name ghost

One way or another it is looking like it will cost me several hundred dollars and significant aggravation to deal with the fallout of US patriarchy. Back when I was married in 1970, the women’s movement was just kicking in and a summer employer insisted that they could not (would not) pay me unless I signed a form changing to my married name on my social security record. I never got a new card, however, and since that time, the only name I’ve used is my birth name.To do this, in the 1970s I had several times to verbally lie to self-appointed local government monitors of women’s names (marital status was never a question on the written document one was signing) who were insisting that married women must use their husband’s surnames on things like drivers licenses and employment records. Sometimes the courts upheld the patriarchists, sometimes the women. All this dust gradually settled around 1980 and since then married women have been left alone and allowed to use birth names in peace.(All you young-‘uns who are going about changing names willy-nilly for trivial reasons like marriage just make us older women sigh, given all the grief we incurred to avoid it.)

Because many people do change names at marriage, it is very easy to do so. You just drop by your local identity office with marriage papers and poof your name changes. This does not apply, however, if you are caught in the warp of the 1970s. If the SSA persuades itself that the name they have for you is your “legal name,” you must prove that there has been a legal name change. If you are a married women using your birth name you do not, of course, have such a court order, because you never changed your name. You are just dealing with the fallout of strong arm patriarchal bullying from the 1970s that gives many married women from that era an inconsistent set of names.

SSA knows who I am. I have a comprehensive identity record. They know my birth name, they can see my lifetime payroll records, they have my marriage certificate. They know what happened. There is no dispute about the facts. But they claim to be incapable of correcting their records to match reality without a court order. They say this is part of the heightened scrutiny on identity with e-verify. There are activists pointing out that this system disproportionately affects women. http://www.nilc.org/everifyimpactonwomen.html My lawyer says I should not have to pay her to do this for me, and I’m going to try one  more time on my own before handing it over to her.

I’m pretty mad but if I have to I can pay the money to get this straightened out. If I have to, I’ll get the court order. But as my friends say, “what are poor women supposed to do?”

Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. It isn't hard to figure out my real name if you want to, but I keep it out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either!), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with.

4 thoughts on “name ghost”

  1. as one of those older feminists who married in the 1970’s and had to fight like hell not to be considered a Mrs. Him, i find it strange, and sad, that younger feminists don’t mind becoming Mrs. Him, clearly a reflective identity. We fought so hard not to be subsumed as a reflection of our husband, carrying marriage licenses with us to be allowed to stay in hotels, and rent apartments….. i never took my first husbands name, which was useful, given 25 years and many publications later, i was divorced. But i do get the generational angst, my daughter has a very long name, mine and my former husband’s combined, with no hyphen, and has now married (a woman) and so the Mrs. Him issue is not hers. But the what to do for the kids, not yet here, is already a topic of serious concern for them….and i have no easy answer….

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    1. In my case I chose to take my husband’s name in part because I had a bad relationship with my father. I considered keeping my maiden name, but it seemed like taking my husband’s name wasn’t any more patriarchal than keeping my father’s name. In any case, I was very grateful to have the choice (notwithstanding the bureaucratic debacle that olderwoman is experiencing now). Wasn’t the women’s movement about giving us that choice, rather than just switching out an old set of rigid “rules” and naming conventions for another (keeping a name vs. changing it)? I am happy with my decision and you shouldn’t feel sad for me.

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