This post will blow my feminist cred entirely because my partner and I are quietly simmering in an unfinished argument about the naming rights for this baby. (You know, the baby in my uterus, the baby which already has a tight grip on my body – my energy levels, my functioning, my health, my freedoms and appearance, the baby I will be birthing).
You see, my partner is the seventh generation of the First Born Son of the First Born Son and all these first born sons share the exact same name. A type of unimaginativeness some like to call a family tradition. First Born Sons number VI (father-in-law) and VII (partner) have noticed that the fetus I’m carrying is going to be First Born Son VIII and they very much want him to be named accordingly. Much as I can acknowledge the attraction of family traditions and ancestral ties I just cannot bear this particular patriarchal one. It can go no further, with me. I have acquiesced to the tradition as far as giving the ‘First Born Son’ name as a second name, but not as a first name. To the First Born Sons and their patriarchy-supporting kin this is breaking the tradition.
I have moved as far as I can on this and we have an equal relationship, at least in theory, so I can’t imagine there will be any other outcome apart from the compromise we’ve reached. But still I am disturbed that my partner and I are not together on this decision, that he is not resolved about rejecting this patriarchal bullshit.. to be truthful, that he isn’t more feminist. It is forming a dark cloud over what should be an exciting final trimester. And frankly, I find it a little isolating. Instead of feeling like the star of the pregnancy show I feel unnervingly like an incubator.
Our discussions have stalled, not around a decision, I feel we have that, but around a sense of unity. And unity seems kind of important when you’re having a goddamn baby together! Of course we should be able to achieve unity – my arguments are strong and enlightened and his are feeble and weak because this is my blog the patriarchy is wrong.
Mine: This tradition is patriarchal, it is sexist, pure and simple.
His: Yes it is. (And yet I am powerless to resist it, such is my sense of male entitlement). I know it is a lot to ask of you.
His: This tradition is several hundred years old, I don’t want to be the one to break it.
Mine: If this tradition dates back that long then it started when women were mere property of their husbands. Back when men owned their wives and children, of course they had exclusive naming rights. That does not reflect the times and place you live in. A man who lived and died several hundred years ago does not get to name our child!
His: This is a tradition I grew up with, it’s very important to my family.
Mine: If you care so much about traditions then why aren’t you desperate for other traditions, like getting married, or having a partner who would change her surname for you, or giving your kids your surname instead of both our surnames hyphenated? I think you pick and choose your traditions to suit you. Those that inconvenience and challenge you, like getting married, you’ve discarded. Those that would be imposed on someone else, you’re comfortable with.
Him: I just think that I will regret breaking this tradition.
Me: If it means that much to you then why did you partner up with a feminist? You knew I wouldn’t be able to do this tradition with you.
Him: Because I like feminists. (And I’ve run out of meaningful arguments so I will just keep reiterating how important it is to me to follow this tradition). This tradition is important to me.
Me: This patriarchal crap classes one of our children differently to the other based entirely on their genders. We didn’t have any of these arguments when we had a baby with ovaries, now you and your family think this is a special baby that they get to name because it has testicles.
Him: I know it is unfair but this tradition means a lot to me and them.
Me: This tradition is narrow-minded, it would hang a lot of shit on this baby. What if he is gay and adopts a baby – can First Born Son IX be Korean-born and the third son of his birth parents? Is that still the family tradition? What if he wants to have a sex change one day and become a woman? What if he never wants children, does he have to feel guilty about breaking this patriarchal chain-mail bizzo? It is 2009, how much longer do you expect this tradition to last even if I wasn’t the mother of this baby?
Him: There is only this one tradition that I care about and I just would really like it if we kept it going.
Me: You’ve never even traced your family tree back to see for yourself that you are First Born Son VII, maybe the chain was broken long ago.
Me: Pregnancy, child-birth and child-rearing are bloody hard work, you know I will sacrifice much more to that than you and and yet you think it would be fine for me to not get an equal say in the naming of our child?
Him: I know, I know, it is unfair. I don’t even particularly like the name. I just want to put his name on the birth certificate, after that we need never refer to the name again, we can call him by his second name.
Me: A name you have but which you are not referred to is a second name. That is why it makes sense for this name to be his second name.
And on it goes, or hasn’t gone, since we’ve decided to drop it for the time being given how emotive it is for us. We’re not fighting, we’re not sulking, we’re not not speaking to each other, we’re getting along fine but we’re both a bit sad and disappointed. And I hate things being left undone between us.
This is one of those moments where I wonder, how as a feminist did I end up knee deep in an argument like this, how can my feminist-leaning partner be sticking to this patriarchal nonsense, haven’t I come further than this? I fail at feminism.