My decision to give up my husband’s name and return to my birth name took a surprising amount of courage and energy. It meant that I would no longer share a surname with my children, but I would feel closer to the person that I was in my earliest years, when I felt that I really knew myself the best.
My upbringing in a family with three brothers, two sisters and mum and dad on a farm made it easy to carve the chores up into outside ‘boy’ jobs (milking cows, feeding calves, fences, mud, tractors) and inside ‘girl’ jobs (cooking tea, looking after the youngest kids, learning the family stories and keeping family ties strong). I was the second youngest child, and grew up seeing all of these well-rehearsed behaviours in play. It was very clear to me what boys were meant to do, and what girls were meant to do. Yet, I was a big, tall, brainy, strong…girl. The two somehow didn’t quite click.
Even knowing what was expected of me as a girl (according to my family’s rule book), I was happiest out helping Dad on the farm. And yet, I was not often given the same opportunities my brothers were. I wasn’t allowed to drive the tractor. When I was six years old, I was laughed at by my brother for stripping off my t-shirt on a hot day, as he and my dad had done. I was scoffed at for playing with the stockwhips to see how loud I could crack it and whether I could flick the leaf tips off the tree branches.
Gender equality for me is about celebrating and loving the things I’m good at, and not struggling to fit someone else’s description of a woman. I have the privilege of raising sons and I teach them the same thing. These days, my family see me as the main breadwinner and as a handy-mum who can fix things and do stuff. I’m proud of being able to tie good knots, fix simple mechanical things and drive my ute. These things make me who I am, not any kind of gender stereotype.
So, I’ve reclaimed the name that belongs to me. I was born with this name, and I will be buried with it. It feels good to be me again, my own kind of woman.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Thank you to our guest bloggers and community advocates for taking part in our Gender Equality Matters 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign.