Claire from Cakes and Bunting is planning her wedding. It’ll be cheap and fun and she won’t get stressed. No really, she won’t.
How many times have you heard it said, that women have the right to choose? Whether we work or stay home to look after kids. Whether we change our name when we get married. To get married. To get divorced. Whether or not we keep an unwanted child.
Oh yes. You can choose. You’ll be vilified, whatever you pick, but you can choose. Our position as public property means some people will decide your informed decision isn’t in the best interests of womanhood (of which they are the ultimate arbiter) and that you are wrong.
I recently wrote a blog post about changing my name when I get married. I thought long and hard about it – covering everything from the wishes of my partner and my family to the way we trace ancestry, the patrilineal naming system in the UK versus, say, Iceland, the fact that the name I am so proud of is the name of my father (and so I was born having taken a man’s name) and ultimately, how important it would be for me to share the name of my partner and subsequent family.
I made the mistake of voicing my decision to some colleagues and friends. My long-considered inclination to changing my name was met with surprise (“Aren’t you a feminist?”) and honestly, disappointment. Other women could not understand why I might do it. There was a clear assumption from the tone of the questioning that I had not thought about it, but was merely doing what I was expected to do.
Even well into our engagement, I thought I would not change my name. But then I changed my mind. Hey – it’s my right to choose, isn’t it? But it seems that there is only one right choice for most people.
For some people (like my lovely mum) it is a good thing to change your name – a mark of pride in what you are doing and a declaration of a single family unit. She was surprised that I might not do it, but ultimately OK with it, and understanding. This is the right way to respect a choice.
But at work, changing my name was a dangerous adherence to The Man. “What if you get divorced?” “My mum didn’t do it.” “Why doesn’t he change his name to yours?”
I respect these opinions, but there is scant respect for my own. I am clearly not thinking about it, or not thinking hard enough about it, because I have come to the wrong decision.
When people talk about being ‘pro-choice’ they are thought of as being ‘pro-abortion’. Choice has come to mean favouring the liberal/leftfield/non-traditional rather than actual choice.
But choice is not automatically believing one option is wrong and another right, and not condemning someone for ticking the other box. Being open to choosing doesn’t mean you always have to go against the grain. The only wrong thing to do is to mindlessly condemn someone for not adhering to your polarized worldview.
In countries where we are lucky enough to have genuine choices in our life, we need to fight for them (sadly, women in the US have the most famous ‘choice’ fight of all on their hands again). We need to permit both the right to choose, and be permissive of the ultimate paths you and others take in life. The right to choose means that some people may make choices you don’t like – but that’s choice.
“In Her Own Words: In Celebration of International Women’s Day 2011” was created to share and celebrate the experiences of women from many walks of life. All day Tuesday, March 8th Any Other Wedding and One Cat Per Person will feature posts written by a collective of intelligent, passionate and opinionated women bloggers from the United States and the United Kingdom. The conversation begins here, but it does not have to end here. We encourage you to comment and create dialogue as well as visit their respective blogs. Be sure to stop by Any Other Wedding and One Cat Per Person throughout the day to read all of the posts in the series. For more information about International Women’s Day, visit http://www.internationalwomensday.com/.