I’ve been on a two-week vacation in Rome, and one of the great things about being in a foreign country where they have real problems to worry about (including unexpectedly fallen governments) is that the first-world problems of the woke and culturally oppressed don’t make much of an impact.
Case in point: the scandalous matter of Jennifer Affleck, née Lopez.
Jen and Ben, once and future lovers, were married while I was in Italy. That wasn’t shocking, but the timing was a little surprising. The Italian gossip magazines did what they normally do: print glossy photos of pretty people gazing lovingly into each others’ eyes.
It wasn’t until I got a Google alert about an op-ed in The New York Times scolding the former J-Lo for taking her husband’s name as her married name that I realized American women were passing through one of their (our?) first world crises. Apparently, the fact that the multi-talented actress/singer/choreographer/beauty mogul wanted to be known as J-Aff was a moral failing, an affront to independent women, a stone thrown directly between Gloria Steinem’s aviator-shielded eyes.
Italians didn’t care. At least most of them didn’t. And that’s ironic because Italian women don’t assume their husbands’ names when they say “I Do.” They keep their maiden names which, if we’re going to be honest, are their father’s names. They don’t see the need to declare their independence from men with verbal and orthologic grandstanding, because to them, a name is just a name. It’s not a sign of worth. It’s not a declaration of importance or independence. It’s just the thing they put on your birth certificate.
I’m not exactly sure why and when American women started taking their husbands’ last names. It’s likely a throwback to our British ancestors and laws that made women and children the legal property of their husbands and fathers. That’s not a good or admirable thing, but historically, women were not free agents. The name thing was a small and rather insignificant part of that.
This is why I chuckle at the melodrama created by a famous and accomplished woman choosing — choosing — to be known as her husband’s wife. The laws in western countries do not treat women as property. We are presidents and prime ministers. We win Nobels and Pulitzers. We are scientists and soldiers. So who really cares about the name? To paraphrase Shakespeare, an Amazon by any other name would be as powerful.
And yet, in America, we still find ways to be offended. Somehow, Jennifer Affleck’s decision to jettison “Lopez” is another horrific example of the war on women. The ladies that I’ve spoken to over here are a bit perplexed by the meltdown taking place over abortion rights. In a country where abortion was illegal far longer than it ever was in the U.S., this sense that female value and autonomy are tied to the ability to abort is bizarre. Maybe it’s the Catholic influence (that church and state thing is more fluid over here) or maybe it’s just that Italian women seem to have a better understanding of their place and worth in modern society.
Contrary to popular belief, Italy has always had a strong matriarchal streak in its social customs and structures, and history is replete with strong Italian women. In fact, Giuseppe Garibaldi’s wife Anita is a heroic historic figure in her own right. And google the name “Anna Magnani,” then get back to me.
On a personal level, I was raised by strong Italian women. Their names were irrelevant to their intrinsic worth. And they would have laughed if anyone suggested that they were erased when they took their spouse’s surnames.
So being abroad and out of the airspace of aggrieved sob sisters was a joy, one that convinced me that we in America have a rather skewed perception of universal priorities. We have witnessed the re-enslavement of women in Afghanistan. We know that female babies are killed in rural areas of India, China and the Middle East. We know that female infants have their organs mutilated in Africa.
While our women run for and win, high political office. So complaining about J-Aff is an insult to women who really do have something to worry about. Thank goodness I spent most of the faux-crisis surrounded by women who get it.
Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].