Our relationship is put through the test when we discuss surnames, caste

india caste relationships, Casteism in India

I am from Haryana and I am doing Masters in Women’s Studies from Punjab University,  Chandigarh.  When I took admission in this course I knew this was something I really want to do and it’s been one year so far, and I enjoy every single bit of it. It has brought me an awareness of the kind I have never really had. I could even say this course has brought out the feminist in me.

Now enter my boyfriend. He is a fab guy, living in Canada for the past few years. As we are in a long distance relationship we interact mainly on calls and messages and some times we get argumentative. That’s when he accuses me of being ‘too much of a feminist’. I don’t like it. I know what it is to be a feminist but at times it’s hard to explain it to him because he thinks that I always ‘use my feminist lens’ to my arguments and he clearly doesn’t like that.

We all should be known by our work or actions or most importantly what kind of person we are. Are surnames important? Why?

I posted a video on Instagram about women who don’t want to take their husband’s last name. The video talks of how we have always using a man’s name for our own identity. First our dad’s and then we have to change it to our husband’s last name after marriage. I thought there was merit in this debate. It led to a heated argument between us. I said, “I don’t want our kids to use a surname” because I feel humans are much more than that. We all should be known by our work or actions or by the kind of persons we are. Are surnames important? Why?

I remember so many instances from growing up and even in college. A friend of mine who was in love with a guy but after some time she got to know his ‘real caste’ and broke up with him because he came from a lower class. Two of my other friends first found people of their class and then fell in love with them. There’s that thing about caste choices. Then there is caste slur. “A friend broke up with the girl saying  ‘isne tho apni jaat dikhani hi thi.'” When you experience these day in and day out, you wonder why surnames should matter. I am from Haryana, where this is widely prevalent.

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For my boyfriend, the surname is important. He and I argued through the night and while he left this as a choice to me, I know that he completely disagrees. According to him, a surname is essential for everyone, and gave many instances why it is important to use one, and ‘how it is decisive.’ I disagreed with his views and out of anger he said “You are being too much feminist now,  every time you think of anything you always think like a feminist, how about thinking beyond it?”

At that point of time I felt like someone just accused me of being too much of myself. I felt that he questioned my way of thinking which to me is nothing but my second nature. We reached a point where we were really annoyed by each other’s arguments and this became a full-fledged fight. He again and again said the same thing that because of this course I am pursuing right now, I have developed a certain kind of approach regarding EVERYTHING in life I think, criticise, analyse-  I just rationalise it being a feminist !

I disconnected the call and asked myself if his take was valid. I asked myself, is one’s surname such a big deal? I don’t see why my surname should publicly declare our caste, our upbringing, our roots, our social constraints, our worth. In a country where caste can be a hindrance or help to getting opportunities, why should we have to share our surnames?

So if I raise my voice for my views, for other women, for equality then why must I be told I am ‘too much of a feminist’?

I also worry about the rush to make feminists feel guilty or bad about being feminists. Feminism to me is equality of sexes, and I can’t understand ever what it means to be a ‘feminist type’ or ‘talking like a feminist.’ I am not biased but when people use feminism to question someone’s argument that reeks of bias.

Women in our society have gone through so much due to patriarchy. We don’t get enough credit for what we do, we don’t get enough opportunities as men do, we don’t receive enough accolades as men in most fields, we are hardly the decision-makers. In fact women don’t get enough of an audience or ears for arguments. So if I raise my voice for my views, for other women, for equality then why must I be told I am ‘too much of a feminist’?

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The saving grace is that we agree to disagree. Having different opinions in life is important. Making peace with my standpoint is really important for me.

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