I was trying to save an aunt’s phone number to my cell phone today and I typed “so and so’s mom” when suddenly I remembered she also had a name. I deleted whatever I had typed earlier and retyped as ‘Aunt so and so’. But that got me thinking on how many times we narrow down a woman to just been a mother forgetting that she is an individual. She was definitely not born to be a ‘mother only’ or even a ‘sister only’ or a ‘daughter only’. She was born to be all that and much more.
As a mother myself I must admit that being known as “so and so’s mother” gives me so much joy and I don’t mind that at all. But I definitely don’t want to be known ‘always’ as that or even as “so & so’s wife/daughter” only. I have a name, a personality, experiences beyond these roles and I’d like that to be acknowledged and be associated with me.
Another very common thing that I’m learning to ignore (otherwise I might end up boycotting every wedding) is the names written on the ‘Cards’. Holiday seasons brings along with it many wedding cards and greeting cards neatly written ‘Mr & Mrs so and so’ or ‘Mr so and so & family’. I wonder why most people don’t care to write the ‘Mrs’ name or ever wondered if a family could be her name too. There could be only one rare exception to this when a close relative/friend of the lady decide to write her name on the card. To break this system, we did try to write ‘Mr so & so and Mrs so & so’ on our wedding invitation cards whether people noticed it or not, but I was happy doing that. This exercise made me realized that we didn’t know many women’s names while the men’s name so very easily came to us. Should we say it’s an ‘old habits die hard’? Or is it conspicuous obliteration of an identity?
I think it’s appropriate to narrate a small experience here. When my baby was born, she was made to wear a band on her wrist written, ‘Baby Ashuni’ (or was it on the crib?). I must have been the happiest person to see that. I beamed with pride and made sure that everybody who came to visit us at the hospital saw that band. I thought it was so apt then that she was known by that name as she was an extension of my body. However, that joy was very short lived! As soon as she was given a name of her own, she became ‘Areine Deborah’ d/o ‘Veio Pou’. Of course, I would not want her to be known by my name forever, but at that moment I felt like the equal credit of being one of her parent was snatched away. Upon naming, the child becomes the father’s and my name disappeared just like that! I feel the hurt till today.
When such ‘small’ issues, as they are called, come to bother me, my father used to console me saying “what’s in a name!” My husband now uses these exact words to console me. From being a girl and my parents’ daughter to now a lady and my husband’s wife, these issues have continued to bother me and I can safely say that, ‘A whole life is in a name’. Yes, I am proud to a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. But I am also a proud ‘me’.
Coming to the point where I started, in a culture where addressing an elder by name is not considered appropriate, we might have as well ignored knowing the names of our friends’ parents! But if it comes to searching our memories to remember their names; most likely we would know the father’s name and not the mother’s. Is memory selective or is it simply fed with the dominant ideology in the society? Is it simply ignorance which we inherited and we forgot to think about it? Or, is it our general attitude towards women that makes them lesser valued and their names less important?