International Women’s Day Has This Woman Wondering What’s the Point?

Seattle Municipal Archives from Seattle, WA, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

In case you weren’t aware from my previous articles or the title of this particular piece, I am a full-blown female. That’s right, I don’t “identify” as a woman, I’m not a trans-woman otherwise known as a man, and I’m not non-binary.

From the time I was born a little over 40 years ago until today, I have been a living, breathing fighting hard working woman. As a woman who has successfully walked this Earth for 40 years, I have faced all manner of obstacles – from sexist male bosses who preferred I worked as their secretary than as a strategic military leader to fellow women who would try to knock me down to raise themselves up.

This month is the overly celebrated Women’s History Month, and last week marked International Women’s Day. So let’s look at some of the nonsense spewed in the previous week in the name of Women.

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Who is Shakespeare Without the Shakespeare?

Last week Penguin Random House publishing released limited edition classic novels with the author’s names changed significantly. The campaign titled #NameChanger is meant to turn our thoughts on conventionalism on its head, so to speak, by reimagining what the world would’ve been like had some of our famous writers through time had their mother’s surnames instead of their father’s.

Check it out below: 

For example, Oscar Wilde would’ve been Oscar Elgee, the perpetually dull Jane Austen would’ve been Jane Leigh, and one of my favorites would’ve been William Arden. Who is William Arden?

None other than the great Bard of Avon himself, William Shakespeare. The motto of this campaign is “A name change designed to change mentalities.” 

The video advertisement asks why people always take their father’s surname instead of their mother’s. The accompanying answer is, “It’s just a social construct rooted on dated conventions.”

That’s true, but why is it wrong to continue with convention just because it’s old and related to the men in our lives, specifically our fathers? Would William Shakespeare be as prolific today had he been William Arden? 

Would I still find Pride and Prejudice boring if Jane Leigh had written it? Most definitely. 

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What’s in a Name?

Children adopting their father’s surname is not a universal practice. The most known diversion from this practice comes from many Spanish-speaking countries.

In many of these countries, the child takes both parents’ last names as a double-named last name. However, in Iceland, surnames reflect a parent’s first name – for example, the surname Helguson means ‘son of Helga’ – which I think is very cool.

Before the 17th century in England, surnames reflected your job or where you lived. So, for example, your last name might be ‘Potter,’ signifying that you are a, well, potter.

Or your last name would have been ‘Hilton’ to signify that you live in a ‘hill town.’ In 1975 only 3% of American women kept their surnames after marriage.

Three decades later, that number was a whopping 20%. I happen to be a part of that percentage.

My last name, Anderson, is my father’s surname, not my husband’s. So why did I choose to keep my maiden name?

My job mainly. At the time, I was in the military and had made it up in the ranks. I was known at the time of our marriage as Master Sergeant Anderson. While Master Sergeant Black sounds much cooler, it would’ve diluted my name recognition. 

However, our children have their dad’s last name, not mine – an easy choice we made and one that we spent, in all fairness, little time thinking about.

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Out of Focus

Keeping my maiden last name was primarily a professional decision but also made out of convenience. Changing one’s name is incredibly difficult and cumbersome, even more so in the military.

The bureaucratic and administrative headaches associated with something as simple as a name change make you wonder how on Earth our country can get anything of any real importance done. But, the inconvenience doesn’t go away if you keep your maiden name and give your children your husband’s last name.

I’ll never forget being refused access to my daughter at her daycare because the front desk wasn’t sure I was her real mother since we didn’t share the same last name. It didn’t matter that my paperwork on file proved I was her mother; to this particular administrative dipstick, it was too difficult to wrap their minds around.

As I said, it’s hard being a woman, and we continue to make it harder each year. What grinds my gears on this particular issue about names is the argument that taking the patrilinear naming route somehow devalues mothers.

As if the only thing a mother has to offer is her name, or that, on the flip side, not passing on the father’s last name wouldn’t in some way devalue their contribution to the family unit. 

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Reality Check

I don’t give two hoots about what people name their kids or what last names people choose. I’m fairly certain that Elon Musk named one of his kids after a math equation. 

What does annoy me is the argument that changing how we name our children or ourselves in any way advances the status and contributions of women and, in turn, mothers. We live in a world where this year, a biological man received an award at the White House from the First Lady at the International Women of Courage Awards.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “When women and girls are empowered, entire families, communities, and societies succeed. So today, as we mark #IWD2023 and celebrate the incredible women and girls in our lives, let’s keep working to build a more equal and equitable future.” Right after, he made sure to tweet out the obligatory “trans women are women.”

So regardless of what parental last name your daughter has, they can work harder than everyone, train harder than everyone, study harder than everyone, and still lose out to a man… just as it’s been for generations. 

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Hello Mother, Hello Father

It’s hard being a woman, and it’s still considerably easier to be a man — particularly one who decides to be a woman. It’s also hard work to be a parent – both a mother and a father.

My husband is the primary caregiver of our two children, who both carry his last name. He cooks all three of their daily meals, homeschools them, takes them to their appointments, and plays with them daily.

I am the Captain of our family ship, so to speak. I decide where we live, make the bulk of the income, and manage the home’s finances. 

The value that children receive from their mothers and their fathers is immeasurable. We should spend a little less time trying to argue one is of higher importance than the other and spend more time encouraging more households to have one of each. 

Name your children whatever you’d like, change your name, or don’t change your name when you get married; neither of these decisions will impact the trajectory of your life in any tangible, measurable way. Unless, of course, you are William Shakespeare… Shakespeare will always and forever be… Shakespeare.

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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