For example, before I got married, I insisted that my wife take my last name. After all, she was to become my wife. So, why not take my name, and become part of me? She refused. She wanted to keep her own last name, arguing that a woman taking her husband’s name was a patriarchal practice. I was not happy, especially as she had her father’s last name, which I argued contradicted her position against patriarchy. But as she argued, “This is my name and it is part of my identity.” I became stubborn and interpreted her decision as evidence of a lack of full commitment to me. Well, she brilliantly proposed that we both change our last names and take on a new name together showing our commitment to each other.
Despite the charity, challenge and reasonableness of the offer, I dropped the ball. That day I learned something about me. I didn’t respect her autonomy, her legal standing and personhood. As pathetic as this may sound, I saw her as my property, to be defined by my name and according to my legal standing. While this was not sexual assault, my insistence was a violation of her independence. I had inherited a subtle, yet still violent, form of toxic masculinity. It still raises its ugly head — I should be thanked when I clean the house, cook, sacrifice my time. These are deep and troubling expectations that are shaped by male privilege, male power and toxic masculinity.
If you are a woman reading this, I have failed you. Through my silence and an uninterrogated collective misogyny, I have failed you. I have helped and continue to help perpetuate sexism. I know about how we hold onto forms of power that dehumanize you only to elevate our sense of masculinity. I recognize my silence as an act of violence. For this, I sincerely apologize.