A Fundamental Difference in Perspective: Colby Ferrin and Marital Names

Do you know what the rate of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the United States is? It’s gone significantly up in the last decade. Take a guess; I’ll reveal the answer further down.

I ask because I’ve been meaning to talk about this article regarding women changing their name at marriage.

The primary gist of the article, which notes a number of secondary conclusions made in the original scientific study, is that 70% of American adults believe a married woman should change her name and half would like to require it by law. And if those numbers are shocking to you, you’re not alone. My immediate reaction was probably similar: how could such a large segment of the population believe that?

While there is no necessary overlap, another ancillary finding was perhaps the bigger kicker: the idea that half of that 70% (so, 35% of adults) advocated for name changes based on “the belief that women should prioritize their marriage and their family ahead of themselves.”

The study included vignettes involving a wife who was working late repeatedly at the office, and noted that people as a whole found the husband more justified in divorcing the wife when she either kept her maiden name or hyphenated it with her husband’s last name.

While this does not map directly onto the 35% listed above, the study notes that very little of this difference in perception came from either women or highly educated men, which means that most of this difference in perception came from less educated men. But given that this finding likely overlaps with the 35%, it means that the idea of marriage and family over self for wives is not only the norm for this population, it is a virtually universal viewpoint.

Do you know people who think like this? If you do not, I’d consider what that means for the distribution of your social circles within American society. I’m not interested at this point in determining whether the bubble is one side or the other, but more that there is a barrier and it should not exist.

Most people that will see this are likely going to have a college degree. That makes you the minority in this country regarding educational attainment. 29.8% of people age 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree, and 11.2% have a postgraduate degree. That latter number is lower than the number of people in this country (13.3%) that do not have a high school diploma or equivalent. Keep in mind that if we assume 50% of the population is male, this means that 35% of the population are men without a college degree…and that 35% number sounds a little familiar.

And as fundamental as that divide is on what I would characterize as an uncontroversial gender issue, there are plenty of other examples. On that note, here’s Exhibit B. I’m not expecting you to watch all of it, but at least give the lyrics and the “backstory” a skim. Hopefully the problems with the lyrics should be readily apparent to you.

Think about what it takes to conceive of American rap with this total lack of context for how it developed. Think about what it takes to conceive of privilege (which he does name drop in verse 1, without any hint of irony) in this way. Think about what it takes to believe that this is worth writing a song about.

The description page on his channel speaks about hoping “to influence the masses, inventing poem, rap, and song alike to present an antivenom of satire on the toxic morals of media today, bombarding these spiritual assassins with written artillery more clever than that of the entertainment lords themselves.”

Think about the assumptions you have to make to fit this kind of song into that narrative.

I’m not saying he’s irredeemable. As best as I can tell, he’s a somewhat sheltered college kid who hasn’t really encountered or considered a lot of the same information that many of us have already internalized. (That’s not commentary on the Mormon community in particular; I’d argue this is just as common in the places where I grew up, where the majority denomination was either Catholic or mainline evangelical.)

But whoever is in charge of the channel has created a space in the comments free of criticism—a space that seems to include plenty of other vocal people that see nothing wrong with the song in the slightest or indeed actively praise the parts that are most tone-deaf.

The dislike ratio on the video puts the lie to the idea that this is somehow organic, but there are still entire communities out there that find it fundamental to have values that are entirely counter to the vast majority of those of you who will see this. And whether or not their intent is to protect the safety of the spaces where they traffic from racial justice sentiments that are incompatible with their world view, tearing down these barriers is not as simple as yelling across the series of tubes.

Do I know how to reach Colby Ferrin, or each the 13.3% of people without a diploma, or the men who want a law passed to require their spouses to take their names? Not in ways that don’t require you or me to quit my job and start knocking on doors.

But those are conversations that some of us have some opportunities to take. In the words of a famous middle-class rapper, we didn’t start from the bottom, but we’re here.

Let’s make sure we’re heard while we’re at it.

One Comment Add yours

  1. edmblake says:

    That rap video makes me want to start slapping, and never stop. Picture the poster of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening”, but photoshopped to say “The Slappening”. That’s what we’re looking at here. Thanks for that.

    On the other hand, it reminds me of something I heard, once: contrary to Suburbia Steve up there, Americans prefer (nay, *demand*) that an underdog backstory be duct-taped to every famous person, regardless of whether it makes any sense or not. That’s why every tech startup had to come from someone’s garage; it’s why Michael Jordan had to self-mythologize by saying he got “cut” from his high school team, when in fact he just had to spend one year dominating JV before making the varsity team. Prince wrote “Purple Rain” as a story of how his family just didn’t believe in his mystical powers of funk, but both his parents were musicians, with his father co-writing songs with him throughout his career. Shit, he even references that Drake song that goes “started from the bottom now I’m here”; never mind the fact that Drake was a child model and actor, and has probably had a talent agent since elementary school. Gotta work in that “nobody ever believed in me” narrative.

    …okay, most of that is entirely orthogonal to your actual point. But I’m intrigued by the societal obsession with people who, to quote our friend from earlier, “got pulled straight to the upper class from poverty”; that, taken in the context of your analysis, is an idea that acts equally well as a bromide to haves, who look down on anyone who “refuses” to pull themselves up, and the have-nots, who’re desperate to feel like some opportunity is close at hand. This kid (whose face needs a slap, and badly) stumbled ass-backwards into this dynamic, but totally misunderstood it; he saw that everyone loudly boasted about “starting from the bottom”, and thought it merely coincidence, rather than a necessary step in transitioning into the public consciousness.


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