It’s a long-standing tradition, dating back to who-knows-when, for women to take their husband’s last name when they were married. In much of history, wives were considered the property of their husband, and taking on their last name was just one little part of that. Even in our relatively recent American history, married women were unable to get a credit card unless their husband cosigned, even up until 1974!
While marriage is an important institution, one that has (slowly) changed along with our society, it has such a deep history connected to female oppression and male ownership of women. The assumption that a woman will change her last name to that of her husband is a part of that history. It’s also super heteronormative.
Okay okay, I know I’m not writing an essay for a women’s studies class.
It can be a beautiful thing to take on someone else’s last name. It shows that you’re creating a new family unit, that you are a part of someone else’s life so deeply and truly, and it just generally signifies marriage and lasting commitment. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the desire for a woman to change her last name, but I do think that it shouldn’t be an automatic, this-is-the-only-way-to-do-this notion.
So, when Ben and I got married, he took my last name.
I’ve spent so much of this time thinking and reading and feeling all of the feelings. I’ve been using social media to share lots of these feelings, and the feedback of solidarity and understanding has been incredibly helpful. This election has showed us just how divided our country is, but luckily I’ve got lots of people in my circles that have been able to share words of comforting wisdom and ways to turn this anger into action.
All of that aside, now is an incredibly important time for a reminder on how to practice self care. Many of us are hurting and angry and upset, and it can be easy to forget to spend some of our energy focusing on ourselves and our well-being. Self care is something I learned about in college when I was heavily involved with my college’s feminist group, the Feminist Association of Wheaton. Being in that group and being a Women’s & Gender Studies major meant that a lot of my time was taken up with activist efforts, reading heavy articles & books about society, and learning about less-than-pleasant things, aka the systemic oppression of women and minorities in our world. Real fun, huh?
While not fun, all of that was incredibly important for me to learn and be involved with. Luckily, many feminist groups and communities know the importance of regular self care, so that is something that I learned about and practiced during this time.
What is self care? Self care is taking the time to put yourself first, to get in touch with yourself & your emotions, and to give yourself time and space to reflect and heal. It’s really something that everyone should be doing regularly, but is especially important in times like this, where it’s hard to avoid hearing or reading potentially distressing things. There are a lot of ways to practice self care, and a healthy form of self care is different for each person. Also, pro tip, be careful to avoid disguising unhealthy or self-destructive habits as self care. It’s way too easy to let that happen. Other than that, there’s not really a wrong or right way to take care of yourself – so your list might be totally different than mine!
I started my internship this Tuesday, and finished up my first week this evening! It’s been a whirlwind of a week, with a lot of learning about how the organization is run and meeting tons of new people (many of whom are named Siobhan), but I’m really enjoying the experience so far!
I’m interning at the Dublin Well Woman Centre, which provides reproductive health services at three clinics across Dublin. The services can range from simple pap smears to more serious things like crisis pregnancy counseling, all of which are incredibly important. I will be doing work with Well Woman’s website content, social media platforms (just Facebook right now – maybe a blog soon!) and governance/best practice. I still have a TON to learn and spent most of this week doing research to see how other organizations are run and present themselves, which is really interesting to see. I think Well Woman has room to improve, and I feel so lucky that they’re willing to let me try to help!
As a Women’s and Gender Studies major at Wheaton College (MA), I was incredibly excited to be able to take the Violence Against Women course that is only offered every two years. It is taught by two amazing professors (one in the sociology department, the other in anthropology) who have basically made studying violence against women their life’s work. During the first half of the course, we read academic articles about the many different aspects within the overarching topic of violence against women. It is not an easy class to take, as the material is incredibly hard to read sometimes. However, the second half of the course is designed to make the students into activists that can make a difference on our campus. We are required to design a symposium week together as a class that aims to raise awareness about violence against women and the way it is manifested on Wheaton’s campus. Our symposium week (which is happening right now!) has included events about our school’s sexual misconduct policy, a visit from a local SANE nurse for our pre-health students, public art displays, and more.
For my group’s part of the symposium, we decided to make a video about healthy and unhealthy relationships. We surveyed the Wheaton community (students, faculty, and staff) and asked them to tell us about an experience from a healthy relationship and/or an experience from an unhealthy relationship. We received an overwhelming number of responses – half of which made us grin from ear to ear, and the other half which made us feel incredibly sad. We took these statements, edited them down, and chose about 30 healthy and 30 unhealthy statements to put in our video. We went around campus and asked students and staff to say these statements while we filmed them, with the understanding that these stories are not their own but that they represent anonymous experiences from the Wheaton community. The filming experience itself was powerful (for us and the actors) and we were all so grateful to the large numbers of students who were willing to participate in this project. I learned a lot about filming and how to use my camera in ways I hadn’t before, too. After many many MANY hours of editing (done by a group member and an awesome film student who volunteered to help, thanks Nico), we finally had our video.
We released it on YouTube on Sunday night, and by Monday night, we had over 1,000 views. The response from the Wheaton community and from those outside of it has been incredible! We are beyond happy with the final product and the story that it tells.
YOU deserve to be in a healthy, happy relationship, and our video can help you understand what that relationship can and should sound like. We have the power to change the narrative.
Please share the video so we can extend our reach throughout the Wheaton community and beyond. Thanks for reading! Margaret.