karen2205: Me with proper sized mug of coffee (Default)
Karen ([personal profile] karen2205) wrote2014-04-18 11:22 am

Names and identity

I have been of the opinion, since I was around 11 or 12 or so that my name is my name and I will never change it. My name is a key part of my personal/individual identity [I get that this isn't the case for other people, who see names as things binding them to particular parts of their closer family]. I spent my childhood dealing with the disadvantages of a name others couldn't pronounce or spell (certainly primary school teachers of mine would spell it incorrectly and tell me I was wrong when I corrected them) or would make fun of. It was reasonably clear then that it was unusual/an identifying feature and as an adult and particularly with the creation/expansion of the internet, a name that isn't easily muddled for someone else is one hell of an advantage to have.

Other people have different views/experiences on this, which they're perfectly entitled to have, where names are perhaps a more fluid part of identity, connecting people with close parts of their family of origin or to a particular partner or to their family of choice and the bit of family they are most connected with changes over time. Other people use different names in different parts of their lives - a name for work and a name for home. I suspect there's considerable influence on some people's choices by institutionalised sexism, but you don't deal with that by removing or discouraging particular choices.

My main complaint here is not what people choose to call themselves in different times/different places, it's that systems/structures are not in place to reflect what people are choosing to do in terms of names. With some obvious exceptions, most of the time people who have altered their names want to be findable by both old and new name (or both home name and work name) or by a number of different names all at the same time and social media is not geared up for this. It expects people to have one name only. The same is true of things like passports (GB driving licences at least provide space on the paper counterpart for alternative signatures) - why can't passports and driving licences show someone's current preferred name and then give a list of previous names/also current names?

A lot of the problems that come with changing names (think serious professional ones, like publication records for academics and more mundane ones, like trying to cash a cheque addressed in the wrong name, the administration and paperwork involved in changing your name) primarily affect women, because it tends to be more women than men who alter their names could be avoided if we set up systems to explicitly recognise that Mrs Bloggs is also Miss Jones and that Miss Jones is still one of her names, even if she now prefers to be addressed as Mrs Bloggs, so colleagues, at the level of acquaintances she's not dealt with for some years can still find her on LinkedIn and she can cash cheques made payable to either name. Systems are easier to alter than human behaviour, so why not adapt systems that work better for current trends?
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)

[personal profile] rmc28 2014-05-31 01:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I really like your suggestion of changing the systems to accommodate name changes more gracefully.

I suspect there is a whole heap of gendered assumptions behind the fact very few systems cope with multiple simultaneous names at the moment, and especially any system that demands a single real name.
lnr: (Default)

[personal profile] lnr 2014-04-18 07:58 pm (UTC)(link)
100% agree with you on this one! Not changed my name on marriage, but some family use my 'married name' and I don't mind, but have had to return cheques as a result, so much easier if bank would just accept bot names!