Name shame game

Dean Esmay has a fascinating discussion and thread about a pet cause (if not obsession) by some leftists and feminists:

It looks like some well-known left-wing bigots are now attacking Michelle Malkin for keeping her maiden name for legal purposes, but using her married name for most other purposes.

This reminds me of when another well-known lefty blogger said that women who change their last names when they get married should be shunned and shamed because the practice was so reactionary and backward and implied that husbands own their wives.

You know, back when I was a lefty-liberal myself (which I did used to be--vehemently so) I considered the entire practice of women changing their last names to be barbaric and backward and sexist. Ditto the term "Mrs." I was married once before I married The Queen, and I actually begged my then-wife not to change her name. She never did.

(Michelle Malkin did a pretty good job of defending her name here.)

What's in a name change, anyway? There's a tradition about these things going back many, many years (Roman women added their husband's names upon marriage), and some people respect it, some don't. No one can force anyone to change his name, to take someone else's name, or even to keep his own name. (My father, by the way, told me that my life would be a lot easier if I changed the spelling of my name from "Scheie" to "Shay," but I prefer the misery I have always known.)

Who the hell is anyone to tell a woman (or a man, for that matter) what name to use? Isn't that the business of the individual? The idea that someone has any say in the life of someone else -- to me that's one of the most ugly aspects of human behavior, and because I'm likely to overreact and do exactly what such people tell me not to do, the trickiest part of life has been figuring out how not to be influenced by it at all.

Michelle Malkin was said to be a hypocrite for changing her name (to her husband's name) but leaving her maiden name on some form somewhere for the leftists to discover. For that she belongs in a concentration camp and has no right to criticize Teresa Heinz for adding the "Kerry" only for politics or something. (I admit, I'm having a bit of trouble following the logic.)

But hey, wait a second! Isn't Teresa's full name really "Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes-Ferreira Heinz Kerry?" Why pick and choose, stopping with the "Heinz?"

How are we supposed to parse this insanity in political terms? She took and kept one husband's name, right? She might want to lose the Kerry, right? (I wouldn't blame her; in the long run, "Heinz" will probably retain its value and have better name recognition than "Kerry.")

So what's the big deal?

Why must personal decisions be seen, criticized and analyzed in terms of crackpot theories of dominance and subordination, anyway? Suppose they legalized same sex marriage. Would anyone criticize one spouse's decision to take the name of the other spouse? I doubt it.

I suspect this has to do more with judging and shaming the woman (there's that hideous shame topic again) than anything else. These are personal, private decisions, and they're public only to the extent that one's name is public.

The topic does lead, however, to something that has long intrigued me about feminist theory. It's wrong for women to be dependent, right? OK. I can accept the idea of independence and individuality for anyone who wants it -- male or female. To be less than independent is akin to slavery.

So that would appear to make me a feminist.

So what I want to know is: why do the vast majority of feminists believe in socialism? Feminism has even been defined as socialism (perhaps as environmentalism too) but it makes no sense, and libertarian feminists are left out of the picture.

Socialism means dependency on the state. Why would anyone supporting independence be in favor of socialism? Slapping the label of "feminist" on it only adds insult to injury.

If (as the logic goes) dependency on men is bad, what makes dependency on government good?

I mean, isn't there a power imbalance there too?

I also strongly suspect that there's a power imbalance going on with the very name "Socialism." I think it's another one of those true names that dare not speak its name.

posted by Eric on 12.09.04 at 10:01 AM


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Tracked on December 15, 2004 6:22 PM


"My father, by the way, told me that my life would be a lot easier if I changed the spelling of my name from 'Scheie' to 'Shay,' but I prefer the misery I have always known."

Yeah, I'm sure your father was just trying to protect you, but better the devil you know.

Not by much, though. My surname has accent--not full-on pronunciation--problems. But it still sucks when you're barred from disembarking from an international flight because the ticket agent didn't double the final consonant bequeathed you by your blameless ancestors, and your passport and boarding pass read differently.

Sean Kinsell   ·  December 9, 2004 12:57 PM

The feminism-socialism thing is a red herring. The Berlin wall fell 15 years ago--find a new canard!

Scott   ·  December 9, 2004 1:16 PM

The Berlin Wall fell? Does that mean socialism is bad?

Eric Scheie   ·  December 9, 2004 3:31 PM


Nah...socialism was bad long before the Wall fell.

Richard Cook   ·  December 9, 2004 4:20 PM

That's what I thought too, Richard. We'll get this history thing straightened out eventually (if I can ever find a new canard....)

Eric Scheie   ·  December 9, 2004 5:22 PM

I'm against socialism. For 20 years, from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, I called myself a feminist because I valued the independence and individuality of women. I still value the independence and individuality of woman every bit as much, but I've stopped calling myself a feminist for all the reasons you named, i.e., I'm disgusted with at least 90% of what is called feminism today.

I love what Dean wrote about his wife Rosemary. She uses his last name Esmay, but anybody who thinks she's a submissive doormat doesn't know the Queen of All Evil. Nobody could conceivably conceive of Ayn Rand O'Connor as a submissive doormat. In fact, anybody who thinks _any_ woman in the Western world is a submissive doormat doesn't know women, doesn't know his or her own mother!

This whole subject of names is EXTREMELY interesting to me. I think a lot about names I like the spelling of your name "Scheie". I hope you'll keep it that way. I was pronouncing it "Sky" until you informed me it is "Shay". It looks Germanic.

I've seen my name spelled and pronounced a number of different ways, "Stephen", "Stewart", "Starn", "Storm", "Malcom", "Malcomb", "Milkman", "Andersen", "Henderson", "Stevenson". It's a lot of fun. I've often thought about changing my name to something perhaps more euphonious such as "Spiro Agnew", "Trevor Armbrister", "Revilo P. Oliver", etc., but I'll stick with the name my father gave me. Logically, my name should be "Samuelson" since my father's name was Samuel rather than Andrew, but he is descended from the Scotch clan of the Andersons, and I have a tie with the plaid of that ancient family.

A commenter in that thread of Dean's noted that, if a woman keeps her maiden name instead of taking her husband's name, she is still using a man's name, her father's, which is just as patriarchal if not more so. If she uses her mother's father's name, that's still patriarchal. Wince and Nod (a Christian libertarian) suggested Evesdaughter as a feminist surname for women.

The Vikings used "daughter" as well as "son", e.g., Leif Eriksen, Freydis Eriksdotter. The ancient Egyptians traced descent through the mother's line, but I don't think they used our European-style "Firstname-Lastname" convention. Egyptian women's names often ended with "t", e.g., Queen Hatshepsut, Bast or Bastet, Sekhmet (Bastet in a bad mood), Auset (Isis).

The Femocrats used a feminine name for a last name, e.g., Bara Dorothy, Cinda Elizabeth. I love the _style_ of that. Since women have feminine middle names, I myself often use those for my female characters, e.g., Margaret Anne, Dorothy Ellen, Elizabeth Leslie, Dawn Catherine, Norma Jean, Wanda Maria. Transcendental Femocracy?

Mrs. Bricker took on her husband's, Mr. John Bricker's, last name. I named him after the Senator from Ohio who, in the 1950s, proposed an Amendment to protect the Constitution. I named her Rosemary after the Queen of All Evil.

When Norma married Dawn, she added Dawn's last name ro her own, Norma Jean Kendall-Norman, both to signify their holy bond and because of the euphonious sound of it. At the insistence of both, Dawn kept her own name as is because of the euphonious sound of it, Dawn Catherine Norman. "I am holy Norma's captive Goddess forever."

Wanda will always be Dr. Wanda Maria Khlausthyne, because she will never marry but will always have orgies and adulteries instead, and she is the most brilliant physicist on the planet.

Around and around it goes, where it stops nobody knows.... The _styles_ of it all.... Most fascinating....

Norma Jean Kendall-Norman. Her father's name Kendall, General Oliver Willmoore Kendall.

Willmoore Kendall was a friend of William F. Buckley, and he often liked to tell this story:

At some point in the 1950s, he was at an academic conference discussing Communism, civil liberties, etc. The Negro janitor who was cleaning his room asked him: "Professor, is it true -- is it true dat -- dat dere's people in New York who want to -- to destroy de guvamint of de United States?"

Professor Willmoore Kendall replied solemnly: "Yes, Oliver, that is true."

And Oliver asked: "Den -- den why don't we just lock 'em up?"

And Willmoore Kendall observed that there was more wisdom in that Negro janitor than in all the other political science professors and civil libertarians he was arguing with.

The _style_ of that! I think Willmoore Kendall had an Authoritarian Personality. And, therefore, from that story I was inspired: the great anti-Communist Negro Air Force General Oliver Willmoore Kendall.

Michelle Malkin. I sure keep running into a lot of M.M.'s these days!

My brother's Persian girlfriend Mozhdeh Malakhan.

On the Left: Michael Moore.
On the Right: the despicable Marilyn Musgrave (who sponsored and helped write that Federal Anti-Marriage Amendment, and has an odious voting record) vs. the noble Mary Matalin (who once said that to be pro-homosexual is conservative -- no truer words were ever spoken).

Margie Milligan, who was a track star at Bellevue Community College, a Negress, one of the most beautiful women I have ever beheld, one of the inspirations for holy Dawn's holy Negro wife Norma.

Most fascinating....

Steven, you supply such boundless cheer and enlightenment that it has helped brighten many a gloomy day.

You must be a gift from the gods!

Eric Scheie   ·  December 10, 2004 7:38 AM

Dear Eric:

Thank you! That's just warms my heart, and I feel exactly that way about you.

I'm late to this little party, but let me put in my feminine 2 cents worth ...

I think naming is pretty much tradition and like most traditions, we just don't think too deeply on this as long as they sit well. Most women who don't have some sort of axe to grind just goes with what works. Taking their husbands name and having that be THE family name for the kids simplifies things. For Ms. Malkin, she wanted to honor her husband (not an unusual emotion on the part of many wives) by taking his name, but it is such a hassle sometimes to be changing one's LEGAL name (especially if you have degrees or professional creditials in one's maiden name) keeping the legal stuff status quo is fine.

I took back my maiden name upon my divorce and when I remarried I kept it the same (it was the paperwork hassle that annoyed it was interesting to find out that after 16 plus years of being married and thinking I HAD changed all my paperwork that Social Security had never changed my maiden name at any time... argh).

Click is a rather unusual name, anyway ... Family rumor has it as an Americanized version of a Norwegian name... My family having come to the New World through England into New York in 1697 as indentured servants, sold to work on a plantation in Virginia. Took about 60 years to work off the bond, family went to Kentucky and pretty well stayed there to this day. At least the spelling of "Click" isn't too easy to misspell. One other close branch of the Kentucky family is the Samons (or Salmons) who, through several US censuses either gain or lose the "l".

I won't get into what Ellis Island did to my maternal grandfather's German family name when they came through in 1855.

Men and women should really be free to self-identification...if that means following old family traditions, regaining old names, or wholely reinventing themselves.

Rose is a rose, correct?


Darleen   ·  December 11, 2004 2:17 AM

Thanks Darleen. Interesting family history; your family spans nearly the entire American experience.

The problem with these things is that it really ought to be the business of the women themselves (in conjuction with their husbands), but self-styled "leaders" manifest themselves out of nowhere and people feel obligated to do as they're told. So many people imagine that they're being independent and thinking for themselves, yet if you talk to them, you'll soon discover they can't justify what they claim they "think" -- because they're following thought trends the way others follow fashion.

Which is why so many of us blog.


Eric Scheie   ·  December 16, 2004 9:09 AM

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