Thursday, February 18, 2010

last names

Arriving in France as a married woman, I have come to the conclusion that France has a long way to go in its treatment of women and their decision to keep their own last name. In every instance, it is automatically assumed that I have taken Jean-Marc's last name, and it is proving to be inconvenient and confusing. Here are my experiences:

1. the bank
When setting up my bank account, the person insisted on putting Jean-Marc's last name as my last name and then said not to worry, that I would receive a bank card and cheque book with my own last name. She said that it was just a formality that was based on an old way of doing things. When my bank card arrived, it had Jean-Marc's last name and not mine. They needed to reorder the card. Just two days ago when I went to a different branch to make a deposit, I showed my cheque book and they were confused because the cheques had my last name, but the computer screen had Jean-Marc's name. When I write emails through my bank account to my branch, it doesn't have my correct name as the sender.

2. health insurance
We went to the insurance place together to get me set up with an account under Jean-Marc's card. They took my ID, photocopied it and we mentioned that my last name was different than Jean-Marc's. When I received my attestation in the mail, they got my name wrong. I needed to ask for a new one.

3. extended health insurance

4. immigration
When I arrived in France I had to send off a form to the immigration services to announce that I had arrived. There was a line for "maiden name" and "married name" that I was confused about. I didn't fill anything out in the "married name" line because I've kept my maiden name and I didn't want them to use a name that is incorrect. The people at the immigration session said that I would have no end of problems because the sticker that they put in my passport only had my maiden name and the married name was left blank; it means that everyone will think I'm not married and that could prove difficult when I need to renew my visa.

In all of these circumstances I have explained that all my ID has my maiden name because that is the name I have chosen to keep. If they issue me health cards, bank cards and immigration stickers with the wrong name, I think I'd be in even more trouble when it came time to prove who I am. I don't believe that it's impossible to change the computer system to accept a person's name as it is, without specifying married or maiden. Indeed, I am 100% sure that men don't have the same issues. If they can do it for men, they can do it for women. In Canada you give your last name - whatever you have decided to use - and then there is a line for maiden name, if applicable. I don't understand why France is so behind. Tomorrow I have a "civic education" day where we will discuss liberty, equality and fraternity. I might have a thing or two to add to the discussion of equality.

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