Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Denote denote denoted

The old-fashioned formal way of addressing a woman through her husband's name really ticks me off. Eg. Mrs Rosco P. Coltrane.

The woman's identity was completely erased and she only got to use her first name formally again when her husband carked it.

Funny really, how women were completely identified by marital status/availability: if she's married, she doesn't exist apart from as Mrs, if she's unmarried she's Miss and if she's widowed, she uses her first name and her married name. These days we have Ms as well, which was supposed to be an equivalent for Mr and replace our excess of markers, but now people take it to mean divorced or feminist. Score!


What makes me annoyed by this today is that there are plants (and probably other things) named in this manner: thus a rose named for a wife ends up being called Rosa "Mrs Rosco P Coltrane". It's complimenting and commemorating the husband rather than the wife, isn't it? Talk about giving with one hand and taking with the other.

I have nothing against women taking their husband's surname when they marry, cos what's so great about being identified by your father's name instead? It's all the patriarchy! #foams at mouth and falls over#*.

I do think it's darned convenient and possibly helps with a sense of belonging if a family group or unit all have the same last name, so on that basis it makes sense to me. Then again, I like that it's becoming less unusual these days to blend surnames. Double-barreling is a bit ungainly at times but making a new surname? Well, why not? I think it could be a really positive bonding thing, a symbol of a couple's marriage as much as the wedding and general hoohaa.

I didn't do it myself cos I didn't like my original surname at all and was glad to get rid, but think! Imagine if you please, Christopher Lillicrap marrying Agnes Stonewell: they could blend their names to make Mr and Mrs Crapwell!

Or Lillistone.

* Not really. Obviously. It really is the patriarchy, of course. It's the foaming at the mouth I'm not doing. Clearly.


Twizi said...

Hear hear. I agree. I don't see why I can't keep at least my first name, why do I have to become Mrs A XYZ. In fact I always thought it better to pass the woman's surname on, partly as the woman knows that it's her baby (having given birth and all) whereas the father could be anyone.

ellie said...

Tracing family history it's much harder to trace the matriarchal line because of the maiden name being lost - what a pain. Yet it strikes me that the matriarchal line is far more certain than the patriarchal one.

'It's a wise man that knows his own father' :-)

Ronni said...

I always think that surnames for women are somewhat redundant. I've been adopted, and married three times, giving me a total of five last names.

I like this last one, so I'm sticking with it...