I know that women are trained to never say that we’ve done something because that is what we wanted to do (from the available options), but if we don’t reject that and claim what agency is available to us, we will end up repeatedly assisting in our own victimization. Recognizing and claiming what agency we have and respecting how it is limited by personal and social factors are two things we flatly have to do.
Pretending that we’re putting our daughters in bikinis because it’s the only thing that makes sense is, in isolation, a fairly low level of willful blindness to our choices. A far more important, critical I’d say, one is something I’ve seen tossed out every time the marriage/name change thing comes up. I have to say, my general reaction to that conversation is usually: Oh look, the straight people are fondling their VIP choices again, I can’t wait to hear what they have to say! Because I’m a bitch, and I don’t fucking care.
There is one response though that usually effects me for days, that I can’t tear my mind off of, that I think I can say to some degree literally hurts and scares me. I was abused by my father, so of course I will take my husband’s name.
When I was in my early 20s I seriously (gravely seriously) considered changing my last name for similar reasons. During that time, I met a friend who was in the process of changing her name for similar reasons. Literally the first time we hung out, for breakfast, she was on her way to file the papers for her last name change, later her sister did the same but chose to change only her first name (the one she’d heard her father say most often). Ultimately, I didn’t change my name; I couldn’t find one that l liked; I couldn’t find one that when I said it felt like I was even a little bit freer. I decided it was a better process for me to learn to see the name I had as my own, no one else’s, and go from there. Fifteen years later, all three of us are still satisfied with our decisions.
If you are a heterosexual woman who is certain of one day finding a man to marry and a name to take, that still isn’t your only option for recovery. You can change your name now, you can save yourself in at least a few ways, and you don’t have to wait. You might say that if you do so you will have to explain, that it will be difficult and awkward, and you are still embedded with abusive family. That’s all OK, because recovering your life from an abusive childhood is messy, and anyone who demands that you to do it cleanly is probably someone to move away from. But the thing is, part of becoming whole after that kind of childhood is admitting those things too. It’s being able to say, “I want to change my name in the most socially acceptable way possible, so that I don’t have to deal with anymore of their shit than I do right now.” That is a reasonable choice to make.
To define that as something other than a choice you are making is to risk remaining a victimized child, one who is waiting for a rescuer, and still not realizing that you are the person who will save you from that history. We move away from the ugliness of our childhoods through acts of acknowledged agency. Our options are limited by the world, and by our own abilities, which shift as much as the world around us, and what we can do one day sometimes isn’t there the next. But even if we can’t make the best choices for ourselves, or even recognize our agency, it’s extremely important that we stop actively burying our own agency.
Emphasis added. As usual, thehighshelf hits it square on the head.