The (modern)-age old question

Two of my favourite columnists, no, actually, my only two favourite columnists (so far), are Catherine Deveny & Danny Katz. Both of whom write for The Age, with much wit, humour, and razor-sharp observations; although in two very different writing styles. This week Catherine threw some new arguments into a much debated question: Why are our children still given their father’s surname, almost always by default?

I don’t have an answer to that. Or more accurately, I’m too confused by my own conflicting opinions, and outraged at some of the appalling comments following Catherine’s article, to give you a straight response. But it did bring to mind the first time I read Totto-chan (a beautiful Japanese children’s book, one of my most loved, most read, most quoted books ever) and learned that the young girl Totto-chan’s father had decided to adopt his wife’s surname, and that Totto-chan would then inherit her mother’s surname. I recalled being puzzled, but very glad. How’s that for gender equality, hey?

In Vietnam women don’t change their surnames after marriage, although she will be called as part of a “Mr. and Mrs. [Husband’s name]”; but the offspring would ALWAYS get the father’s family name. Except, maybe, in the case of single mums. It is how it is and as far as I’m aware, no one has ever cared, or dared, question it! One can only imagine the uproar that may cause in such a conservative society.

People seems to have been doing the hyphenate things for years, but I’m a little doubtful of the practicality of such practice (pun intended). What if two people both with hyphenated surnames have children? Will the kids end up with four surnames, three hyphens, and many, many nights staying up late wondering what have they done to deserve that? So no, the hyphen thing won’t work for me.

Recently the trend, in Australia and a few other Western countries, seems to be that new parents are giving their daughters the mother’s surname, and their sons the father’s. Or sometimes the other way around. I kinda like that idea. Although how applicable will it be to our situation? Will I even want to raise the question? If Mr. Man and I have kids then will it be a little wacky for some to have an Asian surname, the others English? Will it be a tad “separatist”? Will our wee sprogs grow up with identity issues?

I simply don’t know. Ask me back in a few years. Maybe.



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