A man is sad because he wants his children to have his surname. He wants it so much that he wrote an article in the Telegraph about it. I’m not sure this is the traditional way to solve an argument with a loved one, but if that’s what we’re doing now then I’d love a column in which I can explain to my Mum why she’s wrong about which way the knives go up in the dishwasher.
Anyway. He is sad because traditionally kids take the name of the guy in a relationship (and because traditionally of course relationships consist of one man, one woman, some kids and a dog called ‘Bunty’), yet because of the rapid erosion of patriarchy, and the towering inferno of feminist rage that is currently decimating our society, he has NOTHING LEFT TO CALL HIS OWN NOW. All he’s asking is to give his kids his surname. Please will we just let him have this one little thing that’s really important? Is it too much to ask? IS IT?
No, it’s not too much to ask to want your children to have your surname. That’s a lovely thing to want, and I can understand why you want it. Names are quite important to us, and culturally your name carries with it all your years of ancestry and etcetera etcetera. No one is a shit if they want their kids to have their name.
But (and this is one of those massive ‘BUT’s that if you saw it hurtling towards planet Earth would cause you to summon Bruce Willis and his giant space drills), there’s a big difference between wanting something and feeling like you’re entitled to something.
The gentleman who wrote the article explains that although he wouldn’t insist on his wife taking his surname:
“when it comes to my kids, it’s somehow different, like there’s a powerful, natural urge to force my name upon my children. I’m not sure what it is, but somehow it feels like my right – one of my only rights – as a man. I mean, I don’t ask for much. I’m a really good dad, much better than those dads from years ago, and I keep quiet, stay out of trouble, and do my share of the washing up.
“Can’t I keep this one thing? Just this one tiny shred of normality?”
I wanted to pick this article apart piece by piece, and explain to the author -Tom Fordy – why he’s so clearly not the modern man he thinks. But I have other things to do and there is something dodgy in almost every single sentence, so let’s just examine that one tiny passage.
“there’s a powerful, natural urge to force my name upon my children.”
Slightly awkward use of the word ‘force’ there, but I get what you mean. We live in a society which tells us that sharing a surname means sharing a bond (blood’s thicker than water and all that) and so this ‘urge’ is fairly easily explained.
“somehow it feels like my right…”
Oops. You sound confused, but it’s actually very simple. It feels like your right because for all your life someone has told you that it is your right. Society has led you to believe that passing your (male) surname onto your children is the only possible way to name your children. That’s why it feels like it’s your right.
The way you can tell if this is a genuine right or just another of patriarchy’s cruel and vicious tricks is to test whether the same is true of your wife: does she also have this right? Or, in exercising your ‘right’, are you going to have to trample over someone else’s ‘right’ to pass their surname down? Yes? OK. Not a real right then. That was easy.
“one of my only rights – as a man.”
Jesus fuck, someone get this guy a lawyer. If the ability to name his children is one of his only rights as a man, then he must be in some serious trouble. I cannot imagine how he managed to write this column from the prison in which his wife keeps him, where she denies him any of the rights and freedoms that other humans enjoy.
Alternatively, perhaps this isn’t ‘one of his only rights’ as a man, and he’s employing that sneaky trick that children use when they’ve opened all their Christmas presents. Sitting in the middle of a sparkly, papery nest, watching one or two others open their final gifts, they burst into tears and wail: “Why do I NEVER get any PRESENTS!? THEY’VE all got presents! It’s NOT FAIR!”
“I don’t ask for much.”
I don’t know you, Tom Fordy: maybe you don’t. But given that you’ve mentioned patriarchy in your article, I hope you understand that part of what it does is give you a lot of shit without you ever having to ask for it. The patriarchy is not some system by which all the guys get together and conspire to keep all the good stuff for themselves: it’s more complicated than that. It’s a system whereby some people (even nice people like you) get more stuff in virtue of the fact that they fit a particular characteristic.
Patriarchy makes it so that you don’t need to ask: you get. And you get it so frequently and easily that the one time you feel like you’re not getting what you want, you are so powerfully horrified that you go and write a Telegraph article about it.
“I keep quiet, stay out of trouble, and do my share of the washing up.”
Well done on keeping quiet in the Telegraph. I often find that when I want to disappear out of sight or tiptoe away from things, the best way to do it is to hide on the website of one of the largest broadsheet newspapers in the UK.
Re: the washing up. Congrats! Have you ever in the entire history of your life heard a woman explain ‘I do my share of the washing up’ in a tone that implies she deserves a pat on the head or a biscuit? No? Ponder long and hard, my friend.
“Can’t I keep this one thing?”
This sentence implies, again, that everything this man has ever had has been cruelly ripped away from him. I don’t know who ripped it, because earlier in the article he makes reference to ‘feminism fighting hard for gender equality’ and even utters the phrase ‘right on, sister!’ I can’t believe he could be being sarcastic, so if he’s as supportive of gender equality as he claims to be, then the blame for this poor man’s downfall must be laid at someone else’s door. But whose? I guess it’s immaterial – the most important thing is to release this poor guy from the prison cell in which he has NO RIGHTS WHATSOEVER and get him a hot dinner and a birth certificate on which he can proudly scrawl his surname.
Look: I get that this article is almost certainly an elaborate troll, designed to wind up people like me. But behind it there’s a shimmer of an argument that I’ve seen time and again: I support feminism and everything, but do we really have to go this far? Do we really have to hurt men’s feelings in order to be equal? Because you’ve got all the shit you want now, women – we’re even doing the washing up! Do you really need to continue to crush us with your added surname-based demands, or can you let us sit here in this tiny patch of the glorious world we used to run, sucking our thumbs and passing on our lineage? It’s a bullshit argument because you fucking know that’s not how it is. We’re not horrible meanies punishing you for the sins of your patriarchal forefathers, and you are not the put-upon servants of our matriarchal revolution: you’re sad because you feel like something’s being taken away. You feel like the right to give your name to your children is being cruelly snatched from your fingers. But that right isn’t being snatched away: you never had that right in the first place. You just didn’t realise it.
Let’s move on to the final element, because it’s my favourite. Having spent the article adding nods and nudges towards the fact that he understands the issues really, and he knows why the idea of children having their dad’s surname by default might be a teeny bit sexist, the author decides to pull out the big guns. Having demonstrated that he’s a modern man, that he supports feminism and understands the struggle for gender equality, he pleads in his most polite voice:
“Can’t I keep this one thing? Just this one tiny shred of normality?“
Fuck this to pieces, I’m done.