The school secretary doesn’t think we’re married. It’s because I kept my name when I got married. I was Ms. anyway from when I was 18 so I didn’t need to change the title. Anyhow, she alternates between calling me Miss B and Mrs S. Neither of which is correct! I guess I should correct her but it’s difficult to yell across the playground:’We live in a patriarchal society and so I took a stand against this!” Also I always fill in the forms correctly. Anyhow, I don’t mind, obviously I don’t judge my fellow human beings for being married or not being married, so I don’t mind too much how I’m seen either.
Anyhow, there is an added layer of complexity to whether you should change your name or not, if your husband is from a different culture. If I’d married someone with an English surname like mine, then I would have wanted to double barrell our names or at least keep our names but double barrell our children’s names. However, my husband said:’I want them to know they are Asian’. They are three quarters Indian or going on for that. So my children have their father’s surname. I think as well, as it is still the convention that women change their names upon marriage and the children take the husband’s name, so it can be quite a shift for men to accept alteration of both of these traditions. My husband was fully supportive of my keeping my name, he said he thought I should and he wouldn’t change his if he were a woman (We used to debate the issue when we were students though because I said, okay but what name do the children take then?)
In short, it’s a patriarchal society, so women tend to change their name, a tradition which I have rejected (though of course I have my father’s surname, not my mother’s maiden name – and that was her father’s surname anyway, not her mother’s…) So I have ‘privileged’ the less ‘privileged’ sex (women) in my decision. However, my husband is an ethnic minority in England which is not associated with privilege and given the children were born here and their first language is English, we do want to acknowledge their potentially less privileged identity. So we’ve given the children Indian names too (though we based on the meaning).
It’s interesting the French convention regarding Miss and Mrs. Mademoiselle means Miss and Madame means Mrs. However, you can get to be Madame EITHER by marrying or by age. Yes, two ways to be more acceptable. How crazy! Or maybe there’s an assumption that all women over a certain age are married?! I don’t think they even have a Ms!
(BTW Talking of marital status and how it is esteemed or not esteemed in society, the children have Old Maid, the card game like Donkey [where you have to pair off the other characters and NOT be left with the Old Maid!] I guess no self respecting feminist should have the game in the house! (I was given this when I was little and so these cards are mine!) I heard an interesting lecture once about how the witch image is the image of the single post menopausal woman, hunched over with osteoporosis, warts from a lowered immune system, facial hair from testosterone levels (as other hormone levels fall I guess) and apparently the whole broomstick idea was to do with the sexual frustration of spinsters! This Old Maid looks like this, she’s brandishing a huge gun. Oh dear. My son used to love chess. The Queen has all the power there – though the role is to protect the King of course. If she it taken the game continues, if the King is cornered and cannot escape, the game ends. Ah. Well. At least chess is not as sexist as Old Maid. And as for poor old Eor, that’s not fair either! )