The Politics Behind Marital Name Changes

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Photo by: Gabe Gomez NY

I started my feminist journey during college (I know, stereotypical, right?).  It’s constantly evolving as I become more aware, change perspectives, and learn what “feminism” means for me.

One issue that was a real struggle was changing my name.  As stated previously, I didn’t get married straight out of college, and I had worked and done things with my birth surname.  My name is a connection to my family, and changing it felt like erasing that person and connection.  Also, there’s the issue of people not recognizing someone with a name change—an issue men just don’t get.

So, there I was, months, weeks, and days away from my wedding, unsure of what name to choose.  In fact, I may not have decided until after the wedding.  Regardless, I’m pretty well versed in the philosophies of name changing by this point.  I hyphenated, because it allows me to stay connected to my family and connect to my husband and show my love for him.  I’ve avoided making it official, though—because time and complexity.  Socially I’m hyphenated, legally…not so much.

I’ve researched various ways to change my name.  I know about the websites for changing my name—but it doesn’t seem worth it to me because the complicated stuff I have to deal with.  Social security and DMV stuff I can handle, it’s the passport and visa questions that are intimidating me.  There are so many things to consider and items to check off—men have it so easy.

Did you struggle with your name change?  Did your husband consider changing his name to yours, creating a hyphenated name, or an entirely new last name?  I read this interesting article on The Knot that talked through various options, including pros and cons, for same-sex couples.  I’d love to hear your experiences (and tips)!

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Eclipse Trip

Columbia, SC is a place I never wanted to live long-term, then I didn’t want to leave (but had to), and whenever I go back it is refreshing to my soul to visit friends and remember aspects of myself I’ve forgotten.

I left before 7AM Sunday morning to drive down to arrive in time for church (where I attended in college).  It’s the most special church I’ve ever encountered, with people who are loving, caring, intellectual, fun, deep, and from many walks of life.  The children have all grown up and my college acquaintances have children—life moves forward.

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I got to see two of my best friends from college…and we laughed so much.  Those friends are the best kind.  And we drank margaritas and had the best homemade, personal pizzas EVER.

On the day of the eclipse, I had tea, cheese, and strawberries with friends, chatted about trips to England, and had the best time getting to know my friend’s son—he’s darling.  Once the eclipse began, we’d pop outside every few minutes to check on its progress.  The first moment I put on those glasses and looked up—it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  Perfection.  I started noticing the other ways nature was interacting with the phenomenon: shadows from the leaves, the crispness of my own shadow, and the increasing brightness and then darkness as it got closer to totality.  Also, a flying bird making a strange noise.  After totality, I stood and soaked in the beauty of what we’d experienced.  The lining up of two, huge orbs.  The impact it had on the earth.  The way it instilled a sense of awe in millions.  *goose bumps*

 

At the last minute, I learned a sweet friend was also in town with her roommate…and hedgehog.  Awesome conversations about feminism, social justice, racism, belief systems, and interacting with people you love but who just aren’t on the same page.  And, I got to hold her hedgehog!

Tuesday morning, I had breakfast with my brother at my alma mater.  The caf is still the same—even down to my half a grapefruit (yum!).  But, they’ve added a great little coffee shop downstairs (why couldn’t that have been there when I was a student?).

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Till the next solar eclipse!  2024!

How Did You Choose Your Name?

I was one of those little girls who pretended to get married starting at age three or four.  I’d wear my lace slip with the pink bow, stick a piece of lace fabric on my head as a veil, and carry a giant coloring book as a bouquet (yes, you read that correctly).

Over the years, my life and views changed, and I’m very thankful I didn’t get married in university or immediately afterwards.  Instead, I had time to work, continue figuring out myself and life, make some questionable decisions, and get published(!).  However, once I started dating A, I began to ponder my last name.

Historically, I couldn’t wait to take my husband’s last name, but, like I said, I changed.  I liked my last name, it was my identity, and I valued the connection I felt to my family (granted, my father’s side).  Thus began my ongoing internal (and external—ask my colleagues) argument for keeping, changing, or hyphenating my name (I’ll save the subject of women changing their name for another post).

*Spoiler* I decided to hyphenate.

It allows me to stay connected to who I am and embrace my new family.  But, now I’m facing the conundrum of deciding what my “writer’s name” will be from this point—and I have to decided ASAP (I have a new article coming out next week!!!).  Do I continue with my published name for continuity and to honor the career I started and the work I did before marriage?  Should I hyphenate, to stay current with who I am and recognize my husband (after all, he is my biggest fan and pushes me and celebrates my victories)?  I’ll let you know what I decide (actually…through this process, I think I’ve decided)!

Have you experienced this situation?  What did you do?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Finding an Inspiration, Choosing a Cause

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Current mood: slightly depressed and lacking get-up-and-go.

These past few days have been very emotionally charged.  I’ve felt it.  You’ve felt it.  Goodness, the whole world is feeling it…though, not all because of Charlottesville (because THAT would be incredibly self-focused).

A while back, A suggested I choose a cause to invest most of my “activism energy”, rather than spreading myself across so many areas.  I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about his words, and I agree.  Focusing on one thing, while still caring about other issues and supporting them, is healthy and, likely, more productive.

I haven’t decided 100% what it’s going to be…but I have a good idea.  I really care about the plight of women around the world.  Sexism and patriarchy are very real things.  It varies in degrees from place to place, culture to culture, religion to religion, and race to race, but it is there.  In fact, feminism is directly related to so many other issues because women are everywhere, involved in so much, and, frankly, are the reason each of us is here.

Lately, I’ve found myself especially inspired and motivated by the new Freeform show The Bold Type.  It’s about three mid-twenties women, working for a women’s magazine, and trying to figure themselves out.  It’s amazing.  Each episode deals with a subject that is going to be, at some level, slightly to more-than-slightly uncomfortable, but it energizes me in so many ways!  Of course, I connect to the writer because I want to be her—finding my niche in an awesome publication, having my voice be heard, and making a difference.  But, each of the three main characters represents a part of my personality and characteristics.  It’s like The Devil Wears Prada but with an AMAZING boss—you know, who actually cares about you as a person.  So, check it out if you’re looking for a fun and deep show to inspire you to rise to the occasion…wherever you are!

What’s your inspiration?  What’s your “issue” where you focus your energy?  I think, as humans, we all need something in which to invest that goes beyond a job.

Was the Women’s March Truly for All Women?

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Some time has passed.  Let’s talk about The Women’s March and some connecting issues:

I was stunned by the people who said they could not support the Women’s March because of the pro-choice stance—not because of my views on abortion, but because I had not heard dissent for that issue (except for the feminist pro-life group’s removal from the list of event partners) and had not even considered it as a key component of the peaceful protests taking place on January 21, 2017.  However, since reading the first person’s perspective on the topic, it has been running through my head, touching on arguments for and against and trying to reconcile it all—as well as great frustration that one issue could cause people to throw out an entire cause.

When I first heard about the planned marches, I was excited about women (and others) joining together to protest a president who speaks of women with disdain, openly brags about his affairs, and even jokes about grabbing a woman by her “pussy”—none of which is acceptable for a human being to do, let alone a leader.  Additionally, the protests would draw attention to and advocate against the perpetuation of inequality in the United States towards women, LGBTQIA, and minority races and groups, as well as promoting healthcare access, stopping police violence, improving the justice system and incarceration flaws, and much more.

As I believe in the importance of education prior to establishing an opinion, I read many views from women about the protests, articles, and the official statement of Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles from The Women’s March.  I weighed my own (evolving) views on the issues of anti- and pro- abortion, but still my frustration grew.

On both sides there is rigidity emanating from certain pockets of perspectives: on the left some tout open-mindedness to ideologies until they bump into one on which they disagree and then they bash them.  On the right, some hold so tightly to their views that they sacrifice even possibly changing someone’s perspective because of their dogmatic approach.  Both groups sabotage their own cause.

Truthfully, I understood the frustration certain women felt who support many (if not all other) causes outlined by the Women’s March on Washington with the exception of pro-choice ideologies—feeling shunned by a force that speaks to inclusivity and diversity because they disagreed on one issue, rather than being welcomed despite the subject of disagreement, is disheartening.  However, I disagree with the decision to remove support from the protests based on a difference of opinion on the matter of abortion.

Bridges can never be built if people constantly choose offense.  This is what happens all too frequently—one side does something and the other side chooses to react by boycotting and solidifying their perspective even more (does Target at Christmastime ring a bell?).  This is a dangerous practice because it does not allow people to grow and change over time, nor does it allow people to live in peace and respect even while disagreeing.

Imagine if all those who said, “I can’t support this because of those marching who are pro-choice” or “Pro-life women were excluded from the event” had chosen to go to a protest, post support on social media, or some other outward show DESPITE the decision made by some committee somewhere—what might have happened?  Perhaps those who do actually have it out for pro-life people might have recognized who was choosing the high road.  Maybe conversations could have taken place causing a formerly rigid pro-life supporter to take a more understanding approach to the plight in which some women find themselves, causing them to look to abortion.  The possibilities are endless.

But, instead, women started stating that the millions marching didn’t represent them.  They claimed they are over feminism.  They said they couldn’t support any of it because of one (already legal) issue.

The cause—those marches—was about so much more than whether or not abortion is right.  This cause was to support women and humans everywhere against oppression, inequality, and injustice.  It’s about supporting each other rather than tearing each other down.  The people who claim they are over feminism can pretend everything is “okay” because of the millions of women who have fought for decades for their rights.

Women everywhere are facing the possibility of their affordable and accessible birth control being taken away because of a womanizing president.  Black and brown people are looking at an even more empowered police force and greater potential for violence because of a white, privileged man sitting in the White House. Immigrants are fearing deportation from a country whose Statue of Liberty welcomes “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.  There are so many issues that affect the sanctity and preservation of life beyond the uterus.  In fact, consider how all these other causes will impact the lives of the unborn once they enter the world as contributing human beings.

In the wake of a monumental and beautiful outpouring of support around the country and the world, I am thankful for the millions who came out to show their support for the causes listed by the Women’s March on Washington committee.  I’m thrilled that so many were able to participate.  For those who chose to rise above disagreements on certain issues, I applaud you.  For those who felt they couldn’t get behind a cause that included pro-choice ideologies—I encourage you to consider seeking ways you can support this cause in a capacity that doesn’t compromise your beliefs so that greater good can be achieved.

Building bridges takes effort—choosing to love and show understanding for fellow humans is a greater calling than self-righteous indignation—which only builds walls.  And we have enough walls.

Be the Support You Wish You Had

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Women’s Equality Day was August 26th.  Timehop reminded me of previous posts I’d made about the day, commemorating the progress made when women gained the right to vote (although, black women faced curtailing of said freedom for more than 40 years after).

This year, I made a point to celebrate the women around me, wishing them a “Happy Women’s Equality Day”, talking about women’s issues and the challenges faced within different cultures (as well as the work taking place to make things better), and making a focused effort to support women—because tearing down my fellow women only worsens the situation.

Various organizations I follow on social media recognized the day with posts, articles, pictures, and memes, but my newsfeeds were mostly devoid of personal posts supporting or acknowledging the day.  Instead, I saw many celebrating National Dog Day with pictures of their favorite pure bred pups and mutts (your newsfeeds could look different than mine).

My mind is struggling to comprehend the focus on dogs when, during that week, I’d read headlines about a Jewish sect mandating it is wrong for women to receive a college education, five girls dying from female genital mutilation, the lack of education for black women about the importance of breastfeeding their children, and Muslim women being forced to publically remove articles of clothing on beaches in France.

Where is our outrage at the unjust treatment of an entire gender because they don’t have a penis?  Where is the righteous indignation over the patriarchal superiority that leads to mandates about women driving, appropriate attire, career paths, home life, and basic human dignity?

I grew up believing that feminism was wrong, because in my mind, feminism meant “man hatred”.  It was not until I studied abroad that I was introduced to differing perspectives—that feminism was not synonymous with hating men.

I quickly noticed a change in my mindset: I did not judge certain things that previously would have shocked me (like a woman saying she doesn’t want to ever have children), my personal goals and desires in life started to evolve (I, who started planning her wedding when she was three years old, began questioning if I ever wanted to marry), and I wanted to stand up for and with other women as they navigated their challenges as women in a primarily male-dominant world.

Two years ago I visited the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC to see a series of photographs from eleven female National Geographic photographers.  One of the images and accompanying stories that still stands out in my mind was of a young teenager who was a child-bride, married to a man many years her senior, but who had managed to obtain a divorce.  My emotions were mixed as I viewed this girl who had experienced and overcome so much more than the average, American teenager.  I felt sorrow for the horrors to which she had been subjected, but, more than sorrow, I felt great joy that she stood there, victorious in her ability to leave a bad union (I won’t call it a marriage), and continue forward in her life.

In the United States, women face discrimination and prejudices; they are constantly critiqued for being too ambitious, not ambitious enough, wearing too much make up, not wearing enough, being too assertive, being too passive—the criticisms are never ending.

Supporting women’s equality takes many shapes.  It means supporting the woman who views relationship gender roles differently than you, because she is entitled to do what works for her.  It means understanding the impact of other social justice issues on the fight for women’s equality (such as the lack of education among black women in regards to breast feeding).  It’s starting conversations that discuss international women’s issues—like the United States being one of three countries to not mandate paid maternity leave.

Advocates are working hard, daily, to make change.  Books are written, organizations founded, and “on the ground” steps taken to be a voice for the voiceless.  However, without continuing to grow the awareness of this dire, world-wide need, how can we hope to continue growth?

If you scroll through my Instagram, you’ll see pictures of my cats.  I think they are adorable.  However, when so many people post about their pets and not about changing the world for women, it causes me to pause and ponder, what are our priorities and for how long will women allow themselves to be treated as second-rate human beings?

BE the support you want to receive!