Choices, lack of choices, and names

This wedge-capped capuchin is being all matrilineal.
This wedge-capped capuchin is being all matrilineal.

The most obvious way I honour my mother’s memory is by taking her maiden name.

The ways I carry on what my mother taught me are not always obvious. I get my daughter trinkets randomly, I hide M&Ms in my partner’s popcorn, and I make sure the kiddo and I are always in the middle of a book. Since we stayed with her mother for some time, and as my sister I continued to do so after our mother passed, I make sure to respect my elders.

Nine years ago I received my change of name and revised birth certificates. I wrote my nonna regularly when I was not living with her, and she was ecstatic when the return address showed their name in place of my biological father’s.

Last month, coincidentally on my mother’s birthday, discussion of identity was the focus of my Legal Institutions and Social Justice class. Various factors were considered, and the topic of names came up with the example of Quebec. In Quebec, a person’s name cannot be changed to their spouse’s. So, a woman is given the right to keep her maiden name in a patriarchal world, but at the same time her right to choose is taken away- in line with the ways of the very same patriarchal world.

After I mentioned how I have my mother’s last name, and my daughter uses the same, but hers is legally hyphenated. A male classmate noted, that if a man “inseminates” a woman, it his right to have their child use his last name only. Initially his comments were regarded as a matter of opinion, my professor was so shocked and caught off guard by the misogynistic, entitled comment. I did approach her after class, and the next class focused on tone, wording, and creating safe places within the classroom.

Not long after I came across a headline talking about matrilineality. Matrilineal descent means family lineage is traced back through the mother’s side. Weird timing, and weirder, that I hadn’t heard of matrilineality until now.

What are your thoughts on patriarchal and matrilineal tracing?

I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDiMenna.com

Comments are closed.