Yet another article, this from Australian writer Zoe Holman, insisting that women - or just women who identify as feminists? - who change their names when they marry owe their feminist friends an explanation. Holman, when she musters up the courage to ask, "will expect a damn good answer." Friends-of-Holman, you'd better start coming up with one.
I suppose I prefer the approach that involves telling women generally not to change their names. It's the one-on-one aspect of this I find unsettling. On what basis is Holman owed an explanation? She writes,
The choice to marry is deeply personal. But when publicly performed, it becomes a statement of implied social values and virtues. And when we are asked to participate in this ritual, to bear witness and to endorse it even in the face of our disagreement, the least we can ask for is an explanation.Is that really how it works? By attending a wedding, are you really endorsing anything beyond your friendship with, or sense of obligation to, one or both spouses? If you attend a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, are you owed an explanation of the Jewish spouse's thoughts on intermarriage? (If you get really lucky, you could be handed a 500-page dissertation...). Or if you're at the wedding of two white people, should you revisit the "Girls" critique and ask why it didn't work out with anyone of color, or did they even date anyone of color prior to getting married, hmm? Or maybe, by attending a wedding of any kind, you're owed an explanation of why these two people are heading like sheep to a patriarchal form of commitment?
If these are close, current friends whose actual weddings you're attending (as vs. people whose name-changes you've learned of through social media - and with all the pseudonyms on Facebook, we're really turning Facebook name-change into a feminist issue? the maiden name's usually still visible, but maybe a perk of name-change, for some, is that frenemies from middle school won't track you down), sure, if you're curious about something they've done publicly, ask. If it turns out your friend is in an abusive relationship and has been forced to change her name, do what you can to help. If, however, it's that your friend just feels like Mrs. Her-Dude (or, as is common in the States these days, a Ms. Her-Dude), what then? If your friend identifies as a feminist, she's probably aware of that a certain, vocal branch of feminism is fixated on trappings, and disapproves.
I suspect Holman doesn't want an explanation, but an apology. Or a squirmy, defensive, unsatisfying explanation for her to deem unacceptable.