Random Blog A Musing Farf

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I have decided to end my silent suffering at the hands of friends and loved ones with a pronouncement. I self-identify as a feminist. Actually, many others would identify me as such.

Do you need my credentials? I am a Director of Haven Coalition, an organization which assists women in obtaining second trimester abortions in NYC (please join, we need more volunteers!), I am an attorney who, in addition to my daily work advocating social change, volunteers time to help battered women in gaining custody of their children after a divorce and I pretty much freak out on anyone who thinks that as a woman, I am not capable of the same tasks as a man. Moreoever, I was thrilled when Mother recounted a story of Brother in his college class on Women and Feminism. Brother’s Professor was speaking of a large push in the 1970’s by lesbians to advance the feminist movement and Brother raised his hand and announced to the class, “My sister is like that – only without the lesbian thing.” Hahahaha.

Basically, I fully subscribe to the idea espoused by Ann Richards’ in 1988 that “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.” I really believe that and think that one of the best things of being born when I was, is that there were strong female role models. I hope to be one of those to the next generation.

But lately, I am under attack and my commitment to feminism is being questioned. Why? Because I decided to get married and to do so in a traditional way. I accepted an engagement ring and did not ask my future husband to wear anything symbolizing our upcoming nuptials. I oohed and ahhed over pretty floral arrangements. And, seemingly most offensive to others, I changed my last name.

Frankly, after getting engaged, I developed a habit of gesticulating with my left hand to better show off the diamond. And, no, I did not work with Husband to combine our names, or ask him to take mine or even seriously consider keeping my own name (despite my telling friends that I was doing soul searching about my name – that was a total lie). But at the same time, I did not stop my work with Haven, I continued to volunteer to help battered women and had no problem running from a meeting where I screamed at some Hotel manager because female employees felt harassed to a meeting where I discussed the color of table linens.

The feminist movement is working to shut me out. People like Liz Rizzo blog about the need for women to stop wearing engagement rings and even Suzanne (someone with whom I normally agree) writes in a disparaging way about people who change their names after marriage. Didn’t Lucy Stone (the first woman to not change her name upon marriage) really fight, not to keep her own name, but to be called whatever the hell she wanted to be called? It’s not like Husband forced me into a decision one way or another. Maybe the problem is that Liz Rizzo’s failed engagement was partly due to her fiancĂ©’s ability to treat her like an equal partner. Or maybe she failed to appreciate that not all men care about flowers (my Husband, on the other hand, actually designed our centerpieces and spent over an hour sketching them for the florist) and that its okay to have different interests. If I care about something (like table linen colors) and Husband does not, why does it automatically make me less feminist for me to make decisions without him? Why can’t I like traditional things like designer wedding dresses and pretty jewelry without being forced to feel as though I had betrayed a sisterhood?

Do I sound angry? I am. How dare someone call themselves a feminist and then reject those of us whose ideas do not perfectly conform to hers? Symbols change over time and I have no respect for people who can not understand that, in today’s society, a ring is nothing more than a gift. It is not a symbol of subjugation anymore. And my name is mine to do with as I please.

So I will continue to try and be a strong role model for women, but I will do it in high heels and pretty jewelry.


Suzanne said...

Wait, wait - I did not write in a disparaging way about women who take their husband's last name. I said that I used to get all annoyed at women who did that, but then one day I grew up and realized that if I don't like it when people get all up in my face about keeping my name, then why did I think it was OK to get in other people's faces about their decisions? So I stopped doing that. It's not my business. My conclusion, however, was that if you somehow believed that having the same last name would prevent any problems from occurring in your marriage, I would still make fun of you.

Thus far, I have never found your reasoning to be foolish in any way, shape, or form, so I never disparaged you. Please finish reading the piece (or re-read when you are less angry) and you'll see that I actually said that I was an idiot for being so judgemental in my youth.

BROTHER said...

I actually told the class I was stunned you were engaged because I was becoming convinced you were a lesbian. Sheesh, please don't misrepresent my priceless humor.

Suzanne said...

Whew! Glad we cleared that up and you are not mad at me. Also, I am impressed with your brother's snarkiness. He obviously learned from a master. (I mean you...)

Anyway, I second your call for new Haven volunteers.

L'shana tova!

Mara said...

As I posted on Suzanne's blog, I could not believe how many people screamed at me when I took J's name. After all, I rationed, I am a card carrying feminist! One of the downfalls of any progressive movement, however, is when people feel that their way of doing a certain thing (be it feminism, fighting racism, or curing cancer) is the ONLY way, and spend way too much time tearing down other people's choices and decisions. This, I believe, has been the downfall of the Democratic Party. Why do the Republicans have the power? Because they agreed to disagre on a certain number of issues, but present a united front on the rest. But I digress.

Women who are feminists and, presubably "pro choice" sometimes need a nudge (or a stomp on the instep with a stilletto) to remember that it's pro all choices, and not just MY choices.

SWCNBN said...

I was only surprised by your name change after you had put on the good show of keeping your name. I actually even suggested ditching the "E" for the "D" since you don't like you middle name anyway and you said that was silly. I won!!!!! Even if you don't give me credit.
Now I'm in a situation where my hubby-to-be has decided to take my name. And this is at no prodding by me. We both mentioned in passing that my last name was better than his while dating and then once we got engaged he asked me if my parents would mind if he took their name. Even after this inquiry was made i was still prepared to change my name and like most of us did when we were litte i practiced my "new" signature. Now he is the one practicing. He's even started the HR paperwork so i know he is serious. What's really going to be interesting is how people we know are going to react when they here his new name. Many men will think i brow-beat him into submission and that he is "whipped". And the best thing is he says doesn't care what they think and is prepared for the ribbing.
Now that as an advance for feminisim because it wasn't done in the name of feminism but done out of mutual love and respect!

Lisa said...

Yeah. What Sara said. I do wish people - men, slave-owners, capitalist oil-sucking war-mongers, feminists, the Vietnamese women who give me my pedicures and have lots to say about dry skin - would stop telling everybody else what to do. It's dispiriting to think the world of the tolerant - even the amused, God forbid - is shrinking as fast as the ozone layer.

lizriz said...

I truly don't understand when people say feminism is rejecting them or feminism is telling them what to do. I have an opinion. And yes, it's an opinion about what would be best in the long run for all of us, and yes, I stated it in that way.

But at what point you think me stating my opinion has anything remotely to do with judgement about you and your choices, I have no idea. People have opinions. At the same time, people can and do respect yours. It's a discourse. It's a figuring it out. I think that if you read the comment thread over at BlogHer, you will see that all opinions were welcomed and respected.

Just because we are different and disagree, that doesn't mean we shouldn't state our opinions and it doesn't mean that we are telling each other what to do.

Ah, but wait: "Symbols change over time and I have no respect for people who can not understand that, in today’s society, a ring is nothing more than a gift."

I respect your opinion about your engagement ring and engagement rings in general. It would appear, however, that you do not respect mine.

Sara said...

Liz: Had I edited this more before posting, I would have changed the above sentance to read "Symbols change over time and I have no respect for people who can not understand that, in today’s society and for some people, a ring is nothing more than a gift." My problem is that your post implied that anyone who accepted a ring was accepting lesser status and that, simply put, is not true.