Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Name Oppression

There was plenty of outrage on the interwebs when this story came out in January about a Florida man who took his wife's last name when he married and then was relieved of his driver's license by the Florida DMV because, as it turns out, it is indeed not legal for a man to change his name through the short marital process that women avail themselves of so perniciously often upon marriage - not in Florida or in 40 other states, including Texas.

Florida backed off after all the media attention and gave the nice man his license back,  but the assumption that women have less right to their name than men is widespread in our society.

I am personally aware of an egregious example of this.  

A friend of mine had a child rather young through an unfortunate dalliance with a man who was unsuitable for fatherhood.  Pregnancy made my friend decide to become a suitable parent, but he had no similar transformation and had very little contact with their daughter over the years (as in, a handful of  meetings with her between the ages of four and six).  My friend never pursued child support, though she really needed it,  because she knew that the man was not always safe to have unsupervised around a young child.

At adolescence, though, the child developed a strong emotional need to get to know her father.  She begged.  So her mother started looking for him and found that she could not locate him through old acquaintances or family members.  She filed for child support in order to get the AG's office to find him, because her daughter wanted to find him so badly.

She was given a court date, to which the father did not appear.  The judge assigned back child support and an order for monthly payments.  Then the judge - a woman no less - started to order the child's last name to be changed to her father's last name, although he still was yet to be located and had never even requested such a thing.

The mother argued that her daughter was eleven and did not want her name changed and that they were not even sure they would find the father.  The judge nastily told her that she would "waive" the name change if my friend waived her right to back child support. 

So my friend did.  Her daughter kept her name.  She never saw a dime of any kind of child support because the father never surfaced in the years that followed.

Who in the nine hells did that judge think she was to order such a thing?  Why should it be a man's right to stamp his name all over a child like a piece of property after someone else bore and raised the child?  What sort of world is this?

A name may seem like a small thing but it tells you a lot about how your society values you.

Or doesn't.


Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe said...

The mind BOGGLES! How terrible. I hope she never actually used the father's name despite the legal change.

Lone Star Ma said...

She did not change it - but the judge made her waive her right to back child support because she didn't.