VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The latest national census is showing a Victoria woman that Canada has a long way to go when it comes to name equality. When she filled out the online form, she discovered the menu options just weren’t there for married moms whose kids have her last name.
Carla Stucchi says the program’s drop-down choices only offered to categorize her husband with a different last name as her son, brother, or roommate; and her young children as her husband, father, or in-law.
“My sons are nine and four. Therefore, the possibility that I would be married to them is impossible,” she said.
Stucchi says there is only one option at the bottom that could work.
“The only box that really works for me is ‘Other’ because it’s given me no option to indicate that [he] is my son,” she said, noting she had to manually describe the relationship in the field.
Stucchi says she initially laughed it off, but it’s not funny and not acceptable.
“Honestly, it just sort of floored me that in the year 2021, the system could not account for the fact that: A. I’ve kept my surname and that, B: my children would have that surname,” Stucchi said.
Dr. Amanda Watson, an expert in feminist theory at SFU, says it’s disappointing but not surprising.
“It just reminds us how our institutions sort of continue to perpetuate systemic forms of discrimination. This is such an obvious example of an institutionalized bias and way of thinking about families and kinship and relationships. To me, it’s just a concrete example of that sometimes-difficult-to-describe systemic bias against a particular gender or sex or even form of relationship,” she said.
She feels despite while society has made progress, there are still signs of antiquated practices.
“I think the default is still a woman in a heterosexual relationship … goes from a man’s last name, presumably — having her father’s surname — to another man’s last name. That symbol is really powerful. When it’s difficult, logistically, to resist that … these decisions keep being made,” Watson said.
Watson says it’s these little things that keep gendered lineage of names entrenched.
“As a woman who has chosen to keep my own surname — and I refuse to use the term ‘maiden name’ because that is just as antiquated as the practice of me taking a name — I can’t even fathom that that wouldn’t be an option for me on a government application,” she said.
“I’ve chosen to keep my own my name. My kids, who I gave birth to have my name, how is there not an option for that to be accounted for? How is it always assumed that my kids will take my husband’s name?”
For her part, Stucchi feels more families should stop to consider what name they want their kids to take.
“This conversation about name-taking is just not ubiquitous enough for people to actually really consider it. It’s just not there. We don’t really talk about it that much, yet, I kind of think we should.”
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