Mzbitca of What a Crazy Random Happenstance wrote a post about the annoyances of trying to deal w/ a hyphenated name on official paperwork. It’s not the name that is annoying, but the inherent sexism and incompetence of presuming that a woman just naturally takes her husband’s when becoming married (or that her husband didn’t take her name).
Name changes at marriage are particular pet of mine, b/c I believe that it is a woman’s choice whether or not to change her name, and that their should be a more balanced way to decide whose name is going to be used by whom. When The Guy and I were married it didn’t take a lot of talk to decide that we would both hyphenate. To The Guy, it was no major deal. To me, that simple agreement was a sweeping gesture that he really did value me as an equal in our partnership. It also made the necessity to get married a little easier to swallow, given that I already view marriage as an extreme form of privilege.
The decision to hyphenate has been filled w/ it’s plenty of obstacles, on both our parts. When I read mzb’s post I immediately related to it on so many levels. It aggravates me to no end the way that no one can wrap their heads around the fact that I do not go around as Mrs. Hislastname, despite how many times I correct them. People just presume that I changed my name. The inherent sexism in that assumption is dizzying at times, but nothing new to my female experience. Additionally, the concept that The Guy also hyphenated his name is so alien that no one can grasp it, despite it being embroidered on his uniform in two places! I can not count the number of times people have assumed it was a mistake and took it upon themselves to correct it on whatever thing they are looking at, even after being corrected by us themselves.
So, when during the discussion at WaCRH someone barges in and pretty much discredits our experiences by telling us that these presumptions are not sexist, I get a little indignant.
What an evil refinance man! He had the AUDACITY to assume that you had your husband’s last name. This is the 21st century, last I checked… Men by now should expect that women want them to be mind readers.
No, assuming that a woman takes her husband’s name is not sexist. The tradition may be sexist but assuming the name of a wife is also name of the husband’s is without judgment. It may be lazy and incompetent in the area of legal documents but not sexist (sic)
I tire of going to feminist/womanist blogs where trolls feel free to wander in and tell us what is or isn’t sexist/racist/homophobic/ablist, and anything else that often is discussed in this sphere. The assumption that a member from the non-marginalized group can somehow understand the experience on the same level as the person directly affected by that oppression reeks of unchecked privilege. Whether it be someone at Renee’s place telling her what is or isn’t racist (b/c it turns up in virtually every thread), or here, where this troll is telling women on a feminist blog what is or isn’t sexist, there is always one person who insists on telling the marginalized group what they really mean, and then becoming outraged when they are called on it, often accusing that person of reverse racism or reverse sexism, or some other made up nonsense like that.
And, no, I have not read The Second Sex, but I am thinking I should. If my statement that men are seen as default, and the male experience as the standard, where being female and woman is akin to an audiophile sound system in a new car (an option you have to pick up) is so 1950′s, as this troll would have me believe, then I am not alone in that decade, and in fact, in damned good company. Just because one man hasn’t heard that “quaint” argument in a while doesn’t make it less relevant right this very minute.
The tendency to come into a feminist space w/o so much as doing the precursory Googling or checking of Feminism 101 and expecting to have your opinions seen as equal is lazy. Presuming to tell women in there own spaces what is or isn’t sexist (or a PoC what is or isn’t racist) is the equivalent of patting us on the head and saying “There there, little girl, let me set you straight”. It drips of condescension and doesn’t start you off on the right foot w/ the blog mistress.
People who truly wish to be allies, and not just trolls know this.