Who’s We?

Well really. There is a limit. And I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’m perfectly happy to be peculiar, eccentric, bloody-minded, odd, etc (which is just as well), but there are some ideas and thoughts one wants to see plenty of resistance to. There are a lot of them in this ridiculous comment by Katie Roiphe.

These days, no one is shocked when an independent-minded woman takes her husband’s name, any more than one is shocked when she announces that she is staying at home with her kids.

Oh is that so. No one? Really? How do you know? Have you asked every last one of us? Have you asked the black swan? And anyway, what a silly word to use – ‘shocked’ – how typical that is of this kind of post-feminist bilge. It’s not about being shocked, for heaven’s sake, it’s about equality. ‘Shocked’ is a sly, underhanded way of making prepostfeminists sound like prudish Victorians drawing back their skirts. Of implying that subordination is sexy and sexual (Roiphe ought to read or re-read Mill on that subject) and refusal of subordination is sexless and antisexual.

There’s something romantic and pleasantly old-fashioned about giving up your name, a kind of frisson in seeing yourself represented as Mrs. John Doe in the calligraphy of a wedding invitation on occasion. At the same time it’s reassuring to see your own name in a byline or a contract. Like much of today’s shallow, satisfying, lipstick feminism: One can, in the end, have it both ways.

Ew. Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew. Oh yes that dear old delicious frisson of seeing oneself obliterated and disappeared and nullifed and erased. Of no longer being oneself but being instead Mrs SomeoneElse. Mrs Man. Funny how that’s not a frisson men long for, isn’t it. And funny how people can be stupid enough not to realize (or is it not to care? which is worse?) what these invidious distinctions say about women. Get a clue, Roiphe. If it’s only women who are expected to become Mrs SomeoneElse when they get married and men carry right on being Mr Himself, that is saying something about women. Maybe you should think a little harder about what that something is. (Here’s a hint: it’s that women are inferior and subordinate.) And don’t be in such a damn hurry to assume that you speak for all women, that you know who ‘we’ are and what we think.

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