Friday, September 21, 2012

What is in a name

Names are really important to people.  I knew this when I was in kindergarten because Sky is very easy to rhyme with and it led to endless mocking lines from my peers, though things improved a lot when I got older and it became a great opening line when trying to hit on women.  I don't place much stock in last names though and I forget how important they are to other people.  I just read an article about Japan that made it clear how important last names and family legacies are to some people and was astounded at how much sexism was tied up in that practice.  

I normally think of Japan as a pretty progressive place, one that is much like Canada with more raw fish and electronics but less open space and ice.  I couldn't quite wrap my mind around the idea that you could make a living trying to unite females from business families and males looking to be adopted into a business family as the new successor.  Apparently a female running the business is unpalatable enough that companies and families feel the need to hunt down a man who can marry into the family for that express purpose.  

There are all kinds of wrong in that story.  First off, why is it that the family name has to be drawn from the male exactly?  Second, why does it matter if the person running the business has that family name?  Third, why can't a daughter inherit the business instead of a son?  Is that level of explicit sexism really the norm in Japan?  Certainly if you want a family and a business both women have greater challenges because they need to divide their attention more than a man would but that can't possibly be justification for this; a few years off work isn't the end.

I just can't figure out the mindset that would necessitate such efforts to ensure that somebody out there who is about twenty five years younger has the same name as you.  I get the idea of wanting a genetic legacy but the leap from that to adopting an adult male just to carry on your name is totally beyond me.  It seems like a desperate reach for immortality, a continuation of oneself, but why would that be so completely attached to men?  If you want continuity you can get it by simply having your family name continue down through to grandchildren by your daughter, I would think, and yet that isn't the case.

I tend to identify myself a me, not as a label.  I could change my name without any significant discomfort; hell, I actually thought about changing my first name to Red awhile ago and I have no particular attachment to my last name.  Roy is a fine name and all, rarely misspelled, but I feel no obligation whatever to support it over any other name.  If there weren't any more Roys in the next generation that wouldn't bother me as it just isn't a part of who I am; rather it is just something that happened to me.

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