Thursday 29 September 2016

Barbara Scully: Equality is all in the surname, ladies - just ask Yvonne

Barbara Scully

Published 17/07/2015 | 02:30

Yvonne Keating
Yvonne Keating

Iceland is a feminist country - and that's according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, which rates it the most gender-balanced country in the world. Women's rights have long been the agenda in Iceland.

  • Go To

Icelandic women got the vote in 1915.

And in 1975, over 90pc of women took the day off in order to secure economic equality. Legislation on equal pay was passed the following year.

Oh yes, women in Iceland are not backwards about going forwards. So how have they been so successful in their pursuit of equality?

I have a theory.

Women in Iceland don't take their husbands' names when they marry.

All women's surnames end in 'dottir' and all men's in 'son', because in Iceland your surname is your father's first name followed by either son or daughter.

So, although following the male lineage, women have a clear sense of their own identity which remains intact through their lives.

Could this be the secret to their success?

Surely life would be simpler if women just kept their own names when they got married? Yvonne Connolly, former wife of Boyzone singer Ronan Keating, has spoken this week of how she has now reverted to her 'maiden' name, having been Mrs Keating for 12 years.

She also very honestly remarked how her children have found it difficult to come to terms with their mother having a different surname to them.

I am married to a nice man, whose name is Paul Sherwood (yes dear, you may print that out and frame it).

His surname is nicer than mine. But it is his surname. It has nothing at all to do with me.

We are not related, me and him, we're only married.

Mrs Sherwood was his late mother, who obviously wasn't really a Sherwood either, but you know what I mean.

So I have chosen to hold on to my own surname (which, granted is my father's name) and we function reasonably well as a couple.

It does get slightly more complicated when kids arrive. Or when a kid arrives before you meet your husband, as happened in my case. Our family consists of two Scullys, one Sherwood and two Sherwood-Scullys.

The two youngest, who have the dreaded double-barrel ("How pretentious", I hear you mutter) generally just use Sherwood for operational purposes. I mean, you would have to pay a fortune to have two surnames emblazoned on your GAA jersey.

I have told them they can choose to take either name forward.

The fact that so far they have chosen his name over mine I have put down to the aforementioned fact that 'Sherwood' has a romance about it that 'Scully' hasn't.

Either that or I have failed as a feminist mammy.

So one way or another, as a girl and a woman (even in Iceland) you will be carrying a male name forward, but for me it's more about identity.

I have been Barbara Scully since the day I was born and I could never imagine being anyone else.

In some countries it is illegal for any person to change their surname without very good reason and marriage isn't one of them. Take Greece, for example.

In 1983, feminist legislation included a law that all women must keep their own name after marriage.

The province of Quebec in Canada has also outlawed women taking their husbands' names since 1981.

Should we think of introducing such a law here?

I say we should.

And while we are at it, we should also outlaw the stupid issue of titles when filling in forms.

How come men are only given one box to tick, the one that says Mr? This determines their gender.

Nothing else. Women, however, normally have three options: 'Mrs' (usually first on the list), 'Ms' and 'Miss'. Miss? Seriously?

I want a law passed that forms have only two titles - Mr and Ms. One option each. Equality right there. Or maybe I should move to Iceland!

Irish Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Don't Miss

Editor's Choice