This summer I got married to my best friend and the most amazing man I have ever met. My husband is smart, funny, kind, compassionate and charming. I am so proud to have him as my life partner. We had a beautiful ceremony in the woods with our close friends and family. Generally I enjoy answering questions about the wedding and take the opportunity to brag about my new husband. Unfortunately I have recently encountered a disturbing trend in questions/ conversations with some acquaintances when I seem them for the first time after the wedding. They usually start off on the right track with a congratulations (much appreciated) and a basic question (how was the wedding?). At that point things can go terribly awry. First is the name thing. For some reason people have started to call me Mrs. Brinkman (the only name I couldn't possibly have) and then they look really confused when I explain to them that my name hasn't changed. If I am in a good mood I might make a joke or try to explain (like, once you put in the work to become a "Dr." you kinda wanna keep that name). Other times I just clarify and leave it to them to figure out. Now, I have nothing against a woman (or man) changing his last name when he gets married. I do, however, have a problem with people making the assumption that all women will or should change their names. A recent post on the Atlantic Wire explored this assumption, along with an even more disturbing one--the belief that women are not committed to their husbands unless they change their name. Besides the fact that no one assumes men are not committed to their wives if they don't change their names (sexist BS, much?), the data doesn't match this erroneous belief. As the Atlantic notes, "educated women, who are more likely to marry at a later age, also tend to have the most sustaining (and happiest) marriages.... it's not much of a leap to assume that a woman is more likely to hang onto her own name after years of having it, establishing herself and her career." The decision to change one's name (or not) after getting married is a personal one and every individual/couple should do what is right for them. Women shouldn't have to defend or justify that decision to complete strangers. Really.
After clearing up the name issue, sometimes people are brave enough to tackle the topic of children. I know, I know, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby..." Ok, hopefully everyone by now knows that nursery rhymes are not intended to be factual representations of life (spoiler alert; cows can NOT jump over the moon). A couple's decision about whether/if/when/how to have children is as unique as the couple itself. Assuming that every couple is going to try to have children the second they get married is just silly. Further, getting married didn't mean I started wearing a sign saying "Please ask me about my reproductive health and decisions!" I expect to and enjoy having conversations with friends and family about children, but get a little put off when complete strangers ask "Have you started trying to have kids, yet?" I am not a particularly modest or prudish individual, but am not thrilled at the idea of discussing my sex life in the line at Target. Although sometimes for the shock value I want to reply "Actually we started trying in the car in the parking lot before we came in." But I don't.
So, what's an acquaintance to do? Here's an easy solution: Don't make assumptions. If someone wants to be called a name different than one you are used to, trust that they will tell you. If someone is pregnant and they want you to know, they will tell you. Stop bringing me down and let us newlyweds bask in our joy for a little longer. Please.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.