Posted by: mzbitca | February 7, 2009

Just another little bit of sexism

So, due to the interest rate dropping, it was made possible for my husband and I to refinance our house.  We were pretty excited as it would give us a couple extra hundred dollars to work with and we want to start saving for a vacation at some point since one of my best friends is getting married in the Dominican Republic in less than a year.  

Yesterday we went to sign all the new documents and I noticed that all documents for my name were “Natalie husband’s last name”.  I pointed it out to our title guy that my name is actually hyphenated and shows up as so on both my social security card and my driver’s license.  The guy looked at me blankly.  I repeated myself and added that I just wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t be a problem legally.  He was like “But wasn’t your name something else when you bought the house.”  “Yes I replied, we weren’t married when we bought the house, now we are, but I chose to hyphenate.”   You would have thought I told him I chose to have a second head attached to my ass with the way he looked at me.  That was when I realized, they never double checked what my name currently was, they just assumed, weren’t married before, married now, obviously I must have changed my name!  

According to him, it wasn’t a legal problem as I just had to sign on another sheet of paper that I also have my name hyphenated but here’s the deal: What if it was?  My husband and I both work ful time, me at least a half hour away and although I am salary I have to put in 40 hours a week so any long lunch I take is compensated for by my staying later.  Was it really that hard to just double check on my social security card or just ask me?  I didn’t make a big deal out of it because I wanted to get out of there but I also made sure I never once apologized when he was looking freaked out like he would have to do stuff over. It was not my fault, it was whoever that drew up the paperwork and made that assumption.  

Just another little part of living in a world where heteronormative and patriarchal practices are considered the default.



  1. woot woot wedding made the blog! listen, i support your choice of hyphenation but it throws a wrench in save the date invitation addressing when I don’t know how to address you and have to google the appropriate way ( I didn’t like that either… so I just made it up)

    • first of: i would never know the proper way anyway so I wouldn’t know
      secondly: you might as well refer to me as natalie marie than anything else.

  2. Oh such good times. I get this all the time too. I either show up with my husband’s or he shows up with mine. 😛

  3. Ugh. The Guy hyphenated his name too, we both did. You can probably imagine all of the crap we have dealt w/. For example, the military did. not. compute. They couldn’t grasp it, and figured he changed his whole name, dropped his first name, and started calling him Fredrick My last name His Last name. It screwed up all of our transfer paperwork and almost left the Kid and me in Georgia w/ no further ticket to Korea. They basically made him a whole different person w/o ever consulting us to double check.

    I guess the moral of the story is that I don’t really give a flying rat’s ass that people don’t know how to deal w/ hyphenated names. They need to pay more attention to what is on the paper and documents in front of them, and stop making assumptions.

  4. What an evil refinance man! He had the AUDACITY to assume that you had your husband’s last name. This is the 21st century, last I checked… Men by now should expect that women want them to be mind readers.

    And why would you be providing this guy with your social security card anyway? Or your drivers license? Oh yeah, it must be that patriarchal heteronormative society again, right?

    • Bill
      I never called him evil but yes he did have the audacity to assume. If his assumption meant that we both would have taken breaks off from work for nothing and would have to do it again a week later it would have been very irritated since, as I mentioned above, I have to make up any hours I miss and my work is over a half hour away.

      Also, they had copies of my W2s from this year, all of which have my proper name on it as well as running a new credit check on us, under my social security number. also, they do take copies of your driver’s license.

      Finally: This is not mind readings, this is making assumptions on the way things are done when in reality many more women are hyphenating or keeping names and it’s not that hard to double check. They called us to double check other informaiton, why not my name.

      My guess is that if most people went there and they had messed up something they could have easily checked up on they would be pissed and raving about incompetence.

  5. You’ll be needing this:

  6. It’s not a troll when I can point out that something is not sexism and the blog author actually agrees it’s really just incompetence. It’s funny. When a man forgets to take into account a woman’s specific requests, it’s sexism. When a man forgets to take into account a man’s specific needs it’s incompetence.

    Take another example. If the refinance guy assumed he would send the paperwork to the property being refinanced but you actually had it as a rental property and you lived somewhere else, would you consider him sexist because he didn’t ask your other address? No. Just a normal assumption. But in this case of last name, if it happens to be something that a particular woman is sensitive to so it automatically becomes sexism.

    By the way, a social security number is not a social security card. You have no reason to show the actual card so it doesn’t matter how exactly the name is written on the card. A credit report does not show the exact name on the card. Also your the name on your W-2 will be whatever you told your company how to write your name. It has no legal ramifications especially for your real estate transaction.

    • Actually it’s incompetence fueled by a sexist assumption, just as it would be if they assumed a man kept his name and he actually hyphenated. Incompetence can be based on many things, in this way it was due the title companies choice to assume that I must have taken my husband’s name which has sexist roots even though we had provided them with other information that clearly showed my name differently.

  7. Since this fool didn’t know enough to be sure to get the names right on the forms, are you sure that it doesn’t make a difference, just because he says so?

    It sounds to me as if he’d never thought about whether it would be a problem or not, and therefore had no idea whether it was a problem or not, and just said “oh, no problem” to get you to sign then, rather than having to go back and get the papers right.

    • Ursula,

      He went back and double checked. I had to sign a seperate piece of paper stating that I also go by my hyphenated name as well as that I have signed things as Natalie Maiden Name”

  8. When a telemarketer calls our house looking for my wife based on her old name (Gonzalez), and I pick up the phone, the call me Mr. Gonzalez.

    Um, no.

    That’s a whole lot of assumptions. If the woman named Gonzalez lives with (assumption) a man, she must be married to him (assumption), thus she had her name changed (assumption) to Gonzalez, thus the man is Mr. Gonzalez.


  9. I kept my maiden name and we hyphenated our son. Head attached to ass about covers the confusion created EVERYWHERE. No one knows his name. I never know where his files are. The pediatrician lost his file every visit for the first year because he couldn’t figure out which letter of the hyphenated name to file under. Apparently I was the only mom on the east coast to do this.

  10. Sorry to hear about your ReFiGuy. When we refinanced a few years ago, our ReFiGuy was straight out of a Ward Cleaver playbook. To his relief, our last names matched, but there was a wrinkle when the “man of the house” (or so ReFiGuy referred to him) was a bit late arriving home the night we signed the papers. Despite this calamity, ReFiGuy and I sat down and starting going through the final papers.

    ReFiGuy was chagrined that I was taking time to re-read the documents. He explained that I should just sign everything quickly since “it’s your husband’s signature that’s the really important one,” (i.e., his income was larger). I asked ReFiGuy, did that mean I was off the hook for the loan amount if The Man of The House (TM) were to suddenly scarper? (Of course not, but as ReFiGuy said, I shouldn’t worry about stuff like that.) I was pretty amazed at his attitudes, seeing as he was a good decade younger than me, but I guess age is no indicator of Cleaverness.

  11. My boyfriend plans to take my name when we wed…

    I’m curious to see all the things that will come of our non-heteronormative choice. Maybe it’ll be enough to start my own blog.

  12. My boyfriend and I live together and his name is listed first on our phone bill, so we show up in the phone book under his name only. Didn’t bother correcting it since we’re going to be moving again soon anyway. Telemarketers always assume I’m Mrs. HisLastName, so it’s easy for me to screen out their phone calls.

  13. My parents both kept their own names when they married in 1976. The world proceeded to absolutely goddamn well explode over the concept of a woman not changing her name when she wed.

    Seriously, they had relatives REFUSE TO SEND LETTERS to the correct names. Like this:

    Letters and gifts are sent to Mr. and Mrs. Dadname. Senders are politely corrected. Senders continue sending to wrong names. Senders are again politely corrected. Senders continue to send to wrong names, senders are not-so-politely corrected, senders refuse to send anything at all anymore.

    That’s seriously how it went down with several aunts and uncles. It was particularly charming when they’d send things to Dr. and Mrs. Dadsname, considering that both of my parents hold precisely the same degree and, in fact, graduated together. If you’re going to the trouble of noting my father’s doctorate, then why…? Oh, that’s right, for the same reason why you can’t manage to call my mother by the correct name.

    It gets even more fun when dealing with my name.

    Both my brother and I have a hyphenated last name that combines both surnames (Dadname-Momname).

    At the age of 15, when I went to get my learner’s permit, the man behind the counter at the DMV asked me if I wasn’t a bit young to be married already.

    *blank stare*

    Yeah, he figured it was more plausible that I be MARRIED at the age of 15–something which was and is illegal in my state–than that I carry both my parents’ names.

    I also do so enjoy how everyone assumes I’m going to further hyphenate my name when I marry. Everyone. Even good friends of mine who are otherwise feminist and non-stupid. They assume I’m going to tack on my future hubby’s name on the end with another hyphen. When I mention that no, actually, I’m not changing my name, they look at me like I just said the wedding reception will feature a dead puppy buffet.

    Whenever this subject (naming etc) comes up, there’s always at least one dude–always a dude–who has to pipe up and insist that it’s totally a stupid issue that doesn’t even matter and you should all just shut up about it. I’m greatly entertained by this, because said dude will always be prepared to expend boundless energy defending the public’s inability to read my goddam driver’s license and use the name recorded thereupon. It would require a lot less energy to simply, you know, ASK ME MY NAME and then call me by it.

  14. The failure to read the provided legal documents is incompetence, major at that. Yes, when you run a social security number for something like that, it will be sent back if the names don’t match EXACTLY. Meaning, if your maiden name is punched in, and a hyphenated name is attached to that number, it WILL. NOT. PROCEED. Same w/ a driver’s license. I know all of this first hand, from both military and civilian official offices in dealing w/ countless documents. Our bank, joint car loan (we weren’t married when we bought our car, and when we applied for the letter to allow us to ship it, we had to sign documents stating that we had different names before and after our marriage) shot back three times b/f the woman realized that we had hyphenated names, w/ military IDs, driver’s licenses and SS numbers in front of her. Airline tickets also have to match, as well as passports. A hyphenation makes a difference, and only a moron who is too lazy to do their job would miss it. I also love how cavalier some people can be w/ other people’s time, as if taking time from work is as easy as a bathroom break.

    It is completely sexist to just assume that a woman takes her husband’s name after marriage, or that her husband didn’t take hers, or, as in our case, that we didn’t BOTH change our names. It is extremely sexist to assume that male = default and everything else is an option like an audiophile stereo in a new car.

    It’s also completely asinine that we would have to explain this to Bill, on a feminist blog, who could figure it out if he wasn’t so busy soaking in his male privilege and correcting us feeble minded women on what is and isn’t sexist.

  15. What a familiar story. My cousin is engaged to a woman with a hyphenated name, Motherslast-Fatherslast. They have been together for over 10 years. My cousin’s father, aka my misogynistic uncle, insists that her name is not hyphenated and that it is just Dadslast. What is really ironic is that she does occasionally shorten her last name…to Momslast. Because it comes first and thus it will occur alphabetically in the same place, and also her Dads last is a really common name that sounds a bit bland along with her really common first name. Her email, for example, is firstinitial But Misogynistic Uncle, despite hardly being able to avoid the facts about his son’s fiancee, makes a point to write updates to the family where he refers to her exclusively as Firstname Dadslast, and her family is referred to as “The Dadslast Family” despite the only person who actually uses that name being the dad (1/4 of the family). While people like to tell us feminists how little these things matter, and how silly we are for getting so worked up over a name, it’s clear they matter VERY much to men who will go out of their way to ignore women’s wishes about their own name.

    By the way, my husband and I are buying a house (I did not change my name at all). I have pretty much been the leader in this process and the main contact with the realtor. Guess whose name was put first on the contract? My husband, being the man that he is, made her do it again with my name first. It was a little embarrassing, but at the same time, I think it’s important to question these assumptions such as, the man should always come first. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t always be the men.

  16. I was going to let my comments stand but since I was directly referred to I’ll respond.

    “It is completely sexist to just assume that a woman takes her husband’s name after marriage, or that her husband didn’t take hers, or, as in our case, that we didn’t BOTH change our names.”

    No, assuming that a woman takes her husband’s name is not sexist. The tradition may be sexist but assuming the name of a wife is also name of the husband’s is without judgment. It may be lazy and incompetent in the area of legal documents but not sexist

    “It’s also completely asinine that we would have to explain this to Bill, on a feminist blog, who could figure it out if he wasn’t so busy soaking in his male privilege and correcting us feeble minded women on what is and isn’t sexist.”

    Here’s where you can point out that since I’m a man, I can’t say what is sexist or not? Thanks for automatically disqualifying my opinion. You know what is sexist? That you assume I don’t know anything about sexism is sexist.

    “It is extremely sexist to assume that male = default and everything else is an option like an audiophile stereo in a new car.”

    Did you just finish reading The Second Sex for the first time? Such a quaint 1950’s argument. I haven’t heard that one in quite a while.

  17. Ah, wow, the ‘My opinion as a non-oppressed person should take precedence over anything you wimmin think because if you don’t agree with me you’re being sexist’ card.

    Newsflash: All opinions are NOT equal. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but not all opinions are equally knowledgeable, thought out, or come from the same position of experience. People disagreeing with you, and pointing out that because you don’t experience sexism directed towards you, you shouldn’t go around feminist sites telling everyone what is and isn’t sexist as if your opinion is the law is not sexist. People have a perfect right to share their experiences and expect that someone who is not discriminated against should try to understand rather than pretend that no discrimination is occurring if they don’t see it. Because most of the time? There is, and you’re just not seeing it.

    As someone who doesn’t suffer from the discrimination in question directly, your opinion is backed up with less experience. It’s not the same as someone who experiences it. And you don’t get the right to assume that everyone should take your opinion as seriously as that of the people who do experience this discrimination.

    That isn’t to say you can’t disagree, but assuming that because you day ‘this isn’t sexist’ it automatically makes it so, regardless of how many women are affected or offended is nothing more than trying to use your privilege in a forum where it won’t work.

    Your own words actually suggest you don’t know anything about sexism, rather than anyone else’s. If you know anything about sexism, perhaps you’ll know that the most important part about being an ally is listening when people who actually deal with the discrimination that is theoretical to you are talking about their experiences. Maybe you’ll be aware that part of being an ally is questioning your opinions when you disagree from the people who experience said discrimination, because you might just ignorantly be expounding your own privilege or prejudices. You might realise that as a member of the class that perpetrates sexism, you don’t get to dictate what is and isn’t sexist, because you’re as likely to be offended by sexism as Bush is by Islamophobia.

    This isn’t just about sexism, it’s about how an ally goes into any forum in which they are privileged: I’m sure the other commenters would equally not go into a forum discussing racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism fat hating or any other discrimination in which they may be privileged and make it all about them.

    Check out Feminism 101. Because contrary to your ‘I’ve seen it all before’ assertions, you don’t act like you know anything about how men can play a role in feminism without making it all about them.

    It IS sexist to assume women take their husband’s names because not all do. It leads to a culture where those who do not are seen as unusual women who don’t really love their husbands (because love is giving up your surname for your man, apparently!). It leads to a culture that makes it difficult for men who want to take their partner’s surname to do so, legally, and socially (how many men report getting hassle for wanting to change their name or go double-barrel), and reinforces the idea that women are expected to change their name on marriage.

    Assuming every woman will do this, and treating them as if they did is lazy. Yes, it’s incompetence. But it’s incompetence PLUS sexism. It’s laziness where someone falls back on norms that are themselves sexist. Your example (man does this to woman = sexism, man does this to man = incompetence, you’re being unfair) does not take into account:

    – That men don’t HAVE an equivalent. Who’s likely to assume that men have changed their names when they haven’t? And I’m sure the author of the post would be just as irritated if the case was a man who had changed his name being given a hard time by a system or individuals who do not recognise anything other than Man Keeps Name, Woman Takes His as being possible.

    – That this act of incompetence is not an isolated event in a vaccum, but part of a whole system where women are pressured to take their husand’s name and the title ‘Mrs’ and punished if they do not. This is just one instance to you, because you’re a man. To women, this is one of many times they’re called ‘Mrs.’ even though they explain they don’t use the title, are assumed to be Mrs *hislastname* and added to all the pressure women face to take a man’s name.

    If a man happened to get a letter addressed to Mr. *herlastname* and it’s not actually his name, it would be a rare occurrence, and not a reflection that society expects him to take her name. Women who have not taken their husband’s names get addressed as if they did on a MUCH more frequent basis.

    And Mzbitca, sorry to pull out the proverbial red pen/feed the trolls on someone else’s turf. I just really can’t stand the ‘but my precious opinion!’ argument.

    • Anne

      No biggie i agree with everything you said. As Liss often says on Shakesville, this stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum but so many people like to say “isolated incident” or claim that it’s not sexist because it could happen to man in a different way that they completely discount society and its effects.

  18. Thank 12 gods I had a man explain to me what is and isn’t sexist! That is all I needed to set it straight!

    And I was unaware that audiophile systems existed in the 1950s.

    This shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You can’t say that the tradition of a woman taking her husband’s last name (or a man NOT taking his wife’s name) is a sexist tradition (an example of property exchange), and then argue that presuming that she did isn’t also the same sexism in play.

    No, in fact I have never read The Second Sex, although maybe I should pick it up (even though I don’t believe that feminism has to be rooted in the academic world exclusively). Just b/c one man hasn’t heard it in a while doesn’t mean that the sentiment isn’t still relevant. We are taught from birth that to be a man is the standard. My whole life the world around me has made me out to be the other, the oddity, already exclusive of my race, and disability. It is in the very language of the guiding documents of the US (I can not speak to other countries, but I suspect it is the same). Somewhere along the line people became taken aback that I actually have the audacity to expect to be treated the same.

    I point again to our military experience in that no one can seem to comprehend that my husband ALSO changed his name. It’s an oddity. Everyone we talk to assumes that it must be a mistake. There is no way a man would ever change his name when getting married. He actually had to prove he wasn’t doing it to evade something or get away w/ something. But when we were married, everyone automatically started calling me “Mrs. Hislastname”, despite my repeated correcting them. The same people, multiple times, who also can’t manage to call my husband by his correct name even though it is embroidered on his uniform in two places! You can’t say that it isn’t sexist or lopsided.

    Like Anne Onne said, everyone can have opinions, but the condescension of presuming that a man can understand sexism more than someone who has been directly affected by it from the moment the doctor cries “It’s a girl!” is ridiculous. I expect that someone coming into a feminist space has done the work to figure out how to interact b/f putting their foot in their mouth. We have done our work, it is up to the people who want to engage to know what they are talking about and how to appropriately talk about it. The true feminist allies and men who identify as feminist already know this.

    And thanks, Anne, for jumping on that one.

    Sorry to be so wordy at your place, mzb, but the whole “I am the final arbiter of what is and isn’t (insert marginalized ism here)” by someone who is privileged over that group drives me batshit fucking insane. It’s the equivalent to a pat on the head and a “there there, little girl”.

  19. […] babble Tags: ass hats, equal rights, gender, silly traditions, WTF? Mzbitca of What a Crazy Random Happenstance wrote a post about the annoyances of trying to deal w/ a hyphenated name on official paperwork. […]

  20. I thought that if you allowed his comment you’d allow a reply, but I know how tiring it is to have a converstation like a broken casette go on in a thread you didn’t want to turn into Feminism 101.

    I do think that, wherever the host allows, refuting the same tired old arguments is important, not just because most trolls can’t be bothered to go to 101, find the relevant page, then read and think, but because anyone else reading someone’s well-worn argument could well interpret feminists ignoring an argument as them not having an answer. Not true, but since I remember how useful peoples patient explanations to trolls/people who didn’t get it were when I first started looking at blogs, and how much it taught me, I like to extend the favour where I can, since I don’t mind being wordy or repetitive. I know why a lot of feminists just don’t want to, or can’t deal with the same broken tape arguments, and I respect the wishes of everyone who doesn’t want to

    I also forgot to mention The Second Sex comment: this sat with me badly. Is the argument that The Second Sex is an old book and therefore unworthy of being in any way alluded to, or being used to inform our opinions? Or is he trying to pull a ‘well I read TSS and I know it’s all crap but you’re reall behind and in love with it’ on us? Is the implication that these things aren’t really problems, and that the only reason we hysterical wimmins notice them is because another hysterical woman wrote about it? As if we need to read lots of books to notice the ways in which we are treated very, very differently. I’m not sure what the intended argument was (probaly all of them to a degree), but they all bother me.

    Older feminist work isn’t without its merits. Yes, different books were written in different eras with different focuses, and their authors had their blind spots and their own problems. But that doesn’t change the valuable impact they had and still have. It’s a great way to get in touch with the history of feminism, and understand where theory we have today comes from.

    On the other hand, Feminism isn’t the books that you’ve read. It’s problematic to assume that to say something of worth someone has to have read a certain book, or that feminism as a whole is limited to published materials. Just as these things affect us all, we learn from what we see around us, from what we talk about, and what we blog about. Telling women they don’t know what they’re talking about if they haven’t read TSS, or in this case, that they sound like they’ve only just discovered feminism and TSS, and that the All Powerful Man just knows so much more about feminism and how women are affected is like something out of the Onion. (Failing feminism saved by male leader, anyone?)

    • Anne,

      He never replied back that’s why there’s no follow up comment. He was a hit and run troll 🙂

  21. Ah, makes things easier then. Having long, almost pointless arguments with trolls on people’s blogs gets depressing. Heh. Of course, as long as it’s providing a service, it’s enjoyable in a way…

    But I could totally understand if you or another blogger decided not to publish follow up comments, or delete the previously published ones altogether or discourage feeding the trolls. Sometimes they have a habit of sucking the energy out of everyone til all that’s left of a thread is a spiral of irrelevant to-and-fro-ing in which people just repeat the same things over and over. I’m normally good at stopping before that point, but don’t hesitate to say if you don’t want a troll fed or a tangential direction taken. 🙂

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