Dec 17 2008

Spinster aunt’s fake internet name rejected by Australian authorities

While traipsing along on one of those absorbing jaunts through the comments section, a couple of articles about baby names came to my attention this morning. Blamer Orange thought this item about the Queensland government cracking down on goofy baby names isn’t particularly blamey, but I disagree. I’ll explain why in a second. Here’s the gist:

In Queensland AU there exists a government authority called the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It apparently has the power to dictate to adult humans in its jurisdiction whether or not they may sign their tax returns as “Sex Fruit” or “Fish” and “Chips.” In other words, the Registry can reject proposed names, whether it’s adults changing their old ones, or parents inflicting new ones on helpless babies, based on nothing, it appears, but a subjective sense of community orthodoxy.

I’m not saying such authorities are unique to Queensland, but they are unique to cultures of domination. Unless there are hierarchies to appease and permanent records to maintain, why give a crap about anybody’s name at all?

Human nomenclature, it turns out, is a rich tapestry of tradition, pop psychology, society’s crushing demands for conformity, parental control, and — that’s right — copyright infringement (just try to name your kid “Coca Cola” in Queensland).

Couriermail.com consulted child psychologist Paula Barrett, who concedes that “strange names” engender “social anxiety” in kids. A New Zealand nine-year-old, Talula Does The Hula, was traumatized by her jokey drag queen sobriquet to the extent that she appealed to higher authorities to change it.

I do not argue that slogging though life as Talula Does The Hula is a contumely devoutly to be wished. Au contraire. My views on this are twofold. One: in a world free of domination, nobody would be penalized for being known as Talula Does The Hula, but patriarchy requires that its communicants assimilate and accede to arbitrary standards of normalcy which are rooted in social control, thus making Talula Does The Hula an intolerable designation. Two: if, as in ours, a culture wherein names are of such importance to a person’s mental health — to the extent that “unusual or hard-to-spell names” can inflict “serious psychological damage” — the last people on earth who should be entrusted to confer them are a person’s biological parents.

Which brings me to the second article, which did not, as I had momentarily supposed, escape from the Onion. In this insane scenario, occurring in an obscure corner of the US called Holland Township, a family is upset that the local ShopRite supermarket has refused to inscribe a kid’s birthday cake with the name “Adolf Hitler Campbell.”

Adolf Hitler Campbell is a 3-year-old girl. Young Adolf has a sister named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell.

Lehighvalleylive.com invites readers to weigh in on the topic. It isn’t long in the comments before one astute reader points out that the kid in the photo has a mullet.

Most readers side with ShopRite, although one straddles the fence, opining that the Campbells are “racist biggots” [sic] unless there was “some family heritage”; having an old Aunt Adolf Hitler presumably trumps racist bigotry. There is also some talk about “parents’ rights.” That parents have inalienable rights over their offspring, including the “right to share their beliefs with their children” is not questioned, yet there is consensus that the Campbells are abusive “backwoods hooligans.”

Which brings me to my underlying thesis: the way the system is set up, where kids are in thrall to adults and everybody thinks this is perfectly natural and dandy, it is practically impossible for children not to be abused, even by parents who never lay a hand on’em. Richard Dawkins, for example, has asserted that inflicting religion on children is abuse; he’ll get no argument from me.

One wonders what the Queensland authority would have done with the Campbells. As blamer speedbudget [correction: blamer Spiders] notes, Queensland put the kibosh on “Twisty Poi,” but naming your kid “Violence” is apparently A-OK with them.


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  1. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    “Two: if, as in ours, a culture wherein names are of such importance to a person’s mental health — to the extent that ‘unusual or hard-to-spell names’ can inflict ‘serious psychological damage'”

    By this standard, I am one of the most outrageously fucked-up people in the world.

  2. Whatthebutlersaw

    Swedish naming laws prohibits giving a child a name that “sounds” like it belongs to the sex the child is not born with. Or in more vulgar words – if it sounds like a boy´s name, you can’t give it to a girl and vice versa.

    In order to be able to change the name legally, trans gendered people in Sweden have to take names that are sexually ambiguous. Hence the amount of pre op women called Alex and Kim. I’m not sure these days what the laws say once the transformation is complete. But since rules state you have to live as a woman for x years before being eligible for surgery a lot of people give in and name themselves Alex and Kim in order not to have to have Stefan or Krister on their driving licenses.

    You also can not name a child God. A few years ago the name Blomman (Flower) was denied as the recipient was a boy. The parents were told that if the child had been a girl, it might have been permissible.

  3. Kaethe

    I agree with your thesis. The system pretty much demands this sort of stupidity. Although, actually, Adolf is 3-year-old boy.

  4. Twisty

    I found no mention in the article of the kid’s vagina status, but I concede it is likely that “backwoods hooligans” would follow the traditional binary-gender thing.

  5. Lovepug

    Germany also has similar laws with respect to naming and gender. It’s a slippery slope. I’m all for letting people name their kids whatever they want. If the name’s that bad, the kid will grow up to hate the parents and justice will be served. The United States seems to be probably one of the most liberal places about naming since we have celebrities naming their kids things like Tallulah Belle and white supremacists starting wonderful new traditions.

    My daughter was named after my great, great grandmother. I was named after a politician’s daughter simply because my mother liked the name.

    Can’t wait for the horse culture essay as I had many a traumatic childhood experience with the “horsey” girls at school who lorded their superiority over me constantly because they had horses and I didn’t. IBTP.

  6. Catherine Martell

    In common with everyone born in the patriarchy’s more organized nations, Adolf’s vagina status is marked on his birth certificate. This is visible in the family photo gallery, alongside his father’s collection of what look to be self-inflicted Nazi tattoos.

    Poor Adolf.

  7. Lu

    “Consummation” devoutly to be wished.

  8. ambiguouslynamed

    A few years ago the name Blomman (Flower) was denied as the recipient was a boy. The parents were told that if the child had been a girl, it might have been permissible.

    Fiorello La Guardia is not pleased.

  9. hannah

    Just to note this toddler Adolf Hitler is a boy according to the article..

  10. slownews

    All part and parcel of a world in which only parents can be trusted/coerced into actually caring for kids.

  11. Zofia Szeretlek

    I always like to see you writing about Australia, Twisty. It’s especially fun for me when you write about my home state of Queensland. I am certain that there is no scarier place on earth to live.

    I’m currently looking into changing my name legally and so this post has come as a bit of a bad omen… but thank you, regardless.

  12. Hedgepig

    Hey Zofia, Queensland even scares me – and I live in Tasmania! Teeheehee

  13. Dr. Steph

    The practical woman in me, who is living in the patriarchy, feels the need to balance poor Adolf Hitler child with my friend’s new daughter named Ryan (ie a boy’s name) and I come up with the same problem which is that whole ownership of children thing. No one should tell anyone what name is appropriate unless it’s a name I find offensive…hmmmm.

    Practical mother in me can also state that someone needs to take care of those little humans that came out of my body because they certainly can’t fend for themselves and I confess that I do have ownership feelings toward them.

    Those were tested when their (paternal) grandfather chose to buy them dangerous (patriarchal) ATVs for Christmas, gave them to them early and didn’t ask the parents first. I don’t think he decides what’s best for my kids.

    I’m feeling a whole lotta Blame right now. For you know what.

  14. Samantha

    I’m curious as to why you thought Adolf was a girl. The long hair, perhaps?

  15. Spiders

    “It’s especially fun for me when you write about my home state of Queensland. I am certain that there is no scarier place on earth to live.”

    I’m certain there are much scarier places.

  16. Rebekka

    You seem to have a lot of Australian readers, Twisty, I’m in Melbourne.

    I think the Queensland Government wouldn’t let you be called Twisty because of the copyright infringement issue – mmm, extruded cereal snacks

  17. Spiders

    Also, Twisty, my name is Spiders not speedbudget. Any name incorporating the word “speed” gets rejected by the QLD government.

  18. april

    According to this article Adolf is a boy http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/700367/adolf-hitler-toddler-denied-birthday-cake

    I too am intrigued as to why you assumed he was a girl…

  19. Dawn Coyote

    That’s it! I’m going to legally change my name to Dawn Coyote.

  20. SoJo

    Queensland is backwards. I’m from Melbourne, but study on the Gold Coast. I just read today that animal cruelty and abuse rises by half every year in Queensland. Culture of domination alright.

    Also, hey aussie blamers!

  21. speedbudget

    Twisty, I wish I had made the astute observation. It was spiders. But I got a gleeful belly full of love when I got a shout out from ya.

  22. yttik

    “…Queensland. I am certain that there is no scarier place on earth to live”

    Bahahah. Come visit me, LOL. Perhaps we could do special for the Travel Channel, the Most Patriarchal Places to visit?

    My name has been changed by cultural dictates. There’s nothing strange about my name, it’s just not as easy to pronounce as say, “unit #2” would be.

    “…child psychologist Paula Barrett, who concedes that “strange names” engender “social anxiety” in kids.”

    Actually, the social anxiety is coming from the culture. We project it upon kids and try to make it their problem. We also do this if they wear glasses, gain weight, have big ears, or don’t stay in their designated gender roles. “Engender” is such a funny word, isn’t it? Loosely translated it means to dump your issues on somebody else’s head.

    Apparently our President elect has forbidden his family to get a “girly” dog. That’s my patriarchal complaint of the day. He has “social anxiety” over the perceived girly-ness of his dog?? That’s nothing, you should see the social anxiety I experience from having a government run by total wankers.

  23. Twisty

    ““Consummation” devoutly to be wished.”

    Great Scott! You can’t get away with anything on this blog! Well, I’m no British Renaissance drama-ist, it’s true, but contumely, a word I have only ever seen used by the Swan of Avon, oozes more the connotation (insult, injury, etc) I was after, so I snuck it in.

  24. Twisty

    “Also, Twisty, my name is Spiders not speedbudget”

    Apologies. If I can ever remember to do it, one of these days I’m gonna write an essay on the phenomenon known as “chemo-brain,” a permanent condition of scatteredness and stupidity that obtains after a breast cancer patient’s obstreperal lobes are fried with Adriamycin.

  25. Twisty

    “I too am intrigued as to why you assumed he was a girl…”

    I’ll ignore the unfortunate ellipsis and go straight to the explanation: I misread the article, pure and simple (see “chemo-brain,” above). But now I’m curious: why do you (I don’t mean you, personally, but the general “you”) suppose that so many felt the need to correct me on this point? Is the kid’s sex, in this context, such a relevant issue? Is it just the little satisfied “yesss!” we all (self included) indulge in from time to time when taking the opportunity to demonstrate our superior knowledge on the internet? Is a female Adolf Hitler Campbell a more egregious insult than a male one?

  26. Azundris

    First off, there are countries where “inexplicably” you normally cannot even get a change of name deed as an adult. These countries have the necessary infrastructure in place (for transfers of ownership such as marriage), mind. If only a couple of other people were interested, that shouldn’t effect much of an overhead; and if many people are interested, well, there obviously is a need, and the government should serve the people. Seeing as most countries are broke, putting a £50 price tag on it should make it attractive to the law-givers, too. So why don’t they do it? “Culture of domination,” say I. “The sake of continuity,” claim they (again happily ignoring same when people get married).

    It has always been my opinion, but especially with regard to such countries, that parents should give their children A LOT of names. A birth certificate is no telegram and ain’t paid for by the word. Give them at least a) a boring name to be used in kindergarten so they won’t get beaten up for it, b) an offbeat name for teenage rebellion (no point in aiming for “cool,” though, your and your kids’ perception on that will differ), and c) one that’s private, only to be used between lovers. That way, they can go through life and pick names to suit their circumstances.

  27. The Baroness Blossom Von Gutenkatzen

    The unfortunate ‘Talula Does the Hula’ was in fact ‘Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii’. I wonder if she changed her name to Lizzy-Borden Took-An-Axe-And-Gave-Her-Parents-Forty-Whacks.

  28. slythwolf

    Twisty, I wondered if you had thought he was a girl because he had long hair and the article didn’t mention it. And I wondered this because I, looking at the picture for the first time, thought, surely that’s one of the sisters, partially because I am culturally conditioned to think long hair = girl, and partially because I thought male neo-Nazis were in the habit of keeping their hair extremely short. I think I may have got that one from Hollywood, though.

  29. Lar

    I saw that story on the news the other day. That family has since had another little girl they named Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, apparently after Heinrich Himmler. wtf.

  30. K

    How in the world do you get Honszlynn from Heinrich? And what’s with that awfully Polish- or Hungarian-looking “sz” in the middle of it? Sheesh.

  31. narya

    Oy. My family lives not too far from the people in that article.

    I’d have to say that I’m of the opinion that one Adolf Hitler per solar system is sufficient–or, perhaps, even one too many.

  32. delagar

    I also wondered why so many people felt an urgent need to insist on correct Little Adolph’s gender. Surely the salient point here is the wicked/boneheaded nature of Dad giving kid the name, not the gender of the kid? Why get so bent at the Adolph’s gender being misnamed?

    A possibly-related story: when my kid was an infant — two weeks to two years old — people would frequently comment on what an handsome boy she was. I would smile and say thanks. If I was out with my mother, though, oy, she had to set the commenters straight at once: “Girl! Lovely GIRL!”

    Which, why? WTF?

  33. TP

    The obsession with assigning the correct gender to babies has rankled my entire black ass since we had one. What is less gender-specific than a new born baby? The fact that people make it such a priority reveals much about our cultural conditioning as patriarchal dupes.

  34. Catherine Martell

    No accusations have been thrown at me, but anyway I apologise if I sounded like I was correcting Twisty, or anyone else. By mentioning Adolf’s sex-specific birth certificate, I hoped to encourage discussion of the egregious fact that all cultures demand immediate sexing of babies at the very moment of their birth.

  35. flea

    Am I the only one who thinks “Tallulah” is a really pretty name? Even the Tallulah of Bruce and Demi hates it and had it legally changed.

    It is a lonely life for us, the Tallulah fans.

  36. flea

    And while I’m admitting this sort of things, “Apple Martin” is also a cute name. There, I said it.

  37. Angiportus

    I really have a problem, for a long time, with these folks who think they have the right to do any damn thing to their kid that they want to, just because the kid’s body came out of theirs, like the shit that comes out of their asses! I say, name the kid something that won’t cause THEM a lot of problems, never mind anyone else–but regard it as provisional/temporary.
    I changed mine legally when I hit 21–from a common, gendered name, to a somewhat less common, ambiguous-gendered name. [The ones I go by online are new.] So many people were so-o-o shocked–I guess they thought only hippies did that or something–but I always thought it odd that more people didn’t name themselves. Folks stick all this crap on us when we don’t even have teeth yet, let alone consent, and expect us to just carry it forever without a thought, unless we move to a country where marriage or stupid-ass naming laws force us to change it to something else they might not have chosen either.
    About giving the kid a whole bunch of names, though…Some kids, I bet if you gave them 100 different names on that certificate and think you had all bases covered, they’d still not like any of them and come up with something else. Hence, considering it as provisional. But as to who gets to stop nutcases from naming their kids something that will be a bother to them, that I don’t have an answer for. Is there some alternative to either chaos or over-restrictive rules like Sweden’s?

  38. Azundris

    @Angiportus: Totally agree that choice is best. My “long, long list” suggestion was mainly to throw a spanner into the system in countries where that choice doesn’t exist. That is, if complete choice (“change of name deed”) is not available to the kid or adult, at least give them as much choice as possible (“many names”).

    flea: I have a fondness of the name “Tallulah” because Tallulah Bankhead seemed to have a lot of “I’m gonna live my life any way I damn well please” in her for the time, and seemed unwilling to let public opinion or age slow her down. Bonus!
    On the other hand, she seems to get quoted with one line that could be called a rape-joke — though the tone is like the deadpan I sometimes adopt re fresh wounds, so I’m not sure whether I’m ill at ease or very ill at ease re that quote — any blamer’s opinions on Ms B much welcome!

  39. Orange

    Contumely! That was in our vocabulary workbook in 9th or 10th grade. It may well be the only vocabulary word in the book that I hadn’t already known, accounting for my remembering the circumstances nigh unto three decades later.

    “Strange names engender anxiety” in kids only when they’re in a stifling environment. Apparently kids in my son’s third grade class hardly ever tease one another based on their names. For every Ella or Ethan, there’s a Hamid, Kyele, Paloma, or Merhawit–so it would be hard for the kids to know who to ostracize. Would two Mohammeds pick on one Joshua and tease him for his unusual name, which happens to be a common American boy name? Nah.

  40. Jonathan


    “That parents have inalienable rights over their offspring, including the “right to share their beliefs with their children” is not questioned, yet there is consensus that the Campbells are abusive “backwoods hooligans.””

    Just think of how much damage would be done to the Patriarchy if the sovereignty of parents wasn’t absolute!

    Right now, the purpose of family social services in the US (what little is funded) is to shore up the patriarchal family unit, and to only break up the family unit when it is so dysfunctional as to attract national attention and call the entire hierarchical family racket into question.

    A REAL family social services program, on the other hand, would place qualifications on parental sovereignty, as a parent’s position would not be absolute. However, changing the microcosm of the family would wrack the foundations of the Patriarchy: Just imagine placing limits and qualifications on sovereignty in general! Can you imagine Musharraf’s sovereignty over Pakistan being questioned? How about Mugabe in Zimbabwe? How about a Bush impeachment not being swept under the rug? How about the Sudan? Somalia? Myanmar? Darfur?

    The nuclear patriarchal family is already near the breaking point. Nebraska’s Safe Haven Law led to carloads of parents from out of state dropping off 10-year-olds, teens, and nine kids in one case! As soon as the country gave people an out to obligatory motherhood, the exodus started.

    What would have happened if this became the norm? We would need armies of non-biological foster parents to raise kids that weren’t their biological own. Perhaps non-nuclear families would develop? Sounds like a small step in the direction of a Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex, as Twisty mentioned earlier. Again, that is too dangerous for the Patriarchy. So they amended the law to exclude non moses-like infants, and swept the whole thing under the rug.


  41. TwissB

    Azundris – I have always thought that Tallulah Bankhead’s tough girl talk was a form of personal armor/camouflage against the sexism of the men she had to get along with to get around freely in the theatrical world. And she came of age at a time when affecting a slangy fast come-back style was a mark of working girl chic, at least it was in the movies. As for the current use of tough girl terms like the f-word (which I see as like agreeing to insult oneself and other women to save men the trouble) and kid instead of child or baby, I guess I’ll leave it to the denizons of this site to explain – and I’m not holding my breath until that happens. At least this place is a reliable haven from the ever so sweet and coy substitution of “mom” for mother (now reserved for motherf…r). I’m a stay-at-home mom (say it loud-say it proud) announces that I was a highly paid executive until I realized that a woman’s natural role was mahmhood. Fang says I’m prettiest when I’m pregnant. Etc.

  42. TwissB

    Ha! I think that the terms describing 30’s movie verbal style which I was seeking were hardboiled and screwball. A disturbing artifact from the saccharine 1940’s surfaced on YouTube in “The Major and the Minor” starring Ginger Rogers when a young military school cadet scornfully describes the busload of private school girls arriving for a dance as “what we use for women.”

  43. caitlinate

    A lot of people I know don’t have the same name as is on their birth certificate. Sometimes this hasn’t happened til ‘adulthood’ and some did in when they were young (for example my friend Fregmonto who changed his name at age six and has kept it ever since). I think the issue is the emphasis we place on parental decisions as absolute and forever. The system shouldn’t be that when a parent names a child we respect that as an unquestionable authority. Better would be if parents named their children when they’re born – for ease of speaking, forms, etc – and then children are encouraged to choose their own names whenever they decide to – or stick with what their parents chose if they want to. Then bans on ‘weird’ names wouldn’t be so much of an issue and it would be an awesome thing for kids to do – defining their individuality and autonomy… or something…

    And pfff, Queensland. I wouldn’t care so much that a government is inflicting this kind of thing – as i see it as reversable – but in somewhere as redneck and racist as Queensland the government shouldn’t be trusted for anything, in particular peoples lives. For case in point read about Lex Wotton and Palm Island

  44. Hattie

    Switzerland has those name restrictions. They have to be names acceptable as Christian names. You know for baptism and all.

  45. keshmeshi

    Typical that they won’t even allow adults to name themselves. So this isn’t just about protecting the children. Surprise, surprise.

  46. SoJo

    The domination of children is exactly like the domination of animals. They’re sentient, why do we think we have some right above theirs to name them, put them in a room, feed them according to our schedule, tell them what to do, how to act etc.
    Doesn’t anything that can run its own life have the right to do it? Isn’t that the feminist argument for women? Why doesn’t it apply to babies and animals? They’re basically mentally equivalent anyway.

  47. Cathy

    It figures that control, breeding and ownership of animals is called “husbandry.”

    Would you post photos of your horse(s) with that crappy camera?

  48. Aqua

    Doesn’t anything that can run its own life have the right to do it?

    And what do you mean by this? Should all small kids go out to work? I seem to remember that they used to do that in our society and still do in many countries. Do you think that’s a great idea?

    I take it you’ve never looked after a baby or a toddler then. And no, they are not mentally equivalent to an adult. I can see you know nothing about brain development either, which isn’t complete until about the age of twenty-five.

    Some bloggers here clearly have no idea of the incredible twenty-four hour a day job of looking after a baby – nap for one hour, wake up, breastfeed, play, sleep and so it goes for the whole day night cycle. ANd that’s when they’re healthy and perfect. And that’s just the physical needs. Children want you. They want the time and attention and love of the person/s caring for them. And if you’re breastfeeding, as I did, then that’s YOU, mum, a huge amount of the time. Sheesh, do you have any idea of just how demanding human infants/children are? I’m not complaining – I chose it and I love them dearly. But I don’t want to read about how they can look after themselves and have the absolutely massive amount of work I do on a daily basis minimized and spat on from a great height – you know, I tell them what to do so they don’t KILL themselves. Children are not born with any road sense, nor do they know how to swim, etc etc. You have no idea how long it takes to instil even a minimal sense of these things. Nor are children born socialised. I won’t even start on the amount of labour that involves – and no, I am not talking about moulding obedient little boys and girls. I am talking about basic skills of empathy, self-regulation of emotions (this is a really tricky one and lots of adults can’t do it which is one reason for the amount of violence and personality disorder in the world), ability to get along with others. All this takes WORK – it does not flower by itself. The dissing of motherhood by some posters is really depressing. But that’s the way it is for mothers in our society. We’re despised by the patriarchy, we’re told we don’t work, and it seems that many feminists also despise mothers. Gee, thanks a lot some posters on here. It’s nice to know I’m loathed and disrespected by men and women right across the political spectrum. I would BTP but how does that excuse some of the posts on this blog?

  49. Aqua

    You know, minimising women’s work, especially the work of mothering, has a long and disgraceful history in the patriarchy. I am disgusted to see so much of that view from some posters on this blog. Looking after people, caring for them, from babies to elders, has traditionally been women’s work. Cr*pping on it from a great height, saying it’s unnecessary and in fact abusive – geez, way to support women, people!

  50. Aqua

    I also find the denial of dependency interesting in some of these posts. Children are dependent. And the main carer of small children is also dependent, often a woman on a man. Not an ideal situation a lot of the time. But just because that disadvantages mothers doesn’t mean you can deny small children’s dependency needs. The ideal put forward on some posts here, of autonomous individuality without dependency, looks so much like an ideal that men have. And it’s utterly delusional. Men are dependent, they just don’t like to admit it. I thought feminism was wise to this delusion. We are all dependent at times, we all need care. Denying that and despising those who need care and those who give it – that’s totally patriarchal.

  51. medrecgal

    The child’s gender doesn’t matter…I read this on another website and immediately thought the parents must be absolute whack-jobs who should not be reproducing their hateful, malicious kind. If I had been that cake decorator, I would also have taken great pause and immediately summoned a manager. Yes, many people out there do bestow rather odd monikers on their children, but this one is likely to offend a great many people’s sense of decency and no child should be forced to suffer throughout life because of a parent’s warped belief system. It’s a shame he can’t just change it because children are legally powerless in this country. By the time he’s 18, I’m afraid he will be hopelessly damaged and not have enough sense to know how truly awful this choice of name was, purely by virtue of the kind of people he’s being raised by. I don’t hold out much hope for his little sister, either. Maybe, though, just maybe in that way kids sometimes do, he’ll have an inherent sense of the error in his parents’ ways and find his own name to use until he can legally change it.

  52. sylvie

    my significant other has an unusual name, for this country and in his home country and really anywhere on the planet. there is nothing wrong with it, and lots of people really like it, and no one made fun of him for it. But it has always been mispronounced, all through his life. and that fact alone has really worn on him, because our names are surprisingly personal things to us, and having even one’s friends and relatives being only haphazardly able to correctly pronounce one’s name makes one feel lonely is a very particular kind of way. think about what you would feel if your dearest accidentally called you by a different name – not thinking you were someone else, just forgetting your name and getting it wrong. there is a lot to a name.

    I also second aqua. sojo, if children were able to run their own lives, things would be a lot different than they are. but the sheer fact of the matter is that THEY CAN’T. whoever they get it from, parents or otherwise, they need help. and they need it for a long time, not just the first couple years. helping another human being, one’s own kid or someone else’s or what have you, through those many years until they can run their own life is valuable, hard, and rewarding work.treating it as if most people only do it because they feel like owners is vastly unfair to a lot of people who don’t think, or act, like owners of their children.

    remember that the number of people who will slap their kids with names like hitler are actually few and far between.

  53. SoJo

    Okay, “potential” to run their own lives. Basically I’m suggesting that women not buy into the (patriarchy enforced) idea that having kids is great. Don’t have kids, don’t get pets.

  54. caitlinate

    Sojo: We live in patriarchy and everything we do is part of patriarchy enforced ideals/ideas. Some women get great joy out of having children – to dismiss their emotions or experiences as ‘just the patriarchy’ further disenfranchises their voices. It’s about choice, not just rejecting everything.

  55. SoJo

    Sorry, I’m not saying its consistent with the Patriarchy Blaming theory, because I’m not the expert. I’m suggesting that maybe its another way of looking at children/ethics of care. This blog is about radical feminism right?
    I wouldn’t have said it if I thought that it would be thought of as crap, I didn’t want to start an argument; I thought it was valid on some level is all.

  56. yttik

    When you get divorced in my state women get a free name change to anything they like. You can call yourself Free At Last, if you like. I’m not sure how this came about, but I kind of like the idea.

  57. Kristin

    “Don’t have kids, don’t get pets.”

    The children in foster homes and animals in shelters around the world thank you deeply.

  58. thebewilderness

    I think we are sometimes talking about different things, when one person speaks of domination it is not the same as the simple reality of dependence. I think it is possible to be dependent on another without being dominated by them. The labeling of your children as a political statement is an egregious form of dominance.
    I agree with Az___ upthread that lots and lots of names to choose from would be a kindness.

    I can’t help but wonder as we get further and further from WWII how Hitler, who was only one man in a system of organized destruction, has become the the word for evil. I know the answer to that question, of course.

  59. yttik

    I think people are used to the patriarchal definition of dependence. In that light, dependence has some definite negative connotations. It often involves power imbalances and abuse.

    But there’s a whole other world out there, a completely different definition. Dependency can be a very beautiful thing, such as the relationship between mothers and children. Or daughters caring for their elderly mothers out of love and respect. There are even fathers out there who make children feel safe and comfortable which serves to actually free them up, make them feel secure so they can reach their full potential.

    We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because the patriarchy has hijacked the concept of dependence does not mean the concept itself is flawed.

  60. tinfoile hattie

    At least this place is a reliable haven from the ever so sweet and coy substitution of “mom” for mother (now reserved for motherf…r). I’m a stay-at-home mom (say it loud-say it proud) announces that I was a highly paid executive until I realized that a woman’s natural role was mahmhood.

    Huh. I thought “Mom” was just what my kids call me. I didn’t know it was me being coy. The things one learns. And stay-at-home mom, for me, meant I did all the thing Aqua is talking about above, and more — because she can’t possibly list all the things she does as a mother.

    And guess what? Nigel works out of our home, and he did everything above except the breastfeeding. It took two of us to take care of one baby who allegedly was able to care for itself. Or maybe we were just supposed to rely on that non-existent post-patriarchal community of loving women and men to help us. Nope — instead, we fumbled for ourselves, in isolation, only to have the judgment of others the only gauge by which we could measure our success as new parents. It’s a setup from the start, one designed to ensure women fail, and to hear mothers being blamed for it is just too delicious for words on this particular weblog.

    What I got from being a loud-and-proud stay-at-home mom (my, the judgment against fellow women in that one phrase) was the realization that most men I worked for in the “executive” world were selfish asshats, and I never wanted to work that way again. I was able to cobble together my own kind of job — one with flexible hours and a lot of choice in who my clients are. So out of repression grew quite a bit of privilege.

    Please don’t assume that all of us in patriarchy choose the absolute most oppressive path by which to cope. And lay off mothers. We work hard, in spite of the prevailing belief here that feeding, clothing, bathing, loving, hugging, laughing and playing with, teaching, and just validating children constitutes oppression and maybe abuse. Sure, I wish my kids could take care of themselves. It would free up a lot of my time. But they can’t.

  61. Twisty

    Bewilderness, thank you; we are talking about different things, which I think is a result of such deep social conditioning — in this case, concerning child-rearing — that no alternative to the norm is even conceivable.

    Of course little kids need help. I am suggesting that there are perhaps better ways to go about helping’em than the nuclear family.

    As for the joys of motherhood and the “choice” to pursue them: it is not possible, in a patriarchy, for “choice” to exist.

  62. tinfoile hattie

    As for the joys of motherhood and the “choice” to pursue them: it is not possible, in a patriarchy, for “choice” to exist.

    Bingo. So no matter what choice a woman makes, someone will think it’s the wrong one. Just another way women lose all around.

    Let’s remember to blame the patriarchy, and not the mothers.

  63. Hedgepig

    “Or maybe we were just supposed to rely on that non-existent post-patriarchal community of loving women and men to help us. Nope — instead, we fumbled for ourselves, in isolation”

    tinfoile hattie: this community is non-existent because we do not live in a post-patriarchal society. Don’t blame feminism for having hopeful ideas that are still only ideas.
    I understand your frustration with the situation of parents, but why are you directing it at people who are pointing out those frustrations and their underlying causes?

  64. Greenconsciousness

    Today on TV a supermarket refused to write happy birthday Adolf Hitler on an 8 year olds birthday cake so walmart did it.

    The parents, who belong to the Aryan Nation named one child Adolf Hitler, another Herring Gerbil (no really Gerbil or however it is spelled) and the last Aryan Nation. Not only would I not allow these names I would remove the kids and sterilize the parents and all members of groups like this. I know I can’t really but I just think we allow too much under the guise of parenting. The STATE has an interest in children being semi able to live with diversity. Parents should not have the right to cripple a child intellectually and socially.

  65. tinfoile hattie

    I understand your frustration with the situation of parents, but why are you directing it at people who are pointing out those frustrations and their underlying causes?

    I’m aware of the underlying causes of my frustrations and of the frustrations of many other mothers. I am responding to people who have said less-than-kind things about motherhood on this thread. One other mother and I felt attacked by some comments here. I responded from the trenches. I am asking for support from fellow feminists, while at the same time shaking my very tired fist at patriarchy.

  66. caitlinate

    Okay, yes, the so called choice is a fabrication. Like being in the supermarket and having so much ‘choice’ for tinned corn, in the end you’re still buying tinned corn. But instead of damning all women who have children or give birth why not support the women who have and recognise that, out of the limited options available to them, this is the one they’ve gone with (or had forced on them).

    The ‘children in foster care’ comment rankles. The reason the children are probably there is because their mother was abandoned to be the primary care giver and then the state decided she wasn’t fit – or maybe she decided she couldn’t cope. But let us not mention them! Just think of all those children (that are wishing they had never been born!?)

  67. Ann Bartow

    Apologies for the segue into intellectual property law pedantry, but “Coca Cola” is a registered trademark, and therefore within the purview of the Lanham Act (aka the Trademark Act). It is neither copyrighted nor copyrightable. Textual words and short phrases cannot be copyrighted. For an on point explanation of copyright law, see:


    For more info about trademark law go to ww USPTO dot gov.

  68. Jezebella

    Here’s the thing, moms: y’all are supported in your choice everywhere, all the time. Us non-moms have only one safe haven from being criticized for being non-breeders, and that’s feminist space (IRL and bloggy). Sometimes we get a little hinky about having to pay obeisance to the holy sanctitude of motherhood, since it seems like no one EVER pays any kind of respect to the choice NOT to breed.

  69. RadFemHedonist

    What about giving a child a name like “assface” or “thing”?

  70. norbizness

    That’s oz-WEE-pay!

  71. tinfoile hattie

    Here’s the thing, moms: y’all are supported in your choice everywhere, all the time.

    HA! On paper, maybe. In reality? Not so much.

  72. Jezebella

    Well, Hattie, I’d be happy with a little lip service in support of my choice, as opposed to the constant pressure to BREED BREED BREED WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU WHY DON’T YOU WANT CHILDREN WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU WHEN YOU’RE OLD WHO WILL CARRY ON THE FAMILY NAME BREED GODDAMMIT!!?? Which is the usual message us blorts receive day in, day out, night in, and night out. It gets old, ya know.

  73. Emily

    Jezebella, I could be wrong, but I thought Hattie was just saying that it isn’t like women who have children are suddenly doing it all right. At that point, you’re not nursing, or you’re nursing for too long, or you’re using the wrong diapers, or you’re letting the kid cry or you aren’t letting it cry enough, or whatever. It basically starts when you’re pregnant (“should you be eating that?”) and continues along, as though your parenting choices are there for others to comment on and critique.

    So yeah, damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  74. sezhoo

    I had to chuckle when I read that those parents had named their child Adolf Hitler. It reminds me of an Eddie Izzard skit.

    paraphrasing: All Hitlers after old Adolf must have changed their names. Can you imagine owning your own business with that name? Adolf kind of ruined the Hitler name as a marketing took, don’t you think?

    “Mr. Hitler makes exceedingly tasty cakes.”

    Trust me, when said by a man in full makeup, leather pants, bustier and high heels, this is some funny shit.

  75. TwissB

    Oops, T. Hattie, I should have checked back after offering my critique of “mahmhood” which I think you misinterpreted as me expressing contempt for mothers as full-time caretakers of children. As a mother of five actual children (not kids), I was speaking to the patriarchal ploy of pushing women out of paid work in away from the house workplaces that makes them competitors to men as co-workers and co-breadwinners with men at home.
    Pronatalist policies and propaganda have always been used to confine women’s role to economic dependence on men while letting men opt out of that manly role if they choose to cast it off. As everyone on this blog knows, patriarchal provisions for shucked wives and children are generally shaky to downright malign, despite MRA whining to the contrary.
    I think that feminist ears should hear the pushiness in the near obligatory references to mothers by the treacly, overly familiar and patronizing “maaahm” word, made even more disingenuous when it appends “stay-at-home” to “mom” to blank out the hard work of child care while suggesting a woman tied by one leg to the kitchen table.
    The 19th Century concept of the public sphere for men and private sphere for women has never been defeated.
    I should add that I am not talking about the words used in families to refer to parents. This is about blaming the patriarchy for one of its basic strategies.

  76. Eibhear

    Hmm.. The last study I read on the matter concluded that unusual names made children feel more special and unique.

  77. Spiders

    “Here’s the thing, moms: y’all are supported in your choice everywhere, all the time.”
    Oh really? Except when we’re raising our kids outside of a patriarchy-approved framework.
    You think you’re targeted for not playing the game? Try playing it by your own rules and see what fuckin’ happens.

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