Thursday, August 16, 2007
On the Matrimonial Practice of the Use of the Husband’s Surname
The matrimonial practice of the use of the husband’s surname in substitution of the wife’s maiden name is a tacit reflection of the continued perpetration of a social imbalance of power between men and women, despite the marked changes in the empowerment and importance of women in different aspects of society – work, politics and culture. The practice is, at best, only symbolic of the subjugation of women for centuries, especially in view of the fact that even the maiden name of the wife was derived from the surname of her father, as her mother lost her own maiden name upon marriage as well. More so, this formal-legal practice stretches back for centuries prior to the first consolidation of a women’s movement based on their empowerment and rights, to the extent that the practice is now viewed simply to facilitate legal efficiency in the transfer and protection of rights and properties among families. However, much work and advocacy can still be done to dismantle this patriarchal and tacitly chauvinist legal practice, such as legislation that orders the mutual consent of the spouses as the basis of the changing of surnames upon marriage, instead of the presumptions of the law. Thereby, the law ensures that the wife was given the right to assert herself upon marriage as to whether or not she intends to retain her maiden name or adopt the surname of her husband. Nonetheless, as this practice is simply more symbolic of male dominance over women, it must be said that there are more pervasive forms of domination that women must focus on and advocate further than this legal practice, because even if the law looks favorably on women insofar as their maiden name is concerned, the more substantive forms of subjugation and dominance such as domestic violence and harassment in the workplace shall continue to happen. While the legal practice of adopting the maiden of the wife is proof of the social practice of dominance, women must not lose sight of the more direct attacks against their rights such as those stated above.