Fox-Genovese recalls how in her salad days as a college student, she and her fellow feminists wanted to free women from the custom of taking their husbands’ last names upon marrying. Now Mises argued that this custom is a matter of honor. It changes nothing substantive but is a sign that the wife honors her man. Why would she do that? Well, ideally, men protect women from all possible harms, so that they could bear children in safety and peace. But a protector is prepared to sacrifice himself for his charge, the wife and children. The husband is the family’s first line of defense. What payment can a selfless guardian who does his duty expect other than honor?
If American soldiers really did protect our lives, property, freedoms, etc., putting their lives on the line, then how could they possibly be compensated by us for the risks they undergo? A guy sits on a grenade, and his legs are blown off. He survives but is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. There is nothing we can do to recompense him except to honor him. We tell him that his heroic service was not in vain and is appreciated.
That’s exactly the meaning of the woman’s taking her husband’s last name. It is a sign not that she is now his property but rather that she honors him for the favors shown to her. And here we have feminists refusing to do something so measly and unencumbering as that for the closest person in their lives, their husbands. Feminists seem to be simply ungrateful to men for building a civilization around them for all women to enjoy.
It is true, of course, that men have destroyed, as well as built; made some women miserable, as well as happy. But they have built more than they have destroyed, as evidenced by what we see around ourselves; and created more female happiness than they have taken away. Overall, as a class, they do deserve to be honored.