Friday, March 30, 2007

What's in a name?

It doesn’t take much to incense Conservatives. As if they didn’t have enough with your typical, hairy-legged feminists, now there’s a new breed in town – with even hairier legs.

That’s right folk. Men. Yep, you’ve read it right. Male feminists. Human beings without vaginas who think men and women should be allowed to enjoy and exercise the same civil rights. Just like the feminists you were used to diss, bash or otherwise denigrate, they do all sort of bizarre, hideous and utterly unnatural things that endanger our beloved patriarchal Judeo-Christian Western society.

Things like taking your wife's name upon marriage, for obviously immoral reasons, such as to show her a token of your love and commitment (as opposed, of course, to relinquishing your independent juridical personality and becoming your spouse’s chattel).

Did I scare ya? Thought your cherished civil liberties as a woman were threatened? You silly goose! That was only California! That was just those silly over-the-top conservative Americans! People would never question this practice in an actually progressive country , say, Canada!

In the province of Québec, the law now prohibits women from taking their husbands' surname upon marriage. Enacted as part of a reform of family law that sought to impose gender equality in marital relationships, art. 393 of the Civil Code of Québec provides that “in marriage, both spouses retain their respective names, and exercise their respective civil rights under those names.” When a married woman who bears her husband's surname moves to the province, she will automatically revert back to her maiden name. In the past however, the courts have allowed applications from (religious) women who wanted to change their own surname for their husband's (e.g. Gabriel v. Directeur de l'état civil).

Similarly, a child does not automatically take his father's surname. Art. 51 of the Code provides that the child can bear either his father's surname or his mother's, or both (e.g. Leblanc-Lenoir). Moreover, art. 52 stipulates, where the parents disagree, it's the Director of civil status who will have the final say. (Most often, the Director will give the child a hyphenated surname.)

While viewed from the outside (i.e. the ROC or the US), Québec may seem like a Liberal-minded, feminist haven.

Not so true. Recently, the Globe and Mail ran a story about the trend in Québec of putting aside hyphenated names and going back to the patriarchal tradition of only naming children after their Daddy. The Globe reported that many young adults who themselves had hyphenated names were responsible for this step backwards. The parents that were interviewed cited, in justification for their choice, considerations of convenience (since the maximum number of hyphenated surnames is two, they would have had to choose), the fact that hyphenated names represented a “feminist battle” that is "gasp!* no longer relevant today, and (my favourite one) that it was a way for the father to feel involved in his children's life.


Maybe it’s just me, but there really is something unnatural going on in "la belle Province". There is a powerful conservative wind blowing, and it’s sending us years behind...

Want more proof? The local redneck, right-wing party, the ADQ, just won 41 seats at the National Assembly, thereby superseding the secessionist, left-wing Parti Québecois as the opposition. For those of you who are not familiar with the ADQ’s policies, let me just say that they wanted to give families child-care allocations (instead of giving more money to the public child-care system) in order to encourage women to stay at home instead of going to work, one of their candidates publicly called the École Polytechnique massacre a “feminist myth” and negated the prevalence of violence against women, while another candidate has a criminal record for sexual assault.

Ain’t it grand to be a Québécoise these days?

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