What’s In a Name?

Eugene Volokh is looking for statements by married women who consider themselves feminists that changed their names upon marriage. The overwhelming conclusion from those who responded is that having different names would be too confusing for the children.

Fred Vincy at Stone Court weighs in with the Vincy/Garth arrangement.

Mary and I have one little Vincy and one little Garth, so each is not only “different” from his brother but from one of his parents. They’ve certainly expressed interest in this constellation of names from time to time, but I’ve never sensed that either of them ever had the slightest sense of not belonging or that we were not really a family or any of the other things that the Volokh commenters seemed concerned about. Moreover — and I will say I was actually a little surprised by this — it has made almost no difference to other people either.

The jury is still out for me. Ethan and I already have different last names. Considering what might be best for him should one buy the different names/alienated children logic, I should keep my last name so that he doesn’t feel left out if I changed my name and had more children.

I don’t necessarily buy this line of thinking, in which case any future marital partner must have an absolutely kickass name that sounds awesome with Lauren. My last name is already mono-syllabic, easy to spell, and hasn’t resulted in any unfortunate nicknames or mispronunciations, so I don’t see much incentive to change it at all. My older sister didn’t change hers, and has said on occasion that it ended up being a clerical pain in the ass. Perhaps, but that’s not enough to convince me. I imagine that going through the hassle of changing one’s name is a pain in the ass as well. My mom took her maiden name as her middle name and I quite liked that, so much so that Ethan’s middle name is my last.

For awhile I entertained the idea of having a dual name change, in which case I would campaign for Mozilla (not after the browser, but after seeing someone on MSNBC with the name) only with a Spanish flair. Mo-zee-ya. But then, that leaves any future children up for the unfortunate nicknames of Godzilla, Mothzilla and other reptilian and horror creatures that are generally unflattering.

Jokes aside, from a feminist perspective I don’t find it that pressing of an issue. There are far greater things to worry about than what I am called, though I can certainly see why others take this issue quite seriously. Yes it is a political statement that I respect, and one that I condone especially for women who marry in the middle of their professional careers, but from this particular feminist’s corner it is entirely for vanity’s sake.

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56 comments for “What’s In a Name?

  1. Marissa
    May 18, 2005 at 8:07 am

    I changed my name for the convenience of having a last name that didn’t ALWAYS get misspelled. I had actually been kept off flights, gotten wrong treatment at hospitals, and other more minor issues because of the interaction between people’s inability to spell my name and computer databases.

    I sometimes regret changing my name, because I feel as though I cut my self off in a way from the person I used to be. I know it is symbolic, but sometimes symbols can be far more powerful than many give them credit for.

  2. May 18, 2005 at 8:10 am

    Its a symbol of ownership passing from the father to the husband.

  3. McCarty
    May 18, 2005 at 8:24 am

    I changed my name because I would rather be named after my husband than after my toxic parents. It is also nice that I can immediately identify sales calls because they ALWAYS ask for Mrs. McCarthy or Mrs. McCartney.

  4. Kim
    May 18, 2005 at 8:58 am

    Hey, McCarty — you and I changed our last names for very similar reasons. I gleefully and eagerly ditched my last name in favor of his when we got married. To me, it was symbolic of starting fresh, a new life, a new start. I decided, when I took his last name, not only would I be symbolically discarding the baggage from my Lifetime-Movie-of-the-Week-bad parents, but I’d also symbolically discard the ownership-passing connotation from the last-name taking, ‘cos -nobody- owns me. *laughs* So instead, it’s sorta like we’re a team. Much like the Red Sox are known collectively by their team name, so are we. And, yeah, I can always tell when I’m getting a telemarketer, too, because they always ask for Mrs. “Hatchet”!

  5. May 18, 2005 at 9:06 am

    What is in a name? Everything and nothing.

  6. May 18, 2005 at 9:09 am

    I’m sorry, but I imagine that empirical evidence would support my contention that nicknames ending in the suffix -zilla, especially Godzilla, have got to be the coolest nicknames alive. If Jill notes this comment, I can only hope that the next time I see her she refer to me as Godzilla. [If she wishes, I will call her Mecha-Godzilla, which was the robot Godzilla and super-awesome.]

  7. katthemad
    May 18, 2005 at 9:34 am

    I changed my name because I honestly just liked my husbands last name better. I don’t happen to be Italian, so being saddled with an Italian last name (my adoptive parent’s, impossible to spell or pronounce) was a source of some mild annoyance (people always assumed they knew what I thought or how I was raised based on my last name). So having a chance to assume a name that more accurately reflects my ethnic heritage, is easy both to spell and pronounce and was once used by the Victorians as synonym for happy, playful spirits/children was a bonus.

  8. May 18, 2005 at 10:24 am

    It’s certainly easier to get people to spell Joel’s last name correctly than mine, but I’ve always loved my last name (even when people made a rude nickname of it), and like being connected with the heritage it represents. So I went the route of hyphenating socially and keep Gazis as my legal and professional name. The only time I go by Sax is occasionally when dealing with his doctors or his medications (if they call me Mrs. Sax because they know I’m his wife, I don’t bother to correct them), and all the time when dealing with his mother.

    But I do agree that, from a feminist perspective, it’s not that pressing an issue.

  9. May 18, 2005 at 11:15 am

    I’m like you, Lynn. I didn’t change my name when we got married because I’m lazy and didn’t feel like getting new documents. But it’s also because my name is a lot easier to spell and pronounce than my husband’s. I figured I had to do something different, though, one Christmas when I sent cards signed “Stacy Brown and Robin Thellend”. One of my coworkers told me later that his wife saw the card and assumed we were lesbians. Not that I mind being mistaken for a lesbian, but I don’t like misconceptions, so I started adding his last name to mine on emails and other correspondence, so that I could safely sign cards and such as “Robin and Stacy Thellend” and at least people would know who I was that way.

  10. May 18, 2005 at 11:18 am

    I was unaware that I had a choice when I got married but added my then last name as my middle name anyway. My mom did that when her and my dad married 30 years ago so I took her lead. There was a screw-up at the Social Security office a year or so ago and now that maiden name has been lost from my name altogether. One of these days I’m going to legally change it to include all names for both me and Peanut. Won’t his dad have fun then!

    It’s a pressing issue for me only because I feel that keeping my ex’s name is somehow allowing him to think he has some sort of claim on me. He’s that kinda guy. He’s all about possession. It is kinda cool though when I spell my name out loud for others (bc they just can’t spell it on their own-my maiden name wasn’t any easier) and I mention that it’s catnip, backwards. Peanut got a kick out of holding our last name to the mirror to see for himself!

  11. mythago
    May 18, 2005 at 11:25 am

    When somebody says “it isn’t that important anyway” it sounds a lot like “pay no attention to that issue behind the curtain!”

    No, it’s not on par with honor killings of women in Pakistan, but it is an important issue, and it’s not meaningless at all. It’s the assumption that a man’s name is his and a woman’s is, well, the name of whatever male (father or husband) she’s currently affiliated with. Her name isn’t her IDENTITY. It’s a marker.

    If it weren’t such a big deal, why do so few men change their names? Why is it even an issue?

  12. May 18, 2005 at 11:26 am

    It really has nothing to do with “ownership.” I own myself, and with the choice to associate with one patriarchal name (my father’s) or another (my husband– who I CHOSE) I liked the husband’s name better. Perhaps at one time there was an ownership issue there; the whole “who gives this daughter.” But no longer.

    Feminism has a lot of more important issues to worry about than last names– which as I always point out, are all patriarchal by now anyway. It’s daddy’s name or granddaddy’s or some daddy from somewhere.

    Feminism is about choice, but it also is about equity– political, economic, etc. Those are the real issues. The hypehnates are window dressing, fashion, trend. It’s very like the “do you shave your legs” kind of questions– completely beside the point of equity.

  13. mythago
    May 18, 2005 at 11:39 am

    If it’s ‘completely beside the point,’ then it should be no big deal to keep your name rather than change it, right? Since it’s no big deal, one way or the other means pretty much nothing.

    Presumably your husband also got his name from a man, so it should be no big deal for him to change from his father’s last name to your father’s last name either. Since it’s all patriarchal names and therefore doesn’t matter, and all.

  14. May 18, 2005 at 11:50 am

    I have never liked people using the “the kids will be confused!” argument to impose their guidelines about names unto others, as someone who comes from a family whose parents both kept their own last names. I have honestly NEVER in my entire life up until college even given it a second thought. No one ever harassed me or my brother about it, no one even asked about it at all.

    Both my brother and I carry my mother’s name as our middle names and our father’s name as our last names. I’m not sure whether this is “totally ideal” in a feminist world or not, but at the very least, I know that I have never been even the slightest bit “confused” about my parents having different last names.

  15. Tom
    May 18, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    Spouse and I went the Vincy/Garth route (we have two boys, one has her last name, one mine). They have now reached 15 and 13, we live in a relatively conservative town, and yet it has never been an issue to either of them I’m glad (and surprised) to say. Like Vincy/Garth, what has surprised me is that it seems to matter little to others either. I think children just take whatever is around them as normal.

    I recommend it highly. Unless, of course, you have aesthetic or other reasons for changing as some people have.

  16. Ron O.
    May 18, 2005 at 12:20 pm

    Kim, I’d diagree with you too. The symbolism is important and the origins in possession have not disappeared. For example, the series of posts on Alas on rape culture and sexual power. I’d like to see our traditions changed on naming conventions. I’m in favor of establishing matriliar (sp?) lines by having daughters keep names they get from thier mothers and sons keep names from thier fathers. Sounds similar to what Mary & garth have, except I don’t know the children’s gender.

  17. May 18, 2005 at 12:38 pm

    Lauren, I’m curious why Ethan has his father’s last name if you and his father weren’t married? My parents were never married, and my mother raised me, so I have her last name.

    My boyfriend and I are tempted to, if we ever get married, create a new last name to take on together. His current last name is his stepfather’s, who adopted him, and he has no attachment to it (particularly since it’s an Irish surname and he doesn’t have a drop of Irish blood in him).

  18. JC
    May 18, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    I’ve been in support of a dual name change before too, where an entirely new name is selected. Not sure if this is what you meant Lauren, but Emily brought it up as well.

    Maybe we should go beyond this though and get entirely new names, first and last. I’ve been fond of Blank X. None for a long time. Maybe someday I’ll get my chance.

  19. May 18, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    My partner and I created a new last name when we were married, and both of our daughters carry it. I was sure then that it was the right choice for us, and ever since (three years and counting) I’m even more convinced that it was the right decision for us.

    I wonder if my feelings on the separate name thing are influenced by the fact that my parents split up early in my life, and thus I’ve also had stepparents. When my stepfather had a different name than my mother, sister and I, I remember feeling like it made him distinct from us, and I was nine when he left our lives for good. It made him seem more… detachable.. which he was! I think maybe if your parents stay together, you just don’t HAVE to think about that kind of stuff as much as you do if your parents are more.. fluid, I guess.

    I also disagree that it’s not a big deal, mainly because of the reactions we’ve gotten, which have been every single one you could imagine, and more!

  20. Tracy Hall
    May 18, 2005 at 1:03 pm

    My wife and I kept our names (we explored every variation of middle/hyphenated, and they all sounded stupid). We decided before we were married that girl children would get her last name; boy children would get mine. Raising our daughter (and only child) has been the greatest blessing, and the names have never been a confusion to her. ‘Course, my name being different confuses a few more “official” people (Step-dad? Did you adopt her when you married? “It’s nice to meet you , Mr. “? I generally let it go; don’t make no difference to me, we know who I am).

  21. Tracy Hall
    May 18, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    (… Mr.

    Wife’s Name


  22. May 18, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    When I got married–a decision I felt very good about, as a feminist and a leftist–I was shocked to see the change in the way people related to me. It was as though now that my relationship was in a different legal category, everyone had access to what it meant–people started to try and make “in-jokes” with me (and especially with my husband) about marriage: wifes are like this (shrewish, overworked); husbands are like that (lazy, insensitive). I had never planned to take change my name, and now I’m so glad I didn’t because it’s a small marker that marriage means something different to me, and that maybe it doesn’t fit easily into the reductive binaries people want to ascribe.

    I often feel that it’s in these small acts of resistance and challenge that change can gradually happen. For instance, yesterday the dentist’s office called to remind my husband about an appointment (I’ve tried to tell them to call him at work, but they never do) and when I answered the phone they said, “Is this Mrs. Smith?” And I said, “No, I’m not Mrs. Smith, but I’m Brandon Smith’s wife and I’m happy to take a message.” And there was a little, confused, pause and then everything was fine. It’s shocking to me that not changing my name would still seem surprising–but the world is shockingly retrograde, for the most part.

    I do wish sometimes that I had a “family” name–one that my husband and our children could share–but I don’t see a good way for us, personally, to do that right now.

  23. May 18, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    When I was married, at nineteen, I changed my name, for pretty much the same reason McCarty and Kim did. I figured, “aahh, who gives a shit?” and that since my maiden name was also a remnant of the patriarchy, it didn’t really matter. I didn’t really have a “professional background” yet to worry about, and I didn’t have that much paperwork to change.

    When I divorced, I immediately went back to my maiden name. I didn’t want that abusive prick, and I damn sure didn’t want to keep the abusive prick’s name around my neck like a noose. Gah! But beyond that, I had developed a new pride in myself, and a respect for my background and heritage. I didn’t fully realize, at the age of nineteen, how much of my identity I was erasing when I changed my name. I’m convinced that names do matter, now.

  24. ctl
    May 18, 2005 at 1:34 pm

    I believe that women keeping their own names after marriage is quite sensible, and my fianceé will be doing just that. However, I can’t help that some of the reasoning about this is a little faulty. E.g.

    “It’s the assumption that a man’s name is his and a woman’s is, well, the name of whatever male (father or husband) she’s currently affiliated with.”

    But the thing is, a family name belongs to the family, not the individual. Granted, American culture doesn’t have a very strong sense of a family which in some sense owns all of its members, but the idea behind the family name is that it’s something which covers the people with it, not the other way around. (of course, this only applies to cultures which even have family names; some non-trivial number of them don’t.)

    My family name isn’t mine, and it isn’t my father’s either. It’s not something throughout my life that I keep, but to the degree that it’s not a dead tradition (which it mostly is, frankly), it keeps me. It’s supposed to tell me who I must sacrifice for no matter how little I want to; who I must always care for and think about and work for. (As I said, this is a mostly dead tradition, but very few people were on top in the extended-family model; like all pyramids most were below.)

    This doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea for women to change their name, but if a woman changing her name means that ownership of her is transferred, it really means, I think, that ownership of her is transferred from her family to her husband’s family, whereas he stays owned by his family throughout his life. I don’t think that this is a particularly good way to operate society, and in any event it’s not how society operates now (much).

    But I do think that it doesn’t much signify whether a woman keeps or changes her name because the symbolism, in either case, is long dead (more or less).

    That being said, I do strongly suspect that if this weren’t the tradition, no one would ever give it a second thought that no one changed their names, and giving up a tradition like this in a way which makes things more equal, if in a pretty inconsequential way, is good symbolism now.

  25. May 18, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    I don’t go by husband’s last name because I’m too well known in my professional circle by my first name and maiden name. However, I’m considering taking his last name anyway (and just using Trish Wilson for work) because he is descended from a Hungarian count. The name is worthless – the family lost the fortune ages ago, but I’m a countess by marriage. The name is really cool, too. Plus it has an accent over one of the letters. I’d take it for purely vanity purposes.

    I’m a countess. Heh.

  26. jam
    May 18, 2005 at 2:48 pm

    Mikey said: I imagine that empirical evidence would support my contention that nicknames ending in the suffix -zilla, especially Godzilla, have got to be the coolest nicknames alive.

    hell yes! what was Jill thinking? what child would not want to be nicknamed after a creature that likes setting things on fire & stomping other things into little bits?

    still, maybe Jill just isn’t a Godzilla fan (for whatever strange & twisted reason) & was instead thinking of some more favorite monsters to be nicknamed after? for instance, if i had to choose from Monster Island it would have to be Gamera: the flying flaming turtle! i could be Jam-era!

    ok, i want everyone to refer to me a Jamera from now on…

  27. jam
    May 18, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    hell yes! what was Jill thinking?

    oops, sorry… make that “what the hell was Ms. Lauren thinking?”

    sorry, Jill – here you are just starting out & i’m already slinging in your direction… sorry!

  28. michelle
    May 18, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    I learned recently that in Quebec (I’m Canadian) it’s unheard of for women to change their names. I’d never heard of this! Neither are some Quebec women aware of the reverse, turns out.

    This story was related by my Portugal-born supervisor (female), who’s 30. She said that women in Europe don’t change their names, and neither did she. I didn’t ask which name the children normally took in these countries, because it probably varies by culture/nation.

    The fact that this isn’t common knowledge in North America shows how out of touch (and behind the times) we are with the rest of the Western world. Blows my mind.

  29. janet
    May 18, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    My grandmother kept her name when she married my grandfather (which I think was in 1927). He died in 1935, and only then did she change her name to his because she thought it would be too confusing for a widow and her small child to have different names.

    My sister-in-law and her husband both changed their names when they got married, so they, and now their small daughter, have the same last name. My sil once commented to me that the only problem with this is that people assume that she took her husband’s name.

  30. May 18, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    i never thought about changing my name when i got married. as a matter of fact i’m very, very surprised that it seems most women do seem to change their names to their husbands (i don’t think both partners changing their names, as jackie and her parter did counts, as that seems to me the creation of something new).

    my experience was similar to that of altmama in that my relationship to my partner seemed way more legitimate to others than it had before we were married (and we had lived together for a few years prior), and also we seemed to get the same “niche-ing” (i.e. you fit this stereotype because you’re a wife, etc) but we also pissed some people off by getting married which also puzzled me…

  31. May 18, 2005 at 3:43 pm


    Lauren, I’m curious why Ethan has his father’s last name if you and his father weren’t married? My parents were never married, and my mother raised me, so I have her last name.

    Part of the reason in this state is that if the father is known and on the birth certificate, it is automatically assumed to be the child’s last name. Secondly, I didn’t question it because they brought me the sheet to formally name the baby several days after E was born and I was so hopped up on pain medication that I don’t even remember signing the certificate now.

    Remember, I was near death by the time the doctors induced labor — E was 3-4 days old before I even saw him, but I can’t even verify that since I have little recollection of my time in the hospital. Blugh.

    Nonetheless, I like E’s last name as it is. His first name is Hebrew, middle is Scottish, and his last is Chinese. He has his three major ethnic bloodlines (two matrilineal) represented in his name which is, as far as I know, somewhat unusual anymore.

    My bloodline is primarily German Jew and Scottish, but I’m saddled with French, English and Scottish names respectively.

  32. May 18, 2005 at 3:45 pm

    And after this discussion, I’m totally pushing for Mozilla.

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  34. May 18, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    I felt like the name change issue was significant, probably because in college ALL my girlfriends swore up and down that they’d NEVER change their names, and then every single one of them did as soon as they got married. And it really bugged me! But I can also appreciate the desire to have everyone in the immediate family (husband, wife, kids) having the same last name. So my husband took MY last name, which I thought was a wonderful wedding present and has made him the object of much admiration among my female friends. I don’t know why that isn’t a more common choice these days. I mean, if it REALLY doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter for the guy either, right?

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  36. DMC
    May 18, 2005 at 8:48 pm

    I always hated my maiden name with a passion and was glad to be rid of it when I got married. I went by my husband’s last name for a year. Everytime I said the new name, I felt like a piece of chatel–subsumed under my husband’s identity, erased. So I hyphenated my mother’s maiden name with my husband’s. Our children will have that name. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s the one I/we can live with.

    I disagree that women taking their husbands’ last names is not an important feminist issue: it’s a practice so familiar it seems common sense–just as the way women are envisioned as attached to men is. It points to the larger issue of the power dynamic between men and women and reinforces that power dynmaic by subsuming women under the authority of the male “head of household.” It symbolically erases a woman’s life before her state sanctioned relationship with a man.

  37. May 18, 2005 at 9:07 pm

    I never even considered changing my name when we married, but then we were together about 19 years before we got around to making it official. Patronymic though it is, I figured it had been my name all my life, so I was keeping it. I’d moved 3000 miles from the rest of the family by then, so anyone around me would, for example, know my father as “Ron’s dad” rather than the other way ’round.

    People get confused by my first name too sometimes, and have even accused me of having “a man’s name.” Of course, it’s not; it’s a woman’s name, as it’s my name and I’m a woman. I figure I’m standing on my right to be radically subjective about anything that personal, rather than keeping it all pret a porter.

  38. May 18, 2005 at 10:10 pm

    I just got married a few months ago, and I didn’t bother to change my name, either. I’ve encountered a lot of resistance–mostly from my husband’s family. Of course, they’re still addressing things to Mr. & Mrs. Robin (his last name) so pfft.

    Though the choice between one man’s name (father) and another man’s name (husband) I thought of it this way–my last name is mine. Sure, I got it from a man, my father, but I’ve spent the last twenty-five years making it mine. It’s comfortable, it fits me. It’s my name. Getting married doesn’t change who I am, why should it change my name?

  39. SadieB.
    May 18, 2005 at 10:14 pm

    I took my husband’s name when I married, mostly because I didn’t feel any particular sense of identification with either my father’s or my step-father’s name. I figured my husband’s name represented the one relationship I had actually chosen for myself, and a fresh start.

    The interesting thing came later. My father-in-law was one of three. Two sons and a daughter, but one son was gay and never had children. So my father-in-law represented the only continuation of his family name. But that was no problem because he had six kids himself, three of them sons. Many years down the road, only one of these sons, my husband, has children. So now my three children are the only continuation of the line. And what is interesting (at least to me) is that my husband’s family, which was very distinctive-looking, sort of diminuitive with Black Irish hair and sharp features, is now, in this generation, represented by my children who are tall and sort of Germanic-looking, with vaguely almond eyes. The irony is that they look nothing like the R’s (our name), yet they are R’s, and in fact, they are the only R’s.

    To me this lends some credence to the “family name” concept, because it shows how a name doesn’t really belong to ancestors so much as to descendants. This family used to look like this and now it looks like this. This name used to mean this and now it means this.

  40. May 18, 2005 at 10:34 pm

    I never change my name when I get married. ;)

    Seriously, I’ve been married three times and never even considered changing my name. It seemed too bizarre to change my identity in such a basic way.

    I have a child from marriage #1 and one from marriage #3, so the three of us have different last names. What amazed me most is that living in NYC, no one batted an eyelash at this. When I moved to the ‘burbs, it became fodder for all kinds of judgment, including having a school SOCIAL WORKER declare “that’s so confusing!” when she learned that my last name was different from my daughters.

    (Then again, that was in Greenwich CT where “diversity” means having Japanese children of diplomats in the public school system.)

  41. janet
    May 19, 2005 at 1:06 am

    I didn’t consider changing my name when I got married, and I didn’t think that was a very big deal until one of my co-workers asked me, “so, how’s married life, Mrs.????” Like he wanted me to tell him my new last name. I was truly shocked, because it never occurred to me that people would ask this question, and I choked out: “Ms. Lafler, still.” He looked concerned. “Oh. How does your husband feel about that?” Again, I’m shocked. “I think he would have been taken aback if I’d wanted to change my name,” said I. Variations on this conversation took place often over the next few months.

    I have a few friends who took their husbands’ names due to a very particular situation, and I would probably do the same. One changed from “Chen” to “Chin,” another from “Cole” to “Coleman,” and a third from “Tsai” to “Tai.” Having two different but extremely similar surnames in the family seems like a recipe for confusion, and hyphenation would sound like a stutter. So if I’d married someone named “Loeffler” or “LaFleur” (one of which is probably the original from which my name was Anglicized), I would probably have changed mine or prevailed on my husband to change his.

  42. May 19, 2005 at 3:55 am

    I guess that academia is kind of a special case, since your name is your ‘label’ that enables people to find your previous work, just as Trish says:

    I don’t go by husband’s last name because I’m too well known in my professional circle by my first name and maiden name

    The female researchers I know do not change their names, due to this reason. My problem? My last name has an umlaut (ö) in it, which regularly causes some problems. My boyfriend’s name doesn’t. Seems like a stupid reason to change my name though.

    She said that women in Europe don’t change their names

    I suppose this varies. In Sweden, among people I know, it seems to be 50-50. One of the most common questions people ask those who get married is which name(s) they are going to use.

  43. May 19, 2005 at 6:10 am

    Lauren, as long as you’re dead set on Mozilla, you may as well try to get some money for it . . . Like that town that changed its name to ebay (or whatever website it was). I’m sure they’d “sponsor” you . . .


  44. May 19, 2005 at 6:53 am

    Lauren, the only problem with going by Mozilla is that you might be mistaken for a product placement. ;)

  45. May 19, 2005 at 8:41 am

    Women in the arab world don’t change their names on marriage. I was considered strange by women here in Egypt because I did. For the reason that I just liked my husband’s strange foreign name better than my maiden name which is a common verb and has been mocked throughout my childhood. But I agree with you that whether you keep your father’s last name or adopt your husband’s is 6 of one half dozen of the other. You still don’t get a family name based on women. It’s all patriarchal.

  46. May 19, 2005 at 9:21 am

    My husband is from Quebec, Michelle, and it’s true that in the last 20-30 years women haven’t changed their names. Before the Quiet Revolution of the 60s (when Quebec changed overnight from a traditional Catholic area to modern and secular), it was the norm, but many women who married then are now changing their names back (including my husband’s mother and aunts).

    It is also the norm in the last 10 years or so for children to have hyphenated last names, and I believe the expectation is that when the kids are older they can choose if they want to go with one name or the other, or keep the hyphen.

  47. Caja
    May 19, 2005 at 10:51 am

    When we got married my (now ex-) husband and I both changed our names: we hyphenated our names together, and chose the order based on which sounded better. While I have rarely gotten any flack for this, _he_ sure did, on at least a couple occasions.

    When we divorced, we both kept the married name – him because “it’s who I am now” and me partly for that reason and partly because the hyphenated name just sounds better with my name than my maiden name did . . . although I do feel a bit torn, because the hyphenated name was, to me, a way to mark us as family, which is why I wanted us to have the same last name, and while we are still close friends, we aren’t a family unit any more.

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  49. May 20, 2005 at 6:01 am

    I’m not entirely convinced by the women who changed their names because they didn’t like their “maiden” name etc. If you dislike your name strongly enough to actually want to change it to something else…why not just change it. However it seems like a little more than coincidence that so many women suddenly realise they’d like a different name at about the same time they’re planning to get married…

    And it’s not that I have a problem with the traditional name-change-on-marriage: it’s not for me, but if that’s what you want to do, it’s none of my business. It’s just the apparant dishonesty about the reasons for doing it.

  50. Hermione
    May 21, 2005 at 10:21 am

    I agree with you Sarah. The motivations don’t add up. After all we don’t hear about men changing their names because they don’t like their own or complaining that it is patriarchal to keep their father’s name.

    What these discussions seem to miss is the wider context. Women don’t choose to change their names in isolation, there are social pressures on us to do so. Name changing may not be the biggest feminist issue but it is one of the areas where the battle is being fought. A woman who doesn’t change her name on marriage is likely to come up against at least some level of hostility from the people around her for not fitting in with the sexist status quo. Her in-laws, her own family, her friends, her colleagues and not least her husband will probably all have (often negative) opinions about her decision. It’s hard to stand up to that kind of pressure. We don’t hear much about the husbands but I wonder how many women who do change their names have husbands who expect this. When I told my ex that I wouldn’t be taking his name if he got married he was *very* offended and so was his family.

  51. May 21, 2005 at 2:10 pm

    I’ve never been married, but I changed my first and middle names almost ten years ago when it became clear that I would never have children I could name after my grandmothers. I also was ending a long-term relationship and wanted to make some kind of statement about reclaiming my identity or some such. It seemed really important at the time. I also felt that my original first name was sort of bland and WASPy and didn’t quite suit me. Everyone else I knew of with that name (and it’s very common in my age group) seemed to be tall and lean and sophisticated and smooth-haired — I wanted something that felt a little more, you know, short and sturdy and mysterious, maybe a little sexy and ethnic and a little frizzy. Since both my grandmothers were most or all of these, I’m very happy with my choice.

    I was really surprised, though, when my sister got married and took her husband’s name, which is extremely common and in my view boring. Our last name is unusual, but easy to spell and kind of interesting. I said “you’ll disappear! no one will be able to find you!” and she said, “exactly!” I kind of see her point.

  52. May 21, 2005 at 2:12 pm

    hey!! I don’t know why the comments changed me into alleyrat — It’s me, alphabitch!!

    how funny to write about a name change and have my name involuntarily changed

  53. May 21, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    whoa! the Real Alley Rat here…i would be happy to change my last name to “Bitch” if Alpha and I were to get married,but that’s because I think Alley Bitch sounds awesome and superhero like, not because I don’t feel attached to my Ratness.

  54. Fawn Livingston-Gray
    May 21, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    Thought I’d pipe in even though this post is decades old in Internet years. I noticed not too many hyphenated-named folks commenting, so I thought I would share a few of my experiences.

    My partner and I have enjoyed are hyphenated name over the last 2 years. We didn’t get legally married, although we could have, because it seemed to be a small way to be in solidarity with same-sex couples who at the time, did not have that privilege anyway in the U.S. (As a bisexual, it was important to me personally, and also for larger political reasons. Making that choice has given us lots of opportunity to educate caring but naive folks about LGBT civil rights, which has been great!)

    We did fork over the $85 dollars each to both change our names. I wasn’t attached to my birth last name for family or cultural reasons, but was very attached to my dead grandparents whose last name was Livingston. They had 3 daughters and so the name was not being carried on. My partner is close to his dad and always liked his last name, Gray. And so Livingston-Gray was born. It didn’t seem weird to me, as my mom had used a hyphenated name in the 70’s.

    People sometimes have a hard time with it, and so I think about the social change I am being a part of every time I correct someone (very gently) or explain my name. We get some weird mail. “L. Gray.” “Gray S. Livingston.” There are always trade offs, and some confusion seems a small price to pay.

    Interestingly, the DMV in my state doesn’t believe in hyphens, even though it is part of our legal names. Never mind accents and umlauts. Two of my co-workers, who are Latina, go by hyphenated last names (dad’s-mom’s) which I think is pretty common in Latin America and Latino families living in the US, as a way of honoring both sides of your family. So it strikes me as a bit ridiculous when people think that name hyphenating just can’t be done and act like the world would fall apart. (Kind of like same-sex marriage. It has been legal in most of Canada for some time now, and last time I checked, they were trucking along just fine.)

    The cutest name change story I’ve heard so far comes from my partner’s dad and step-mom. Both their birth last names are “Gray” so when people ask, they say he took her last name.

  55. May 21, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    I don’t know, Alley Rat — Alpha Rat sounds kind of cool too — maybe we could just swap?

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