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feminismus.czČlánky › What`s in a name... -uv

What`s in a name... -uv

26. březen 2001  | Jan Haverkamp
It was a delight for me to see on www.feminismus.cz the discussion around the use of the -ová ending in surnames of Czech women. I wonder whether it would be possible to find a creative way of dealing with the issue, that could increase our feeling for relations?

It was a delight for me to see that on the Czech feminist Website www.feminismus.cz, the discussion continues on how language in our culture creates gender problems. It is definetely an issue that inspires me. This week, the active discussion on the Web circled around the use of the -ová ending in surnames of Czech women, basically indicating that the woman belongs to the man with that name (be it the father, husband or some great-grandfather). Lucky are those women that happen to have a name that is only an adjective, which does not bind them to the man carrying the name, but to the name itself. I wonder whether it would be possible - instead of seeing this as a negative feature binding women to men - to find a creative way of dealing with the issue, that could increase our feeling for relations?

I know that language is a difficult issue in Czech culture self-confidence. I have never met so much hostility as when i tried to play with the Czech language - and above all with its semantics and grammar. "That word does not exist in Czech :-( !!!", as reaction when i proposed to introduce the Latin based word `facilitator` instead of the power-relations polluted word `moderator`. And reactions became even more hostile when i was using a female ending of group describing adjectives because the group was strongly influenced by it`s female members... though it existed of a majority of men. Touch the Czech language and you touch Czech self-confidence.

It is my profound conviction, however, that self-confidence is built better with creativity than with dogmatism. What i would like to look at, is what we, men, can do to open Czech eyes for a multi-gender society by using the incredible rich possibilities that Czech as a West-Slav language is offering.
One of my most admired friends did a very interesting step. In the United States, the country where he comes from, there is a basic legal freedom of choice of name. Long ago he changed his real name to Paxus Adrianus Zakarya Calta. When he - for political reasons - married my partner Adela, he added her to his name. He may have wanted to stress the female fighting spirit that Adéla had supported in him (therefore the female ending), and he wanted in one way or another show that he valued her very much - like women are supposed to value the men very much to which they are attached with their surname - but then for real. So it is now Paxus Adrianus Zakarya Adélová Calta.

Just imagine, if we as critical men and women would start to use the Czech language on a huge scale in a creative way to voluntarily indicate our social networks! Just imagine a Czech society where as many men choose the name from their female partner as women freely choose the name from their partner. Or i could change my name into Jan Barbaruv to indicate how i value my 6 year old daughter... One of the values that feminism brings to men is its breakaway from dogma`s and the wonderful world of creativity that that opens!

Jan Haverkamp is of Dutch origin and immigrated into the Czech Republic in 1997. He worked as organizational development specialist for Central and Eastern European environmental organizations and is currently Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner for Central Europe. He lives with his partner and daughter in Cvrcovice near Kladno and has a son in the Netherlands.

Názory z druhé strany - Thought from the other side

In this weekly column, pro-feminist men - men that are strongly influenced by the feminist movement - write their observations in daily life on the role of men and women in the Czech Republic.

www.feminismus.cz (2003)  |  redesign 2013  |  realizace a webhosting Econnect  |  design Michal Šiml  |  Za finanční podpory Slovak-Czech Women‘s Fund.