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Changing your surname after marriage is neither legally necessary, nor something your husband can force you to do. Stand up for your rights!
A month before my tenth boards, we were asked to fill an application form with all our details. To ensure that there is no slip-up while sending our details to the board, for what would ultimately be on our tenth class certificate, our parents had to come in person and clarify even if there was any minor mismatch.
When the Principal called my parents, I didn’t quite know why, since I’d written all the details correctly. I patiently waited for the Principal to call me in.
“Your mom’s surname and dad’s surname are different,” she remarked.
“Yes ma’am,” I replied coolly.
“But mom will have dad’s surname, right?” she asked, as if teaching me.
“No ma’am. Mom didn’t take dad’s surname after the wedding. She retained her maiden surname. I can show you her certificates after the wedding and childbirth too. They have her maiden surname only.”
“Okay, that’s not required, but how did she not change?”
“Ma’am that’s….that’s her choice?”
“Okay,” she said, deep in thought.
Are you in deep thought as well?
Many of us don’t know that our surname is our choice. No rule, law or statute tells you to take your husband’s surname, for any purpose. Only men with a dicey male ego and their entitled families will tell you to.
If a woman takes her husband’s surname after marriage owing to her own choice, that’s great. But if she chooses to retain her maiden surname, will we call her great?
Hell, no. She’s a threat to the honourable Indian culture and tradition based on which she ‘belongs’ to her husband after the wedding.
Several women, a majority of them in fact are under the misconception that changing your surname is compulsory. The self-declared supermen of their lives tell them to change their surnames or else some XYZABC certificate will become invalid, and women oblige. Or their MIL tells them it is compulsory, and they oblige. If this is not oppression, then what is it?
If a woman questions her in-laws as to why they want her to change her surname, she’ll be bashed for being too bold and denying the revered Indian culture. A woman who encourages others to make their own choices is a characterless home-breaker.
Which man makes a fuss because of your surname, unless it is hitting his oh-so-fragile male ego?
I’ve seen many women who’ve changed their surnames because they were made to believe it is compulsory. When I told them that changing your surname is not compulsory, they were wonderstruck. And their families looked at me like a villain, for informing a woman of her rights.
Now that women are not being browbeaten by them, our culture-protectors are finding new ways. They say that taking your husband’s surname is a matter of pride and respect. Sorry, not interested.
We have become so habituated and bent on changing our surnames after wedding that, anything against the same seems bizarre and violating norms. No, my lady, you aren’t violating anything here, except the ideal housewife rule-list. For 25-26 years of your life, you made an identity and stood on your own legs, achieved great heights with that surname. Can a man coerce you to change it right now, because he married you?
I’m not here to tell what’s right and what’s wrong. You can take his surname, retain yours or do whatever. Please know that you CAN do whatever is okay with you. Don’t fall for men telling you that some benefit will be stopped or some certificate will go invalid if you don’t take their surname. Even if someone deprives you of something because you didn’t take your husband’s surname, fight against this culture of conditioning women. This society will try to influence you by hook or crook. Please stay firm. For years, this society has witnesses women nodding their heads. So if you put your chin up and speak, it will be taken aback.
I was told that being so adamant about a surname can lead to a broken marriage. If a man wants to break his wedding vows just because I retained my surname, I’ll gladly walk out of such an unfair relationship.
A woman’s choice is being questioned everywhere and a surname is just one of them. But what is appalling is how women are tricked into believing that it is compulsory. Is this not a form of fraud?
Today, the law is in our favour. Let us all equip ourselves with enough knowledge about the subject. So when we find someone who’s crazily obsessed with surname change, we can suggest to him that he change his.
Image via Pexels
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Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).
Gender stereotypes, though a by-product of the patriarchal society that we have always lived in, are now so intricately woven into our conditioning that despite our progressive thinking, we are unable to break free from them.
Repeatedly crossing, while on my morning walk ̶ a sticky, vine-coloured patch on the walkway, painted by jamuns that have fallen from the jamun tree, crushed by the impact of their fall, and perhaps, inadvertently trampled upon by walkers, awakens memories of the mulberry tree that stood in my parents’ house when I was growing up. Right at the entrance of the house, the tree caused a similar red and violet chaos on the floor, which greeted us each time we entered the gate.
Today, as I walked by this red-violet patch, I was reminded of an incident that my mother had narrated to me several times. It had taken place shortly after her marriage and her arrival in this house from her hometown.