Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How the Other Half Lived

After reading an article in BYU Magazine about successful female athletes, I thought how cool it is for them to know nothing of the struggle it was in the past to be female. I'm not talking about archaic arranged marriages and disenfranchisement. Those were major issues, and they had been overcome (in the US) long before I came along. Certain other injustices to females took a long time to disappear.

The first memory I have of the unfairness of being female, was in about second grade. Some boys were just jerks, and one who was constantly hazing me, slugged me in the stomach on the playground. After I recovered enough to walk, I marched straight to the duty teacher to complain.  Can you guess what she told me?  Slugging or hitting was a boy's way of showing he liked me.  Seriously, so I should be swooning?  That was not the only time I witnessed a boy getting a free ticket to assault someone.

A constant theme in my childhood was "act like a lady." If I climbed a tree, some adult was sure to say I should "act like a lady." Or if I went out to play street baseball w/ the boys, I heard the annoying refrain. I was interested in fun and adventure, not sitting around with my hands in my lap.

As my friends and I grew into cute pre-teens, then teenagers, we hated walking past work sites where Mexicans were laboring. Without exception, those men would all pause in their work, gawk, whistle, and say probably nasty things in Spanish. We avoided them where possible, which was hard in a town full of migrant laborers.

A serious issue in high school was the limited curriculum and opportunities for females. In 9th grade I approached my counselor to tell her I really, really wanted to register for Aviation Science that fall.  You can guess the chuckled response, yet it's shocking even for 1969: "oh honey, that class is for boys only." Good thing it happened to be full anyway, or Mom and I would have made a fuss. Shop classes were also limited to boys. I certainly did not begrudge learning sewing and cooking, but how useful it would have been to also learn about cars and wood and metal. And boys could have learned the important, useful skills of sewing and cooking.

I was never an athlete, so it didn't affect me personally that only boys were offered competitive sports. But it seemed unfair to me that girls had after-school groups that played each other, but only the boys got the big time attention and funding. Not anymore!   

Here's a ridiculous anecdote: After my marriage I went to the DMV to renew my license. I wanted it to say Suzanne B. Walker; the letter B was for my maiden name which was now my middle name. The DMV clerk  said ok, but the letter B would have to be in quote marks, like this: "B".  What the?  No, I said, like this: B.  He insisted that a maiden name was more like a nickname--not your real name, so it would need quote marks. No way!  Of course I stood my ground, but I wonder if Mr. Insane-DMV-Man did that to every woman changing her name.

I'm very glad for my girls, grand-girls, and all other girls out there who can do whatever they are capable of doing, without being restricted because of their wonderful girl-hood.


  1. That "B" thing is awful. What the heck?

    I remember either right before or right after I got married, the temple guy WHITED OUT my maiden name on my recommend, like "you won't be needing THIS anymore!" I know he didn't mean it that way but it wasn't the most tactful thing to do.

  2. What?? I never heard of that happening.

  3. I enjoyed this post. That's weird about the "B" being a nickname for you. Hmmm. Here most women put their maiden name in the middle when they marry. Most of my friends from other places in the US keep the middle name their parents gave them and drop their maiden names. We surveyed each other on this years ago. Granted it was hardly a scientific sample of any sorts. I just grew up assuming First Maiden Husband Last Name was the way ALL women did it. Silly me.

    Ugh about that teacher saying boys show their affection by punching you! I wonder if the police officers agree when they respond to domestic violence cases.

    And I liked climbing trees and doing "boy" stuff when I was younger. I definitely was not a prissy, girly sort. And thankfully my family seemed super-fine with it.

  4. Susanne, around here women mostly use their maiden names as middle names. I have not done a "scientific survey" though.

    I have a few friends who do not use their husband's name at all, but most do.

    I know, how dare Mr. Insane DMV decide my maiden name was a nickname!

  5. Growing up I thought only liberal women and/or movie stars and journalists kept their maiden names (think Hillary Rodham) so as a conservative, I would never do such a thing. Now I find I was silly to think this way. I guess it's just tradition that I followed - part of what makes us as a new family, more fully family.

    In the Arab culture (and others as well) the women keep their father's last names usually. Samer said they used to tease his mom for being "X" when the rest of them were "Y." I do wonder sometimes if a woman would feel - what's the word? - strange if she were the only one in the nuclear family with a different last name. I guess it's what you are used to??

    I like name conversations so thanks for opening up this subject!

  6. I used to think the same as you about women keeping their maiden names, just because I wondered why they would do that. It's a little confusing and makes your children look illegitimate. I don't care anymore. I like using my husband's name as my name now, and using my maiden name as a middle.

    When researching my Eastern European side, it is very common to see married women listed by their maiden name. It sure makes research easier. I didn't know that about the Arab culture.

    1. Yes, I imagine it makes genealogy a lot easier! This is another reason for me to keep my maiden name in the middle at the very least.

      Re: Arabs, I've heard it said you belong to your father, your tribe and it shows how pro-women Islam is compared to other cultures where you take your husband's last name and don't get to keep your identity. Either way it seems the mom's side gets gypped since in neither case is her name passed on.

      I met a lady from Chile a few years ago and she said women in her country keep their maiden names upon marriage. And Chile is a Christian country. Maybe it's a Protestant thing to take husbands' last names?

      Now I am curious why some cultures do what they do. Why is taking the husband's last name more common in some societies and not others? Where did it all begin? I wonder if I could find a book about that topic.

  7. Is there a section in the library for "nameology?" Perhaps there should be. I would read through the nameology section.

    I never thought about religion influencing naming practices. Many American traditions were transferred from England, but don't they commonly use hyphenated names, mother & father?

    In the US today we can name ourselves anything we want. I'm a traditionalist so wont' do anything outlandish. I have a friend who with her husband, created a new name on their marriage; they used one syllable from his, one from hers to make an entirely different name.