I was not more than four when I first learnt that there was a thing called a maiden name – and that it changed with your marital status. I also learnt the fact that in most cases, this is applicable only to women. On the other hand, men are free to live and die with the ‘last name’ with which they are born.
I was seven when I learnt that a surname can reveal a lot of things about a person – the religion they follow, the language they speak, their caste, etc.
The problem with surnames is that it speaks much about one’s history and absolutely nothing about the person themselves. It often becomes a burden for people, especially those from the so-called lower castes and the Dalits. In such cases, their surnames become a weapon for those looking for an opportunity to discriminate.
But do surnames really constitute our identity? Do they reflect who we really are? Why are people not satisfied with just knowing our names – and why does it become necessary for them to know our ‘full name’?
Whether we women change our surnames after our marriage or not – it simply doesn’t matter. Even if we retain our maiden name, we’ll be carrying our father’s surname. Surnames are another side of patriarchy that needs to be done away with. A woman has the option of using either her father’s surname or her husband’s surname. But what about her own identity? What about our mother’s share in our names?
This reminds me of the famous film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. As a tribute to his mother, he writes his mother’s name as his middle name.How often do we come across such examples?
If a women retains her maiden name, patriarchy ensures that her family name dies with her, because her children would normally be given her last husband’s surname. Even if a woman is daring enough to demand that her child be given her last name instead of her husband’s, then society will probably label her as a self-centred and an un-lady-like woman – and the whole idea would be classified as unacceptable and against our ‘culture’.
On this Mother’s Day, I was again reminded of this question: why can’t we do away with surnames and give some space to mothers by recognising their unconditional love and sacrifice? How long will this side of patriarchy (along with its other forms) last? For how long will we be required to display our caste, religion, ancestral, linguistic roots?
How long before equality?
Featured image used for representative purposes only.