“What’s in a name?”

A few years ago I changed my name by deed poll, even though I didn’t get married or divorced.  Here’s why.

 

We live in a patriarchal society (my reasoning for almost everything starts with this) where for centuries women have been owned by men. We inherit and keep the surnames of men, and our relationship to them is demonstrated by our titles; ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’.  When I was in school, I remember being told that ‘Ms’ is for reference to divorced women, widows and spinsters, and often followed by a pitiful glance.  ‘Ms’ is the lowest of the low.  Why?  Because women with the title ‘Ms’ are not owned by men.

 

When we are young we are given a man’s surname, our dad’s, and linked to that through the title ‘Miss’, (and heaven forbid our dad’s name didn’t make it to the birth certificate, it raises questions about your mother) until a knight in shining amour comes and marries us, and we are lucky enough to be able to take his surname and be linked to him through the title ‘Mrs’.

 

Why? Because women are unruly creatures.  We are here for one purpose only; that is to be the property of men. To be a daughter, mother, wife.  To be constantly defined through our relationships to the superior gender.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t judge women for taking their partners surname in marriage, as long as there is thought or reasoning behind it. Such as; their own surname is really embarrassing, they take on a double-barreled option, they don’t believe what I said above is true, or in my mother’s case – they were told not to take the surname and so did so out of defiance.

 

But can we ever rid ourselves of ties to men through name?  Can we ever find a name that truly belongs to women? If we go back through generations of women’s names, will there ever be a purely woman’s name or do all names belong to men? And do we want to distance ourselves so much from our families that we are not likened to them by name anymore?

 

Indeed, these were the questions I asked when deciding to change my name. McDonald was the earliest women’s name I could find in my family, and that’s my grandma’s maiden name, I couldn’t seem to trace further. And when I thought about it, I still wanted to be linked in name to the two most inspirational women in my life; my mum and grandma.

 

So I took O’Hara. And I changed my title to Ms. I became, as much as society would allow, a woman who in name is not owned by men and it feels brilliant.


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