Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mini Feminista


In my early adult formative years, feminism took on a decidedly negative connotation. Almost always paired with "radical", feminism brought to mind groups hairy arm-pitted, bra-burning women chanting anti-man slogans.

In the early 1990's, I met a woman at a cocktail party and mentioned in passing that I was not a feminist. She asked me how I could not be.

So I looked up the definition in the Oxford English dictionary and found this:

"Noun, the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality"

She was right. How could I (or anyone) be against that?

So I started to think harder about the position of women, the opportunities for women and the nature of women, in particular they being the gender that (so far) gives birth to children.

And so I developed what I considered to be a gentler brand of feminism. Women and men should be equal. But they are not the same. Men don't give birth, and that means men and women, while equal, are different.

So my take on feminism is that women and men as equals should be entitled to the same opportunities. In fact the world will be a better place when there are far more FEMALE heads of states, scientists and military brass. And far more MALE kindergarten teachers, stay at home Dads and nurses. Every walk of life would benefit from the different perspectives brought by having good participation from both genders.

But I do not see it as a sign of weakness when a woman chooses as her career to stay at home with her children. It is not a sign of weakness or subservience to her husband. It is what some family units choose to do.

I married in my later thirties and had been a lawyer for over a dozen years and so the question arose over whether I would change my surname. Many see this as a feminist issue "why would you take the name of your (male) husband??" I failed to see how keeping my (male) father's name instead of taking my husband's name was taking any kind of feminist stand. Maybe if I changed my last name to one made from the first initials of my mother, grandmothers and great grandmothers, that would be something to stand on principle about.

In the end, I took my husband's name. I was something of an anomaly in legal circles. I was told that it was "charming" "quaint" and "old-fashioned". I chose to do so because I only wanted to have one name. Many of my friends are known as one name at their children's school, another at work and everything in between with family and friends. I just wanted one name. I figured the short term pain of switching my ID and changing my signature line on my letters at work was worth it. Other choose to keep or change their name for a variety of completely valid reasons (special connection to the family name, disconnect with family name or the way the name sounds).

But I was adamant on one point: I was no "Mrs." In general I am called by my first name. I see no need to be a Mrs. In court, women are referred to as "Ms". I failed to see why a woman's marital status need be broadcast by a title, especially when a man's is not.

And don't even get me started on "Mr. and Mrs. Joe Doe".

Which brings me to why I titled this blog "mini feminista". We attended the wedding of our Nanny (A) last weekend. Nanny has chosen to change her name. The (very young) MC introduced the couple a few times as "Mr. and Mrs. Joe Doe", which of course made my skin crawl.

On Monday, I casually mentioned to S that Nanny would have a new last name. She asked me if Nanny would have a new first name too.
"No", I chortled, "you'll still call her A", thinking how silly 5 year olds can be.

She replied, "But at the wedding, they said 'Mrs. and Mrs. Joe Doe' so I thought she would be Joe now."

I have never been prouder.

1 comment:

mags said...

Love it! 5 year olds have such a profound way of telling it the way it is!