’s identity is linked so closely to another person’s it becomes problematic at so many levels. As a society we need to look at individuals as the unique beings they are and not as the connections they chose or are compelled to have bestowed upon them.
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy to be in my marriage working on our partnership daily. I am happy to be one unified unit along the path of life. What I have a problem with is people applying their practices and ideals, often done simply out of societal habit and without thought, to everyone else.