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Sexism Is Worse Than Racism

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What Katie Couric said about sexism -- and how one mom feels it every time she mentions her daughter's name.

sexism_vs_racism.jpg

The United States' first female anchor woman, Katie Couric, told Israeli paper Haaretz, "I find myself in the last bastion of male dominance and realizing what Hillary Clinton might have realized not long ago: that sexism in the American society is more common than racism -- and certainly more acceptable or forgivable."

When we brought this up in the momlogic offices, moms were yelling out examples of the sexism they feel every day. Here is one of those stories...

"Before I would say, "yes" to getting engaged, I made my husband agree that when we got married I'd keep my name. Furthermore, he had to agree to hyphenate our kids' names. After some debate, he understood my argument, agreed to the condition and we eventually got married.

When we had our daughter we went ahead as planned and both of us proudly placed our daughter's hyphenated name on her birth certificate.

I have since learned that this really offends people -- and they aren't afraid to tell me. I've been accused of being cruel to my daughter. I've been warned that I'm setting her up for a lifetime of mockery and that she'll take twice as long as her peers to learn how to write her name. I've been told that I'm ruining a very important tradition and that I'm emasculating my husband. I have another word for all of these reactions: sexism.

I always wondered why women just automatically give up their names. Why is the man's name more important? Isn't a marriage supposed to be an equal partnership? And if you want to get technical, I'm the breadwinner in my relationship. And when it comes to kids, I'm the one carrying the baby! Even the most feminist women I know don't give a second thought to giving their children the father's name. I'm not sure why this is such a blindly accepted practice. How come people think it's OK to tell me that making steps toward my daughter's equality is cruel?

People often pat themselves on the back when they come up with this one: "What's she going to do if she marries a guy with a hyphenated name? Have four last names?" Honestly, I have no idea what she'll do. I hope that by the time she is an adult, (she's 11 months old)  women will have noticed this type of bullying. As a mom, I hope she'll feel comfortable and strong enough to choose whatever name she'd like.

For more mom diaries, click here.


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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Amy July 28, 2008, 11:53 AM

I think the last line of this article is the key. Everyone has the right to pick or keep whatever name they want. If going ahead with the husband’s surname works, fine. But those who do shouldn’t be berated for being sexist, just like you shouldn’t be berated for giving your daughter both of your names. Kudos to you for sticking to your guns and doing what you think best, but my kids have their father’s name, and I think that is just fine.

jordan July 28, 2008, 5:52 PM

The point is that many women just automatically give their husband’s name to their children with no thought that any other option even exists. That is the proof that our world is still sexist.

mary July 28, 2008, 7:44 PM

I agree with the first commenter’s choice of having both names. But it should be an individual choice and always based on true partnership.

I recently viewed a disturbing youtube (megahit) video “Obama gives Hillary the F!nger” and had to ask a “teenage pundit” to udnerstand what a “flip-off” is! It seems Obama did this while smirking on stage and it was quite amusing to my teenage pundit—-but not to ME! I found it camouflaged sexism by someone from whom I expected much more! He had said “her claws are coming out” and “periodically, she feels down and starts launching attacks”…I didn’t think much until I saw the video. And now I can say that sexism can be found in a lot of men we would not expect to see it in. From 71-year-old McCain i more or less expect it, but from a young, ‘cool’ presidential candidate…well, I was shocked! God help our daughters…

Anonymous July 29, 2008, 12:02 PM

Mary, as far as the politics goes, if Obama gave the finger to or accused a male candidate of taking his claws out, would it still be sexism. It seems to me that if the competition is between two men, and these comments are made, it’s fair game. But if a woman wants in, and the competition is played the same way, it’s sexism. It’s part of the game. We’re electing a President of the United States, there’s no room for chivalry or sugar-coating. I’m for Obama, myself, but respect Hillary for going out there and standing up to the “big boys”. She didn’t go out there as “the woman candidate”. He went out there as a candidate and that’s that.

Anna August 23, 2008, 2:52 AM

I have to disagree with jordan, I am a woman and I know I have the option not to take the name of my husband. I would want to take his name anyway, because it symbolizes the fact that we are one, and it symbolizes the connection between us. Call me old fashioned but, I don’t think that people take marriage as seriously as they should in this day and age. Very soon divorces will be quicker and unions will be shorter (they already are). Not sharing the same last name is another step, my mom had to go through the work of changing her last name after the divorce and without complaint. Not sharing the last name, in my eyes, is seen as another convenience for a divorce.

Evans September 5, 2008, 2:28 PM

Name..big deal. Very serious issue to worry about. If you’re wise enough to hyphenate your daughter’s name…please use your wisdom and tell us what she’s going to do when she marries someone with a hyphenated name and what their children’s name will be like. I guess by the 3rd generation…the kids will have 16 last names. Pick a serious issue about sexism to worry about.

Miss India September 22, 2008, 3:10 PM

I think thats pretty cruel to do to your husband and daughter. Why don’t you just flip a coin to see what last name the kid gets? Sexism is not that big of an issue. Women have a lot more freedom than we use to and taking a last name isn’t a big deal. Men and women aren’t equal, we’re are very different. Physically and mentally.

Kirstie December 31, 2008, 10:22 AM

I know this is an older article, but I just wanted to chime in - I actually know a couple who both have hyphenated last names, and they’ve decided already that if they get married, she’s taking his hyphenated name to, as she put it, “stop from being utterly ridiculous and having our children hate us.”

I have all intentions of taking my future husband’s name. I love him, and we are a family now, which should be symbolized by the use of one name. When the parents have different names, your child’s teachers WILL assume that the parents are divorced or separated, as will your child’s peers (when old enough).

Vivian July 29, 2010, 3:12 PM

To the posters who said the use of one family name is a symbol of unity within marriage: there is also the option of taking the wife’s surname.

The main problem I see is that women frequently opt to choose the husband’s surname out of their desire to create familial unity, without realizing there are other alternatives that create unity as well.

Oftentimes, in such cases, the woman overlooks the fact that (if only one family name is what she desires) she has equal rights to pick her own surname as the family name.

Although the issue of sexist patrinomy is, arguably, not as “pressing” as other sexism issues, it is nonetheless important that we examine this form of institutionalized sexism within marriage. Afterall, why ARE so many couples blindly adopting the husband’s name without question? Are our daughters being raised without knowing their equal rights in marriage, and thus are unaware of their right to protest a practice which goes against their wishes?

And Miss India: You think that “sexism is not really a big issue”? Really? Maybe you were raised in a wealthy, progressive nation where sexism against women wasn’t as outwardly obvious to you. But if you look at other regions of the world where women are still regarded as, treated, and legally-oppressed as second-class citizens, it becomes quite clear that sexism is still an extremely pressing global issue. Don’t trivialize sexism.

Women have made strides in North America and other progressive nations, yes, but there is still a long, long road to equality ahead of us; we have to keep fighting.

And also, men and women may be different reproductively and physically, but mentally they are not much different. The different behaviours you witness in women and men is the result of societal conditioning by family, peers, and the media. These gendered behaviours are thus not natural and innate; they are artificial. To state that women and men are “very different” would further promote sexism via an artificial dichotomy.

Jacqueline  December 29, 2010, 9:32 AM

I agree with Vivian. Personally, I would like to keep my last name and not adopt my husband’s last name at all and he can keep his last name and not adopt mine. Legally we’ll be married, but there will be equality. We could hyphenate our children’s last names until they are old enough to have learned about both sides of the family (history and such) and can make an educated decision about which name they would like to keep. Problem solved. No burdens of 16 last names and such. One more thing: I disagree heartily with Miss India. I haven’t found very much of a difference between men and women like you believe there is. The only important difference is reproductive organs. Otherwise, differences in physique and behavior, even height is subject to the individual.


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