Friday, March 08, 2013

Choosing your choice

If your ideological imperative is to elevate individual choice as a means of self-expression in every realm, isn't it ironic that you would seize on names - that aspect of identity in which all our choices are chosen by someone else - for your crusade? Keeping your name is choosing your father's choice, changing it is choosing your husband's father's choice, combining them is choosing the choices of all of the above. The only authentically self-expressive choice is inventing your own names - first and last - from scratch.

In that spirit, I shall be changing my own name to Mr. Sophrosune Self-Important. (I will not be changing my gender, only the salutation by which you must address me, because confusing and annoying people reflects an essential part of my self-identity and I desire my name to convey it.) Try tracking my genealogy from that, Andrew Stevens.

UPDATE: On second thought, this morning I find that a better reflection of my selfhood would be expressed in the name Mrs. Benjamin Franklin Snodgrass. I do embrace my sex, after all, and I also admire Benjamin Franklin and wish to revive the nineteenth century American tradition of giving children the full name of a great figure, plus the familial surname. I think Snodgrass is a good-sounding surname. At least for today.


Withywindle said...

The Mexican naming system has some attractions:

It would need modification for perfect gender neutrality, but less, I think, than ours.

Andrew Stevens said...

MSI: Anarchist.

Withywindle: I do like that both parents' surnames are passed to the children. It is ultimately still patrilineal, but assuming we're not going to allow hyper-hyphenization, we have to choose between patrilineal or matrilineal systems. (One or the other is, to my mind, preferable to any hodge-podge system.) I have a slight preference for matrilineal systems, but patrilineal is almost as good.

Miss Self-Important said...

Withywindle: But why would we choose the Mexicans' choice when we can choose our own choice?

Andrew Stevens: No, just untraceable.

Phoebe said...

Who's for choice? The anti-name-change contingent tends to be pro-choice re: abortion, but that's all I can think of in that area. The politics expressed by Filipovic, and now some of a name-change thread at Feministe that seems to link to my WWPD post supporting Filipovic, would be that no one can choose in this area - at least not to change one's name. That's falling into the patriarchy's default, and can't be freely chosen. Nor, by that logic, can any expression of stereotypical femininity.

Not to step too far away from the satire here, but what bugs me about this discussion is that it would seem more feminist to at least consider the perspective of whichever 90% of women, few of whom are probably in oppressive marriages.

Miss Self-Important said...

Both of you are arguing for choice against assignment. Those against marital name change want women to choose their original names against the subordination of taking their husbands' b/c their original names are expressions of their "professional" or other identity (though then they don't face up to the problem of the original name coming from other than the woman's own choice). You're arguing that marital name change can be a self-expressive rather than a self-subordinating choice if you want it to be, and so it should be more available to men. I'm saying that it makes little sense either way to normalize taking a spouse's name which that spouse did not choose if choice and self-expression are at stake. If you want to distance yourself from your birth family, are not attached to your name, or simply like another name more (and what are the chances that the name you really love more than all other names is the one your fiance happens to have?), why not invent a new name for yourself?

Phoebe said...

But are anti-name-change feminists against name-change because they're in favor of choice? If that were the case, it would seem there'd be far more focus on encouraging men to see their names as a choice, or in, as you suggest, name-invention.

Miss Self-Important said...

Yes, I think so, at least choice as against patriarchal default. Though like Linda Hirschmann, they believe that women can make wrong choices, which is why they exist to help guide them to the right choices by berating them for making poor ones. Filipovic says that women who change their names are simply taking "the path of least resistance" under social pressure, whereas not changing your name is in this case the active choice (although ironically the more passive route - no paperwork required) that preserves your authentic original "identity." There is, however, no discussion of the problematically patriarchal origins of all names, including those of men who are the standard for correct name-related behavior. That's why I think both your arguments should naturally lead to name invention, rather than Filipovic's conclusion that you should do like men and keep your (father's) name, or yours that men should do like women and change their (father's) names if they prefer. The transgender example that you both agree on is a good model - when you change your gender and change your name to match it, you invent a new name rather than selecting from a predetermined set of options bequeathed to you via your natural or in-law family.