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How much of our identity lives in our surnames? As a woman, would you choose your maiden or married surname?
To me that’s a tricky question; is my name my identity or my surname? Do people identify me by my place of work or is it my blog I am known for. Am I known as a daughter or a wife? I really don’t have an answer. Not having a surname was an idea I was brought up with. My parents believed that my brother and I should be known by our names, and not our surnames; so, I was Parul in school. Yes, I don’t have a last name even on my PAN card. I still find the rationale correct; in a country where having a surname can get you killed or judged by what kind of family background you come from, what religion or region you belong to, it’s much better not having a last name. I took my husband’s last name out of love, but the question that’s on my mind is whether a woman should retain her maiden name or take over husband’s last name.
This is a question that is being debated not just in India, but all over the world. In some countries, if the husband and the wife carry different surnames, they are not considered to be lawfully married. In some, a guy will ask his girl friend about her intentions of changing her surname before he proposes. It is sometimes treated as a matter of trust. In England, close to 50% of women take up their husband’s last name after marriage, and this number has come down over the last two decades. Women also prefer to combine their maiden name and husband’s name; so Ms. A B marries Mr Y Z and is then known as Ms. A B Z. In some communities of India, women even change their first name, and of course, the last name. In some countries, the man takes up his wife’s last name. My point here is that different regions around the world have different beliefs, and it is mostly based on either the prevalent law or culture.
A woman who takes up her husband’s last name due to societal norms may feel a loss of identity, but is it really an identity crisis? Again, there is no right or wrong answer. She could be completely comfortable with a brand new last name or in some cases she may feel that it could have been avoided. What hurts most is when the choice is not left to the individual, and is forced upon.
What’s the best of all is what happens in Greece. I would say what happens in Greece should not stay in Greece. In 1983, Greece wanted to ensure gender equality among spouses, and hence a marriage law was coined as per which every woman in Greece is required to keep her birth name for her whole life. What the rest of us are discussing today was already formalized in an unbiased way in Greece some 3 decades ago.
The cultural norms and social bindings, however liberal they may be, without a law – expect women fit into the cultural and societal norms. The debate will be on because the rate of change for beliefs is slower, but as individuals we should be able to decide for ourselves. A man should not expect a name change from his wife and a woman should not assume that marriage means a change in her last name.
Marriage is a change in itself, and it is more important that couples learn to understand each other’s differences better than setting things common between them.
For me, my last name is not my identity. Who I am makes me, and nothing else can replace that.
Image of the a typewriter via Shutterstock
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Chetan Bhagat had no business slut shaming Uorfi Javed or any other woman. If he wants to 'guide' young men in the 'right direction' then he should take accountability for his words.
Chetan Bhagat, one of India’s bestselling authors, thought it was an ingenious idea to slut-shame Uorfi Javed, an Indian actress and influencer, at the Sahitya Aaj Tak literature festival.
“Phone has been a great distraction for the youth, especially the boys, spending hours just watching Instagram Reels. Everyone knows who Uorfi Javed is. What will you do with her photos? Is it coming in your exams or you will go for a job interview and tell the interviewer that you know all her outfits? On one side, there is a youth who is protecting our nation at Kargil and on another side, we have another youth who is seeing Uorfi Javed’s photos hiding in their blankets.”
Uorfi Javed responded with a video on her Instagram stories calling out Bhagat’s bluff. She shared the screenshots of his previous chat conversations with Ira Trivedi, author and yoga instructor, which came to light during the #MeToo movement.
While boys are taught to naturally own the space they enter, girls are taught to give up, to accommodate, to adjust since "it is their primary responsibility to keep families and relations together."
Yesterday, I was watching these 4 young girls around 16 – 17 years old play badminton. They were having fun, goofing around with all 4 of them equally involved in the game.
In some time two of their male friends joined them, and as part of round robin, the 2 boys replaced two of the girls. All good.
As the play continued, I started noticing a change in the way the game was being played. The shuttle was played most of the times between the two boys and there was a sense of competition and aggression brought in. The other 2 girls playing soon starting losing interest in the game as they hardly got any game time. Even if the shuttle came towards them, the boy in their team would move and play that shot. They soon moved to the sidelines as the boys continued to play.
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