For Real Things I Know: What's In a Name?

For Real Things I Know

Fine-art digital photography, liberal hard left-leaning politics, and personal mindspace of Solomon

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Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What's In a Name?

I'm about to have a daughter, which makes me more pleased than I would have imagined over my choice to change my name. On June 11 I complete something that I knew I would do over 20 years ago, change my last name after getting married.

The changing of my last name was very theoretical for most of those 20 years; I just assumed I would do it because it seemed the right thing for me to do. If I knew one thing growing up it was that women had been treated like property by men for most of human history, and however much some men might not truly believe that women are property or are lesser beings, men and women were still products of cultures, religions, and traditions created by men and around women who were not equal by man's laws or by the interpretations of God's law as espoused by men. I might be uncomfortable facing my own innate and hidden prejudices about male superiority or white supremacy, but it's hard to even take a glancing look at history or religion and not see that my culture has been steeped in false beliefs that white men were better in the eyes of God and that our laws followed suit. I could either deny that or fight that (ignoring it seems but another facet of denial); or as Eldridge Cleaver said the year I was born, "What we’re saying today is that you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem."

In fighting that cultural abyss of hegemonic female disempowerment that only callousness would think could be ameliorated in two generations (I mean, think about that--my grandfather was born before all women could vote), I knew that I would try not to follow social norms without question and rock them back a little bit if I could. My daughter and whatever other children I have will know a few things from the simple act I've chosen to change my last name upon getting married to my wife:

1) She'll know I found it important to maintain the tradition of sharing a common name with my partner when I got married, because I believed that sharing a name helps cement bonds and provide a spiritual/magickal unity.
2) She'll know I negotiated with the person I loved, asking her mother to move away from her old name as much as I was moving away from mine.
3) She'll know that I recognized my choice was not the choice my father would have made, and that my last name still connects to a piece of his; she'll know that I negotiated that as well.
4) She'll know that the last name of her mother's parents is equal in importance to me as the last name of her father's parents, and that neither holds a more important place to me.
5) She'll know I went through just as much bureaucratic rigamarole as her mother to get my last name changed.
5) If she marries a man when she grows up, she'll know her father changed his name, and that'll make it harder for a man to make her feel she has to take his for any host of reasons.

And if I have a son, hopefully those choices will resonate with him as well.

Solomon Aron James


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