Friday, March 19, 2010

Patrilineality Does Not Require Name Changes

People, tell me this: why is the name-changing debate so fraught in North America?


I just read BeckySharper's takedown of this ridiculous defense of making women change their names, in which Dudely Dude makes the case that it should happen, and it's right that it happens, because society tends to be patrilineal, and it's useful to... what? I don't even know anymore. 

I really do not understand it! In Malaysia, most of the cultures there are strongly patrilineal. This means, to me, that the father is always acknowledge within the name of the children, and the mother is not. Chinese children take the surnames of their fathers (as I do). Malay and Indian children are "son of" or "daughter of" their father, in their names. 

Wives do not have to change their names. They just don't. There's no point! Besides which, the structure of our names do not necessarily lend themselves to name-changing. Siti Kamariah binte Kamaruddin does not have a last name to change! When Choo See Ling marries Tan Beng Kee, she is not going to change it to Tan See Ling! It sounds ridiculous and completely out of place! Not to mention, completely detaches her from her identity by which she was already known all her life! Oh, sure, some of the Christianized families take on Christian names, hence Choo See Ling could become Mary Tan - recently, I attended the church wedding of a friend who was baptized. However, her name change was to signify her new identity as a member of the church, not her marriage. But I'm still gonna call her by her Chinese name by which I've known her all this while.

Generally, in Malaysia, unless a woman wants to destroy her full identity anyway, she does not get rid of her former name.

This, even as we are extremely, openly, conservatively, traditionally patrilineal.

So why the hell do women have to change their names? Why all these silly reasonings about how women prefer to change their names to fit their children's names? (No, seriously?! This is a reason?) Why all these defenses by guys who want to keep their own names? (Like anybody is telling them to change it?)

It's like American white patriarchy likes to keep kicking itself in the ass.

2 comments:

  1. In Hong Kong, married women keep their names (identity cards, etc) but sometimes get refereed to as Chan Tai tai (i.e. Mrs Chan) - but that they have the "wife of" title doesn't mean their surname gets changed. It is, oddly enough, not a mutually exclusive thing.

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  2. I chose to change mine because I hated the last name I was born to. Noone, reading it, pronounces it correctly. Noone, hearing it, writes it correctly. And it's very rare (so rare that everyone who has it is related to me by no more than one or two removes). So...I took my husband's name. If I had it to do over, I might have encourage us both to take a new name...

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