Friday, November 5, 2010

Spain's Feminist Advances

Only 35 years have passed since the death of Francisco Franco, Spain's fascist dictator. Since then, what in 1975 was a backwards, patriarchal country has made huge strides in terms of women's rights. The US is lagging so much behind Spain in what concerns female liberation, that it's scary.

As I reported on this blog a little while ago, Spanish courts have adopted the decision to award equal custody in the majority of divorce cases. This is a lot more progressive (and reasonable) that a court system that considers child-rearing an intrinsically female duty and consistently excludes fathers from taking care of their children on a permanent or a semi-permanent basis.

Yesterday, more good news came from Spain in what concerns liberation from a patriarchal worldview. In terms of last names, Spanish-speaking countries were always a lot less anti-women than the Anglo-Saxon countries. At birth, a person always was given their father's and their mother's last name. Even though the father's last name always came first, this custom at least acknowledged the mother's presence in her child's birth. As we know, the English-speaking world erases women completely from any existence of their own from the moment they get married. Consequently, any children they might have are automatically considered part of their father's family. The female role in child-birth is never even acknowledged.

Yesterday, Spain decided to go even further in its attempts to address gender imbalance. Now, one's last names will come in alphabetical order and will not be based on the parents' gender.

Spain's successes in liberating itself from the legacy of the patriarchy make me wonder when the US will realize how pathetically it is lagging behind the entire developed world in its philosophy of gender. Is this yet another area where we are destined to remain the world's laughing stock forever?

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9 comments:

Vertigo said...

I daily read the Spaniard newspaper "El Mundo" and this law is not seating well with the conservatives and the male population. The comments are extremely misogynistic.

wriggles said...

As we know, the English-speaking world erases women completely from any existence of their own from the moment they get married.

It's the same everywhere in the main. Strictly speaking, women don't have surnames as those only go down the paternal line. It used to be the same for men too, but when surnames came in that's how they did it.

It's the main reason I could never get really worked up about changing my name or not, although I probably wouldn't bother now.

One notable exception is Iceland which up until relatively recently retained it's own system of a surname made up of the mother's name plus '-dottir' (excuse the spelling) 'daughter' for the girl and the fathers name plus '-son' 'son' for the boys.

i.e. A girl with a mother called Vingdis could be called Solveig Vingdisdottir etc.,

I notice the Eastern European 'ov/a' too although that's bolted on the end of the paternal name too.

profacero said...

Topic for Portuguese conversation next week, so we can practice the imperfect subjunctive -- could a woman twice divorced, who was formerly part of an armed struggle against the government, and who was then associated with a political party called "Communist" by some, be elected President of the US? (I am thinking the twice divorced part could be the hardest to swallow for many Americans...)

Pagan Topologist said...

No, unless my perceptions are totally dated it would be "Communist" that would be the biggest stumbling block. After all Reagan was divorced.

Clarissa said...

Reagan was a man, though, so it's not the same thing. :-)

Clarissa said...

"I daily read the Spaniard newspaper "El Mundo" and this law is not seating well with the conservatives and the male population."

-I read 'El Pais', and yes, the backlash will be there for a while. But at least in Spain this is being discussed. In the US, any attempt simply to discuss this topic (as I tried on this blog several times) makes people go into fits of rage on the spot.

Pagan Topologist said...

I had a grad student working with me once who was very conservative. He is likely a tea-party type today. But when he got married, he took his wife's surname, at her request, since his name was rather common and ordinary, in the sense that lots of people have it, while hers was rather distinctive and unusual.

(I will tell you the names, if you wish, but in the interest of his privacy, thay should not be posted, I think.)

NancyP said...

Most Icelandic names have the father's first name incorporated: Egilsdottir, Egilsson. This custom is 1,000 years old (or more).

This may have changed in the past few years to allow women to use the matronymic.

wriggles said...

Most Icelandic names have the father's first name incorporated:

Yep, you're right it's more often patronymic than matronymic, excuse my error apparently what I said was more like the old Finnish system, ho hum.