By James Travers-Murison
Traditional reasons, such as one’s Scottish heritage, play a large factor in people refusing to alter their name. In a still male dominated
society, the man wins out in keeping his name, while his wife and children must conform to his heritage being saved. But today women are asserting their fundamental right
to be treated as an equal and if this is to be more than just a thing of substance, formality itself must change. And the most ‘sacred cow’ of all is the
Religion has expressed the essential universal essence or spirit as being ‘the Word’. Not far away from this is the concept of self or ego.
Eastern faiths see this as of paramount concern. The self has to be recognised then transcended. On a more practical level the need for identity or to be identified is a
fundamental requirement in organising a society. So ‘the Name’ is not just a spiritual necessity, but a very practical thing.
My father, in his late 60s and from a conservative English military officer background, feels quite appropriately given his history that it would be
denigrating his heritage for his son to hyphenate his name, so including his divorced wife’s surname.
I changed my name not entirely regardless. I asked for both of my parents’ written consent in a letter. Only my mother responded and a year later I
went ahead. I had discussed the matter with my father several years back when he had commented about my brother and sister changing their name completely to my
mother’s surname. He had said it would have been more appropriate if they had hyphenated the surnames in the traditional manner with the male portion at the end.
However, he had no idea that I would take that as meaning it was acceptable for me to change my name.
In my attempts to try and bring the family together in what I perceived as the kindest, fairest and most intelligent manner, I managed to succeed in
alienating all of them. Despite the argument that it is legally more correct to hyphenate a name when a divorce occurs and more consistent with modern day
My mother had almost single-handedly worked and brought my brother, sister and myself up from when I was twelve. My mother’s surname would die out,
as she was one of three sisters. The question is should respect for lineage extend to the female of the species in our society as it stands, especially as the vows of
marriage are no longer enforced. My father believes it is fine in certain African countries where matriarchal society dominates, but Australia is not such a
Minangkabau in Indonesia - photo Peggy Reeves Sanday
However the only matrilineal form of kinship in the world appears to be very close to Australia, at least geographically. "Although matrilineal
organisation is unique among the Minangkabau in Indonesia, it may once have been more widespread. It also occurs in Negeri Sembilan in West Malaysia and even among certain
Montagnard groups in Vietnam, such as the Mnong. The traditional Minangkabau clans have steadily subdivided into more numerous, locally autonomous subclans and have lost
some of their traditional ways due to Islamic influence." Encyclopaedia Britannica.
All the worlds’ religions have adopted patrilineal systems and it is only in the break-up of the family in Christian Western civilisation in the
last thirty years that paternalism is being put through the fire. The evolution of 20th century philosophy following democratic utilitarian principles of free
choice would suggest society is in the process of adopting a new system of surnaming. It has become the norm amongst the professional class of women to not change their
surname on marrying.
Even the new generation of young male professional husbands agree adopting the male name is considered not just chauvinistic traditionalist paternalism,
but also undemocratic. It is unequal not because it maintains sexist stereotypes, but because it is not accepting people’s right to their own free choice. For me it
is simply honouring one’s mother’s family as well as one’s fathers and that surely is what showing good grace to god is all about.
For the sake of certainty, which societies in general depend upon, a system of free choice can often create confusion and to be fair on the old
patrilineal surnames, it was largely created in order to protect women. The children of Dad could be clearly identified through a name, which otherwise could mean Mum
being left on her own with no evidence as to who the father was. This way the village elders could make sure Dad kept his responsibilities. However, today we are a far cry
from the village and a name does not guarantee a father’s domestication anymore than a court order does. So where do we go??
The system of Opposites
Dualist Syncopatic Chaos theory applied in Geneology
In the male progeny the female surname survives and in the female progeny the male surname survives - duality of the male and female name
harmonically balanced out of chaos in a system of opposites.
A man marries a woman. He hyphenates his surname with his surname first and his wife's surname second. She hyphenates her surname first and her husband's
second. They have children. The son adopts his mother's new surname. The daughter adopts her father's new surname.
The daughter marries, she changes her surname keeping the first part (from her father's side) then changing the hyphenated second part, so that it is
changed to the first part of her husband's surname (from his mother's side). Her husband changes his surname keeping the first part (from his mother's side), then changing
the hyphenated second part, so that it is changed to the first part of his wife's surname (from her father's side). They have children. The son adopts his mother's new
surname. The daughter adopts her father's new surname. And so on…
The son marries, he changes his surname keeping the first part (from his mother's side) then changing the hyphenated second part, so that it is changed
to the first part of his wife's surname (from her father's side). His wife changes her surname keeping the first part (from her father's side), then changing the
hyphenated second part, so that it is changed to the first part of her husband's surname (from his mother's side). They have children. The son adopts his mother's new
surname. The daughter adopts her father's new surname. And so on…
Example: click to enlarge
Mr Smith marries Miss Jones. Miss Jones changes her surname to Jones-Smith and Mr Smith changes his to Smith-Jones. Their sons surnames become
Jones-Smith and their daughters Smith-Jones.
Mr Xan marries Miss Choo. Miss Choo changes her surname to Choo-Xan and Mr Xan changes his to Xan-Choo. Their sons surnames become Choo-Xan and their
The son of Smith-Jones called Mr Jones-Smith meets Xan-Choo’s daughter, Miss Xan-Choo and they decide to marry. Miss Xan-Choo becomes Mrs Xan-Jones
and Mr Jones-Smith becomes Mr Jones-Xan. Their son is called Xan-Jones and daughter Jones-Xan.
The son of Mr Xan-Choo marries the daughter of Mrs Jones-Smith. So Mr Choo-Xan marries Miss Smith-Jones. She becomes Mrs Smith-Choo and he becomes Mr
Choo-Smith. Their son is called Smith-Choo and daughter Choo-Smith.
In this way the gender preferenced surname is eliminated through a fairly simple system of opposites. Thus also eliminating sexism.