real life

I know no children who have their mother’s surname

Do you? The trend for hyphenated surnames seem to have died out and my anecdotal evidence would suggest more women are taking their husband’s surnames. The name debate doesn’t seem to be tied to feminism in the way it once was.
So the idea of children taking their mother’s surname seems to be disappearing off towards the horizon.
Columnist Catherine Deveny calls it “a convention that insidiously reinforces power, control and ownership”.

On the National Times website she writes….

Why do (don’t go there) most children(don’t go there) still end up with (don’t go there, don’t go there, don’t go there!) their father’s surname?

Let’s first acknowledge the existence of and look past the invisible electric fences, rumble strips of social convention and cattle prods of ”please don’t question our convenient answers because behind them is a scary place we don’t want to see”, and ask why, in 2010, most children in Australia (it’s impossible to find the figures but let’s have a conservative stab and say 95 per cent) are still given their father’s surname?I asked women who never even considered changing their own surnames, but whose children ended up with the father’s surname, with little or no discussion in 95 per cent of cases.

Answer: ”It’s just traditional.”

”But you’re not married/re-married/work full-time/are assertive. That’s not traditional.”

Answer: ”We had the discussion.”

”So that’s enough? How deep did the discussion actually go?”

Answer: ”Neither of us really cared.”

Well, why, at the very least, didn’t 50 per cent of the kids whose parents said ”neither of us cared” end up with the maternal surname, a hyphenated one or a hybrid? Not 95 per cent paternal.

But the real issue is the denial, the self-delusion, the mutually accepted ”don’t go there” zones that inform the decision and the reluctance to rationally discuss it in depth. Discuss what we are still getting out of this primitive decision – the paternal surname providing proof, or illusion, of paternity and the hope of protection for our progeny and the genes we are hitching our wagon to?

Why are so many people still clinging to this convention in this day and age of divorce and DNA? A convention that insidiously reinforces power, control and ownership.

It’s a patriarchal minefield we deny even exists. Despite so much social change, this is a rusty nut that will not budge. And don’t be fooled by being fobbed off with ”it’s not important”. It is.

[You can read the full piece here]

I don’t know any women who felt particularly passionately about this, despite feeling passionate about many other aspects of their lives as wives, mothers and even feminists. Is that a mistake? Should we care more at Catherine suggests?
If you have kids, was it an issue for you?

If you plan to have kids one day, do you feel strongly one way or the other?