I Will Keep My Last Name and You Should Give Me My Money

by Tin

I grew up in a traditional village in Hong Kong. It was a place where almost everyone shared the same last name and was related to each other to a different degree (I still don’t understand how exactly. I just remembered  I had to call this person my remote third cousin and that my second paternal uncle even though he was not my father’s biological brother.) In our village if you were a boy, you would receive a share of the profit whenever the elders sold a piece of land that belonged to our village. This practice is also prevalent at other villages with people of the same family name.

This is just one of the reasons Chinese parents prefer to have boys than girls. The blatant sexism in countries like China, India, and Japan is of course not a secret to the world. Chinese parents prefer boys because boys can provide better labor and, most important of all, carry the family name since when a Chinese girl gets married, she automatically assumes the last name of her spouse and is no longer a part of her biological family but her husband’s. There is an old saying in Chinese, “giving away your daughter in marriage is like splashing a bucket of water; you can’t get either back”, that pretty much sums up the mentality of Chinese folks.

Why am I bothering you with my left-over childhood bitterness? Because gender has become quite a popular topic in public discourse since the article “The End of Gender” by NPR came out, and for the past two months there have been ostentatious displays of sexism in the West where the sexists are generally more subtle like firing you because you refuse to wear makeup to work:

*Professional sexist cartoonist and Dilbert creator  Scott Adams blogged that “women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently.” After much outcry on his post, he still went on to defend rape mentality in a different blog.

*Nobel sexist Laureate VS Naipaul asserted that women could never be good writers, accusing us of “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”. And that there is no woman writers he considers his equal, not even Jane Austen. (And here I thought that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would have been the only thing that might offend Ms. Austen.)

For someone like me who has proclaimed that Androgyny is the Future, it is a no brainer that I welcome the end of gender. But, as eloquently put by Miriam from Feministing, gender will never cease to exist. Instead we should strive to eliminate and/or modify the stereotypes, the socially constructed ideas of what it is to be a man or a woman that have plagued us since the dawn of society, from one’s appearances and apparel of choice to capability, feelings, and ideology. I look forward to the day when a woman can be funny or set to become the world’s richest person will not be such “amazing” news any more.

Also, we need to stop assuming only women will take the last names of their spouses after marriage and not go berserk when a man decides to take his wife’s. The trend of “hyphenating” their last names for a married couple is increasingly popular. You hear that, Chinese parents? You don’t have to worry about giving away you daughters so in turn “losing” your last names/family ties any more.

Now can I get some of that land money, grandpa?

One response to “I Will Keep My Last Name and You Should Give Me My Money

  1. I am an immigrant and a queer like yourself, so I am used to old world antics (watching Lifetime’s “Russian Dolls” would introduce you to a walking stereotype of Russian immigrants) but getting a share of the clan money is somethin’ else! My father, after I was born, for many years clamored about wanting a boy… Meanwhile, my mother kept her “maiden” name and had another girl. Somehow, I inherently feel repulsed at the idea of changing one’s last name and find it appalling most women, in our day and age, do so without a second thought. It’s always been saddening (but not my place to bring it up) when as my childhood friends get married to the other sex, they shed their names (patronimic at that) to conform to patriarchal conventions (or “out of love” as they may claim). In so many ways, sexism is incredibly ubiquitous anywhere you go, so thank you for your post.

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