So maybe I can get us started on this new direction for the blog.
Ever since I started writing here, I’ve really started to think about what it means to see the equality of women and men in practice. I recognize that our true identity is not these secondary aspects of our character and physicality but rather that part of ourselves that is the source of love, compassion, friendliness and generosity. I’ve also thought a lot about how the document tells us that we should question underlying assumptions that promote a certain way of thinking. Ask anyone who’s been around me these past 6 months; I’ve done a lot of questioning. Some of them have managed to make it onto the blog. Many of them (lucky for you) have not.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll offer only one example here. Given that it seems that many people around me have been getting married lately, I’ve had the pleasure of attending several beautiful weddings. A popular custom of the wedding is the official announcement of the bride and groom after they’ve exchanged vows. The Master of Ceremonies might proudly declare, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce Mr and Mrs. X”. Applause breaks out as guests indicate their happiness, love and support for the couple. It’s a wonderful way to allow the guests to show their love for the newly betrothed couple. This is also the time in which I turn to the person next to me and say, “I’m not going to change my last name, no one better introduce me like this at my wedding.” The wonderful thing about the world today is that for many changing their last name is a choice, one most do or don’t make happily and of their own accord. For me, it’s the assumption that I’ll change my name that I don’t like. Why should I, after years of holding a name, be expected to change it? Why is it just the natural expectation that the woman would change her last name? Those who have engaged in this conversation with me often bring up the idea of the unity of the family under one last name, the idea that you love someone and you want to be associated with them, among others. Those are both wonderful reasons to change your last name. But why are questions and assumptions of name changing rarely, if ever, directed towards the groom-to-be?
In questioning the cultural and social assumptions underpinning such a practice, am I really promoting equality? Does my insistence that I will not be changing my last name promote this principle? I think it’s easier to bring attention to more overt cases of sexism such as not getting a job or being ridiculed because of your gender but there are also smaller instances of inequality that creep into our lives. Often times the sexism that we will have to face will not be clear cut because it will have become so normalized in our society. There are layers of social norms and customs that reflect notions of male superiority at the level of thought and behaviour as well as in the structures of society. Is changing your last name one of them? Maybe not. But generally, how do we recognize and address these customs without resorting to negating every social practice?