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A Feminist Tale Of Naming Our Daughter That Revealed Surprising Things About Ourselves

Posted: March 31, 2021

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As feminist parents, we began our newborn daughter’s life with deciding the important question of how to name her for both her parents; here’s what we found out.

My husband and I are feminists. So it was no brainer for me, before I even got pregnant that we will be feminist parents.

We had decided that we will not force gender stereotypes on our child and that we will consciously take steps to raise them with gender sensitivity and equal opportunities. The one thing we didn’t factor in was our own innate biases and years of conditioning.

When I gave birth to my beautiful baby daughter on Christmas day ’20, the first decision we had to take as parents was to name her. And as easy as it may sound, being a life long feminist, to give my child a joint surname combining my husband’s and mine, it did not come naturally to me. In fact it was a long internal struggle, before I even put this thought out there.

Our conditioning all came out in our thoughts

My own thoughts ranged from, but she belongs to the ‘Tiwari’ family; Tiwari being my husband’s surname; to if she has two surnames then what surname will she give her children, to but children always have paternal surname.

When I did indeed decide to put my thoughts on the table, it turned out my husband had his own apprehensions as well. Like what if other kids tease her and she has a problem with it growing up? Is it worth going against the societal norms? And of course, what will she name her children going forward?

We tried to search for what different cultures value when it comes to passing on the mother’s surname to offspring. What will make more sense, to put my surname as a middle name or give a joint surname. These were real questions and concerns that came to our mind. And surprisingly not many people have addressed them.

Trying to figure out a way

We are all trying to figure our ways out, and as an adult with not much help from anyone, especially in such scenarios where you have to take the decision yourself, it becomes very difficult. The more we discussed about the name of our child, the more our biases crept in. And it’s interesting how my husband was convinced way before I was, that we should give her a joint surname, that it is the right thing to do.

I still had my doubts on what was right thing to do by my child. There is no way you can do everything perfect. But you can try to do things consciously for their good as a team.

And coming to a feminist decision that worked for us

We finally decided to give our daughter a joint surname, i.e. both are surnames appear as her surname. And about what surname she would give her kids, well we leave it upto her, she can name them whatever the hell she wants to name them, that is if she wants to have kids in the first place.

Moreover about the kids teasing bit, how much criticism and woes of the world can we shield our children from anyway, and how can we raise our daughter well if we don’t teach her to deal gracefully with a little criticism thrown her way?

A realisation that Indian law is feminist; implementation is often not

But in this entire exercise what surprisingly pleased me was, that we live in a feminist country by law.

In all the discussions that we had, there was never a point about what if it’s not possible by law, to pass my surname to my daughter. The more surprising thing was that no one in the entire bureaucratic system from officials who made her birth certificate, to passport officers, to officials in the aadhar enrollment centre pointed out the oddity of what we were doing. Not even a single remark about what surname is this, or why a joint surname.

We know it is not a big feat in our lifelong attempt to be feminist parents, but it’s a start. And now we know one of the biggest hurdles we will have to counter will be our own notions and conditioning. So be it! Bring it on you years of patriarchal conditioning, we see you and we are ready for you!!

Image source: PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

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