Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's in a (sur)name?

There was an article published on news.com.au yesterday (a reliable source if ever there was one) about a woman who was travelling with her children overseas. The woman had remarried and hence had a different surname to her children. On going through border patrol, the children were separated from their mother and asked to confirm that she was indeed their mother and not a random lady abducting them. The end result was that for future travel she needs to carry a letter from her ex-husband granting her permission to travel with the children.

This made me think. When I married Mr Fork, I chose not to take his surname. It was just easier for me – I had an established career, my own asset base and frankly, I couldn’t be bothered to go through all the hassle of changing it. Nor did I see any reason why I should have to – I’ve had my name since birth, it’s how everyone knows me and I’m quite attached to it. And I think it’s better than his. Anyway, whatever my reasons, Mr Fork was fine with them as long as any children we had would get his name. I agreed, and so Ellie and he have the same surname, and I have my own.

It doesn’t bother me, although some people were a little offput with my decision and it does seem to confuse a few individuals. My father sends all mail addressed to Mr and Mrs Fork. Sometimes, I’ll get referred to as Mrs Fork when I’m at something to do with Ellie. At the hospital giving birth, I was checked in under my own name, and everyone called him Mr Lisa* (*my surname). That bothered him more than it did me.

I got to thinking though. What makes our society so patriarchal that fathers need to give permission for anything? What makes my husband’s surname better and more meaningful than mine? I actually lobbied quite hard for both of us to change our names when we got married and combine our names into something new (not one of those awful hyphenated names). I was shot down. Turns out, Mr Fork is attached to his name too – while he couldn’t care less about my name, he didn’t want to change his either. Further research showed it would be quite difficult anyway. Did you know that if a woman wants to change her name after marriage/divorce, it’s a simple document and showing of your marriage certificate? If a man wants to do the same, he has to do it through deed poll and all the old certificates (birth etc) are declared null and new ones issued!

What a crock. Just another example of inequality of the sexes. I guarantee you, if a man was travelling through security with children of a different name, I’m sure he wouldn’t have gotten the same treatment as that poor woman. Shame!

Do you have the same name as your children? Has it been a big deal for you?

1 comment:

  1. It was an issue before I got my passport changed to reflect both names because I would have to go through "alien" immigration in US Border control with the Little Man while hubby went through "citizens" area. Since then I have a copy of the Little Man's birth certificate clipped to the back page of his passport. Never had to bring it out but its there if anyone wants it.

    Also it's not that hard to change a name (easier than getting married anyway)... I got the deed poll thing done to change the order of my names as it shows official documents and it was only $50 bucks all up and I did most of it online except for a 30 min meeting with a lawyer. Lately I've found that it gets accepted far more readily than my US marriage certificate by Australian authorities.

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