Thursday, May 10, 2007

ok, I'm a feminist

I don't normally associate myself with the word feminist. Its not that I think that I'm not, its more that I am lucky enough not to need to think about it. I can live the life that I want to live.

Today, as I sat in the Illinois Bar swearing in ceremony, I was reminded of one of my pet peeves - "girly" handshakes. I have nothing against girly handshakes in the proper context. Debutantes are welcome to shake hands with men by just using the tips of their fingers. Women who frequent Renaissance fairs are welcome to use this gesture. I can't really think of any other place that they are appropriate, but I'm sure there are some. Where I find them unacceptable is in any business context. They bother me because they say that women shouldn't be treated the same as men that we are too delicate. They really aggravate me because they are the reason why men often attempt to give me one as well. Women who give the "girly" handshake in business situations cause men not to know how to treat those of us who shake hands like regular people. Watching several women give the girly handshake to an Illinois Supreme Court judge made me angry and embarrassed. Its such a simple gesture that says so much about how we expect to be treated.

On another "feminist" issue, I'm fascinated with people who are mortified that I wouldn't want to take my potential future husband's name. Its not that I'm against women taking their husband's names on principal. Honestly, I don't really care what other people do, but people seem offended that I will probably keep my last name for the rest of my life (don't ask me how this comes up in conversation, I don't really understand that myself). When I was younger, I liked the thought of losing my last name. My last name causes people to make certain assumptions about me - which while perhaps true about my father are not true about me. Its very Jewish, and dad is Jewish, but I'm Catholic. My (ex-nun) mother came at the request of the school and taught my elementary school about Jewish holidays like Hanukkah, and I dread facing a similar request myself. I don't know much more about the Jewish holidays than the average Catholic person. Anyway, not long ago I came to the realization that I will likely have my last name for the rest of my life. I want to keep my name because it means something. I sometimes think that I would be shooting myself in the foot if I took on another name. I'm in a career where networking is especially important. People I met in college and law school will hopefully be people I interact with in the future. I will have to build a client base and keep myself employed. If I shed my last name, I shed all of those connections. People I meet now or don't keep in good touch with will not know this new named person. I'm a professional and no one would expect a professional man to give up his business name because he got married. Now, potentially, I could hyphenate. Hyphenating is not for me. My last name is already nine letters and three syllables long. Adding anything on to that is absurd. Now, what I want to know is who am I hurting by keeping this name forever? When one of my friend married and kept her last name, the minister kept insinuating that this was terrible, that she wasn't respecting her husband, that it foretold bad things for the future of their marriage. Why? I don't understand. Alright, enough feminism for now...


Heather said...

my last name is a super pain in the butt... and I always just assumed I would change it (just to have a more "normal" last name) but lately I have been thinking of all that we have accomplished with our last names. I mean, women are now waiting until they are older to get married... my BA and MA will have this last name, it's part of my identity. Kind of a complicated thing, but I am totally with you. I read an article (and I can't find it) that changing her last name can also be very tough on a woman's sense of self. It's a personal choice, overall, I guess. But come on--now all our race stats have our maiden names as well ;-)

Ovens2Betsy said...

Let's hear it for those of us who have kept our last names (and who know how to properly shake hands)


Elisabeth said...

Yeah. Apparently, I'm not respecting my husband keeping my last name.

You know it was SUCH a big deal at first to people, but now that it's been a year, no one notices anything at all or cares. We just have different last names!