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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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277 Responses

  1. jo(e)
    jo(e) October 26, 2009 at 11:45 am |

    50 percent believe it should be required by law.

    That’s the stunning part. Half of the respondents think a woman shouldn’t even have the choice?

    Oh, wait. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Sara
    Sara October 26, 2009 at 11:49 am |

    “I was also suprised that only 5-10 percent of women change their names.”

    Do or don’t? Cause if 70% believe they should how do we get only 10% actually doing it? Or am I really confused. Or is this just a typo. I guess I should go read the source.

  3. Emily
    Emily October 26, 2009 at 11:49 am |

    We both changed our names to the combined hyphenation, and for me it was kind of like a baby’s name — until the kid is born, everybody has a fucking opinion, but once you do it, everyone shuts up because it’s done now and you’re a jerk if you talk smack on it now.

    So, before we did it, people were like “Hyphenation is so weird” and “what about the kids when they marry another person with a hyphenated last name?” and whatever else. We haven’t gotten comments like that in a while, although I do occasionally get asked why he changed his name as well. Like, dude, the ENTIRE POINT was so that we’d have the same last name.

    I wonder what the percentage is of those 5-10% who keep their name who have kids and name their children Susie HisLast or Johnny HisLast.

  4. Laura
    Laura October 26, 2009 at 11:49 am |

    My mom kept her last name, for pragmatic reasons (two “Dr.”s in the same house with the same last name is confusing on the phone) but, secretly, I think cuz she is at least semi-feminist-identified as well. She is awesome. Sometimes I am tempted to change my last name NOW (pre-any sort of marriage, engagement, arrangement, etc.) to take on hers, or possibly my grandmother’s.

    I couldn’t find the actual study questions, but there is a tendency of respondents, when faced with a question like “Do you think [thing x] should be illegal?” they will respond “yes” because, although the question is pretty straightforward, it still sort of implies a context in the same way that the non-question “Don’t you agree?” sort of implies an answer. There is probably a term for this tendency that I have forgotten.

  5. Eileen
    Eileen October 26, 2009 at 11:57 am |

    Most people, under pressure from everywhere it would seem, change their names.

    I kept my name, and while both families were polite about it, it was treated as an odd character flaw on my part. And my husband’s family is still (ten years later) politely waiting for me to get over my silliness.

  6. FilthyGrandeur
    FilthyGrandeur October 26, 2009 at 11:59 am |

    I’m glad we’re talking about this. i’m getting married next june and i haven’t figured out what i want to do about my name. on the one hand, my last name is my dad’s and we’re…not close. basically his alcoholism is more important than being there for friends and family, and that includes me. so changing my name seems pretty sweet since i hate it and what it represents. on the other hand, while i adore my fiance and wouldn’t mind having his name, his parents have harassed me over content on my blog to the point of sending me hateful emails calling me evil and toxic, and cutting my fiance off financially to force him to dump me. so i really don’t want their name either, given that they’ve made it clear i’m not family anyway.

    so i’m kind of like “now what?” and then there’s pressure from my family to just take my fiance’s name, but names mean something to me, and i want to make sure it means the right thing.

    two of my friends in college got married and combined their last names. lucky for both of them their names were short enough to create a new name. not the case with me and my fiance. plus, he’s applying to residency programs and doesn’t want the hassle of changing his name. but he doesn’t care one way or the other if i change my name. which is nice. but i still don’t know…

  7. togolosh
    togolosh October 26, 2009 at 12:01 pm |

    The erasure of the woman in a marriage as an independent agent is pretty explicit in many, if not most, of the weddings I’ve attended. There is biblical justification for this, and for the more fundamentalist sects it’s pretty much a requirement. I’ll bet that the results favoring mandatory name changes come mostly from people who are members of conservative religious sects. It’d be interesting to see the correlation between the mandatory name change supporters and opponents of gay marriage.

  8. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused October 26, 2009 at 12:01 pm |

    My husband changed his name to mine. People think we’re kinda weird.

    And I find myself, in certain contexts, with certain people, dismissing the feminism of that choice. As in, “Oh, well, he doesn’t know his father, and his mother re-married, so he’d be the only one with his last name anyway” etc. Instead of just saying, “yeah, he changed his name. That’s what we wanted to do” or something as neutral.

    I don’t think it is wrong for women to not change their names, but like you, I wish they would be straightforward about the reasons. I think that might be hard, though, as I think they believe the reasons themselves. It can be very hard to admit that our lives are shaped by systemic forces. It’s nice to believe that our choices are informed and un-coerced.

    However, I don’t think the previous-name-in-quotes thing is a joke. It’s just a way to help long-lost friends, like you, find them when you don’t know their married name.

  9. jemand
    jemand October 26, 2009 at 12:03 pm |

    I’ve always thought it would be convenient to keep my name legally if I ever get married, and use it as my public, “professional” persona. Then be known as “Mrs. hislastname” to people in my private life. That way I would know when I’m being addressed how someone knows me which might help my horrible ability to remember other people’s names.

    What I’m NOT going to do though, is keep my current name and THEN name any children of mine with just his last name. And I don’t like hyphenation. I do like flipping coins though…. just a thought… ;)

  10. Angelia Sparrow
    Angelia Sparrow October 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm |

    I changed mine for a lot of reasons, including the fact that wearing it for 21 years had brought me no joy and had only been a constant reminder that I was not a welcome part of the family I grew up in. Getting married was a chance to be a whole new person and leave the bad behind.

    But also, at the time I was very religious and bought the whole total submission thing. Even so, I still bristled at being Mrs. Richard Sparrow. I didn’t change my first name, after all!

    The whole idea that it should be legally mandated bothers me a lot.

  11. nikki
    nikki October 26, 2009 at 12:06 pm |

    This pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject exactly. I don’t particularly like my father or my name, but it’s MY name. It was my name for 30 years before I got married and I had no intention of changing it, although I think my husband was slightly hurt but only for about 5 minutes.

    I think it’s weird that women today will still change their names to their husband’s name, but it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the pathetic justifications for why they changed it. It’s like they’re saying “Yes, it’s a ridiculous, out-dated, heterosexist custom, BUT I’m fine with that.”

    Thanks for writing this

  12. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 26, 2009 at 12:09 pm |

    I remember having a conversation with a guy friend about this issue. I said I wouldn’t want to change my name if I got married. He got really defensive and started yelling (literally, yelling) about how it was no big deal and that women have male last names anyway (from their fathers). I said to him, “If it’s no big deal, why are you screaming at me over the fact that I’d rather keep my birth name if I got married?”

  13. jpe
    jpe October 26, 2009 at 12:15 pm |

    The Mrs. kept her name when we married (she actually wanted to change it; I don’t like name-changing and she’s as lazy as I am, so no change was made). The only possible detriment I see is the ease of identifying a family link when necessary (which comes in handy at times: post offices, doctors, etc., are easier when you share a name). That brings me to the bleg: anyone have any ideas on how to have proof of relationship handy? I was thinking of shrinking the marriage licensing and carrying it like a drivers license or something, but I was hoping there’d be a more elegant solution.

  14. joy
    joy October 26, 2009 at 12:16 pm |

    I found your belittling of the reasons people do change their name kind of insulting. I know people who have changed both names, hyphenated, gone traditional, and done nothing at all. I even know one woman who used the occasion of her wedding to switch from her father’s last name to her mother’s maiden name.

    My husband had no real opinion on the matter, but it’s something I thought about a lot. I always though I would hyphenate and do the same for my kids, but my 7-letter last name and his 11-letter last name (both difficult to spell and pronounce) don’t go together very well. So, after considering how the various combinations look/sound, I stuck with my original name. And I plan to give my husband’s name to any future children. To me, it’s a decision about what identity works for me, considering aesthetics, name recognition, and ethnicity.

    At the end of the day, the only name I really think is “unfeminist” is Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. The rest is still your identity, but the identity you choose, not your parents.

  15. Katherine
    Katherine October 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm |

    My mom changed her name, and she always said that it was because, “that’s what was done,” and because she was excited to have an easier name. (Her last name caused a lot of problems growing up.) She always prefaced, and ended, those statement by adding, “If I could go back, I would keep my name,” and insisting, “You had better keep your name!” I’m not married, and I’m certainly not ready, prepared, or even thinking about marriage or having a family, but I am certain I intend to keep my name.

    I know a couple of men who have not kept their last name. There is a family friend who took his wife’s name, and another who created a new name with his wife that was a combination (but not hyphenated) of their last names. (For what it’s worth I don’t know many married people.)

    Finally, I’ve always thought of my name as my family’s name, or my parents’ name, but never my father’s name. (That may be the benefit of having parents who insisted we really think about keeping our last name.) I recognize the patriarchal implications of my surname, but my family has never honored it that way. Ultimately, my name has belonged to me.

    I’m at work writing this on the sly, so my apologies that this is long, incoherent, and rambly.

  16. Linoleum Blownaparte
    Linoleum Blownaparte October 26, 2009 at 12:18 pm |

    Given the divorce rate, that 70% is especially strange.

    Beyond the convenience of simple social/cultural inertia, I’ve always found the idea on changing your name to be weird.

    I mean, it’s you, isn’t it?

  17. K.H.
    K.H. October 26, 2009 at 12:20 pm |

    As a very young child, less than two years old, my parents divorced. My biological father disappeared almost completely, and I have not seen him since. A few years later, when my mother remarried, my new stepfather adopted me and I took on his last name. As my first name had been chosen to go with a different last name, it clashed terribly with my new last name. Even as a young child I was conscious of the fact that my first and last name did not go well together; they just didn’t sound good when paired with one another.

    Though I am not married, my boyfriend and I do plan to take that step soon enough. When we do, I will happily take on his last name, as it works wonderfully with my first name. I am actually quite excited at the prospect of eventually having a name that I truly like, as well as a last name that means something to me, rather than just being the last name of a somewhat distant stepfather. Periodically, however, I read something like this, wherein the author disparages the practice of a woman taking her husband’s name and acts as though preferring the husband’s name to her is somehow laughable, meaningless, and essentially unfeminist. Feminism is about choice, about women making decisions that make them happy and best suit them. I will choose to use my future husband’s last name as it is a name because I want to, because I like how my name will sound, and because my last name will carry more meaning than it does currently. That is my choice, and I am happy with it. I wish that others, especially feminist authors who I normally enjoy, would stop trying to tell me that I am making a poor choice, caving in to the patriarchy, losing my identity, or being a bad feminist.

    In addition, I would like to point out that two women I know have taken on their new husband’s last name after their marriage did so eagerly. One was happy to throw away the name that reminded her of her physically abusive father, while the other simply had no desire to keep a name that was derived from a man whom she had only met once in her life. A third woman that I know took her husband’s last name only so that she could escape the unfortunate initials, “C.U.M.” Something to consider while you judge your friends for taking their husbands’ last names without knowing the whys.

  18. atlasien
    atlasien October 26, 2009 at 12:21 pm |

    I think the name-changing debate needs to take into account that there are a lot of different cultural practices around last names. Naming conventions are just a small side effect of patriarchy, not a root cause. In many East Asian countries, women don’t change their surnames. In most Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, women don’t change surnames, and their children have conjoined surnames. None of this means these cultures are either less sexist or more sexist than Anglos in the U.S.

    But I agree… legally mandating that a woman has to take her husband’s last name is a horrible, oppressive idea. I did not change my last name when I got married, I’m very attached to my last name. It’s also my mother’s last name, so I’m being 2nd-gen matrilineal.

  19. Phrone
    Phrone October 26, 2009 at 12:24 pm |

    My mom changed her last name because it sucks for professors to change their last name because of issues with citations.

    That being said, as a kid, I was always asked if my parents were divorced because of it…people can be very reluctant to accommodate the issue sometimes.

  20. gls
    gls October 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm |

    @K.H.: How does it come that none of us seems to know any husbands with abusive or absent fathers or unfortunate initials?

    Why is the whole discussion always whether she changes her name or nobody or both and the possibility that he might change his name her’s is not even considered?

  21. Erica
    Erica October 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm |

    Thanks Jill — I feel exactly the same way, and actually had a frustrating conversation with two of my closest friends who changed their names about this, with the implication that not changing your name signified a fear of commitment.

  22. Personal Failure
    Personal Failure October 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm |

    I take SUCH flak for not having changed my name when I got married. I don’t want to change my name. I did not become a different person when I married. It’s ridiculous and time consuming in my opinion.

    My MIL started screaming at me when she found out I wasn’t changing my name and didn’t stop until my husband told her that if she didn’t shut up about it, he’d change his last name to mine. She almost fainted at the suggestion.

  23. Melinda
    Melinda October 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm |

    Wow. As a married woman who kept her name, I was pretty stunned by this survey, particularly because almost nobody has given me crap about not changing my name! Even my mother in law doesn’t mind- in fact, she sometimes says she wishes she hadn’t.

    It would be a weird name for me to have anyway, because it’s a name from a culture/ethnicity that isn’t mine, that I have married into and that I’m still very much an outsider in. But mostly, I kept my name because it’s mine, and because you don’t have to do a bunch of paperwork to keep a name how it is.

  24. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 12:43 pm |

    I knew a man who was was brutally beaten up by his dad for his entire life, like, until he left for college. It was bad. He was a junior: he had the same first, middle, and last name of his dad. He eventually got married and at the reception, I was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Guy Who Beats Up His Son, Jr. I ended that friendship for a variety of reasons but one minor one was that my feminist brain really couldn’t jive with hearing a lifetime of silly women saying “I hate my father so I’m naming myself after my new owner instead” and then seeing someone who had the [i]entire same name [/i]as the man who abused him and then hearing his dingbat wife say “I’m taking his name because I want him to be able to transform it into something he can love as much as me”. Honorable, yes, of course. We should all make sacrifices for the people we love. But, wow, how not remotely surprised am I that men never think to do that.

    On a personal note: my father regularly beat me up as well. It’s part of who I am, it’s part of my history, it’s part of my past. If I were to marry, I should hope that the entire marriage/relationships is just another step in my existence and not the “beginning” of a “new” life that I should “symbolize” by removing my name.

  25. Mary
    Mary October 26, 2009 at 12:43 pm |

    I find it weird that people assume that kids should get the man’s name when its the woman who carried, suffered and gave birth to them.

    But hey, they’re all his property, right?

  26. Kate
    Kate October 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm |

    Personally, I resent the notion that my name IS my identity and that if I were to take his name, I would giving up my own identity and adopting his. First, I have no intentions of ever becoming a man, so nope, sorry, I won’t be adopting his identity. Secondly, my identity is made up of the qualities of my character: compassionate, thoughtful, badass if I need to be, intelligent as well as who I am: a daughter, a sister, a scientist, a runner, a friend, and possibly one day a wife and a mother. These things were not determined by the name my parents wrote on my birth certificate, but rather the life I have experienced. Changing my name does not erase the past nor does keeping my name make my past any more meaningful. I think people on both sides of this debate need to step back and stop making judgments on something so trivial and instead realize that there is more more to a woman than whether or not she changes her name when she gets married (or even if she gets married at all).

  27. wolfa
    wolfa October 26, 2009 at 12:53 pm |

    It’s not feminist to change your last name to your husband’s name in this society right now. In the future maybe it won’t be, or it will be neutral. In other societies I do not know, so I am talking about English US/Canada here. But in the here and now, it’s an unfeminist choice.

    That’s fine, too. We all make choices like that. I wear heels because I am short and I like being average height when I can, and this is not a feminist choice, but I make it several days a week. I shave my legs. I consume lots of sexist media. You know, I have to live my life, and there are other aspects that are important, not just being the best feminist in the world. We all live in a real world, and there aren’t really perfect choices.

    Changing your name is fine, and doing it doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist. But it’s not a feminist action, even if it happens to be something someone chooses to do. You’re not choosing in a vacuum, you’re choosing in a culture where the vast majority of women do something that is subsuming their old identity into their husband’s, where the reverse is vanishingly rare, and you grow up hearing and seeing that as the normal decision. Feminism isn’t the individual wishes of women, because that’s an incoherent group that doesn’t really get anyone anywhere, except when their particular wishes happen to be societally-approved.

  28. cacophonies
    cacophonies October 26, 2009 at 12:56 pm |

    I like the idea of sharing a last name with my husband. I don’t like the idea of erasing my last name and taking on his, though, even though I like his quite a bit and it sounds good with my first name… so both of use are hyphenating. I am lucky to have a like-minded future spouse.

  29. galena
    galena October 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm |

    I’ve got to say, after reading this post and some of the comments that follow it, I’m feeling flat-out judged that I changed my name when I got married. And I feel like in my comment I haaaaave to say why I decided to do it and have a darn good reason for it too, or else I should just turn in my feminist card posthaste.
    Instead, I’m going to point out that the reasons couples entering marriage have for changing or not changing their names or any combination thereof are not always boiled down to “it’s the partriarchal tradition, blah blah yada blah.” When we make the same sweeping generalizations that the conservative, patriarchal, sexist, whatever-elses do, what’s the point?
    In the end, I’d like my decision (for a number of things, not just in changing my name) not to be simplified in such a manner, especially here where we usually consider things further and open up debates that I really, really enjoy and find enlightening/useful.

  30. Another Jill
    Another Jill October 26, 2009 at 12:58 pm |

    I find it disingenuous that you swear you’re not challenging someone’s feminist credibility but then to spend the entirety of this post doing so, if that person took her husband’s name. You also can’t seem to decide if you agree with the idea of choice or not– first deriding choice with bunny ears but then saying you respect people’s choice about their names.
    Here’s one idea that hasn’t come up. Marriage is about partnership and the creation of a new family out of two individuals, and it is also sometimes about compromise. I think marriage involves a loss of identity to both people getting married– they lose some of their individual, single, selfish self and adopt an identity that sometimes puts needs above their own.
    I struggled tremendously with the decision, mostly because I thought it would be “fairer” if my husband had to change his name too. I loved my name my whole life and it reminds me of my roots and my side of the family. But changing your name and your public identity is time consuming and there are costs– like informing everyone that you’ve changed your name, and the extra time it takes old colleagues to hunt you down, etc. It’s definitely “fairer” but it’s also more confusing, complicated (and in our case, super ugly) if you decide to hyphenate, would cause social discomfort in my husband’s high-testosterone work environment, and can quickly become kind of bizarre and silly if the two of you decide to create some totally new name. But more than that– there are some compromises that aren’t fair. Sometimes someone has to lose in order to to accomplish what both people want.
    That said, I don’t think I lose my feminist cred for taking my husband’s name for practical adherence to tradition, either. Just because some traditions have patriarchal roots and some people use them to keep women down doesn’t define how I live my life and how I create my identity. Names and naming matter, but so does reality acted out day after day. Ultimately that can change the significance of labels such as names. I can reject being Mrs. John Smith and prefer Mr. & Mrs. John & Jane Smith, or I can be Mrs. Jane Smith, which might confuse someone at first but no more than if I had kept my maiden name. You might think that I’ve disappeared or been absorbed into my husband or his clan, but that would be elevating name over substance.
    In my case, I’m First Maiden HisLast (akin to Hillary Rodham Clinton), so I have added my married identity to my single identity– there is still the “loss” of my single identity when I am known shorthand as Mrs. Smith, but I experience it as a literal evolution of my life story- my single self followed by my partnered self.

  31. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm |

    Hm, quick preface: I don’t think women should or should not change their names if they get married. It is a personal choice and society should stay out of it, and by society I’m not talking about this article, which is providing a counterpoint to a good majority of people having a very public opinion of what someone should do.

    That being said.. this post gives very short shrift to the fact that there can be very personal and very powerful reasons for changing your name. When we got married, Lissa took my name because she was glad to be shut of what her dad’s name meant. It was closing a chapter in her life that she was glad to be through with.

  32. Lucy Gillam
    Lucy Gillam October 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm |

    I wonder what the percentage is of those 5-10% who keep their name who have kids and name their children Susie HisLast or Johnny HisLast.

    Most of us. Seriously, honestly, most of us. I say all the time that I’m okay with it because there are already four little MyLastNames running around, while he’s an only child of an only son, etc. But the truth is, if it were reversed, I don’t know if I’d have had the courage of my convictions. A child with a last name different from her mother’s is easy for people to assimilate – they just assume I kept my name or remarried. A child with a last name different from her father’s is a Problem. I don’t like that, wish I had the courage to fight it, but given that the shit from that one will fall on her and her father, I wasn’t prepared to do it.

    Sucks, I admit it.

  33. Lance
    Lance October 26, 2009 at 1:03 pm |

    Like you, I’m a long way from that track even if it does happen, so all I can do is speak hypothetically. That being said, I’ve always sort of thought that if I end up getting married, my wife and I would either come up with a new name and both change, or we would both just keep our current surnames. I’m sort of approaching this from the opposite perspective: The idea of a woman taking on my name because we got married is a bit weird and unsettling.

    [I suppose the other option is to fall in love with somebody who also happens to have my current last name and isn't a relative...]

  34. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 1:04 pm |

    Also, please note, I made it known I didn’t expect her to change her name and we talked about hyphenation for both of us, but she hated her name.

  35. fresca
    fresca October 26, 2009 at 1:06 pm |

    I kept my name for two reasons. One, when my previous twelve year marriage exploded spectacularly with the assistance of a 21 year old chickie babe, it took entirely too long to get my maiden name back. Two, I felt I totally erased myself in that previous marriage, and keeping my name is symbolic to me, reminding me of who I am, independent of “we”.

    My mom, although not coming out and saying anything, always addresses mail to me as Mrs. HisLastName, which is annoying. I have a Uber-conservative coworker who disapproves (not that I care), and sometimes checking into a hotel and getting two keys can be annoying (“…and Mrs. HisLastName will be also be needing a key?”).

    Also, my last name is a very convenient four-letter one, and I’m a lazy girl :-)

  36. Lyonside
    Lyonside October 26, 2009 at 1:07 pm |

    I have the fun of a hyphenated last name that I’ve had since I was about 4. Up until then, I had my mother’s name (my parents are not and have never been married to each other; my father was married before, and my mother has never married). Problem – I also have my mother’s FIRST name. AND first middle name initial. (she named me after her paternal grandmother, to mollif my grandfather who COULD NOT DEAL with a single pregnant daughter. Heh. Then I turned out brown. Poor dude.) Since my grandfather never met my father, who has a very distinctive last name, and died when I was 3, I’m guessing that factored into my mother’s decision to change my name AFTER her father’s death.

    For whatever reason, then, I have a name that is completely unique, and yet I still get my mother’s credit history on a credit check, becuase all the parts of her name are still in mine.

    I got married to a man in 2007, and we toyed with changing names or making a portmanteau. He’s too.. I dunno, traditional? Uncreative? Scared? Unfeminist? to change his name, although he at least tried to think about it. Instead, I kept my hyphenated name. He has his name. Our daughter has his name for now, but when she’s older and notices that our names are different, I’m going to give her the option to hyphenate her name and take any part of mine that she wants.

    And aside from equality concerns, I wouldn’t want to change my name to my husband’s last name, a very common Latino name. Because his sister has my same FIRST name. And before SHE got married, she had my husband’s last name.

    So I’m pretty sure any credit check would turn up: myself, my mom, that woman in Chicago who works for the FAA who has my mom’s full name too, my sister-in-law, and every other person with that same [relatively common first][ridiculously common Latino last] name.

  37. Aaron Boyden
    Aaron Boyden October 26, 2009 at 1:09 pm |

    I’m also surprised by studies like this; I suppose it’s one of those areas where living in an academic environment is especially distorting, since academics are especially likely not to change their names (for the professional reasons already mentioned). I find some appeal in the approach taken by Richard Routley and Louise Merlin, who both changed their last names (to Sylvan; they were big environmentalists and liked the tree theme) when they got married, but of course that just doubles the professional problems from name-changing.

  38. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 1:10 pm |

    My response to that, Polerin, is that if she had to wait until she was allowed to change her last name by marrying someone, that’s not really closing any chapter of any book but continuing patriarchal trends of letting men identify themselves through their ownership of her. If she didn’t view her identity as “Firstname [insert man's name here]“, she would have changed her name once she cut off ties with her dad instead of happening to wait until the exact same time that all women all over the country change their name to the exact same person playing the exact same role.

  39. Bec H.
    Bec H. October 26, 2009 at 1:11 pm |

    Before we were married, my husband and I decided that we wanted to have the same last name. The only question was that of which name- his or mine? We were engaged for three years before we were married, and married almost a year before we made our decision.

    I changed my name to his when his father passed away, in tribute to a man who accepted me from day one. My family has always been somewhat distant to my husband. His family, especially his father, welcomed me with open arms. That made the decision a bit easier.

    I have no regrets.

  40. Medea
    Medea October 26, 2009 at 1:12 pm |

    @ K.H.

    What gls said. Given the numbers Jill cited, there’s something else going on besides personal choices (that totally exist in a vacuum). Men who dislike their fathers or have the initials P.M.S. rarely seem to take their wives’ last names; they balk at the idea of submerging their identities.

  41. beth
    beth October 26, 2009 at 1:14 pm |

    To me my full name is my identity. Its not gonna change if i get married.
    I wonder what the stats would be if they asked here (NZ)..I know one fairly religious person who got married, and at one point i asked her if she’d change her name, which she did, but she’d consiedered what she wanted and how both names sounded. My boyfriends (also very religious) mum is getting married in summer, and she was debating what sounded better.
    To me part of the identity thing is that its more important when you have achievements under your name before you got married. If a woman’s not going to get a degree or publish something or whatever before she gets married its less of a hassle to change your name. As marriage ages are getting older more women are going to go more things under their birth name, which i think would make woman less likely to change their name, and not disassociate themselves from earlier aspects of their life. (ok, that was really badly written..i can’t formulate ideas well too early in the morning)
    I’m interested in one thing, that it seems when you keep your own name you also keep the title ‘miss’. At least newspapers always talked about ‘miss helen clark’. I kinda like this, maybe if more people keep their names ‘mrs’ will die out completetly (i personally hate the sound of ms, so rather want this).
    Also calling someone ‘mrs. hisfirstname hislastname’ is soooo creepy. Please, this habit should die..

  42. SaynaTheSpiffy
    SaynaTheSpiffy October 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm |

    I agree with joy and K.H.. I find it frustrating that so many feminist authors (like my hero, Jessica Valenti ;_;) decry name changes as inherently anti-feminist.

    I’ll probably get married relatively soon and at the moment I’m probably going to change my name. I know that it’s a sexist tradition and I feel a little guilty about it, but at this point I think I’m justified. If we hyphenated or had two last names my boyfriend would end up with five names. We could keep our own names, but it seems kind of romantic to have the same last name. He really wants to have the same last name to feel more “like a family” and I think that’s a perfectly valid reason. He volunteered to take my name, but I don’t want him to. I like my last name, but his is nicer-sounding and much less common. I’m thinking I could keep mine as a middle name but then we’d both have four names.

    All I ask is that you recognize that it’s complicated and it’s not neccesarily surrendering your own identity. Plus, I think it’s counterproductive and anti-feminist to tell women that their personal choices, which ultimately affect only them and don’t harm women or women’s rights as a whole, are wrong and sexist.

  43. Medea
    Medea October 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm |

    Oh, wolfa said it better.

  44. deluking for this
    deluking for this October 26, 2009 at 1:25 pm |

    Replying to Lucy Gilliam at 29:

    I kept my own name after I married, but our daughter has my last name as her own. He father’s last name is her middle name. (doesn’t sound like a middle name though – is very much a surname sounding name.)

    We get NO flak about this. Never have. Occassionally at some of his larger family gatherings I get referred to incorrectly – but I don’t really care – older generation. His immediate family have always respected our choices – for me and for our daughter.

    Also – wayy up thread someone askes about trouble proving that you are married, say in a medical emergency. Never had our legal marital relationship challenged. I’m sure cuz we are straight. And no one has ever batted an eye about his realtionship as her dad.

    This coming from a large city and surrounding suburbs, for what it is worth. I am in the minority among my peers, sure – but the idea that people are going to give you hell is so strange to me. Maybe I’ve been getting the evil eye and just never seeing it!

    Keeping my name was a no brainer. It didn’t even feel like a big deal or a feminist statement. It felt completely neutral.

    Giving our child my last name was much an active choice. The only thing I’ve ever done that felt like a “feminist statement in defiance of the patriarchy” (if I can sound so second wavy for a minute). I do lots of other feminist things without a second thought, most of them probably much more significant really. But this really felt like we were sticking it to “tradition/sexism”.

  45. Ariel
    Ariel October 26, 2009 at 1:29 pm |

    I’ve thought about this, though mostly in relation to children. My last name is a huge part of who I am. Even though I’m not particularly close to my father, I am very close to his side of the family. We identify as ‘ourlastname’s.’ Even the cousins on that side with different last names identify as ‘ourlastname’s.’ So I can’t really imagine ever changing it. My bf feels the same about his last name. And we would both want the children to have the same name as ourselves. Hyphenating would be ridiculous as our last names have the same ending (awkward rhyme scheme?) So what to do? Thank gawd that conversation doesnt need to happen for another year or few.

  46. Lucy Gillam
    Lucy Gillam October 26, 2009 at 1:30 pm |

    SaynaTheSpiffy, I agree that it’s often more complex than just bowing to tradition. However, your choice does affect me, and mine affects you. Your choice perpetuates a tradition, continues the dominant paradigm that makes mine an anomaly and thus a subject of debate and criticism. My choice politicizes your choice more overtly.

    I’m not suggesting that how your choice affects me should be a concern for you, and I’m also not suggesting it’s remotely fair that women’s choices affect each other in a way that men’s choices do not affect men. But they do, and denying that does neither of us any favors.

  47. shilpa
    shilpa October 26, 2009 at 1:31 pm |

    What I’m challenging is the idea that changing your name is a choice like any other, and the traditional defenses of feminist-minded women changing their names. I don’t think it’s challenging someone’s feminism to question certain choices, especially when we’re talking about a choice like name-changing, which is made by a large majority of American women.

    But we see several defenses of wearing hijab using the same argument as above.

  48. S.H.
    S.H. October 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm |

    I think “changing your name” is a somewhat vague term. It’s one thing to start calling yourself Mrs. so and so but changing your name officially is a terribly inconvenient and time consuming production, which is why I never did it. Passport, driver’s license, bank accounts, insurance, loans, credit cards, the list never ends! I’ve been married for over a year, and my parents call me by my married name, as do my in-laws, but in all aspects of my life I still go by my maiden name. I’m not really taking a feminist stance, I’m just avoiding paperwork.

  49. gls
    gls October 26, 2009 at 1:35 pm |

    I don’t get all the defensiveness here. You made an unfeminist choice by changing your name, own up to it.

    I’m making unfeminist choices all the time, an example: I wear heels, have long hair, wear “fitting” femine clothes and make-up, although I dislike all of it and regard it as a burden. I also don’t call out every sexist joke I hear. I might even change my name upon marriage. I do all that to get along easier in a patriarchal society (particularly in the professional world of conservative lawyers). I don’t have to find bullshit excuses to make it appear feminist. It is not. That doesn’t mean that I’m not a feminist, that just means that I’m managing my life as best as I can. So are you.

    So, please, stop the justifications.

  50. Nathaniel Michel Bollschweiler
    Nathaniel Michel Bollschweiler October 26, 2009 at 1:37 pm |

    I was right there with the author, the discussion of the problems involved in institutionalized name-changing for women, the discussion of the significance of a name (I changed my name to what it is now!). I was right there with the author until the second to the last paragraph: “[...] and if I’m the one giving birth, you can bet those kids are getting my last name as well.” She defends this, in the final paragraph, by saying that she is simply “wanting to do no more than what men have always done.” This is not the way for feminism to advance: I used to be afraid of being subalternated by feminism of this [oppressive] kind, but now I realize that, just as the patriarchy cannot survive without the complicity of women, feminism cannot advance without the participation of men. Men, for the most part, will not enter into an institution where they become un-equal, un-equal because un-privileged, members. Those men who will enter into such an institution are those who need to be empowered in exactly the same way that women complicit in patriarchy needthe; and just as patriarchy preys on (and, indeed, produces) these women, this variety of feminism preys (and may well produce) these men.

    To pretend that, in a progressive feminist hetero reproductive union, only the woman’s voice [and name, which is so important as the author goes to such great lengths to demonstrate,] is to be heard is simply to act out a dishonesty: such a relationship is not progressive at all, if it could even be called feminist. To erase the man in the relationship from his contribution to raising the children simply because he did not give birth to them is an outrage, and the author should recognize this since it is exactly one of the things which is at issue, from the other direction, in her criticism of the institutionalization of women taking men’s names.

    Furthermore, it will not be acceptable for her response to take the form “well, I’m just baiting conservatives.” Really? $&&*@#^#*%& You baited me. And that’s the last thing I am.

  51. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm |

    Rachel: don’t assume too much. She knew she wanted to change her name and decided that she liked my last name and would take it to herself. As other people have noted here, changing your name is a pita, and she chose to approach it in the way she did. Our relationship is a partnership, I do not, could not, and would never claim ownership or control over her, and while the history of marriage is one that is extremely problematic you presume far far too much about our individual relationship and her reasons.

    And this is the problem I’m talking about. You and this article are still focusing on making women change or feel shame for making a choice rather than making men change. Yes there is a societal expectation that women change their name. Yes it becomes a pain in the ass for people who really want to keep their name… this is well documented by others in this thread. However, you are completely discounting the possibility that people might want to change their name to that of someone they are marrying for personal reasons instead of societal pressure.

  52. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 1:51 pm |

    jill:

    I don’t expect each and every individual person, when facing a really oppressive and complicated social structure, to make The Feminist Choice 100% of the time.

    Keeping your name isn’t necessarily “The Feminist Choice” nor is changing it inherently un-feminist. You are setting up a binary in which anyone who chooses other than you is wrong, even if you happen to respect them personally. You are making the act of changing your name the “wrong” instead of the societal pressure to do so. You are blaming women who choose in that way, rather than going after the society that enforces it like I had hoped you were going too from the start of your post.

  53. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 26, 2009 at 1:51 pm |

    Ugh, god. Men have bad relationships with their dads, shitty memories of nasty childhoods, unfortunate initials and cumbersome surnames just as often as women do. But you don’t see them ditching their names at the rate women ditch theirs. And that’s because adopting one’s husbands’s name is a patriarchal tradition, and yeah, we still live in a patriarchy. Until we no longer live in a patriarchy, that tradition will be loaded.

    One reason men rarely think to drop their surnames is because, from the time they are born, their surnames are treated as though they belong to them. EVEN THOUGH they get their surnames from their own fathers JUST as baby girls do. And yet women still claim their surnames are “really their fathers’.” If that’s true, then the same can be said of men. So you’re not really taking your husband’s last name, you’re taking his father’s. And his father’s is not really his, it’s his father’s, and so on and so forth.

    I would not get so worked up about this if women would just come clean and admit that they’ve been socialized to regard their names as temporary (as we all have) and they adopted their husbands’ names because it’s what’s expected/demanded of us. Picking your battles and stuff…

  54. K.H.
    K.H. October 26, 2009 at 1:53 pm |

    To those who mentioned it, I do understand that number of men who change their last name to that of their new wives is substantially lower than the number of women who take on their husband’s last names. I wish that this were not so, and I do hope that eventually this is something that will change. Men face their own battles when contemplating changing their name to that of their wife. I also find the idea that all women “must” change their names to that of their husbands’ disgusting, especially in regards to making it a legal must. My issue, however, is that many, many women feel as though they cannot take on their husband’s name without feeling judged. Feminist credibility is called in to question, valid reasoning is mocked and belittled, and judgment over that choice is handed down. It’s pretty fucked up to hear that shit coming from someone who is supposedly all about allowing women the right to make the correct choices for themselves.

  55. em07
    em07 October 26, 2009 at 1:58 pm |

    I had never planned on taking my husband’s last name, because mine is my mother’s maiden name and I’m proud to be associated with such a strong, wonderful woman. The only time my husband and I talked about it was when I told him I was keeping my name, and that he was welcome to change his if he wanted. We both have strong reasons for keeping our own names, so we can relate to the other’s attachment.

    A friend suggested that we give any future children the last name of the parent of the same gender, which I think is an interesting idea.

    I’ve gotten some interested looks from his military buddies when I inform them that I haven’t taken his name, but since my reasons for doing it are my own I just asked them to help me convince him to take my name because mine was clearly the more interesting option. Otherwise, no one has made any comment one way or the other except his Grandma who wanted to make sure she addressed her letters correctly.

  56. Lena Chen
    Lena Chen October 26, 2009 at 2:04 pm |

    Polerin,

    But societal pressure isn’t just some mysterious force – the women who do change their names reinforce this act as a norm. It might not be inherently un-feminist to take your husband’s last name, but it replicates a long tradition of women ceding their identity in marriage. And that is “wrong” and therefore deserving of judgment.

  57. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 2:05 pm |

    Jill: By doing what the article starts out with, by talking about the meaning of names, by pointing out that there is a problem with the expectation, ie that it’s expected of women and discouraged for men, and what the problem with the expectation is. It’s not that women choose to change their names, but rather that the society is set up to make them not really view those names as theirs in the same way that men are.

    Taking back women’s ownership of their names is an important fight but one that can, and in my opinion, should be done without blaming women.

  58. Nathaniel Michel Bollschweiler
    Nathaniel Michel Bollschweiler October 26, 2009 at 2:07 pm |

    Though I was actually hoping for a real response, I guess I can still say: well played. If this were a content-free discussion about appearing to be a better person you would just have “won” it. As it is, you “neglected” to respond to any of the “content” that my post [supposedly] had. Instead, you found a [legitimately, most certainly] weak point in the language that I used to express my frustration and pointed to it. So, well played. But I would really like you to respond to the content of my post, if you can find the time for that (and not just for snarky one-liners).

  59. DaDuck
    DaDuck October 26, 2009 at 2:12 pm |

    I love the fact that I have moved to Europe. Where I live, one can marry their life-partner and either person can take either last name or they can keep their own. Same is true with heterosexual marriage. If the male wants to change their last name, they can. Heck, one doesn’t even have to get married. Just living together one can apply for name change is one is so inclined to do so.

    Freedom of choice. It is something the US claims to have, yet, since I moved, I have had more freedom. hmm, funny.

  60. SarahMC
    SarahMC October 26, 2009 at 2:12 pm |

    I have been to a whole bunch of weddings over the past year or two. All couples were mid-20s or early 30s. Every single woman took the man’s last name. Most people aren’t feminists, so I have a hard time believing most women feel judged when they take their husband’s name. As far as I can tell, the majority don’t give it a second thought. They can’t change their name on Facebook fast enough. In fact, most are announced as “Mr. & Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname” at the end of the ceremony!

    Another thing: WTF is up with the wedding announcement sections of newspapers? I check my hometown’s paper to see if I know anyone on a fairly regular basis. Almost all the announcements say “Mr. & Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname.”

    Guess they all independently made the “personal decision” to do it that way.

  61. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 2:17 pm |

    But societal pressure isn’t just some mysterious force – the women who do change their names reinforce this act as a norm. It might not be inherently un-feminist to take your husband’s last name, but it replicates a long tradition of women ceding their identity in marriage. And that is “wrong” and therefore deserving of judgment.

    This can be more offset by people being active and talking about their choices, the reasons why they were made, and providing real support for those who are facing the decision. This discussion is far more important than the name itself, because the discussion raises the awareness of the issue, whereas changing (or not) really affects a small group of people.

  62. timberwraith
    timberwraith October 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm |

    I feel the need to support what Wolfa said:

    That’s fine, too. We all make choices like that… We all live in a real world, and there aren’t really perfect choices… Changing your name is fine, and doing it doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist. But it’s not a feminist action, even if it happens to be something someone chooses to do. You’re not choosing in a vacuum, you’re choosing in a culture where the vast majority of women do something that is subsuming their old identity into their husband’s, where the reverse is vanishingly rare, and you grow up hearing and seeing that as the normal decision.

    Ok.

    So, changing your name doesn’t mean you are a gender binary luvin fundamentalist. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean that you should hang your head in shame. However, it’s not an action that challenges traditional gender beliefs, either. We all engage in actions that at the very least fail to challenge the dominant ideas regarding gender and at worst, support them. All of us do this to a certain extent. In short, that’s what I believe Wolfa is saying, and I think she’s right on the money.

    I don’t think the point is to feel guilty or defensive. I think the point is to understand the larger context in which we make our decisions, accept that we all bear a certain degree of burden in both supporting and/or challenging conventional gender beliefs and we all need to respond accordingly.

    Besides, this is one single decision in a woman’s life. While a person might decide to change her name to her husband’s, that doesn’t mean she isn’t kicking the patriarchy’s ass using other avenues, right?

    I don’t see Jill’s article as condemning women who chose tradition, so much as a wake up call that we still have a long way to go. Traditional gender beliefs—no matter how fragmented they might be at this point—still hold sway over much of the culture and consequently, that macroscopic reality tends to limit individual women’s (and men’s) life options. These statistics are indicator of that larger reality.

  63. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 26, 2009 at 2:19 pm |

    I want to marry this post, but I’m going to keep my own name if I do. :-)

    One thing I would like to note is that because feminists have fought so hard to give women the option of *not* changing their names, women actually have more options in this regard than men do. The female headspace includes both “change name” and “don’t change name” as reasonable options. And sometimes, as many posters have pointed out, “change name” is a great option to take, because if you do it when you get married, it’s free and it’s symbolic of your Great Love For Your Spouse rather than your Great Hatred Of Your Dad. But men don’t typically have that headspace available to them, and that’s because feminism has opened up options to women, but no one has really pushed on opening options to men. (Largely because the options men already have are the ones labeled as more powerful or better to have, and people don’t think in terms of “you know, it would be really great if I had the option to be weak and subsumed into someone else’s identity!”… but there are actually men who would take that option if they thought they could easily do so.)

    It’s never a feminist act to change your name to your husband’s. It may not be a *sexist* act, it may not be a misogynistic act, it may not be an oppressive act, and you can commit that act and still be a feminist. But it’s never a feminist act. That being said, yes, there are good reasons to do it sometimes. The problem is that these good reasons are only perceived by women. Men hardly ever see these good reasons; thus men don’t have the option of cutting ties with their abusive fathers, or escaping the pressure of being a Junior (sweet jesus, I really don’t understand why there aren’t hordes of Dude Name Jr. changing their names to Dude Wifename because my god, exact same name as your father! *My* dad goes by Tetter, pronounced Teeter, to all his friends because his first and last names are the same as his father’s, and he’s not even a full Junior. And how much would it piss off the dad that you hated if you gave up being a Junior so you could carry your wife’s name? But few guys do it, even though there should theoretically be *more* men motivated to do so, as women don’t formally do the Junior thing.)

    My ex wanted to change his name because he didn’t even know his dad. But he didn’t want to change it to mine, he wanted both of us to take a new name together, and I told him fuck that noise, my name is my name. You want a new name, great, but I won’t change mine. (In the end we never got married anyway.) My husband already *has* changed his name, to his adoptive father’s, when he was old enough to decide for himself that he would rather be New Dad’s Name than Old Dad’s Name, but this has made him even more attached to his name and he wouldn’t change it for anyone. So I do know men who have wanted to change their names to escape their biological fathers, and funnily enough, neither of them took their wife’s name or wanted to. It’s just not in the repertoire that little boys are raised with.

    So I’m not going to tell a woman who wanted to adopt her husband’s name because her dad was a rotten shit that she’s wrong to do so; she’s absolutely right to do so. If she doesn’t want her family’s name because she feels closer to her husband’s family, or her name is boring or crappy or whatever, great! Change your name. But understand that there are presumably a large number of men who *would* want to do what you’re doing if they’d been raised in a society where more men changed their name and more women didn’t. You have the freedom to change your name for the same reason you have the freedom to either stay at home with babies or work at a job; the “male” option is coded by our culture as so much better that no one has invested in fighting for men’s rights to take “female” options, so women have “male” and “female” options and men just have “male” options. You have the freedom to change your name if you want to precisely *because* you live in a sexist patriarchal society as a woman. So you are *not* doing something feminist. You’re playing along with patriarchy because it gets you what you want. And why not? You gotta live with the patriarchy, why not take it for what you can get? But don’t pretend that’s not what you’re doing.

    As for children… here’s where *I* feel like a bad feminist. I agree, children should have their mother’s names, and men should change their names to the mother’s if they want to share their children’s names. Women carry the pregnancy, women donate the mitochondrial DNA, women endure the pain, and 90% of the time women do most of the child care. We see “women and children” as a unit, and our society would be healthier if men belonged to the unit of “woman and child” rather than “woman and child” belonging to the men. But I gave my kids my husband’s name.

    My older children are technically my stepchildren; biologically they’re not mine, and I don’t have the legal right to adopt them because their bio-mother didn’t terminate parental rights. So if my bio-children had a different name, they might have grown up thinking of themselves as a blended family rather than a unitary family, half-siblings instead of whole siblings. And my husband’s name is objectively cooler than mine (mine’s Rogers. Most names are cooler than Rogers.) And it’s way higher in the alphabet. So I thought it was best to give them all the same name, which had to be his rather than mine because I couldn’t legally adopt the older two, and his is a niftier name anyway. But when I got insurance cards that mistakenly gave the children my name rather than his, I really felt a profound pang. I wish I could have given my babies my name. My reasons for not doing so were good ones… but how many men get their new wife’s older children to adopt his name? How many men have crappier names than their wives, and give their names to their kids anyway? The fact that I think about this at *all*, that I don’t just default to “oh, of course the kids will have my name”, is because I’m female, raised in a society where my name is considered optional.

  64. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm |

    And I don’t think I’m “blaming” women for the really crappy situation we’re all put in. But yes, I wish more women would keep their names. No, I don’t think that the choice of changing your name or not is neutral. I mean, look, I also wish that people wouldn’t eat factory-farmed meat; I think it’s a disgusting practice and I think it’s wrong and I wish there were more widely-available and better options. But I understand why they do (and I do, too).

    I wish more women would keep their names too. Really do. I just dislike that what I see as a very self-affirming, individual choice on my wife’s part is automatically placed into a “bad” category. She was always the black sheep of her family, and her choice to change her name was her way of saying “I don’t have to be like you (all of her family, not just her dad). I can be who and what I want.” And knowing her family history, it’s a choice that I respect far more.

    Hey Nathanial, stop trolling.

  65. Sid
    Sid October 26, 2009 at 2:32 pm |

    I’m sorry, I don’t know if its jsut my computer, but is anoyne else having a hard time seeing all the comments?

  66. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance October 26, 2009 at 2:40 pm |

    Well, if’n ya’ll don’t mind me noting a few things…

    Surname changing is part of kinship. That is, we use surnames (at least in the US, and I’m a very centric writer in this sense, culturally) to connote “this is the name of this family”, and names are used as elements to signify a bond of kinship and a flow of the rights accorded by kinship.

    I fought for a long time to get my name. My name has great and significant meaning, for me, personally. What I went through to get my name cost me my kinship — and indeed, it has made it easier for me to reconnect with old family members since I do not have the cultural sense of such through name, but I have lost my children, who have specifically had their names changed to escape that connection with me in all ways and shapes and forms.

    I had a common surname before, as well — and often people of no relation who were close to me were assumed to have a relationship (even by the government, lol).

    In general, however, the patriarchal aspect of name is that the onus remains that we, as women, leave our families and become part of our husband’s family. This is fairly well known, and underlies a lot of the understasding that most people have, even if its not entirely clear to them.

    Kinship determines descent and lineage, as well — useful for citizenship and such.

    When I married my ex, I told her she didn’t need to change her last name. I didn’t have a problem with it, I would even have done a hyphenated last name for my children. She chose to go ahead and change it however, for her reasons, which I did not pry into, as I wasn’t very concerned about it.

    Now a days, lol, I have a boyfriend who has proposed, and he’s been informed that I won’t be changing my last name, come hell or high water, because I went through too much to claim my last name. I am open to both of us changing our names to delineate kinship and family, but I’m not pushing it, as I also know how picky I’d be, lol.

    But this decision’s cost has a lesser impact on me — I’m not likely to ever be considered a part of his family — I’m unable to have kids and while I’d like to adopt, he’s not keen on the idea, and both of us have done our having and raising kids thing. So for me, the issue of children — and the patrilineal or matrilineal descent issue isn’t involved as it is in many situations.

    But it still will have the effect often of people perceiving us as not family — hospital issues, government forms, insurance stuff, even something as simple as getting utilities changed around or making a payment. All are parts of the “system” that uses surname as an indicator of family, even in a day when more families are blended ones than not.

    It becomes a question of how much fighting one wants to do in one daily life — how many times do you want to have to explain things? For me, that’s not an issue — I will be explaining such stuff for years (like how I can have married a woman and then married a man and still be heterosexual), so one more thing isn’t going to be a problem or burden.

    In the end, however, its been my experience that the surame’s singularity is what counts — not that the source of it is “him” or “her”, but that they have a common name, that matters, and the hyphenation aspect isn’t all that effective for most folks who persist with using singular last names (usually which ever one is last).

    It’s part of the undercurrent of resistance that exists in the fight for marriage equality at a level people don’t always see, and since most folks don’t understand the importance of kinship in society at large on a level of pragmatic awareness, but more at the level of emotional and unfamiliar bond, it will continue.

    Which is why I think people tend to just go with what’s been done before. It’s easier to become a member of his family (sorry for the outright heteronormative privilege inherent in that statement) than it is to simply come together as equals and choose a new name for a new family.

    I will note that it *does* scare me that people would make that law, though — such knowledge is yet another reason underneath why I get to suffer with so much grief in my life.

  67. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm |

    KH, that’s great that you are marrying a man whose last name you like. My question to you is, were you going to stick with an awkward name you didn’t like if you didn’t meet the man you wanted to marry? Likewise, was your friend going to continue with the name of her “physically abusive father” if she never met someone she wanted to marry?

    Not to sound bitchy here, but fuck it–I don’t care if you want to change your name to your husband’s name or not. The hordes of strawfeminists out there are not going to burn you at the stake of Bad Feminist. But I do find these arguments for husband name adoption a bit misplaced. You can legally change your name without getting married. So if you hate your name, or if your family/father was that horrible and you want no ties to them, you can change your name. All on your own. No man (or spouse) required.

    I do find it telling that people here are getting so fucking defensive over anyone even saying, Hey, I’d rather not change my name. It’s not the big bad meanie strawfeminists you all need to worry about. It’s the 50% of people who think it should be legally mandated for women to adopt their husbands names (that’s fucked up). It’s the 70% of people who think women should change their names when they get married. It’s not the strawfeminists judging you. Nope, it’s people like those 70%–like my friend I mentioned upthread, who was screaming in my face about my desire to keep my name that are more numerous, and far more judgemental.

    I’m tired of apologizing to the overly-defensive men and women out there for wanting to keep my name. I like it. I’d like to keep it. I’ve had it all of my life. I don’t think this makes me judgmental of say, my sister or friends who changed their names to their husband’s names. But it’s interesting to me that folks skip right over things like “50% of people polled think women should be required by law to take on their husbands’ names” to attack the strawfeminists.

  68. Whitney
    Whitney October 26, 2009 at 2:45 pm |

    Thank you! These stats are terrifying and yet I take comfort in bucking the “norm.”

    I have no intention of ever changing my last name UNLESS my SO agrees to change his last name, too. I have friends who combined their last names, and that’s fine.

    But my god, what a pain in the ass to go down to social security, the DMV, etc and change your name just to lose your identity.

    For the record, my first-born has my last name. If/when we have another child, that child will probably have his/her father’s name. I get a lot of grief about this already, but I have also been told by countless feminist friends that they wish they could have stood up for their beliefs and done the same. This makes me sad. I am by no means bold or outspoken. But staying true to myself and my beliefs is something I will not sacrifice.

  69. Lance
    Lance October 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm |

    Sid, you can see them all by clicking the “older comments” link at the bottom on top of the thread. Currently, it’s paginating every fifty comments and, by default, starting on the last page.

  70. jpe
    jpe October 26, 2009 at 2:48 pm |

    And that’s because adopting one’s husbands’s name is a patriarchal tradition, and yeah, we still live in a patriarchy.

    The assumption here is that if we could bracket the patriarchy, then other things being equal anyone would keep their name; that assumption is belied by the number of perfectly reasonable reasons we’ve seen in this thread for name changing.

  71. spike
    spike October 26, 2009 at 2:53 pm |

    We changed both our names after we got married. There were various reasons for this, first I am hispanic, so I had both my mother’s & father’s last name, which I hyphenated, and her last name was unusual, and so, although we knew we wanted to do something feminist with our last name, we couldn’t figure out what to do with the existing last names.

    So we went looking for a new last name that spoke to us, and what we wanted to our union to represent – a family name, as we wanted out children & us to all have the same last name. The difficulty lay in the process, as we got married with our given last names & then had to go through the court procedure to have both our last names changed, which took about 6 months. Other wise, we would have had to decide upon a name before the marriage, I would have had to start the process to change my name at least 6 month before the wedding and then we could have had her name automatically changed as marriage certificates allow for.

    That it is expected for a woman to change her name is evident that she can easily do so when applying for the marriage license. It would be so much easier if there was a possibility to have both parties change their names when applying for the marriage license.

    As for our children, both girls, we intend to let them decide what they want to do with the last name we created. I don’t want them to think that it will hurt my or my partner’s feelings if they change their last name, create a new name upon marriage (if they even want to get married, and/or if gay marriage changes the entire last-name dynamic) or whatever they decide.

    My father was hurt & my mother didn’t understand, but after a few months of the new name sinking in, both sides of the family are very supportive and it now feels like it has been my last name all my life.

  72. The Jodi
    The Jodi October 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm |

    Okay, so 70% of the respondents believe women should change their name when they get married–and 50% of them say it should be required by law. Like Jill and so many of you, I’m not surprised at all–but I want to see the breakdown by gender and geography.

    Again. I don’t doubt the results of the study, presented at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting Tuesday. I’m sure The Center for Survey Research at Indiana University is a reputable institution, and Laura Hamilton, the associate professor who conducted the survey, must surely know more about statistics than my loosey goosey liberal artsy self ever will.
    But is a sampling size of 815 really enough?

    And how were these questions worded if 50% of the respondents said the marital name change should be mandated by law?

    70% of the respondents in a recent survey believe women should change their name when they get married–and 50% of them say it should be required by law. I want to see the breakdown by gender and geography.

    I don’t doubt the results of the study, presented at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting Tuesday. I’m sure The Center for Survey Research at Indiana University is a reputable institution, and Laura Hamilton, the associate professor who conducted the survey, must surely know more about statistics than my loosey goosey liberal artsy self ever will. But is a sampling size of 815 really enough?

    And how were these questions worded if 50% of the respondents said the marital name change should be mandated by law?

  73. emjaybee
    emjaybee October 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm |

    I did change my name, and I have no trouble saying that the reasons it didn’t trouble me were clearly grounded in sexism; I really didn’t think of it at the time as a controversial decision. My fiance was actually more concerned then I was, and offered to change his to mine, but I didn’t see why he should to to that trouble. (an interesting assumption that I didn’t follow through to its logical conclusion).

    I think I just *wanted* to change my name–in college I went from my first name to my middle name, which suits me better–and I was in the midst of an identity struggle in breaking from my family. So my husband’s name offered an easy, and yes, noncontroversial way to do so (merging or hyphenating our names did not come up with anything that didn’t sound like a audible trainwreck, to be honest).

    In a funny way, the decision to take my husband’s name was, *at that time in my development as a feminist*, an act of rebellion. I did not like my family very much then; I did not feel any pride or attachment to either my first or last names. I had not at that time established much of a professional reputation. And yes, my name was more “hick” sounding than my husband’s.

    And oddly, lots of those things are still true. If I had kept my name I would have felt like a better feminist in one sense now, but would have been saddled with a name I didn’t like all that much as well. Perhaps the best would have been to come up with a totally new joint name that wasn’t necessarily tied to either of our families. I’m really not sure.

  74. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm |

    Jill,

    “I’m sorry, I don’t know if its jsut my computer, but is anoyne else having a hard time seeing all the comments?”

    Nope, it’s not just your computer. I can’t see all of them either.

    “Where I actually felt the shock of the name-change was seeing a list of female names I didn’t recognize on Facebook, then clicking through and realizing, oh, that’s someone I’ve known since the 5th grade.”

    I’m so glad to know someone else had this experience/feeling. I nearly started crying when I first made my Facebook page and started finding my old high school buddies. It wasn’t a shock for me, really. I was raised in a very conservative area. Most people in my hometown have probably barely even heard the word feminist. That still didn’t make seeing the fact that most of women I went to school with had changed their name any easier. It was – and is – goddamned depressing.

    “I wish we could have a more honest conversation about name-changing. Instead, women like me who find name changing really, really problematic are cast as simply mean and judgmental, and women who do change their names are just exercising their “choice.” I’ll cop to being judgmental here — this isn’t one of those situations where I think every choice is equally good and it’s a simple matter of preference.”

    I agree. I just can’t see a woman taking her husband’s name as being feminist. It isn’t. I’m not going to tell a woman she can’t take her husband’s name, but, for the love of all that is holy, stop trying to pretend that it is somehow feminist to take a man’s name. It isn’t. It never will be. A woman changing her name in marriage is one of the most blatant practices that denies women our right to a separate identity from men.

    And, yes, I realize I’m making a judgment here. I realize that women get defensive and pissed off when I say that I believe that they are essentially presenting themselves as their husband’s property if they change their names. I accept that. I accept that because I believe that this is such an important issue and I believe that this is one of many areas where women need to take a stand no matter how hard it may be.

    They other thing that gets me is unmarried women giving their children the father’s name. I did this stupid shit myself. I wanted the father to feel like he had a family and was trying to give him that. I realize what I freaking idiot I had been to do that after we separated. I have since had their names changed back to mine. I know so many single mothers, however, who never even seem to stop and think about why on Earth their children should have the father’s name, especially in so many cases when the father is barely around. Or not around at all…

    Nathaniel,

    “Men, for the most part, will not enter into an institution where they become un-equal, un-equal because un-privileged, members.”

    Oh? But it’s just perfectly acceptable for women to do so, huh?

  75. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm |

    If the women here feel judged because they changed their names: good. I do judge you. You are welcome to judge me when I shave and wear make up. Those are not feminist acts and being held to them has helped me a lot.

    However, the difference is I can come home to my partner and take off my make up and my heels and not shave for a few days and we’re on equal footing again. You went through a bureaucratic mess to forever change your name so that the only identity your house has is your husband’s. People who knew him may not even know you exist because nothing changed for him. It’s good that you all appreciate that you weren’t required by law to change your name, but you wouldn’t have been hurt at all if that was the case. Nothing would have changed for you, nothing would have been different.

    As GLS said, just own up to it. It’s not an empowering choice, it’s a sexist choice that you cover up with pretty language.

  76. benvolio
    benvolio October 26, 2009 at 3:06 pm |

    I’ve never wanted to change my name. I’ve never given much thought to women that do, under the heading of ‘None of my business.’ And yet, I get annoyed with women that hyphenate, because that just strikes me as splitting the baby. It’s fence-sitting. It’s trying to conform to two opposing forces. It’s (worst of all) inelegant and miserable to apply uniform alphabetizing rules to: some Ms. Smith-Joneses insist on being found amongst the ‘S’s, some amongst the Js.

    I am willing to stipulate that this is immature on my part, and also, squarely in the NOMB camp. Watch that not stop me.

  77. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 3:06 pm |

    I also think you’re right that we need to have a broader conversation about why people keep or don’t keep their names — but then, we aren’t really talking about “people,” we’re talking almost exclusively about women. And that, for me, is where the problem lies, because it’s an almost exclusively female conversation. The vast majority of men don’t even think about this.

    This this this. I think the discussion should be broadened to men, and not just as a rhetorical perspective flip. The whole thing should be broken up… my sole objection is that you are focusing on telling women to stop changing their names, rather than on why men aren’t and the ways in which society is forcing women to devalue their identity. We know that women are doing this for reasons that aren’t context free and have very problematic roots, I just think it’s more useful to examine the why’s and start pushing for broader public awareness of them, especially as this isn’t a frequent occurrence on an individual level.

  78. Andy
    Andy October 26, 2009 at 3:10 pm |

    I’m always amazed at how big a deal this can become. I can completely respect wanting to keep your name, and how hard it would be to lose your identity based on that. Still having seperate names can also get obnoxious, people will constantly refer to you as mr and mrs. x regardless of if you changed or not, and then theres how to handle kids. Do you give them the husband’s name? Is that fair to the wife? Do you hyphenate? What happens when they have kids and a potential 4 hyphenated last names?

    When I proposed to my fiancee, we had talked about this at length, I told her it was important to me that we have the same last name, but I was perfectly willing to take hers. Ultimately she chose to take mine, and we’re happy. The amazing thing was I told my family and friends I was considering taking her name and almost everyone found some way to try and emasculate me for it. It’s insance how much drama this issue can cause

    1. tigtog
      tigtog October 26, 2009 at 4:26 pm | *

      @Andy

      Do you hyphenate? What happens when they have kids and a potential 4 hyphenated last names?

      Why should any of us worry about that, really? Whatever they do with their surnames will be whatever feels good to them.

      My kids have both surnames hyphenated because that way they have both our surnames on their passports while they are minors and travelling with us – it is a pragmatic solution. I have told both of them that once they are 18 I will fully support them changing any of the names we gave them to anything they like – we chose those names because we liked them at the time they were born, but if they’d rather be named something different that they like better, it’s no big deal for us.

      Gedankenexperimenten: if we all hyphenate our offspring’s surnames now, then when two double-hyphenated folks in the next generation decide to get married, they will throw their hands up at quadruple-hyphenation and come up with their own better solution with the naming thing. Not. Our. Problem. Result!

  79. Maire
    Maire October 26, 2009 at 3:15 pm |

    I will be getting married here pretty soon, and changing my name has been something I’ve thought about since I was young enough to understand the family history behind *ALL* of the surnames on both my mother and fathers side, and came to this conclusion a long time ago: If I get married, chances are, I will take his name. If I don’t get married, I’ll change my name to something else. I’ve put a lot of thought into it. Almost every surname in my family has so many negative associations, I couldn’t in clear conscience just take one. Its not mine. Its not who I stand for. I am not taking the name of a womanizing, abusive, lying, cheating, self-righteous, pompous, family-leaving asshole. And thats what every. single. name. from every. single. person. is. I could go back and find a name I like that doesn’t have that association, from a strong woman, but it would be so far back that it wouldn’t be *my name*.

    And the whole surname thing? I never use it anyway. I don’t sign my last name (and neither does my sister, she signs everything with her first and middle name) and no one calls me “Ms. LastName.” They call me Maire. Thats who I am. I changed my first name to reflect who I was, my last name is insignificant to me. I like my fiances last name, it is better in every way than my own. The surname is not important to me at all. If I have kids, I’ll raise them to think they can do whatever they wish to their surname, its their name.

    Theres just so much “last name shaming” going on in the feminist community right now, and I’ve been getting some crap for my decision that I really don’t understand. Its my decision, and I think I have good reasons for it, and I’m sure theres other women (or men) out there who think the same way about it.

  80. shilpa
    shilpa October 26, 2009 at 3:16 pm |

    Jill, I am not saying you, personally, have made this statement but it is made frequently enough by commentors as well as posters on this blog.

  81. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 3:27 pm |

    As GLS said, just own up to it. It’s not an empowering choice, it’s a sexist choice that you cover up with pretty language.

    It’s not just one choice, and it’s not just made for one reason. That presumption is harmful and not productive as it leads only to shaming women rather than giving them the tools to help move society forward.

  82. uccellina
    uccellina October 26, 2009 at 3:29 pm |

    I changed my name. It wasn’t a feminist choice. My reasoning at the time was that I didn’t want the last name that I’d grown up with, as it belonged to my father and my father’s family; I didn’t want my mother’s last name, because it belonged to her father and her father’s family; I was going to change it regardless of marriage, and so I could either change it to my husband’s name or to something different that wasn’t his name. I like my new name and my new family, but in retrospect I am definitely uncomfortable for political reasons with the choice I made, and I will encourage my daughter not to make the same choice I did.

    That having been said, I’m totally put off by this: “If the women here feel judged because they changed their names: good. I do judge you. You are welcome to judge me when I shave and wear make up. Those are not feminist acts and being held to them has helped me a lot . . . However, the difference is I can come home to my partner and take off my make up and my heels and not shave for a few days and we’re on equal footing again.”

    ORLY? So you’re . . . what . . . a better feminist than I am? Because YOUR choice can be visually erased by a few days of inactivity? It would be lovely if not wearing makeup or not shaving could put you “on equal footing” with your male partner, but that’s not how patriarchy works.

  83. Sue
    Sue October 26, 2009 at 3:31 pm |

    Interesting thread… I kept my own name when I married in 1976. My spouse was very supportive. I felt I would lose my identity if I “followed the traditional path”. I had many friends and colleagues that would be confused by such a change. It was much easier to keep my name – no bureauocratic headaches – although my insurance company did cancel my car insurance when they found out. Can’t say why.

    I have talked to women many times since, encouraging at least the thinking process about which name to take. Most people don’t give it much thought.

  84. Jha
    Jha October 26, 2009 at 3:36 pm |

    The name-changing debate is pretty alienating to me, since in my culture, we don’t change surnames. I never realized how fraught the name-changing debate was until I got to Canada.

    Last year a friend of mine got married in Australia and went back to Malaysia to get her legal documentation changed. She was telling this to my dad, asking if he had any pointers, and he raised his eyebrows, “what would you do that for? That sounds like a lot of trouble for nothing!” It just ain’t done!

  85. Emily
    Emily October 26, 2009 at 3:51 pm |

    I really hate this “older comments” business. What is the deal?

  86. benvolio
    benvolio October 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm |

    A male friend of mine once told me the story of a buddy of his whose fiance wanted a wedding guest, a male friend of the buddy, disinvited. He balked, citing the length and depth of the friendship. She insisted, finally giving the ultimatum: disinvite the friend or she wouldn’t take his name. Friend was promptly disinvited.

    When I expressed amazement that the buddy surrendered to such a toothless ultimatum (seriously, who cares what her name is?), my friend looked at me as if I had nine heads. Of course that was the clincher! He’d be nothing if she didn’t take his name! Friends be damned!

    I suppose that makes them perfect for each other.

  87. jpe
    jpe October 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm |

    I felt I would lose my identity if I “followed the traditional path”.

    Messing w/ identity isn’t unambiguously bad, is it?

  88. Happy Feet
    Happy Feet October 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm |

    Well, it’s good to know there’s a subject amongst feminists where so many can still self-righteously declare their scorn for other women. Here, on Feministe, people are regularly defending women’s rights to wear makeup or high heels, shave or not shave, stay home with the kids or have a career – all potentially feminist choices, yetyou can still declare how much you hate other women for changing their name to be the same as their husbands. Wow.

    I took my husband’s name. And I thought about it A LOT – I deeeeeeeply resent the implication that all women who do so are just mindless pawns of the patriarchy. But I guess my wee lady-brains were just addled, I must have had my period or something.

    I didn’t like my last name – it was too common, and I didn’t much like myself growing up, so it felt good to start anew. It was easier to take his than pick some random new name (other family names were even more fraught with negative meaning). This way, we also both get to have the same names as our kids. What are the other options? We both take my name – kids get just mine too (and, still just the patrilineal side). Take one of our mother’s maiden names? Same problem – only now only the matrilineal side is represented. Hyphenate? – Sure, but what happens when our kids marry – hyphenation quickly gets out of hand.

    The best option I could think of was creating a new name for our new family – but then we lose all the family history, not just that of the other 3 grandparents who aren’t represented by the last name (not to mention all the step-parents and step-grandparents).

    There are no perfect options here- we all pick the one that was best FOR OURSELVES. It wasn’t best for you? That’s fine, do something else, it’s NOT ACTUALLY AGAINST THE LAW (unless it’s different in the states – the rest of the English-speaking world is fine with whatever you do).

    Perhaps we can all go back to telling other women how to use their bodies now, instead of just their names!

  89. Stephanie - Green SAHM
    Stephanie - Green SAHM October 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm |

    I took my husband’s last name. I had considered keeping mine, but I really liked the idea of having just one name for our family. Given the deeply conservative nature of his parents, I wasn’t about to ask him to change his. There’s enough we already never hear the end of.

    I did give one of my daughter’s my middle name, which is also my mother’s middle name. It’s not as obvious as a last name, but still one I can hand down and hope she chooses to do likewise.

    Being referred to Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname is always something I have detested. That is NOT my name. Never will be. I’m still me, not just his little wifey. But that happens very rarely, thank goodness.

    And for 50% saying it should be a legal requirement… yowtch! Names are a personal matter. You need a legal identity for many reasons, but beyond that the government should just stay out of it. People should be able to call themselves whatever they want and change names legally as it suits them and only if it suits them.

  90. KJG
    KJG October 26, 2009 at 4:12 pm |

    Jill, thanks for posting this.

    I think you’re dead on about the need to unpack the reasons why women take their husbands’ names when they marry. It is NOT just about personal choice. There are so many outside factors at play. Let’s be honest about.

    I find it interesting the number of comments here from people talking about how in their specific relationship the man offered to take the woman’s name, but in the end, for whatever various reason, it just didn’t work out and she took his instead. Funny how it usually happens that way.

  91. Atheling
    Atheling October 26, 2009 at 4:18 pm |

    My name will never change; if people ask, and I don’t feel like having the argument, I usually go for the wanting an academic career/publication record explanation, which is true, but also makes me annoyed at myself for making the excuse. It bugs me greatly that I can’t just say “I like my name, and I’m keeping it,” without having to defend myself against claims of not loving my boyfriend or indeed hating men in general.

    The thing is that this is an issue where people can uphold stereotypes by accident, as it were. If Ms X gets married and changes her name because it’s embarrassing/difficult/has bad associations, a vast majority of people (70%, going by the article) will assume that she’s done it because it’s the Done Thing, and will read *her* personal and particular choice as confirmation of *their* sexist worldview.

    In that case, women doing what is absolutely the right thing for them are still, indirectly, making things more difficult for other women who want to do something else. I don’t see a way to get rid of that particular problem other than by changing the system so the keep/change choice is based *only* on personal reasons, and not on the property-transfer model.

  92. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 26, 2009 at 4:22 pm |

    Happy Feet, if you didn’t like your birth name, why not change it? Were you willing to live with it until you got married? What if you didn’t get married?

    It’s too bad that you all feel so much more judged by the evil feminist bitches like me, who choose not to change our names. Guess what? There’s a whole wide world out there that takes it for granted that you SHOULD change your name. See: 70% of people think women should change their names, and 50% of them think it should be mandated by law. That’s fucking creepy. Yet, instead of being freaked out by that (so much for choice), you’d all rather bash women who want to keep their names. You’d rather focus on the fact that you feel judged by a few posters here and declare your right to choose your husbands’ names, rather than the very real, and very creepy poll that showed 50% of the respondents thought we should have NO choice in the matter.

    And trust me, if you want to see/feel/hear judgment, just have the gall to say you’d rather not change your name. Again–as I mentioned upthread–a friend was screaming in my face about what a selfish, manhating bitch I was for saying that I probably wouldn’t change my name if I got married. That it was no big deal (though big enough for him to scream at me). That it was a male name anyway (but it’s my name and I like it but apparently I make far too many people uncomfortable by saying this). All of this when, in a conversation about it, I said, with a shrug, “I dunno–I’m so used to my name that I’d rather keep it.”

    Then again, I’m one of those meanie feminists who LIKES her name. Yes, it was my father’s last name, and it’s a common name, but you know what? I grew up with it and have lived with it for 40 years, I rather like it and I’m used to it.

    It’s MY name. Why is it so fucking offensive to some of you that I’d want to keep it?

    Messing w/ identity isn’t unambiguously bad, is it?

    Apparently, not when it’s the woman who’s expected to do it.

  93. Jay Beedee
    Jay Beedee October 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm |

    In most marriages someone has to be the “wife”. The heretofore achievement of feminism is that sometimes a man can be the wife, and a woman can be the husband — it is an option on the table. Dunno if a movement that has spent its force already can push it further than that.

  94. jenn
    jenn October 26, 2009 at 4:27 pm |

    Since the:

    “It’s my choice.”
    “It’s my father’s name.”
    “I don’t care about my name.”

    were all reasons given by me in our recent dialogue on the topic, I figured I’d respond to this.

    Honestly, I don’t think a single person would be disappointed if I kept my last name. My mother kept and hyphenated her name. It’s because I’ve witnessed the administrative kinks she’s had to deal with that I choose to avoid it. I’d much rather devote my energy toward fighting other injustices. I know who I am; I don’t need a last name to tell me.

    I’m not scared of society at large. I’m actually bracing myself for the backlash of reactions like yours at my choice. To not have my friends support me in my decision – that seems like the anti-feminist position.

  95. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm |

    If Ms X gets married and changes her name because it’s embarrassing/difficult/has bad associations, a vast majority of people (70%, going by the article) will assume that she’s done it because it’s the Done Thing, and will read *her* personal and particular choice as confirmation of *their* sexist worldview.

    You know, it’s precisely this sort of attitude that made me NOT want to learn cooking, or sewing, or any of that stuff when I was a girl. I didn’t start doing that until I was much, much older. Not because the League of Feminist Police Women would judge me for doing any of that, but because your average sexist Xanadouche would expect me to do it and use it as yet another reason to pigeonhole girls and women into confining roles.

  96. Jay Beedee
    Jay Beedee October 26, 2009 at 4:31 pm |

    Reminder: traditionally, Asian women do not take the husband’s name as a way of solidifying her “outsider” status in the family.

  97. Angelia Sparrow
    Angelia Sparrow October 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm |

    Thing is, I wasn’t feminist when I changed my name. In fact, I was anti-feminist and rabidly misogynist at that point.

    That was 20 years ago. I grew up in the meantime.

    At this point there’s no reason to go back to a surname I never liked. I love my father but I never liked wearing the name. (I use his mother’s birth name as one of my writing pseudonyms tho, because it’s lovely)

  98. jenn
    jenn October 26, 2009 at 4:36 pm |

    Actually, my stepdad is called Mr. (Mother’s Maiden Name) all the time. And he’s really amused by that.

    Again, my choice has nothing to do with fear about society. It’s just a hassle I don’t want. I guess it was naive of me to think it was that simple.

  99. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm |

    50% of the people polled thought women changing their names to their husbands should be mandated by law.

    But. . .yes, let’s get all offended by a few women who question why it’s expected for the wife to change her name to her husband’s name. Let’s get offended by the fact that coincidentally it’s almost always the woman who changes her name, even when the husband offers to take hers. It’s terribly offensive and anti-choice to point out that there’s a dynamic behind that.

    Pay no attention to that pesky statistic in the original post, everyone. People wanting to mandate women changing their names? Totes fine. Women questioning the tradition of women changing their names? HORRIBLE.

    Strawfeminists are the real enemy.

  100. Mike
    Mike October 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm |

    When my wife and I got married a looong time ago, she took my last name. At that time, no one ever thought to do anything different. Things have changed. If we were to be married today, there would, without a doubt, be no name change. However, I have yet to figure out any way to decide how to name a child other than on a case-by-case basis. So, in addition to a lot of negotiation about the first name of a child, there will also be even more difficult negotiations about the surname.

  101. SoE
    SoE October 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm |

    @all those giving up their fathers’ names (because he was absent, abusive or just too difficult): Did anyone ever think of taking the name of their mother?

    Personally I don’t want to give up my family name since I have only sisters and we’re the last ones in our family to have that name (also, it sounds awesome with my first name). But if had to get a new name, I would actually take my maternal grandma’s name. It’s not that far fetched, though, I once had a boyfriend who had had my last name but later got his stepfather’s name and wasn’t too excited about getting his name back.

  102. kb
    kb October 26, 2009 at 4:53 pm |

    I find it interesting the number of comments here from people talking about how in their specific relationship the man offered to take the woman’s name, but in the end, for whatever various reason, it just didn’t work out and she took his instead. Funny how it usually happens that way.
    this this so much this. yes, everyone here knows that the 50% of people haven’t managed to pass that law yet, so it IS a choice to take your husbands name. Now lets talk about why the above happens

  103. Ex-Republican
    Ex-Republican October 26, 2009 at 4:55 pm |

    If my daughter chooses to get married some day, I really don’t care if she keeps my surname or not. I really don’t care if she changes her first name either. To be perfectly honest, with all the difficulties of raising children, the thought has never passed my mind.

    I am much more concerned with her being an independent adult. (I want the same for my son as well.)

    I hope she has the ability to lead a very fulfilling life and has the means and opportunity to make the choices that make her happy and productive in her life, whatever endeavors she may choose. If keeping her name is part of that, I am fine with that. If not keeping her name is part of that, I am fine with that too. While other women may judge her for the choice she makes, her father will not.

  104. kat
    kat October 26, 2009 at 5:11 pm |

    Don’t you think many women change their names as a badge of honor? The Marriage Badge? I think a lot of women wait and wait for that magical day when they change their name to their husband’s.

    I’m with nikki way up top…I do not have a good relationship with my father or with 90% of the family that shares my name, but my name is mine and has been for 35 years. I don’t see it as being his. Maybe if I still lived in the same small town where that name has some connotations I’d feel differently.

  105. this one
    this one October 26, 2009 at 5:11 pm |

    I know who I am; I don’t need a last name to tell me.

    Then why change it at all, if your last name doesn’t matter and changing it *does* play into a cultural tradition of making women their husbands’ property? I’m not being snarky, I just don’t get being angry at those who fight the perception that women *must* change their names to their husbands’, instead of being angry at those who want you to legally, culturally, personally to have no choice at all. That would still be the case, had feminists not fought for us to have the option of not automatically becoming mrs. husband.

  106. JenM
    JenM October 26, 2009 at 5:21 pm |

    I did not change my last name when I married. My husband wanted to change his last name to mine – he still wants to, mentions this all of the time b/c he thinks my uncommon last name just “sounds better.” I discourage him from changing his name b/c all of the paperwork, possible affect on his professional license, certifications, etc and I think his family would feel a bit slighted. We toyed with the idea of picking a new name but I like my name as it is, and once again – paperwork, bleh.

    We haven’t run into many issues with different names – I call a given credit card company and tell them I’m adding an authorized user, his name is X, please add – no issues. It think its only during hotel reservations – there’s a moment of Mrs. X? Mr. X? during check-in but they never press the issue. There have been a few funny moments when I’ve ordered something from Lowe’s or Home Depot, its under my Hispanic last name, my very obviously non-Hispanic husband is there at the door and I know the guy thinks he’s at the wrong house by the way he says “Mr X?”

    When we sold our house which was in my name, for some reason the title company decided my name was First Middle My Last His Last. Not My First, His Last, or My First, Last , His Last or even a hyphenated last name. She said “here’s your part, with the long name” and everything had four names on it. I understand her assumption that I changed my name, but keeping that many names, thought that was funny.

    If you want to hear grief about “not making a committment” in marriage, forget about not changing your name, tell people you don’t share a checking account and divide up bills -then they get really shocked!

  107. magista
    magista October 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm |

    My parents changed their names to a new one when they got married in 1960. Pretty damn progressive, eh? Of course, his was originally 4-syllabled and German sounding, and he was already using a 2-syllable contraction of it to make it easier for North Americans to pronounce after he immigrated. And then he was regularly confused for a type of Swiss chocolate.

    So they took the first three letters of his shortened last name, and the first three letters of her last name, and presto! here I am, the first of a new line.

    And yes, I kept mine after we got married. He never assumed that I would ever do otherwise. (Besides, I had more credit cards. :) Actually, he said that there were probably enough people with his name already, some of them reprobates…

    We’ve never planned on having children, so I can only speculate what our solution would have been.

  108. Darja
    Darja October 26, 2009 at 5:28 pm |

    In Belgium – where I live – women don’t change their name when they get married. However, it is required by law that children get only their father’s name – something that my husband and I find absurd and extremely discriminatory. So when our son was born we wrote a complaint to the Ministry of justice and after a year of fighting he now officially has a dubble family name.

    Some time ago we have received a card from my husband’s relatives which was addressed to Mr. and Mrs. MyHusband’s Name. I seriously wanted to throw up. I have sent it back to the sender. (if people are being ignorant to me it is my duty to educate them, no?:-))

    I think that in the Netherlands there is a new law that *forbids* the women to take their husband’s name. Bravo!

  109. Charlotte
    Charlotte October 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm |

    @33:
    I just have to say one thing that you might find interesting. My mom kept her last name after marriage, and now my sisters and I have the names FirstName Mom’sLastName. I think it’s kind of cool, but can see how it might cause problems (the main reason I’ve never had any problems because of it is that this area is extremely liberal).

  110. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 5:39 pm |

    I find it interesting that the choice to change your name is only viewed as an identity destroying thing. This may be a bit off topic, but may explain my conflict… when I transitioned and changed my name, the common wisdom is that you should change your last name so you’re not easily traceable. I wrestled with that, but felt that I did feel too strongly about my name to do anything but keep it.

    Others I have talked too did not, and have felt that changing their last name was a huge weight off of their shoulders, allowing them to more correctly match who they are with what they are called. While there is a significant difference in the social discipline issues involved, I cannot view name-changing as a horrible thing. After all, I changed mine to something that was more who I was.

  111. Felicity
    Felicity October 26, 2009 at 5:50 pm |

    I had to share something that happened to me: I had read a story (here, I think) about a straight couple in a county of California where the groom wanted to change his name to the bride’s, and the county didn’t have the option for him to change his name on the marriage paperwork. They were doing a big legal fight.

    I brought it up at a gathering just because I thought it was an interesting news tidbit, and a conservative guy simply could not understand the story. It wasn’t that he disapproved of men taking women’s names, he couldn’t even believe that happened. He laughed at the idea. This is a young man in a liberal-slanting area.

    That’s how engrained it is that men don’t change their names.

    My partner and I aren’t planning to get married. People ask why a lot, and most of them don’t need a big serious thesis answer. One of the rotating flippant answers I give is “Because he refuses to take my name.” I mostly put it in the rotation because I think it’s funny, but maybe it’ll make a few people think.

  112. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 26, 2009 at 5:53 pm |

    Jill, thank you so much for writing this. It’s really great to have a succinct explanation for why women shouldn’t change their names to point to.

    To those using their non-existent/poor/horrible relationship with their father as a reason to change one’s name upon marriage: I’ve heard this suggestion mentioned before on various feminist blogs when this discussion invariably comes up, but why don’t you change your name earlier than waiting around until whenever you get married? That’s pretty much what I’m doing now. My legal last name is my crappy biological father’s name and because I don’t even really have a connection with that name having been known as Jennifer “Stepdad’s Last Name” my whole life, I’ve decided to have it legally changed on my own. Soon, I’ll be known as Jennifer “Mom’s Maiden Name-Stepdad’s Last Name”. So to all the people bitching about the pain of hyphenating: Yeah, I’m actually proactively choosing to “burden” myself with a hyphenated name for the rest of my life. To me it doesn’t seem that bad to have both parts of my family represented in who I am. I’ve even inspired my Mom who didn’t question the assumption of taking on her husband’s name when she married, to go back and hyphenate her name as well. And well, what about my possible future kids and “Oh noes! The question of the hyphenated name with the father’s name, too?” I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to have a little piece of me and a little piece of their father with them, so we’ll be hyphenating their names’ most likely, too. And from there on out– they get to make their own choices about changing or not changing their names and what to do with their kids’ names. I don’t get how this is any more confusing than with most families already having multiple names because of divorces and remarriages. And personally having respect for notions of family unity and loyalty, I understand those who like the idea of their families having the same last name, but chances are the days when most families were known as “The Smiths” or “The Garcias” or “The Nguyens” are long gone and not coming back.

  113. nezziecat
    nezziecat October 26, 2009 at 6:10 pm |

    I took my husband’s name, because it involved less paperwork. It’s up to you to decide what your identity is, whether you are married or not. If it gets under your skin and you’ve got the time, go for it. Do the paperwork. It doesn’t change who you are. It’s okay.

  114. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm |

    Thank’s for the thoughtful post! It caught my eye because I’m getting married in two weeks, and I will be taking my future husband’s name. I enjoyed reading your thoughts here, but I have to say I disagree with much of what you wrote. Particularly some of the conclusions you’ve come to that, I believe, are inaccurate and needlessly over-complicate the issue.

    For instance, you quote Laura Hamilton from the Daily News, talking about a study she took part in: “They told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family. This was a reason given by many.”

    Now, I do come from a family and culture where women usually do take their husband’s name. But I’ve heard variations on this conversation about name-changing many, MANY times before, and never once has anyone said anything about wanting to change her name so she can better be “absorbed” or assimilated into her husband’s identity or family.

    In the sense that marriage is a Sacrament wherin “two become one,” then yeah you could say that the independent identity of BOTH the man and woman are sacrificed to a certain extent when they marry. It’s no longer about “me” and “you”, but “us”…we’re partners now, joined together for life. It’s nothing that the woman does alone, and has very little to do with the husband’s family in any particular way.

    You continue this theme of a woman losing her own identity, or being absorbed into her man’s identity, throughout your post:

    “And name-changing does help to reinforce cultural assumptions about marriage that make the fight for marriage equality even more difficult — the assumption, for example, that the man is the head of the household and the woman is absorbed into him.”

    “It can be a great thing when it represents a personal evolution, or a more accurate reflection of who you’ve always been. But when it represents losing your own identity so that you can be absorbed into your husband and his family? No thanks.”

    I believe that you’re wrestling with a straw man here. I don’t understand where you get this thing about expecting to be “absorbed into his family”. The point of a marriage is creating a new family- you leave your family to join with another and the two of you make a new family.

    The way I see it, one family should have one name. You ask earlier in your post why can’t it ever be the woman’s name that’s taken? Well, that’s a problem isn’t it? If you’re looking at this issue as an egalitarian one then there is simply no solution except to toss the whole name-change thing aside. If both take the woman’s name instead, then what does that say about the man’s identity? Why should HE have to give up his name?! Hyphenating is cumbersome and confusing and then you still have to decide which name comes first! It’s like when two bulls lock horns…they can stay that way for hours sometimes. But in a family or a relationship, sometimes something has to give. And I don’t think that this is a problem, a tragedy or an injustice. It’s simply the way things are.

    If we’re going to share a single name then we’re going to have to take either mine or his. I choose to take his, because that’s traditionally the way it’s done. Human beings crave tradition, ceremony, and liturgy. We always have. Throughout the world and history, if we’re not following the traditions of our forefathers, we’re creating new ones to follow and to make our children follow.

    I can’t see any logical problem with the practice. If a person doesn’t like it, then by all means they should not do it. The fact that some people think that there SHOULD be an intrinsic problem with it doesn’t qualify as an actual problem, IMO.

  115. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm |

    “In most marriages someone has to be the “wife”.”

    I was under the impression that the “wife” was simply the female partner in a heterosexual marriage. Are you attempting to claim that the “wife” is whomever is the apparently submissive one?

    I personally don’t see why either word has to be used, however. Believe it or not, there are alternatives. Like using the word -partner- instead of either wife or husband.

  116. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 6:15 pm |

    Addition to my previous post, I intended to say “as a solely horrible thing”.

    Jennifer: “why wait” ? Changing your name is a huge pain, and people like ceremonies with transitional significance. It may not bother them enough to change it right then, but choose to do it when they marry. So what?

    It just seems like this is an “I’m doing it better than you are” kind of thing, I’ve not seen very many suggestions on how to fix the problem.

  117. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 6:16 pm |

    Faith: “wife” isn’t limited to heterosexual marriage.

  118. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 26, 2009 at 6:21 pm |

    “Well, it’s good to know there’s a subject amongst feminists where so many can still self-righteously declare their scorn for other women. Here, on Feministe, people are regularly defending women’s rights to wear makeup or high heels, shave or not shave, stay home with the kids or have a career – all potentially feminist choices, yetyou can still declare how much you hate other women for changing their name to be the same as their husbands. Wow.”

    Nope. I actually don’t think that wearing makeup or high heels or shaving legs is a feminist choice. That being said: I wear makeup. I also occasionally wear high heels, and even *gasp* shave my legs on occasion. I just don’t declare those things feminist. They aren’t.

    I also happen to believe that my lipstick and bronzer is not at all as problematic as engaging in a practice that has historically represented the practice of women being their husband’s property when they enter marriage. That -is- the reason that women are expected to change their names. It used to be the exact same thing with slaves. When a man purchased a new slave, the slave had to take the “master’s” last name to denote ownership. By changing your name, you have – in the eyes of many people – announced that you accept your husband’s right to claim ownership of you.

    Like it or not.

  119. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm |

    Yeah, I’ll take the blame as being the most strident feminist here overtly, proudly, harshly judging women who change their names. But I don’t hate them, I don’t think they’re stupid. (Frankly, I suspect the dumbest feminist is still smarter than than the smartest anti-feminist.) Do I think they’re pathetic, silly, and contributing in a larger way than my mascara does to continuation of the patriarchal culture that demeans us all for being women? Abso-fucking-lutely.

    I just realized this is akin to listening to conservatives argue why gay marriage shouldn’t be legal. The same arguments devoid of any logic are used over and over again, as though if you repeat it often enough, it suddenly makes sense. If it’s not important to you what your name is, then don’t go through the hassle of changing it. If you hate your last name, for whatever reason, you can change it to a name you like at any point in your life. If you want your family to have the same name, then choose a third name that you both use. If you (1) only plan to change your name upon marriage and (2) only take your husband’s name, then you’re engaging in a very, very anti-feminist, misogynist act that serves to eliminate women’s identity and, as stated, contributes in a forceful way to the perpetuation of the patriarchy. Maybe you do some fantastic other things that outweighs that daily shout of patriarchal allegiance. Who knows? But most people don’t do really great things which means the smallest acts matter and add up.

  120. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm |

    “Faith: “wife” isn’t limited to heterosexual marriage.”

    I appreciate this. I was referring to heterosexual relationships.

    And that still does not answer my question.

    Why exactly does anyone need to be the “wife”? And what the hell does wife mean if it isn’t only to acknowledge the female partner?

  121. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 26, 2009 at 6:26 pm |

    polerin: It’s not in fact a “I’m doing it better than you are kind of thing”.
    It’s a “don’t say all along while you’re growing up and an adult for a period of time (in most cases) before getting married, that your father sucks and I’m going to change my name because it reminds me of him, but conveniently wait until marriage to do so”. If you want to change your name upon marriage own it and say so, but don’t use the reason that your father sucks as an excuse to specifically change it then.

  122. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 26, 2009 at 6:26 pm |

    “If you hate your last name, for whatever reason, you can change it to a name you like at any point in your life. If you want your family to have the same name, then choose a third name that you both use. If you (1) only plan to change your name upon marriage and (2) only take your husband’s name, then you’re engaging in a very, very anti-feminist, misogynist act that serves to eliminate women’s identity and, as stated, contributes in a forceful way to the perpetuation of the patriarchy.”

    I personally believe that the best solution to this whole mess is to not get married at all. I still haven’t really figured out how marriage period can be feminist. But try saying -that- and see how pissed off people get.

  123. PixelFish
    PixelFish October 26, 2009 at 6:29 pm |

    I’ll be keeping my name. BF will be keeping his. The kids will have split last names in which we will either toin-coss for last name with the partner’s last name being the second middle name or have both last names. (What they do with it after that is their choice.) I don’t anticipate any trouble with MiL because she’s liberally inclined and multi-divorced. Certainly, she doesn’t carry the name either. My parents already had their heart-attack over my sisters….who both changed their names (expected by the rest of the fam) but ditched their maiden name altogether to protest my dad’s longstanding statement that he didn’t give any of his daughters middle names since we’d get one when we got married. I had no idea my sisters were so pissed over the whole thing, but applauded them anyway. Dad grumbled but briefly brightened when I told him I’d be keeping my name. “Well, at least you’ll still have your maiden name when I get married.” I responded with, “I’ll still have my LAST name when I get married. I’m not taking my husband’s name at all.” Cue more jaw dropping.

    Still not looking forward to straightening out the elder generation who will undoubtedly start sending me letters addressed to Mrs. HisName.

  124. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 6:30 pm |

    Faith, I don’t support secular marriage either but I try to keep that one to myself and usually fail miserably.

  125. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 6:32 pm |

    Faith, I don’t support secular marriage either but I try to keep that one to myself and usually fail miserably. I do get irritated when married people use “partner”, though. You’re not partners. She’s the wife, he’s the husband and it’s intended, by design, to be unequal.

  126. Mandolin
    Mandolin October 26, 2009 at 6:42 pm |

    “I’m not exactly on the marriage-and-babies track, but should either (or both) ever happen, my name is staying mine — and if I’m the one giving birth, you can bet those kids are getting my last name as well.”

    My mother did both parts of this, so I have her last name. It did lead to a 6th grade teacher being emphatic that my father was actually my step-father, no matter how many times she was told otherwise, but that was the only problem.

  127. Azalea
    Azalea October 26, 2009 at 6:44 pm |

    I really get disheartened at attacks on the reasons why women change their names when they get married. It’s her choice

    I know of men who changed their names, I know of couples who created a new family name together but most people take their husband’s names because many people just don’t care. It isn’t going to change who she is to change her name people change their face, their gender, their status and remain the same inside so why is so much placed on a name that she never chose for herself in the first place that she doesn’t want to keep?

    I am not shocked that most women change their names I AM shocked that so many people think that women should change their names and that there are even any who would make it mandatory!! That is irritating.

  128. PixelFish
    PixelFish October 26, 2009 at 6:45 pm |

    JenM: We’re another household with divided accounts and split bills. We were thinking of getting a joint account for household purposes only, ie. we each pay into based on our wage. (He’s got 70%, I’ve got 50%.) That money goes towards shared expenses and the account is joint for convenience’s sake but our savings and the majority of our wages stay separate.

  129. Sara Pulis
    Sara Pulis October 26, 2009 at 6:45 pm |

    Since about the age of 12 I’d always wanted to change my name. I guess it’s a feeling you pick up when there are 4 people with your name in every class of which you are the least popular. When I turned 18 I looked into it, but who has ~$1000? Not me. When I got married I jumped at the chance to change ANYTHING in my name by taking my husband’s last name. Had I known years in advance that it would’ve made people confuse me with Sarah Palin, I’d have saved up and splurged on a name of my choosing. Why does any kind of legal name changing except marriage-divorce name changes have to be so expensive? You should get at least one freebie.

  130. preying mantis
    preying mantis October 26, 2009 at 6:47 pm |

    “@all those giving up their fathers’ names (because he was absent, abusive or just too difficult): Did anyone ever think of taking the name of their mother?”

    I planned to change my name when I turned 18. My father was a complete reprobate, and I hadn’t had any contact with his family since I was a toddler. I wanted to take my mother’s maiden name instead. She talked me out of it, saying that my stepfather (also a reprobate, and their marriage was on the rocks at the time) would be pissed if I changed my name and didn’t change it to his. I kept my name. After a few years of being on my own, I was pretty averse to changing my name–it’s my name, not a placeholder–at all and didn’t change it when I married.

    I figure if we have kids, we’ll either hyphenate their last names or do the Firstname Mylastname Histlastname thing. I joke that it’s for plausible deniability, but honestly, I just don’t see myself being the custodial parent if we split up.

  131. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 7:02 pm |

    Rachel II

    If you (1) only plan to change your name upon marriage and (2) only take your husband’s name, then you’re engaging in a very, very anti-feminist, misogynist act that serves to eliminate women’s identity and, as stated, contributes in a forceful way to the perpetuation of the patriarchy.

    You are arguing this as self-evident when it is very obviously not so to some people (Hi!). How does that eliminate a woman’s identity any more than assuming that just because she’s taken her name her identity disappears? I know a good number of people who would be shocked to learn that they no longer exist because their name changed.

    While I agree that the history of a thing cannot be divorced from the thing itself, all of these arguments seem to stem from the idea that there is a “one true way” and if you don’t life your life in that manner you’re wrong and hurting all women in the world. You are elevating your personal judgments and choices to the status of Truth, which happens to favor you. If you’d own that then I’ll be ok.

    Also, assuming that everyone who doesn’t agree with your worldview lacks intelligence is win, especially when combined with ablism.

    Jennifer:
    I don’t understand why both can’t be true. You are viewing it as an excuse rather than “hey, I’m going to be doing it here, so I’ll just wait for a lil bit”. The time frames don’t always happen to be theoretical.

  132. Steampunked
    Steampunked October 26, 2009 at 7:06 pm |

    My partner and I both changed out names to one that symbolised a trait that both of us had had for a long time as individuals…that we happened to both share and value. Thus we felt we got to celebrate a skill set we honoured that we each had together (It’s an old word for ‘craftsperson’, and my husband likes to say that technically his last name is ‘Smith’ and he’s the only one in the phone book). Any spawn have the same last name, and with the record keeping these days, if they choose to change it, anyone wanting to trace back can easily.

    My parents were bewildered by the change, but they have always thought I was ‘very aggressive and insisted on my own way’. His mother feels I have rejected his family, but his father places names far, far on the importance scale under ‘an interesting moth I saw today’. If it doesn’t pollinate or possibly eat aphids it’s not really worth discussing if we could be having a conversation about bugs or orchids instead.

    Grandfolks (when alive) ignored the name change completely and would send me (quite nice) letters titled: To Mrs HisFirstname HisLastname.

  133. Stef
    Stef October 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm |

    Really, it should be about choice more than anything. Some women may *want* to ditch a last name due to the baggage that it carries to be with a man they would much rather identified be with, and some women would rather keep their last name as it is. I’m personally fine with either, though who the children get named after would be up for debate. But like all things in a marriage, it is give or take, and you have to weigh what is important to yourself, and your spouse to be.

    What I *don’t* like is the “Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast” convention, and how believe it or not, some people still go by that. I would honestly feel uncomfortable if my proverbial wife was introduced that way, and I imagine she doesn’t want my first name! I think the vast majority of people can agree that a person shouldn’t be treated as a peice of property by religious or legal conventions, nor addressed as such.

  134. Charity
    Charity October 26, 2009 at 7:24 pm |

    nezziecat said:

    “I took my husband’s name, because it involved less paperwork. It’s up to you to decide what your identity is, whether you are married or not. If it gets under your skin and you’ve got the time, go for it. Do the paperwork. It doesn’t change who you are. It’s okay.”

    Where / under what circumstances does CHANGING your name involve LESS paperwork? I did not change my name when I got married and did not encounter any increased “paperwork” demands. On the contrary, I AVOIDED having to complete paperwork to change my name with banks, credit cards, employers, academic institutions, etc. I have ample opportunity to both use my original name on forms AND check “married,” with no additional time demands. Imagine that. I do have to do some more VERBAL explaining, so perhaps that is the “work” you are really thinking of? The kind where you have to explain your choice and put up with tactlessness, sexism, lack of respect, lack of appreciation of your identity and integrity as a person. The kind that puts your personal values on trial. I can understand wanting to avoid something aversive, but let’s be honest about what it is that’s being avoided. It’s not the “paperwork.”

  135. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 26, 2009 at 7:27 pm |

    “…So I’ll just wait for a lil bit”? Last time I checked most of these bad fathers have sucked throughout the person’s life–barring some possibilities for later suckitude, of course–and the kid unhappy to have their bad father’s name would want to have a different name far earlier than the average age for getting married (It’s an average of 23 for women and 25 for men in the U.S. , right?). I think we could say that it’s fair to assume that a kid would most likely get the idea to do change their name in their teenage years when they are forming their own identity– does around 16 sound a mature enough age to decide this? And well, by that conservative estimate, it wouldn’t be a just a “lil bit” of time that someone would have to wait around with a name that they hate…but seven years.

  136. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. October 26, 2009 at 7:50 pm |

    Charity,

    “Where / under what circumstances does CHANGING your name involve LESS paperwork? I did not change my name when I got married and did not encounter any increased “paperwork” demands.”

    In some states the name change used to be automatic (I don’t know if that still is the case anywhere). So if you wanted to keep your name, you had to go through a legal proceeding, in front of a judge and whatnot.

  137. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 7:56 pm |

    Yes, Polerin. I absolutely own it that I want all women to stop changing their names because it would, in fact, benefit me. I thought that’s what we all agreed on here? An increase in feminist choices make lives better for everyone. Even these poor put-upon feminist wifeys who chose their choice to name themselves after their new owner would benefit from not being included in the knee jerk presumption that all married women change their names because that’s just what’s done in marriage.

    It does make me laugh to see how perfectly similar feminist and conservative marriages are on the outside. But as long as you choose the color of your collar, I guess it’s okay.

  138. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 8:18 pm |

    Charity:

    Where / under what circumstances does CHANGING your name involve LESS paperwork? I did not change my name when I got married and did not encounter any increased “paperwork” demands.

    She’s saying that it was less paperwork than changing it outside of the marriage license process. Which is likely very true, and also very sad.

    Jennifer:

    “…So I’ll just wait for a lil bit”? Last time I checked most of these bad fathers have sucked throughout the person’s life–barring some possibilities for later suckitude, of course–and the kid unhappy to have their bad father’s name would want to have a different name far earlier than the average age for getting married (It’s an average of 23 for women and 25 for men in the U.S. , right?).

    Your assuming that they get the idea of changing their name solely because of their fathers (false in many instances), and that they decide they want to do that AS they are starting to form their identity. While I am far from the standard case, I don’t feel that at 28 I know what my identity will be in 7 years. I have some ideas, but why should I know now everything that I want to do then? You are totally dismissing the fact that life is messy and people don’t always know what they want right away.

    Considering that I’m lazy and that not all of my bills/whatever are changed yet, yeah– I’m sympathetic to people who don’t want to go through the pain in the ass of changing twice (if they choose to do so). Again, I’m not saying that it can’t be a choice dominated by social forces, but rather that it is not exclusively.

    Rachel II:

    Yes, Polerin. I absolutely own it that I want all women to stop changing their names because it would, in fact, benefit me. I thought that’s what we all agreed on here?

    No actually, what I was asking you to own is that, “You are elevating your personal judgments and choices to the status of Truth, which happens to favor you.” your judgments and choices being elevated to the realm of capital-T “Truth” will invariably make you look better than people who have made other choices.

    And yet again you presume again about how similar my marriage is to “conservative” marriage is… without knowing anything about me or my marriage. Rock on with your psychic self. No amount of dismissive or infantilizing language on your part will make me her owner.

  139. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 26, 2009 at 8:27 pm |

    polerin: You and I are talking about two different instances. I’m specifically talking about the arguments often made by women to change their name based on my own experience– i.e. growing up with a shitty father and wanting to change your last name ASAP. That is all. Shit, I know life is messy. I’m 22 and I’ve known forever–far longer than just since 16 and more like 10–that I wanted to change my name, but have only in the last year or so figured out what exactly I wanted to change it to.

  140. Sara
    Sara October 26, 2009 at 8:30 pm |

    I’m personally a fan of the Quebec rule of thumb.
    Women cannot automatically change their name through marriage as the norm is usually in other provinces/states or countries usually can. For a person to change their name in Quebec, it is not done through the act of marriage but rather the legal process of changing your name. It also illustrates that if the bureaucracy does not permeate the action (women changing their names through marriage) then how little demand or requirement there is for women (or people) tochange their names. People have indicated that a lot of women wouldn’t be changing their name (even if their current surname represents negative things etc) if they weren’t getting married. This policy in Quebec removes the social norm of women changing their name but if people do wish to change their name, they can do the paperwork and change it legally.

    I worked for Immigration in Australia and one of the aspects of my jobs was to be able to prove identity, for example, said person was the biological offspring of other said person. It would give me the shits because women would change their names three or four times and I would need to prove the relationship that the current Mrs Jones was the Mrs Smith that appeared on the supposed child’s birth certificate. After dealing with that, I LOVE the Quebec concept of it not being automatically and thus greatly reducing multiple name changes.

    I’m not sure whether I actually end up married to my current partner but the concept of marrying in Quebec is quite a positive if it naturally lets me keep my own name. I know of some people who live in Ottawa and will be a concerted effort to NOT getting married on the Quebec side of the river because the woman cannot automatically change her name.

  141. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 8:37 pm |

    I actually rely on decade’s worth of feminist theory to support my contention that marriage is about ownership, a subtext of which being that changing one’s name is something the underclass does. You can say whatever you want about your *relationship* but your marriage has been *defined* by federal and state law and millenia worth of history before you ever entered into the equation.

  142. Dyssonance
    Dyssonance October 26, 2009 at 8:46 pm |

    I certainly hope no one took my earlier comment as being any sort of a judgement on others choices.

    I’ll cop to the heterosexual privilege in it, and the heteronormative privilege in it as well, but I wasn’t judging anyone.

    All I wanted to point out was that the social complexities surrounding a name are more than merely paperwork, and have a deeper implications in terms of family, which lies far deeper than any level of governmental and other influence can reach in the US culture.

    What really is more important, and far more telling, is the statistical point of half of America thinks it should be a law. Is that the masculine half? A mix — and, if so, what other demographic factors fall into that mix?

    Is it a religious divide, or a subcultural one ( Southeast, Northwest, West, etc.)?

    Reading through the responses here thus far, one thing that strikes me deeply is everyone is speaking to their own, personal, valuations of this subject — personalizing it and linking it to the zero sum game of identity.

    Maybe its me, but I sorta look for more.

    The reactions mean this is a serious and important topic — and therefore worthy of slightly less personalized and yet ever so passionate discussion without the personalization.

  143. Lauren
    Lauren October 26, 2009 at 8:57 pm |

    I’ve been thinking of writing a post on What a Feminist Marriage Looks Like, but didn’t want to go around all patting myself on the back for Getting Married While Feminist, esp. since it’s such a politically loaded subject and I hate talking about the ins and outs of marital life knowing that the privilege isn’t available to so many couples in love. But I do think it’s something worth looking into, precisely for the reasons that are mentioned in the comments here: families are loaded subjects, and we make choices inside and outside of our families that are wholly dependent on our circumstances regardless of our want to conduct an ideal relationship.

    I wanted to get married not only because I was In Lurve, but also because I wanted a legal cushion being a single mother with a litigation-happy babydaddy in Indiana. I wanted to be able to extend some of my healthcare options to my partner, whose employment circumstances will likely never afford him insurance (without a public option). I wanted, if we were to share money, for the consequences to extend both ways. I wanted a small wedding, and we ended up in the county courthouse exchanging devotional, areligious vows. Our “reception” was a nice dinner with our immediate families present. I’m two years married now, and the breadwinner for the family. We have to work to balance and mitigate inequality in our relationship due to gender and earnings and housework and parenting responsibilities. Also, I kept my own name.

    I kept my own name, but I also had a feminist sister who brought up the subject in the first place, so that by the time I was old enough to even have a crush I knew that when or if I did get married, it was an option. I also saw the irritating administrative issues she dealt with so that it wasn’t such a surprise when it came around to me. Because I handle all the financials and insurance stuff, Chef gets called by my surname more than the opposite. I’ve only gotten shitty about it once, when a coworker who was particularly pushy about my surname got in my face one too many times, insisting that it meant I wasn’t “serious” about getting married, I pointed out that whether or not she changed her name didn’t seem to factor into her divorce.

    I don’t think I’ve yet been called a Mrs.

    I’m not usually uptight about it, so when people slip or stumble I correct them with a sense of humor: “All three of us have different last names. It’s okay, just think of our poor mailperson.” And while Chef’s parents are a little wistful about it they’ve never judged me. I’ve been really lucky, but I also have the folks ahead of me blazing trails so I do have a more painless option to remain somewhat independent of social mores if I choose.

    IMHO, instead of making it about the individual, think of how fucking creepy it is that around 50% of Americans think it should be a legal requirement that a woman subsume herself to her husband. Think twice if you think it’s in name only.

  144. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 26, 2009 at 9:18 pm |


    I’ve never wanted to change my name. I’ve never given much thought to women that do, under the heading of ‘None of my business.’ And yet, I get annoyed with women that hyphenate, because that just strikes me as splitting the baby. It’s fence-sitting. It’s trying to conform to two opposing forces. It’s (worst of all) inelegant and miserable to apply uniform alphabetizing rules to: some Ms. Smith-Joneses insist on being found amongst the ‘S’s, some amongst the Js.

    Agree on the hyphenating thing. Just my own opinion, but it’s super-annoying if your job in any way involves keeping track of records, accounts, customer profiles, etc. And yeah, in general I see it as a way to sit the fence. Even being a fan of a woman taking her husband’s name as I am, I would much rather the hyphenated wives just keep their own maiden names if they can’t bear to part with them. Sing or get off the stage, as they say.

    Of course, If you’ve hyphenated and you’re happy and it works for you and doesn’t result in more complications across the board…then more power to you lol.

    (btw–This is the first time I’ve tried to post a quote using the little xhtml tags you have listed, so please excuse me if I’ve messed it up and it doesn’t turn out right this time.)

  145. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 26, 2009 at 9:21 pm |

    Ok sorry, it did come out wrong. The first paragraph of my last post should have been credited as a quote from benvolio, from post 84.

  146. Charity
    Charity October 26, 2009 at 9:26 pm |

    Ok, thanks all, for the info on the paperwork issues, but it still sounds like it is largely a matter of paperwork at the time of the ceremony itself? I would still argue that overall and on an ongoing basis, given how many systems we interact with to get our needs met (whatever they may be), there is less paperwork involved in keeping one’s name.

    This is a digression of course, and I want to acknowledge that and return to what Sheelzebub, Lauren and others have been saying, about the statistics and their implications.

  147. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 26, 2009 at 9:45 pm |

    Rachel II: I see marriage as being about mutual ownership. As in, my body is no longer mine, but his; his body is no longer his, but mine. Two becoming one.

    I have absolutely no problem taking my fiance’s name. I’m happy and proud to do it because, as I’ve said, I DO belong to him now and I want our family to share a common name. But I would never in a million years try to rationalize that it’s a “feminist” thing to do. I don’t think feminism has aaanything to do with a woman taking her husband’s name.

  148. Bill
    Bill October 26, 2009 at 9:58 pm |

    “really oppressive and complicated social structure”
    I’m glad you mentioned this. The structure is completely anti-feminist, but an individual choice is anti-feminist only to the extent that the maker of that choice really has the option to make a free choice. If there are large penalties for making a certain choice, the choice is no longer a real choice. In the long run, it would be responsible for women to weigh the trade offs of striking a blow for feminism by keeping their name vs. being hit with the social opprobrium that can accompany that move, but I would be very careful about judging a woman for deciding that the balance of that trade off for her lies in taking on her partner’s name.

    It’s sad that woman were keeping their names back in the 70′s, and I’ve heard that it seemed at the time that 30 years later, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning that a woman kept her name. But on the contrary, it seems that many GenYers look at a woman’s keeping her name as a quirky old hippie thing, like bell bottoms and flower power.

  149. polerin
    polerin October 26, 2009 at 9:58 pm |

    Women cannot automatically change their name through marriage as the norm is usually in other provinces/states or countries usually can. For a person to change their name in Quebec, it is not done through the act of marriage but rather the legal process of changing your name. It also illustrates that if the bureaucracy does not permeate the action (women changing their names through marriage) then how little demand or requirement there is for women (or people) tochange their names. People have indicated that a lot of women wouldn’t be changing their name (even if their current surname represents negative things etc) if they weren’t getting married. This policy in Quebec removes the social norm of women changing their name but if people do wish to change their name, they can do the paperwork and change it legally.

    And here I think we have the first concrete idea of what can be done to help fix the problem. Awesomeness.

    You can say whatever you want about your *relationship* but your marriage has been *defined* by federal and state law and millenia worth of history before you ever entered into the equation.

    And this never changes? Pht. This is a sidetrack anyway, and you still didn’t acknowledge the real point of the whole argument. That you’re telling everyone else that You are doing it Right (for loose values of Right), and that everyone who is getting married or changing their name to their partners is doing it Wrong. In other words, you’re still. blaming. women.

    Again…. you’re not trying to find ways to remove social pressures, or educate, or work through the bureaucracy… you’re blaming women. Because they aren’t performing the way you want them too.

  150. Lauren
    Lauren October 26, 2009 at 10:03 pm | *

    Paperwork-wise it’s a pain in the ass to change your name, between the Social Security office, the DMV, insurance, work, credit cards, bank, etc. It’s not like there’s some easy blanket way to do it.

  151. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 26, 2009 at 10:07 pm |

    Coffeegirl: Forget all the women who think changing their name should be personal and do end up changing their names, you actually favor a woman taking her husband’s name across the board? I think we can all agree that is patently unfeminist.

  152. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler October 26, 2009 at 10:08 pm |

    Lucy Stonerism makes me think of the junior senator from New Hampshire. Who should not have changed her name, IMO.

    But that’s an aesthetic opinion. I am a Lucy Stoner, because if we didn’t have the tradition, who would suggest it?

  153. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 26, 2009 at 10:31 pm |

    Do I strike you as that unwilling to turn my critical eye upon myself? Yes, Polerin, I absolutely think that I am correct and the vast, vast majority of women who change their name is wrong. I’m fully aware it makes me an egotistical maniac and I’ve made peace with that mainly by keeping my opinions tightly to myself in real life where people don’t want to hear feminist bullshit and letting it out in places that encourage feminist thought. Furthermore, as I mentioned, my truths are based the decades’ worth of feminist theory.

    [quote]In other words, you’re still. blaming. women.

    Again…. you’re not trying to find ways to remove social pressures, or educate, or work through the bureaucracy… you’re blaming women. Because they aren’t performing the way you want them too./[quote]

    Yes, I’m still blaming women. The women here who have changed their name likely had the resources to *not* change their name. In fact, so many people have said that their husbands/family didn’t care and yet they [i]still[/i] did it. Because they “chose” it and that makes it okay. If I don’t blame these people, the self-identified feminists who [i]understand[/i] this shit, who do you suppose I blame? If the loudest, crankiest feminist still changes her name upon marriage to her husband’s name because “her name is only her father’s anyway, and he was mean”, then what trend can the more timid feminist point to for support if she wants to keep her name simply because she [i]likes[/i] it?

    That’s part of the “elimination of social pressure” upon women to change their names, too. If more feminists were concerned about being overtly, harshly judged by fellow feminists, perhaps more would stop changing their name. The more feminists who don’t change their name, the more non-identified feminists will stop. And maybe we’ll see a decrease in the 70% of people who think a woman should change it at all.

    Yes, of course you ultimately have to do what makes you happy because you have to live with those results. Having an abusive husband/family who are compelling you to change your name and it’s not worth the fight is one thing. But I expect more from feminists in terms of living by example and making things easier for future women.

  154. polerin
    polerin October 27, 2009 at 12:08 am |

    Rachel II:
    You keep diminishing the voices of the people here, and reducing them to an easily dismissed strawman. Lissa, my wife who I talked too when she got home, reinforced the fact that she hated her old name, didn’t feel like her mothers pre-marriage name fit her, and she liked my family name. It’s not just “oh It’s just my fathers and I hated him.” It’s that she identified more with my families name than she did with her own, because she felt far more in tune with my family than her own. Going back, she chose to take it rather than to go with a completely different name (apparently I offered, though I don’t remember this) or to keep her name. Which I also made sure she knew.

    She was not happy with her name. period. She liked what my name stood for.

    Why should she be unhappy? To provide an example to someone who will likely never know her? Pht.

    I’d rather she do what she does… stand up proud every day and demonstrate that women are competent, fierce, and independent. This is something that everyone can see from her, and doesn’t require her to deny who she is for negligible gain.

  155. polerin
    polerin October 27, 2009 at 12:11 am |

    Rachel II: You would rather castigate women for not behaving as you want than to provide solid workable steps like removing the automatic change of name on marriage, or even better, the ability to change your name through the marriage process.

    Are there any other things that can be done to help change the trend?

  156. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 27, 2009 at 12:20 am |

    Apparently calling out people for adhering to an antiquated system/way of thinking is out of line so then no, I would say there’s nothing we can do change the trend. It’s way too easy to tread water.

  157. vickTM
    vickTM October 27, 2009 at 1:53 am |

    Hey, Rachel, what’s the problem? All the people disagreeing with you are only saying that it’s mere coincidence that most women change their names upon marriage, but men rarely ever do. And that we’re in a post-feminist society where such an itty-bitty decision, formed in a vacuum, is totally meaningless.

    Well, I’m off to do some housework. I seem to do far more than 50% of it, but it’s just that I have a higher standard of cleanliness than my husband does and has nothing to do with gender roles. Then I’ll do my pre-bed face washing and moisturizing ritual. My husband just jumps right into bed without any such fuss, but it’s got nothing to do with unequal beauty and hygiene standards for men and women. Then I’ll get ready in the morning for my traditonally female job that I sort of ended up in, because I had little confidence in my intellect or abilities as a young person, a feeling that was totally divorced from any sexism I may have encountered in growing up.

    I’m really happy for all the independent women here who took their husband’s name. They really chose their choice, free from any societal expectations or pressure. It’s good when women know their place: utterly incomplete until marriage, unable to go through a legal name changing process for a name they loathe until a man gives them a better name. Sets a good example for their daughters, too: they have their daddy’s name, their mommy took their father’s name, and they’ll know from a very early age that their last name is merely loaned to them and not their own. And it shows them that little battles that might be inconvenient or socially disdained are not worth fighting for, and that it’s very, very important to cater to male egos and sense of entitlement. This knowledge will serve them well when they, too, decide some day that they don’t like daddy’s name, never have, and want something “more unique” “less ethnic” “not as hard to spell” “not as common” or whatever amazing property their future husband’s name will have that their father’s name (otherwise know as their loaner name) doesn’t have. It’s best women learn to capitulate in the little things, isn’t it? We are the empathetic, nurturing, cooperative sex, so yielding and amorphous we don’t name our offspring after ourselves or own our surnames.

    *(Of course, I’m not talking about any of the women here who are very special and only changed their name because their birth name was too unique, too common, too ethnic, not as pretty as his, too hard to spell, difficult to pronounce, or they didn’t like their dad anyway – you’re all very, very special exceptions. You didn’t change your names because you’re women! You just happen to be women who do exactly what women are told to do!)

  158. Joanne
    Joanne October 27, 2009 at 3:22 am |

    Jha’s comment is interesting – this is a very Westcentric conversation, as practices change throughout the world – even within the West. For some it just is not a feminist point of issue.

    Not making a judgement on the validity of the conversation, just saying it strikes me.

    It is an important conversation. I’m not married, it may happen with current boyfriend, but I already have been questioned when I’ve said I won’t change my name. I also don’t like how I feel I have to amass a load of reasons why not to change my name – I’ve started on my academic career and will be published, can’t change my name! I don’t need reasons to keep something which is my own, but if it came to it, having reasons would be more accepted by other people (inc. family I suspect) than just saying “I don’t want to change”

    Last week I seemed to upset an academic friend who changed her name upon marrying, when I ranted about how another academic’s name change had confused me for months when trying to search for her published work online. I had believed that two names I needed to read were two different people, and thinking that I needed to search under [married name] for one of their’s work I had never been able to find anything. And I very nearly looked very stupid in front of said academic’s old PhD supervisor (senior prof in my dept) by talking about the two names as though they were different people. When it dawned on me I felt frustrated that I’d wasted months not being able to find the work. My friend thought this frustration was also aimed at her, as a name-changer. I felt like I had to dig myself out of a hole, but it wasn’t personal…perhaps it showed how tetchy she was about the change…

  159. Ellid
    Ellid October 27, 2009 at 6:03 am |

    I didn’t change my name and have no regrets. My ex-husband was very supportive, and actually told me that he didn’t *want* me to change my name if I didn’t want to.

    Weird irony: when he dumped me and remarried a much younger woman, she changed her name. No idea why, but it seems he’s not nearly as progressive as he likes to think he is.

  160. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 27, 2009 at 6:45 am |

    Jennifer said: “Coffeegirl: Forget all the women who think changing their name should be personal and do end up changing their names, you actually favor a woman taking her husband’s name across the board? I think we can all agree that is patently unfeminist.”

    Well I certainly don’t support the law the post talked about, if that’s what you mean. I’ve never heard of such a law before this blog post, and if it’s a real thing and not just a strawman….I don’t know anyone who would support such a thing.

    Just in general, Yes…across the board I do think it’s a good custom and I’d support all wives doing it. As long as they wanted to. I support any kind of (IMO harmless; even laudable) tradition that supports kinship and family unity.

    (p.s. is there anyone who’d be willing to take a moment and show me how to post quotes that’s you’re replying to? I tried it on the last post and messed it all up somehow.)

  161. mrsL
    mrsL October 27, 2009 at 7:19 am |

    My dad was a hot mess, so I had no problems taking my husband’s name and now it is truly my name as well. My sister did something interesting. After her divorce she dropped her ex-husband’s name, skipped her maiden name and went right to mother’s maiden name, which I thought was a nice nod to our grandfather who did so much for us when we were growing up.

  162. liz
    liz October 27, 2009 at 7:20 am |

    I changed mine because I hated my (very unusual) original last name, and I longed for the anonymity of “Miller”.

    But I do realize that by changing, I made it more difficult for others to make the decision to keep their original family names. And for that, I am sorry.

  163. Natalia
    Natalia October 27, 2009 at 7:38 am |

    When the respondents were asked why they felt women should change their name after the wedding, Hamilton says, “They told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family. This was a reason given by many.”

    This makes me curious as to

  164. Natalia
    Natalia October 27, 2009 at 7:53 am |

    Wow, what happened to my comment? It got butchered somehow. OK, am going to try this again:

    When the respondents were asked why they felt women should change their name after the wedding, Hamilton says, “They told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family. This was a reason given by many.”

    That makes me curious as to how that study was conducted.

    Do I think they’re pathetic, silly, and contributing in a larger way than my mascara does to continuation of the patriarchal culture that demeans us all for being women? Abso-fucking-lutely.

    Rachel, I genuinely do not understand the practice wherein feminists get together and say things like, “you see, my unfeminist behaviour is better than yours, because…” And I’m one of the most frou frou, miniskirt-happy feminists you’ll ever meet, who loves her last name and its history and woldn’t change it. You might argue that it’s all a question of degrees, but I see it as personal affirmation at the expense of someone else, and not at all constructive or useful in the grand scheme of things.

    To those using their non-existent/poor/horrible relationship with their father as a reason to change one’s name upon marriage: I’ve heard this suggestion mentioned before on various feminist blogs when this discussion invariably comes up, but why don’t you change your name earlier than waiting around until whenever you get married?

    Jennifer, I can only speak for a few friends – but I think that viewing falling in love as a transformative event plays a huge part. I would argue that in many cultures, more women view it as transformative than men do – and patriarchy plays a part in that, as well as the more general, but no less tricky idea that women “should’ be more heavily invested in relationships by virtue of being able to get pregnant. I would also add that I don’t think there is a single overriding motivation for changing one’s name.

  165. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 27, 2009 at 8:25 am |

    If family unity is the goal, why not have men change their names?

    I had no idea that even questioning things was so horribly offensive. VickTM is right–it’s all a huge coincidence that it’s women who change their names (even though their husbands may be totally willing to change theirs or have no problem with them keeping their names). It’s also a total coincidence that we do more of the housework, are expected to be attractive, and are supposed to be sexeee yet virginal all at once.

    No patriarchy here, move along!

  166. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 27, 2009 at 8:33 am |

    Also, if you want to change your name, it’s free if you do it when you get married. It costs money to do it at another time. So I can understand why women who hate their dads wait until they get married to change their name. What makes no sense is why the same is not true of men. Why aren’t there hordes of men who hate their fathers, find their own names to be difficult to pronounce, too ethnic, don’t sound good with their first names, too boring, too low in the alphabet, not a good name for doing business, etc, etc, and take the opportunity of their marriage to change it, for free? (Yes, in California you couldn’t do that until recently, but a man sued for that right and won, and in most states a man can legally change his name on marriage as easily as a woman can.)

    As I said earlier, every woman who changes her name for a “good” reason undoubtedly *has* a good reason, but the reason she can act on her good reason and men can’t is patriarchy. Look, when I was 16 and my grandfather insisted that my brothers help him rake the leaves and mow the lawn, and I got to stay inside (whereas my more feminist mother made all of us wash the dishes), I knew I was taking advantage of sexism for my personal benefit, and I felt bad about it because women should have to mow lawns too if men have to wash dishes, but I didn’t feel bad enough about it to go mow the lawn. That being said, now I don’t know how to work a lawn mower. So I took advantage of patriarchy to get out of doing a chore I didn’t want to do, and now I lack a skill most men have. That’s how it works. You take advantage of patriarchy to get what you want, but it finds a way to bite you in the ass in the end.

    So you have a perfectly reasonable reason why you changed your name. Why not? It’s your name, do what you want with it. But why didn’t your brother change his name to his wife’s? You are using a patriarchal tradition to get what you want — a free name change or a sense of belonging to a new family — but it *is* a patriarchal tradition, you *are* making it problematic for other women, and you may well be creating problems for yourself down the line (I can’t tell you how many women I know who married in their 20′s and COULD NOT WAIT to change their name back after they divorced in their 30′s. But *that’s* not free.)

  167. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 27, 2009 at 8:45 am |

    (I can’t tell you how many women I know who married in their 20’s and COULD NOT WAIT to change their name back after they divorced in their 30’s. But *that’s* not free.)

    Yep.

    In addition–isn’t getting married kind of, um, expensive? Most folks do tend to go the whole fancy wedding reception route. It’s way more than a $1,000.

  168. Courtney
    Courtney October 27, 2009 at 9:21 am |

    I just got married, and what’s funny is that my new husband teases me for being so “political” about not changing my name. He didn’t care either way, and even came up with a combo of both of our last names to give any future children. But he always calls me out for making a big deal about not changing my name. Perhaps he is more confident in me doing what I want than I am.

    I was surprised at first that this issue even generated this much controversy, but I guess it is still a “big deal.” My hometown newspaper failed to print the line “the bride is keeping her name” in our wedding announcement.

  169. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 27, 2009 at 9:30 am |

    But he always calls me out for making a big deal about not changing my name. Perhaps he is more confident in me doing what I want than I am.

    If it is no big deal to him, why does he call you out for it? Of all the things to be called out for, keeping your birth name doesn’t even come near the list.

  170. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie October 27, 2009 at 9:33 am |

    I wish I hadn’t changed my name. I am still married, but the older I get the more I regret having done so. The worst part? I didn’t change it until two years after we were married. Because I wanted to try and please my totally un-please-able mother in law. Stupid. But I was so afraid of her and had the self-esteem of a worm back then, and wanted to try and make her like me.

    I’m thinking of going back to my original name. My husband says, “I was really surprised you changed it in the first place.”

    So yeah, it’s a fraught issue, and steeped in patriarchy. Like everything women do.

  171. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 27, 2009 at 9:40 am |

    “Rachel II: You would rather castigate women for not behaving as you want than to provide solid workable steps like removing the automatic change of name on marriage, or even better, the ability to change your name through the marriage process.”

    There is no automatic change of name once a woman gets married. At least not in the U.S. where I gather many of the commenter’s are from. It’s easier for a woman to change her name when she marries, but it does not just occur automatically. And if anyone took away a woman’s right to change her name through marriage, then everyone would be up in arms about women being denied their right to decide for themselves.

    So, tell me, if women have the free choice to decide whether or not to change their name, why shouldn’t they be held responsible if they do?

  172. Cate
    Cate October 27, 2009 at 10:29 am |

    This is a great post. When my husband and I first got engaged, I agonized for months about whether or not to change my name. For a while I was going with the “but it’s my choice, and my choice is to change my name” thing, before I realized that 1) I hated his last name and he did, too and 2) I didn’t want to change my name. It felt strange. Then for a while we toyed with him taking my name, but that didn’t feel right, either. We both had very Germanic last names that sounded just terrible together, so hyphenation wasn’t an option for us, either. I considered just keeping my name, but worried about what to do when we had children. My mom kept her maiden name, but my sister and I received our father’s surname, and that just always felt wrong to me. I didn’t want our children to be “just” his or “just” mine in terms of names. So eventually we picked an entirely new name and we both changed it. Now our daughter has our last name. His parents were mad at first, but they knew we were going to do it whether they liked it or not, so they got over it, and no one’s had the guts to criticize our choice. Sometimes I feel bad because I know people probably assume I just took his name, but it’s nobody else’s business. We’re both very happy with our choice, and that’s all that matters. After the fact, some of our friends approached us very positively and said we’d inspired them to do something similar when and if they got married. It felt really good to be a harbinger of change, pretentious and narcissistic as that sounds. :-)

  173. Natalia
    Natalia October 27, 2009 at 10:32 am |

    You know, what I really liked about Jill’s post was that it was honest – and I think it could have potentially generated discussion on how do you express discomfort with someone else’s behaviour or philosophy, while allowing them the same measure of dignity, and not humiliating them or making them feel unwelcome in the process. How do we mesh together while keeping some practical goals in mind?

  174. polerin
    polerin October 27, 2009 at 10:32 am |

    Coffeegirl… uh…. laudable? Why? and why is it a woman’s responsibility.

    It is an important conversation. I’m not married, it may happen with current boyfriend, but I already have been questioned when I’ve said I won’t change my name. I also don’t like how I feel I have to amass a load of reasons why not to change my name – I’ve started on my academic career and will be published, can’t change my name! I don’t need reasons to keep something which is my own, but if it came to it, having reasons would be more accepted by other people (inc. family I suspect) than just saying “I don’t want to change”

    You shouldn’t have to have a reason, and it sucks that you get questioned.

    Coming back to this after a night off of it, it really strikes me how bad the straw-man arguments here are. Very few people in this thread have been talking about how it’s just “their father” as a reason, and all the arguments scolding women who have changed their names rely on blatant characterizations of opponent’s stances and mockery. feh.

    I’m done with this thread, but I’ll leave a final statement for you to cherry pick and mangle in my absence. These are not statements of ultimate Truth, but rather the points I was trying to make.

    1) The number of women in the US who change their names to their husbands shows that there are societal pressures in play.
    2) The fact that men are not pressured to change their names, and in fact are shamed if they do so, shows it is still a patriarchal defense of “manhood” or the lessening of womanhood.
    3) Legal and social methods have been shown to have an effect on rates of name changing(see comment #152).
    4) I have not seen any indication that the longstanding tactic of calling out people who change their names on marriage has any effect on the number of people who actively engage in the practice.
    5) I think that the low frequency that this happens on an individual level is why #3 is effective and #4 is not. Calling out is based on fixing a behavior in an individual, but once they’ve changed their name it’s much harder to get them to change it back… if that is even a good idea. Prevention is therefor the key.
    6) Individual women can and do have perfectly valid reasons to change their names, and indeed to choose that of their spouse.
    7) The ideas and rhetoric expressed in the thread have been aimed primarily at “fixing” women’s behavior, and not trying to actually address systemic pressures that lead to those behaviors. I think this is in large part akin to grasping at sand.

    Have fun all, work calls.

  175. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub October 27, 2009 at 12:22 pm |

    The ideas and rhetoric expressed in the thread have been aimed primarily at “fixing” women’s behavior, and not trying to actually address systemic pressures that lead to those behaviors. I think this is in large part akin to grasping at sand.

    Actually, plenty of us have been talking about the systemic pressures that inform and influence these choices and behaviors, but apparently we’re horrible judgmental feminazis for this.

  176. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm |

    I am married and I did take my husband’s name. Yes, I am ‘feminist-’ and ‘liberal-’ minded. It was my choice. I didn’t like my last name and it wasn’t really even my last name to begin with. My family name is Sousa. Has been for generations. When my mom married Terry Challe when I was 5, I took his last name (don’t remember why). I’ve never felt like a Challe. I’ve been a Sousa. And I love the Sternitzky family (hubby’s) and I’d like to be a part of both families. I don’t necessarily believe there is an identity loss upon name change. I am still the same Jennifer Challe/Sousa I’ve always been. Just a different name: a rose by any other name is still a rose. Identity loss and being absorbed into the husband’s life only happens if you let it. I don’t think name-change should be required. Men should be able to choose to take their wives’ names just as much as women should be able to choose to take their husbands’ or keep their own. I knew one man who took his wife’s name and his family stopped speaking to him. Another woman I know kept her name and everyone’s fine with it (probably because his was already hyphenated and it’d be super long). I personally find hyphenated names to be pretentious but maybe they’ve just gotten a bad wrap (sp?) in the media.

  177. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm |

    Coffegirl: You fail at feminism.

  178. this one
    this one October 27, 2009 at 12:40 pm |

    Coffeegirl, just some questions, if you don’t mind:

    Why is this something you want all women to do? I understand that taking your husband’s name is something you want for yourself, but I don’t really understand why you think it’s important for all women to do so.

    If ‘family unity’ is the goal, why not take the woman’s name as the family name, or create a new one? Why do you see a tradition that symbolizes the fact that women historically had no legal status apart from their husbands’ (coverture) once married as not only ‘harmless’, but ‘laudable’?

    You talk about marriage being a union in which both people ‘sacrifice’, but what does the husband sacrifice when the wife changes her name?

    But a woman SHOULD give up her identity to be subsumed under her husband’s, and you think that is laudable and something you want all women to do? What does that say about the woman’s identity?

    The blockquote tag is

    .

  179. this one
    this one October 27, 2009 at 12:58 pm |

    Um, that ended up weird. Obviously tags are not my forte.

  180. Laurie
    Laurie October 27, 2009 at 1:32 pm |

    Ha! I am married to one of those rare men with an abusive father and a last name he didn’t like. Of course, my husband did not wait until he was married to remedy the situation. As soon as he hit 18, he scraped together his money, trotted down to the courthouse, and changed his surname, adopting his mother’s maiden name instead.

  181. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 27, 2009 at 1:41 pm |

    I think this harkens back to the age old feminist adage: the personal is political. Your individual reason for changing your individual name is not that important. Thousands of women who change their names creating culture where some think it should be mandated by law? That turns a personal decision into one with political consequences. Should individual women who change their name be *prevented* from doing so? No, absolutely not. But don’t whine about how we’re not respecting your super unique reason for changing it when the point isn’t whether or not you had a good reason, it’s that you changed it at all. That creates a culture where people like Tinfoil Hattie’s mother-in-law have the social impetus to insist that her name be changed. I think changing your name for that reason is an absolute tragedy and *that* type of social pressure is what I want to alleviate. And in order to diminish the strength of such pressure, women who don’t have that pressure and still change their name should be held accountable for giving people that ammunition.

    Same with professional women who name their accomplishments after their husband. If you want to be taken seriously, don’t give credit to someone else for your work. I have no idea how a person can be offended by something that, I’m sure, they would come here and say “but I super duper chose my choice! It was special and meaningful and I thought about it for *so long* you don’t even know!” Fine, choose it. And realize that the consequences of that choice is losing credibility. If your credibility is that important, then don’t change your name. But I’m not obliged to respect a name change just because women aren’t overtly compelled anymore.

  182. Laurie
    Laurie October 27, 2009 at 1:48 pm |

    @Joanne:

    I also don’t like how I feel I have to amass a load of reasons why not to change my name – I’ve started on my academic career and will be published, can’t change my name! I don’t need reasons to keep something which is my own, but if it came to it, having reasons would be more accepted by other people (inc. family I suspect) than just saying “I don’t want to change”

    I don’t normally get flak from people about keeping my name (except from my husband who still occasionally whines about it after more than 10 years of marriage). But people DO ask, “Why didn’t you change your name?” Which, obviously, frames the issue the wrong way.

    My response depends on my mood and how much I am willing to engage my questioner. Sometimes I just look blank and say, “It never crossed my mind.” Sometimes I shrug and say, “Why would I?” (Then I respond to whatever reasons they give.) If I am feeling more friendly and patient, I spell it out: “Well, I think you are framing the question wrong. I should not have to come up with reasons NOT to suddenly change an aspect of my identity and my presentation to the world. It seems the burden would be on those who think a woman ought to change her name to come up with a good reason for doing so. So far I have never heard any.”

    P.S. The other thing that drives me nuts is when it is suggested that couples should “compromise” on what the woman’s name should be. Gaaah, it’s HER name, it is how SHE is labeled and known to the world. This should not be subject to a compromise, any more than the man’s name.

  183. Cat Faber
    Cat Faber October 27, 2009 at 1:59 pm |

    When I was a girl, I told my mother I was only going to marry a boy with the same last name as me. There were quite a few other Fabers in the phone book; I had checked. When she stopped laughing she said I didn’t have to narrow my choices that much–I could always just keep my name; some women do.

    Fast forward twenty five years; my fiance and I are discussing marriage and I mention that I don’t plan to change my last name to his without reciprocation because I don’t think that’s fair. I put forth alternatives: we could swap last names; we could both change our last names to be the same; we could both keep our last names; we could both hyphenate. He thought it over, acknowledged the fairness issue, said he didn’t think his family (very conservative) would be comfortable with his changing his name, and while he thought the changing our names to be the same option was romantic, on the whole he favored the both-keep-name option. So that was what we went with.

    While I agree there is social pressure for a woman to take a man’s name when she marries (witness the fact that I was nine or ten before I knew there was another way) nobody has so far had the nerve to diss me to my face over it. However it is routine, in situations where our married status matters, to have to introduce ourselves in a way that makes both our married status and our different last names clear; the easiest way to do that is to say, for example: “I’m Cat Faber and this is my husband, Kip Wheeler” Otherwise people assume we have the same name, or assume we’re not married, either of which can be a little embarrassing (Tennessee is *way* conservative.)

    That said, I see a lot of people reacting as if the original post said they were bad people, or unfeminist or something to take their husband’s name. I don’t get it–I read the post as saying that this cultural practice regarding names dates from a time when women were unequal, and I agree. For that matter I think this practice is another demonstration that women are still unequal.

    For example, if I took my hypothetical pet Fluffy to the vet, the vet would check her in as Fluffy Faber. If I moved to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets and had to give Fluffy to the Jones family, at the next vet visit she’d be Fluffy Jones: Fluffy doesn’t have her own last name because Fluffy is property. It’s probably a good thing that Fluffy doesn’t care about her last name, because it isn’t hers, and it isn’t hers because Fluffy isn’t a person.

    I happen to think that society ought to be arranged such that women have our own names which we change about as often as men, for the same reasons as men, because I think that would be a sign that women and men are being treated equally. But I think the name change thing is both a cause and a symptom. So, would treating it be reducing the problem, or hiding it? On the one hand, name changes should be (legally) equally easy for both men and women, and equally easy all the time. That would ensure that we’re not promoting sexism, I think. On the other hand we don’t make the air in the coal mine better by putting an oxygen mask on the canary; surely there must be other productive things we can do that would reduce the name change inequality by reducing other inequalities.

    But I don’t see the original post as saying women who do change their names are bad or unfeminist or something. We all have to swim in the river of the patriarchy; some of us are near the banks, where it’s possible to swim upstream, and some of us are in the rapids, where you just try to keep your feet pointed downstream in hopes you get a minimum of bruises. I’m not going to diss anyone over her strategy, and I didn’t see the original post doing that either. But let’s not pretend there’s no current and we’re all just *choosing* to head toward the sea.

  184. Laurie
    Laurie October 27, 2009 at 2:00 pm |

    What Rachel II said!!!

  185. Laurie
    Laurie October 27, 2009 at 2:00 pm |

    What Rachel II said!!!

  186. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm |

    Isn’t “Because I felt like it” a valid enough reason? Am I not a ‘real’ feminist if I choose to change my last name? It is my decision, how I choose to represent myself. I don’t feel like I should be pressured into justifying why I changed my name and oh what a horrible feminist I am. I am a writer and I plan to publish under my married name (only things published are under my maiden name in university’s lit journal, years ago). I am Mrs. Sternitzky, yes, but I am also Jennifer and Feffer and Teddy Monster and Jen. I am all these things, regardless of marriage. I acknowledge my partner in life and that I have a new family and life with him, but I also know that I am separate, as any wife is. A name change does not make you bound in any way or that it’s inevitable that I will ‘lose’ myself. I didn’t do it because it was a radical feminist statement to defy the rules or feminist rules (if that makes sense). I didn’t do it because I hated my father or didn’t like my last name. I didn’t do it because that’s what women have always done. I did it because I felt like it and there’s no other reason than that. That should be enough for people. What does it matter anyway?

  187. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 27, 2009 at 3:00 pm |

    *Every* reason is a valid reason. That’s not the point. (Frankly, I find your reason much more valid than “I don’t like my dad”. But again, the reason doesn’t matter.)

    The point is that every single time a woman names herself after her husband upon marriage supports the broader societal pressure that views all women’s names as not-their-own. I hate my dad too and people who know I don’t believe in marriage and wouldn’t change my name even if I did, still ask why I don’t get rid of my dad’s name. These are people who like me, like my feminism, and are suggesting it as a polite way to make friendly conversation. The subtext of this polite conversation is that it’s not part of the public consciousness to consider that women have the same connection to their name that men do. Why don’t I change my name? Because it’s on my degrees, my published articles, interviews I’ve given. It’s on my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, driver’s license, car title, bank accounts. Hell, it’s my username for almost every login. Fuck the paperwork side of things, updating my cyber information would be a nightmare alone.

    70% of people think women have the same right to a name that Fluffy in the above example does and take a new name every time they have a new living situation. Women who change their name are explicitly siding with that group of people regardless of whether they simply wanted to change their name or because their name was suddenly too complicated or too hard to spell. And women who don’t want to change their name but don’t have the fight in them to argue with family are caught in the middle.

  188. Cathy
    Cathy October 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm |

    An interesting name-changing scenario recently came up with a friend of mine. She recently had a baby, and isn’t married to her partner. She mulled over the last name of her baby for months, wondering if she should just give her baby her boyfriend’s last name to avoid the wrath of his conservative family; hyphenate the last name because they weren’t married and he’d have the identity of both parents; or give the baby her last name because she isn’t sure if they’ll stay together and doesn’t want to have a different last name than her own child.

    I got to her baby shower and the cake said, in huge letters, “Baby Boy Hislastname.” I was a little disappointed, only because she had confessed her apprehension and that the decision was made to avoid confrontation or trouble, not because it was her decision. At the hospital, they wrote her last name on the baby’s bracelet, which she really enjoyed seeing. It kind of crushed me that she felt like, even though she just went through agonizing pain to give birth to this child, her societal obligation to give the baby his father’s name overruled her inner desire for something else.

    I wonder if it would have been different had the baby been a girl …

  189. KJG
    KJG October 27, 2009 at 3:28 pm |

    Isn’t “Because I felt like it” a valid enough reason?

    What Jill, VickTM, Rachel II, Sheezlebub, and others are asking is for people to consider the situation on a macro-level. It’s not about having a personal “valid” reason. It’s about asking why the majority of women still change their name when they marry.

    It’s about awareness. Awareness of our environment, our reactions to it, and the consequences of those actions.

    I really like how Cat Faber just put it:

    But let’s not pretend there’s no current and we’re all just *choosing* to head toward the sea.

  190. uccellina
    uccellina October 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm |

    What I can’t stand is the self-righteousness oozing from some of these posts – Rachel II’s specifically. I freely admit – and admitted above – that changing my name was not a feminist choice and is not one I would make again. But to say that wearing makeup and shaving your legs are, on the unfeminist salsa scale, “mild,” and name changing is “hot,” and therefore name changers “lose credibility” while makeup wearers and shavers can easily be “on equal footing” with their male partners seems hypocritical and ridiculous to me. The personal is political, Rachel II, you’re right. But patriarchy is institutional and structural, and one form of collusion is much like another.

  191. Laurie
    Laurie October 27, 2009 at 4:55 pm |

    It seems to me that names are a form of expression and communication with others. A woman’s choice to adopt her husband’s name does NOT communicate a rejection of her father, a dislike of her original name, or any other idiosyncratic reason she may have for choosing her name. Rather, it communicates to most people an acceptance (or, at best, an indifference to) traditional symbolism regarding gender roles in marriage. It communicates a willingness to compromise on issues of women’s equality. Maybe that isn’t what is intended, but it is what such a change name conveys nonetheless. (Indeed, I would be reluctant to share any name with my husband, even if he changed his name to mine, because most people would still assume that I took his name.)

  192. Anya
    Anya October 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm |

    Ugh, my ex-boyfriend actually used to say that he thought there was “no point in getting married if the woman wouldn’t change her last name”. Yup, no point in getting married at all. This was always a huge issue for us since I am very adamant about never changing my last name, solely to do with the face that I love my name (as a whole!) and wouldn’t want to lose my awesome last name, especially for something as boring as the last name he had.

    However, what really made me angry about that point of view was the notion that name-changing was the most important part of marriage, especially on the woman’s side. I think what name the newlywed couple will take should be the least important aspect of getting married.

    That being said, I personally have no issue with anyone changing their name when they get married, so long as that’s what they truly want. Like it’s been mentioned, legal name changes are very expensive and a huuuge hassle so I don’t see the desire to do it only because you’re getting married. My brother-in-law is actually thinking about taking my sister’s last name since his is Scott, which is pretty bland.

    I certainly don’t think it’s unreasonable for folks to want their whole family to have the same name, and sometimes they might just have a preference for the male surname over the female. We don’t know, so we can’t be too quick to judge.

  193. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm |

    Uccelina, I’m fed up with being told that I’m a bad person for having an opinion about a highly feminist matter that offends other people. Big deal. Plus, I’m not sure how you can disagree that changing one’s *name* is not more sexist and misogynistic than wearing mascara. It’s more effort, it’s permanent, it hurts other women, it sustains a system of erasure of women’s identities.

    I don’t wear mascara or heels or anything, but those are things that come up time and again on these feminist apologia threads and almost all feminists who share how they conform to the beauty standard all agree that they continue to do it with *extreme* introspection and acceptance and understanding of the patriarchal forces at hand.

    A feminist who names herself and her accomplishments after husband, however, is supposed to be above this type of feminist judgment because she wasn’t forced into it. Whatever.

  194. Perceptible
    Perceptible October 27, 2009 at 6:42 pm |

    FINALLY!!! I am so happy to read this! I have been saying this for YEARS! I even published my thoughts in a local paper and the backlash against me was incredible! I just can’t believe that women still adopt this backwards, sexist thinking, but then turn around and say they want or have equality! Thank you, thank you for writing this!

    And let’s do away with the Mrs. Miss bullshit while we’re at it. Why is a man Mr. from birth, regardless of marital status, but women are Miss until married, then they’re Mrs. and Ms. when divorced? It’s leftover sexism that we’re so used to we don’t question anymore. But do you know that both Miss and Mrs. are derivatives of the word Mistress? Meaning belonging to a man, either father or husband?! Look it up! It’s disgusting!

    Why on EARTH would I change my name? And why on earth, after 9 months of labor, 2 years of getting my body back, and custody after the divorce, would I give my child someone else’s name? I think it should be the law that says women KEEP their names and the child automatically gets the mother’s name. How’s that?!

    Oh, it’s so nice to read something like this. There really are intelligent, forward-thinking women out there! I thought it was a lost cause! So nice to “meet” you!!!!!!

  195. Lauren
    Lauren October 27, 2009 at 6:43 pm | *

    I had a friend who changed her surname within the last year. Because it was unrelated to marriage, she had to pay around $1000 and appear before a judge to explain why she wanted to change her surname and what she planned on changing it to. What occurred to me then, and what is nagging at me now, is how there are legitimate barriers to changing one’s name in the U.S. that just don’t apply to women who are entering marriage.

    There are social reasons why it is socially and administratively easier for a woman, and only a woman, to mark herself Ofhusband during this time and no other. It doesn’t mean it’s substantially less work to do so — and it’s also interesting to me that we have a traditional social standard of wifely name changing that requires women to jump through a lot of costly administrative hoops to meet said standard. You have to apply in person for new IDs, miss work, fill out a ton of paperwork, pay for new paperwork to be filed, etc., and it’s a standard men just aren’t expected to undertake.

    On the flipside, when I got married I didn’t have to do anything to keep my name. I just didn’t do anything at all.

  196. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 27, 2009 at 6:47 pm |

    “But to say that wearing makeup and shaving your legs are, on the unfeminist salsa scale, “mild,” and name changing is “hot,” and therefore name changers “lose credibility” while makeup wearers and shavers can easily be “on equal footing” with their male partners seems hypocritical and ridiculous to me.”

    Where exactly has -anyone- said that women who change their name lose credibility?

    Examples please.

    And I certainly don’t think I can be on “equal footing” with my male partners. High heels, makeup, or not.

    I could be mistaken. But I’m pretty sure that is why I’m a feminist.

  197. TheThomas
    TheThomas October 27, 2009 at 7:01 pm |

    #25 “We should all make sacrifices for the people we love. But, wow, how not remotely surprised am I that men never think to do that.”

    @#…kind of insulting…

    For me this topic is interesting only because it gives insights into others thinking patterns. I couldn’t be less attached to my name. I’m not sure how a person can become attached to a name chosen for them before birth. Kind of like prearranged marriage I guess; sometimes what you got suits you, but I would think most of the time it wouldn’t.

    If you don’t like having your fathers name, why do you wait ’til marriage to change it?
    If you want to change your life, or start a new one, why do you think you need to change your life to do that?

  198. TheThomas
    TheThomas October 27, 2009 at 7:04 pm |

    #25 “We should all make sacrifices for the people we love. But, wow, how not remotely surprised am I that men never think to do that.”

    @#25…kind of insulting…

    For me this topic is interesting only because it gives insights into others thinking patterns. I couldn’t be less attached to my name. I’m not sure how a person can become attached to a name chosen for them before birth. Kind of like prearranged marriage I guess; sometimes what you got suits you, but I would think most of the time it wouldn’t.

    If you don’t like having your fathers name, why do you wait ’til marriage to change it?
    If you want to change your life, or start a new one, why do you think you need to change your life to do that?

  199. uccellina
    uccellina October 27, 2009 at 7:07 pm |

    Faith – Rachel II said the following, in two separate comments:

    “the difference is I can come home to my partner and take off my make up and my heels and not shave for a few days and we’re on equal footing again.”

    “Fine, choose it. And realize that the consequences of that choice is losing credibility. If your credibility is that important, then don’t change your name.”

    My response to the former is that it demonstrates a basic ignorance of how patriarchy operates, which is to say that women and men are never on equal footing. My response to the latter is that I think it’s crap to say that a woman who has made otherwise feminist choices in her life “loses credibility” when she changes her name. Nowhere do I claim that the name change is or even can be a feminist choice.

    Rachel II: Never said you were a bad person. I can be pissed off at your attitude of superiority and sanctimony without making assumptions about your character. And if your argument is that changing one’s name is wrong because it contributes to the pressure on other women to do the same, I do believe that conforming to the patriarchal beauty standard contributes to the pressure on other women to do the same. And I think that, in the United States (can’t speak to other cultures), the patriarchal beauty standard is at least as damaging as any effect felt from changing one’s name.

  200. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 27, 2009 at 7:19 pm |

    “My response to the former is that it demonstrates a basic ignorance of how patriarchy operates, which is to say that women and men are never on equal footing.”

    I agree.

    “My response to the latter is that I think it’s crap to say that a woman who has made otherwise feminist choices in her life “loses credibility” when she changes her name.”

    I don’t think women who change their names lose credibility as feminists. I do question whether they lose credibility in society’s eyes. Our society pressures women into marriage and submission while simultaneously kicking us in the face for it. So I guess it depends on what Rachel meant by that statement as to whether I agree with it or not.

    “Nowhere do I claim that the name change is or even can be a feminist choice.”

    There are women who do.

    “And I think that, in the United States (can’t speak to other cultures), the patriarchal beauty standard is at least as damaging as any effect felt from changing one’s name.”

    Can’t really agree with that either. Women who engage in beauty rituals do have some ability to remain independent agents, and to be viewed as independent agents. Married women – particularly those who change their name – are really not afforded that right. Changing your name signifies to society that you have not only given up your independence, you have literally surrendered it.

  201. uccellina
    uccellina October 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm |

    “I do question whether they lose credibility in society’s eyes. Our society pressures women into marriage and submission while simultaneously kicking us in the face for it.”

    No argument there, and if Rachel II clarifies to say that this is what she meant, then I’ll agree with that one.

    “Women who engage in beauty rituals do have some ability to remain independent agents, and to be viewed as independent agents. Married women – particularly those who change their name – are really not afforded that right. Changing your name signifies to society that you have not only given up your independence, you have literally surrendered it.”

    Hm. I disagree with this. Women who engage in beauty rituals are perceived as agreeing with the beauty standard. Married women who change their names are perceived as agreeing with the submission standard (for lack of a better term). Of course it’s pure anecdote, but on a daily basis I experience oppression based on the beauty standard from people who don’t even know me well enough to know my name. I don’t feel the same direct effect from having my husband’s last name. AGAIN, I’m not arguing that taking my husband’s name was a feminist choice, and I understand and dislike the symbolic implications of ownership and submission. But if the problem is the effect on other women’s lived experience, I still say that the beauty standard is equally damaging, if not more so.

    And I’m not trying to derail by making this argument. I’m simply saying I resent Rachel’s expressed hierarchy of collusion which places more guilt and responsibility on a woman who changes her name than on a woman who wears makeup and heels.

  202. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm |

    I spoke much too hastily and was getting way too irritated when I said “equal footing on men”. But again, beauty rituals can end at any moment. Walking into a house that is referred to as the domain of the man living there (The Smiths’ residence) puts you at a deeper disadvantage than putting mascara on and taking it off at night. I could be wrong, they could be the same disadvantage, I haven’t work make up in years.

    And I meant that professional women, not feminists, lose professional credibility, not feminist credibility, in their field by naming their accomplishments after their husbands – as Joanne alluded to, when I’m doing research and suddenly that author disappears, I assume she either died or quit researching or lost interest or something. I don’t play feminist purity games and accuse someone of being a “bad feminist” for whatever reason. We all make deals with the patriarchy to survive, but it is a fact that some actions are more sexist than others. If a feminist wants to partake in a tradition that *to this day* exists to wipe out women’s identity, all women, not just hers, that’s totally absolutely fine. I’m not demanding anyone’s feminist card. But you also don’t get to defend that act as being a free choice that doesn’t hurt anyone because your name rhymed with fart and your dad beat you up.

  203. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 27, 2009 at 7:52 pm |

    In and of itself I don’t think taking your husband’s name is “laudable”. I do believe that it’s laudable to allow your family to have the unity and legacy of a common name.

    polerin says: “Coffeegirl… uh…. laudable? Why? and why is it a woman’s responsibility.”

    It’s not just the woman’s responsibilty; I imagine most couples discuss it rather than one person demanding it be done a certain way and the other person “giving in”…(also see my post #126.) That’s also my take on this one says’s comment about it being a “sacrifice.” If it’s really gotta be a sacrifice that HURTS you then maybe you and your husband should discuss other options?

    Personally I love my last name; I’m descended from an awesome historical figure and I have his name. So my fiance and I are planning on giving it to one of our children. I might even end up keeping it as a middle name; not sure about that yet.

    this one says: “Why is this something you want all women to do? I understand that taking your husband’s name is something you want for yourself, but I don’t really understand why you think it’s important for all women to do so.
    If ‘family unity’ is the goal, why not take the woman’s name as the family name, or create a new one? Why do you see a tradition that symbolizes the fact that women historically had no legal status apart from their husbands’ (coverture) once married as not only ‘harmless’, but ‘laudable’?
    You talk about marriage being a union in which both people ’sacrifice’, but what does the husband sacrifice when the wife changes her name?”

    Well I didn’t say that all women should do it. In response to Jennifer asking if I favor all women doing it, I said:

    “Yes…across the board I do think it’s a good custom and I’d support all wives doing it.”

    Look at that comment as still being framed in the context of my opinion being given. Not a pontification on what every woman should do. The second part of the comment follows logically from the first part…if I didn’t support anyone and everyone doing it, then I couldn’t honestly say I really think it’s a good custom, could I?

    To your other questions, it’s basically the same thing I said in my first post. The kid’s gonna have a name, it’s gonna be the wife’s, the husband’s or some combo/hyphenation/”new name” alternative…the latter is, IMO again, needlessly complicated and cumbersome. So that leaves the husband’s or the wife’s name. If the choices are between the two (as they are in my scenerio since I’ve eliminated the combo option– again this is MY opinion) then it’s just going to have to be one or the other. We’re at an impasse, so why not go with what the tradition is? I understand it’s a particularly patriarchal system, but that in itself doens’t bother me at all. Neither does tradition for it’s own sake always bother me. That’s probably the basic issue in which I disagree with most of you.

    This is just how I feel and not a judgement (positive or negative) on anyone who does the same or does different.

  204. Cleveland Lass
    Cleveland Lass October 27, 2009 at 7:53 pm |

    Anecdotally:
    At age 8, I looked my mother in the face and said “I’m never changing my name for a boy!”

  205. Dianne
    Dianne October 27, 2009 at 9:23 pm |

    This whole debate strikes me as yet another reason not to marry. No one in my family or my partner’s has ever questioned my decision to not take the last name of the man I’m not married to. Admittedly, our kid does have his last name, although her full name is HisSister’sName MySister’sName MyGrandmother’sLastName* HisLastName. She goes by MySister’sName. Weird compromise perhaps, but it works for us. Our hypothetical second child gets my last name.

    As far as the hyphenation issue, one proposal I like is for everyone to take Mother’sName-Father’sName (or Mother’sName y Father’sName like in Spanish or whatever variation on that you like). Then the kid’s take mother’s matrilineal name and father’s patrilineal name. I particularly like this because if used it would give me not one but two extremely unusual last names. No one would be able to spell my last name EVER! (Insert evil laugh here.)

    *Which happens to be a last name which works as a first name as well.

  206. Laurie
    Laurie October 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm |

    Coffee girl,

    I am actually skeptical about your assumption that most couples discuss it, rather than one person demanding it and the other person giving in. I think most couples just take it for granted that the woman will change her name, and it is not really discussed at all. I think in quite a few cases the woman knows she can’t buck the status quo without her family and her future in-laws and her husband thinking she is a total weirdo. I think in some cases the woman has personal reasons for wanting to change her name and takes advantage of the marriage to do it. I think in some cases the couple wants “family unity” and the idea of making up a new name or husband taking the wife’s name is just too weird, so again the status quo wins out.

    I think you are correct that many couples want to express “family unity” through their names. (That is, in fact, my husband’s frequent argument when he asks me to change my name.) But, as I think you acknowledge in your comment at 126, there is really no good way to express family unity without at the same time also expressing thee woman’s subordination. (Even if the man changes his name, which rarely happens, most people will still assume that the woman adopted his name.) So the question comes down to whether you value family unity more than gender equality. In my case, it is more important to my husband to express the former rather than the latter. To me, as a feminist, choosing family unity at the expense of aquiescing to patriarchal symbolism is unacceptable.

  207. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 27, 2009 at 9:31 pm |

    Rachel II, why do you think that taking your husband’s name is “a tradition that *to this day* exists to wipe out women’s identity, all women”…?

    I don’t understand the reasoning that leads to such a conclusion. Similar to the wife being “absorbed” into the husband that the OP mentioned.

  208. Laurie
    Laurie October 27, 2009 at 9:48 pm |

    Coffeegirl @217,

    Just as a practical matter (leaving aside the symbolism for a moment), I actually find it impossible to track down many old female friends to find out what they are doing and get in touch with them. None of them have the same name. If I haven’t kept in touch all along, they are lost to me.

    If an old friend writes a book, wins a prize, wins a big court case, etc., I may hear about the accomplishment but never realize it was her unless I also happen to hear other identifying details.

    Meanwhile, most little girls grow up assuming they will change their names. I think this subtly discourages big dreams. Like it or not, human beings are egotistical creatures who like to get credit for their accomplishments. Little boys get to imagine their names being called out by the sports announcer as they win some athletic feat or the newspaper headlines touting their name when they discover the cure for a disease, or even just their name with the title “President,” “Senator,” “Judge” or “Doctor” in front of it. Little girls, in contrast, simply imagine Doctor ___________ (plug in name of as yet unknown dude). The little girl may not question it but I am sure it affects her thinking.

    And the symbolism is extremely potent. To me, I just can’t fathom on any other way of reading a woman’s name change except through the lens of patriarchal submission. That’s what it has always meant. I don’t see how its meaning has changed at all.

  209. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 27, 2009 at 9:48 pm |

    If over 200 of the most intelligent comments that I’ve ever read on the subject can’t help you figure out how women’s identities are erased, then it’s probably beyond your capacity to understand at this point in your life.

  210. Anna Clark
    Anna Clark October 27, 2009 at 9:49 pm |

    Here’s a feminist etiquette question that I have for you all:

    When I hear about a friend getting married, I wonder if she’s going to change her name. But I don’t want to ask her. Because if she IS changing her name, than I present myself as judging her rather than supporting her. But by not asking the question, I feel like I’m complicit in the the big cultural assumption that wives take their husbands’ names.

    What to do, Feministe peeps???

  211. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 27, 2009 at 9:58 pm |

    Anna, I did this once by total accident but I like it.

    In life, I just assume no one woman, ever, changes her name. (I don’t associate with submissive women so I assume they plan to continue to not be submissive and won’t name themselves after their husbands.) I sent a card to a friend whose wedding I wasn’t able to attend addressed to “FriendFirst FriendLast and DudeFirst DudeLast”. When I saw her soon after the wedding, she said “just to let you know, I’m FriendFirst DudeLast now” and my thoughtless brain-to-mouth response was a genuine smile and “oh, I’m sorry to hear that! Well, tell me about your dress, did you find a decent bra to go with it blah blah blah”.

    So yeah, I mean, just because most women change themselves doesn’t mean I have to change my optimism that women are too intelligent to pull this shit.

  212. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 27, 2009 at 10:04 pm |

    (Should clarify that I am actually a good friend to people and I wasn’t trying to be a dick at the time. She said it in such an apologetic tone of voice that I spoke my standard apology before I actually comprehended what was said.)

  213. this one
    this one October 27, 2009 at 11:58 pm |

    Coffeegirl: “The second part of the comment follows logically from the first part…if I didn’t support anyone and everyone doing it, then I couldn’t honestly say I really think it’s a good custom, could I?”

    No, if you, like most of us, can’t support everyone doing it, then maybe it isn’t a good custom.

    You didn’t say anything about why a wife should change her name as part of the ‘harmless’ costum that promotes the union of marriage, but a husband doing so would mean “what does that say about the man’s identity? Why should HE have to give up his name?!” I still wonder why it’s a horrible thing for a man to give up his name, but laudable to do so for a woman.

  214. styleygeek
    styleygeek October 28, 2009 at 3:11 am |

    In New Zealand, where I’m from, both adults getting married automatically gain the legal rights to use either of the two original surnames. So now that I’m married, I can use my husband’s last name, or my last name, and decide which to use (or both) in any given situation. At any time I can choose to apply for a passport or driver’s licence in either name. I can open a bank account in either name. So can my husband. I really like that this is the case.

    That said, it would be a pain to carry different forms of ID that don’t match in surname, or to try to use one name for e.g. my bank account, and have a different one for my credit card. So I only use my original surname, and not the other.

  215. preying mantis
    preying mantis October 28, 2009 at 6:26 am |

    “In and of itself I don’t think taking your husband’s name is “laudable”. I do believe that it’s laudable to allow your family to have the unity and legacy of a common name.”

    I’m not seeing how daughters jettisoning their family name the second they get married allows either unity or much of a legacy. Unless, of course, the only unity or legacy that counts is a unity or legacy which revolves around or derives from the husband. Also, the idea that any unity worth the name flows from everybody having a common name is a) intensely belittling and b) can go straight to hell.

  216. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 28, 2009 at 8:06 am |

    preying mantis says: “I’m not seeing how daughters jettisoning their family name the second they get married allows either unity or much of a legacy. Unless, of course, the only unity or legacy that counts is a unity or legacy which revolves around or derives from the husband. Also, the idea that any unity worth the name flows from everybody having a common name is a) intensely belittling and b) can go straight to hell.”

    “The “…can go straight to hell” thing is a compelling argument. But my position is really not that complicated. There is an indisputable unity to sharing a common name. I never said or implied that the ONLY worthwhile unity a family can have comes from sharing a common name.”

  217. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 28, 2009 at 8:39 am |

    this one says: “You didn’t say anything about why a wife should change her name as part of the ‘harmless’ costum that promotes the union of marriage, but a husband doing so would mean “what does that say about the man’s identity? Why should HE have to give up his name?!” I still wonder why it’s a horrible thing for a man to give up his name, but laudable to do so for a woman.”

    Somewhere we’re not understanding eachother. :) I don’t remember saying that it’d be a horrible thing for a man to give up his name. I’m saying that the objections you have to a woman giving up her name would have to apply to a man giving up his name as well, if the logic is to be consistent.

    If your logic is consistent then there is no solution– save giving the kids a combo/hyphenated name– that wouldn’t be “unfair” to either the husband or the wife. This is according to your logic that taking a spouse’s last name is unfair to the spouse who is giving up their last name. This is called an impasse.

    Personally, I refuse to give our kids a made-up name and I do want us to have a common family name. So whose name do we get? I’m happy to take my husband’s name and it’s honestly never occured to me that it’s “unfair” or a “sacrifice” for me. So why take his name instead of him and the kids taking mine? (and here’s the fundamental disagreement, I believe): Because it’s traditional in my culture to take the husband’s name. It has never occurred to me to be outraged about this or to have a problem with it, so since I’m happy to do it, why shouldn’t I?

    Now if I DID have a problem with it like many of you do, I’d probably keep my maiden name and not take his name. It doesn’t make sense to do anything that’s going to make you angry or resentful or feel cheated in some way.

  218. Lisa
    Lisa October 28, 2009 at 9:00 am |

    When I got married four and a half years ago, this was one of those big deal/not a big deal issues. On one hand, I loved my last name. On the other hand, I just didn’t see it as a big deal to hyphenate.

    So I did.

    My partner decided not to.

    So, it’s more annoying that people have NO idea how to correctly alphabetize a hyphenated name, fumble with spelling, or ignore the hyphen all together, but overall, it’s MY name.

    And my unborn’s son last name will be my partner’s last name, which i have no problem with. My son’s middle name will be my surname. The way I see it, my name is my issue. Culturally, it holds all that I am, my family, and my upbringing. Names are like stories, and I’ve always loved mine, as lengthy and long-winded as it is! It absolutely reflects the complexity of the bi-cultural experiences I’ve lived through.

    I see the choice as so individualistic and, for me, in-depth, that I am NOT surprised most people do not give it a second thought. I think most people just let it go, like most things, and not give it any time to reflect upon. It’s takes some motivation to think through what it means and to make it YOUR OWN and be comfortable with your choice.

  219. preying mantis
    preying mantis October 28, 2009 at 9:21 am |

    “I never said or implied that the ONLY worthwhile unity a family can have comes from sharing a common name.”

    That’s nice. My position is that there’s bupkus in the way of unity worth the name that derives solely from everybody having the same name. If you take a blended family and assign everybody the same last name, you have neither added nor subtracted a jot to or from the pre-existing unity of that family unit.

    “There is an indisputable unity to sharing a common name.”

    Except that it is disputable. Really, really disputable. Slapping “indisputable” in front of a fact that’s currently under dispute doesn’t actually score 10 points for Gryffindor.

  220. Brenda
    Brenda October 28, 2009 at 10:20 am |

    @ 220 Anna

    I ask. I’ve so far only had one close friend marry and change her name, and when she told me that was what she intended to do, I said “Oh,” and moved on to the next topic of discussion question I had. I don’t need to be supportive of her changing her name. We’re good enough friends and she’s a strong enough person that I can not support her on that choice and our friendship will survive. Besides, she has PLENTY of cultural support for changing her name, so I don’t think my lack of support will send her into some sort of fugue state.

  221. Brenda
    Brenda October 28, 2009 at 11:00 am |

    I’m saying that the objections you have to a woman giving up her name would have to apply to a man giving up his name as well, if the logic is to be consistent.

    This is not entirely true, because there IS a tradition of women giving up their names, and being the property of their husbands, and being given away by their father (whose property she previously was, and coincidentally, whose name she previously used), etc.

    So, when women make the decision to give up their names, they cannot help but contribute in some way to this tradition. After all, you can’t explain to everyone in the world that you really are independent and did think about it, but you didn’t like your name, etc…

    When men make the decision to give up their name, they buck this tradition. Lucky them, getting to be individuals and all. It sucks, but that’s how the pattern is right now. I hope someday there’s no established tradition one way or the other, so every couple really does have to think it over and get make a choice independent of a patriarchal society.

    It has never occurred to me to be outraged about this or to have a problem with it

    Just because it never occurred to you to have a problem with it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem with it. It doesn’t mean there is, either, of course, but since so many intelligent people see a problem with it, perhaps you should consider that we aren’t making it up to “needlessly over-complicate the issue” as you put it in you first comment.

  222. Laurie
    Laurie October 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm |

    You know, I have a much harder time tracking down old female friends than old male friends — presumably because the old female friends have all changed their names. It’s like they have been obliterated and no longer exist. Creepy.

  223. AJD
    AJD October 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm |

    @206:

    That’s not what “mistress” means.

  224. this one
    this one October 28, 2009 at 6:11 pm |

    “So why take his name instead of him and the kids taking mine? (and here’s the fundamental disagreement, I believe): Because it’s traditional in my culture to take the husband’s name.”

    Coffeegirl, it’s traditional in my culture too, and I bet that goes for most of the posters in this thread. In my country women legally had to take their husbands’ names until the mid-’70′s, in fact. As feminists we are questioning whether a historical tradition that meant, quite literally, that ‘man and wife were one person, and that person was the man’ is something worth questioning and analyzing. That’s the fundamental disagreement.

    As for the family unity agreement, I can’t help but think of older women who don’t understand why women would insist on being mrs. Jane Smith instead of mrs. John Smith, as though even that first name signals a unwillingness to be part of the ‘family unity’. I also wonder how this unity fares when it comes to third generations – are grandchildren by a son part of this ‘unity’, whereas a daughters’ children have become part of some other family? Frankly, members of a family are likely to have several different names between them, and it doesn’t mean that they are less of a family.

    #126: “For instance, you quote Laura Hamilton from the Daily News, talking about a study she took part in: “They told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family. This was a reason given by many.”

    Now, I do come from a family and culture where women usually do take their husband’s name. But I’ve heard variations on this conversation about name-changing many, MANY times before, and never once has anyone said anything about wanting to change her name so she can better be “absorbed” or assimilated into her husband’s identity or family”.

    I do think you are missing the entire point of this post – individual women might not feel that they are absorbed into their husbands’ identity, but that is how many, many people approvingly think of them, and moreover, it’s what they think women should be required to do.

    “If you’re looking at this issue as an egalitarian one then there is simply no solution except to toss the whole name-change thing aside. If both take the woman’s name instead, then what does that say about the man’s identity? Why should HE have to give up his name?! [...] But in a family or a relationship, sometimes something has to give. And I don’t think that this is a problem, a tragedy or an injustice. It’s simply the way things are.”

    Something has to give, and it’s not ‘a problem’ that women are the ones required to give. Gotcha.

  225. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac October 28, 2009 at 6:12 pm |

    You know, it’s just as well I’m not heterosexual, because I’d never change my last name to anyone else’s, no matter how much I was in love with them, and if I had a baby, that baby would have my last name. There is no room for discussion in me about this. I can seriously imagine a relationship foundering on the rocks if had fallen in love with a man who had the unreconstructed (and probably unexamined) idea that of course “his” children would have “his” surname. Particularly as I would undoubtedly insist on having the fight over and settled well before I got pregnant.

    One difficulty with arguing about this issue is that while of course a woman who changes her own name to her husband’s name when she gets married is colluding with the patriarchal tradition (especially if she justifies it by claiming that her name is not her own but her father’s, or that she thinks the family should all have the same name).

    But equally, a woman who does that will – almost certainly – have come up with a shiny and personalised rationale. True, it’s made bureaucratically easy in many places for a woman to change her name to her husband’s, but even so, a woman must acquiesce – like consenting to marriage, there does have to be legal consent to change a name. And standing out against the patriarchal trend, and saying “no, my name is my name, and I transmit my name to my children” – it isn’t easy, as the stats cited show. So women do come up with very personal rationales why they colluded with the patriarchal tradition that treated their identity as of no account – and it is impossible, and unjust, to argue with those rationales. (Tempting though it is, as when a woman told me once “I prove my love for my husband by changing my name to his!” and I wanted to ask “So, he doesn’t love you, since he isn’t changing his name to yours?” but resisted. Barely.)

    All one can do is refuse the argument these women are trying to have, to justify themselves, because if they really can personally justify their loss of their name, they don’t need to have the argument, and if their justification is just a rationale for doing the easy thing, as it must be in most cases, they don’t deserve to have the argument.

  226. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 28, 2009 at 6:48 pm |

    Brenda says: “This is not entirely true, because there IS a tradition of women giving up their names, and being the property of their husbands, and being given away by their father (whose property she previously was, and coincidentally, whose name she previously used), etc.

    So, when women make the decision to give up their names, they cannot help but contribute in some way to this tradition. After all, you can’t explain to everyone in the world that you really are independent and did think about it, but you didn’t like your name, etc…”

    There has been a history of that in the world, you’re right. Am I really making this kind of statement to the rest of the world, though, by taking my husband’s name?

  227. KJG
    KJG October 28, 2009 at 8:28 pm |

    @236: YES

  228. KJG
    KJG October 28, 2009 at 8:39 pm |

    Err, let’s try that again.

    @238, Coffeegirl: YES

  229. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan October 28, 2009 at 10:16 pm |

    If I ever get married, it’ll be easy for me to decide to keep my own name (and/or ask him to change his to match.) My family is excellent and I have a lot of pride in my last name/identity, not to mention that it goes quite nicely with my first name. I also plan to have lots of publications by that point and I’ll want everyone to know I did ‘em. :D

    I’ll probably push for our kids (if any) to get my last name as well — it’s a good last name and I want to spread it around. I find it impossible that I’ll find a family I like better than my own (*maybe* his will be “as good” but not better!) so I want to pull more people into my current family rather than marry out of it. :p

    (Also, I just want to cosign the hell out of Rachel II; my mom took my dad’s last name and I’m glad because I like that side of the family a lot better, and I like the name better, and I totally respect her decision, but I’m not going to pretend there was anything feminist about it. And that’s okay, seriously. No need to delude yourself about it.)

  230. Stacy
    Stacy October 29, 2009 at 1:29 am |

    I just want to say that I think it is really dismissive of families that do have different last names from each other that ‘family unity’ is suppose to hinge on everyone having the same last name. You make a family through love and care, not through names. My boyfriend’s family had three different last names between them, and they’re pretty close – in some ways closer than my own nuclear family. Quite a few people I know come from blended households, and they don’t seem to suffer from confusion about who they are related to or who their family is.

  231. Rosie
    Rosie October 29, 2009 at 7:02 am |

    It’ll be interesting to see the impact of the legalization of gay marriage on the naming issue – how same-sex partners handle the name change without the patriarchal influence, historical factors, etc. Maybe it will make it more common to see partners with different last names or make it more encouraged for men to take their wives’ last names.

  232. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 29, 2009 at 8:27 am |

    KJG @ 240: ok, how so?

    Stacy says: “I just want to say that I think it is really dismissive of families that do have different last names from each other that ‘family unity’ is suppose to hinge on everyone having the same last name…”

    Except…that I didn’t say family unity hinges on sharing a common name. I said there is an indisputable unity that comes from having a common name, (the unity being that their name is the same, and a family name) and this is twice now that I’ve been directly misquoted. It’s a simple sentence, and it’s all back there up in post 228.

    (Sorry…that’s just aggravating lol.)

    A certain kind of unity. Not THE ONLY kind of possible unity or the unity that being a proper family hinges on. Believe me. In my own immediate family (which is me, my mom and my brother), it ended up that we all had different last names. Didn’t make us less of family one tiny bit. But we didn’t have the unity a common family name; that’s just a fact.

    this one says: “I do think you are missing the entire point of this post – individual women might not feel that they are absorbed into their husbands’ identity, but that is how many, many people approvingly think of them, and moreover, it’s what they think women should be required to do.”

    I do understand this. But I don’t understand why, because some people have a distrted view, the whole tradition needs to be done away with. What does that accomplish, exactly? Do the people who believe the “absorbed” thing stop believing it? Does the percentage of people who believe it go down? I don’t see how that follows. It’s a prejudiced distortion that OTHER people have. Lots of people in this world have wacked out ideas about all kinds of things. How does this invalidate the entire tradition in your eyes?

    this one says: “Something has to give, and it’s not ‘a problem’ that women are the ones required to give. Gotcha.”

    Who said “required”…? There’s someone adding words to my post again and then refuting the word/concept that you yourself added. That’s called a straw man; and it shouldn’t be necessary in an honest discussion.

    Personally and in my opinion/experience, it’s not a problem at all. If it is for you and anyone else, then (as I said) by all means keep your maiden name.

  233. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac October 29, 2009 at 9:15 am |

    It’ll be interesting to see the impact of the legalization of gay marriage on the naming issue – how same-sex partners handle the name change without the patriarchal influence, historical factors, etc.

    It’s a very heterosexist and US-centric view of the situation, but in practical matter of fact: Most same-sex married couples do not change their name on marriage: some had already changed their surnames to be the same or to hyphenate them. Because they’re both the same gender, no woman marrying another woman has the same kind of social pressure on her to change her surname: no man marrying another man has the same kind of social pressure on him to label his spouse with his surname. There is no tradition involved: there is only personal choice.

    In answer to Coffeegirl’s question, the whole tradition has to be done away with, because once the tradition is done away with, people can decide what they really want, rather than having the decision forced on them.

  234. Salome
    Salome October 29, 2009 at 9:37 am |

    If you want to save the same last name, then why don’t *both* of you (not just the woman) hyphenate and give your kids the hyphenated name? That’s kind of what I plan to do, if and when I get married – to have our name be MyOldLastName-HisOldLastName (or the other order, whatever sounds better) combined.

    And I don’t really care about the whole “well, what’ll your children do” argument about hyphenating. I’ll assume they’re intelligent and creative enough to figure that one out for themselves if and when they get married/have kids.

  235. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan October 29, 2009 at 9:59 am |

    But I don’t understand why, because some people have a distrted view, the whole tradition needs to be done away with.

    …Because it’s a bad tradition, and should be replaced by a better one that gives more than lipservice to equality? People’s view that the tradition calls for women to be subsumed into their husband isn’t “distorted,” it’s accurate; that *is* what the tradition calls for. And if you don’t like that bit, don’t stick with tradition. Why try to redeem something that was expressly designed to oppress women (and, if the 90-95% name change is anything to go on, try to redeem it mostly unsuccessfully) when if can easily be replaced with something new that has none of that misogynistic connotation?

  236. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 29, 2009 at 10:21 am |

    I do understand this. But I don’t understand why, because some people have a distrted view, the whole tradition needs to be done away with.

    Because biologically it makes no sense.

    If last name is used to track lineal descent, descent should be tracked through the woman, because it has biological guarantees (a woman always knows who her own children are) and because currently, children are “packaged” with the mother. As long as we view “mother and child” as a unit, then either “mother and child” can belong to a man, or a man can belong to “mother and child”. When mother and child belong to a man, the decision-making favors the man, and the man will act in his own best interest. When a man belongs to a mother and child, the mother and child unit will do the decision making, and will act in the best interest of mother and child. Children, being helpless, cannot make their own decisions, so the mother will make them, but the mother will prioritize the child because she and the child are a unit. Thus, children’s needs take priority and the majority of people in the family are better served.

    You think I’m talking out my feminist ass here? It’s been proven, time and again, in patriarchal third world countries, that if you lend money to a man, he spends it on himself; if you lend money to a woman, she spends it on her family. The person who will prioritize the family needs to be the decision maker for the family, and needs to be seen as having “ownership” of the family. So if anyone is to change their name it should be the man. Men should be “owned” by their wife and child; wives and children should not be “owned” by their husbands and fathers.

    There you go. A reason rooted in biology, evolutionary psychology and studies of actual human behavior. Giving the man’s name to the wife and child is backwards because humans view mothers as the primary caretakers of children, and if the primary caretaker of the child isn’t the adult making the decisions for the family, the family will not prioritize the child.

    (DO NOT regale me with tales about how your mom took your dad’s name and yet every decision she made for your benefit was approved by your dad, or how your dad sacrificed tons for you. Of course human fathers love their children and want to do right by them, or we would never have developed the custom of human fathers being involved with children at all. And of course there are shitty mothers out there. But statistically, women are more likely to prioritize the needs of children than men are, and this is so in every known society today. Is that biology? Maybe not; every known society today is patriarchal. Maybe if women dominated, they’d be as entitled and selfish as men are willing to be. But in the real world, right now, women prioritize children much more than men do; therefore women should be the boss of the family unit, and the man taking the woman’s name would reflect that symbolically.)

  237. KJG
    KJG October 29, 2009 at 10:22 am |

    Coffeegirl: The answer to your question is all right here in this discussion. I’m not suggesting that you aren’t reading the comments, but I do agree with Rachel II that you just don’t seem to be at a point in your life where you can understand.

  238. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 29, 2009 at 10:29 am |

    BTW, I’m not actually in favor of men taking women’s names, except to prove a point in today’s patriarchal society. I’m in favor of both parties keeping their own name and children either hyphenating or getting the mother’s name (and if they hyphenate, the part they should keep when they give a name to their own child should be the mother’s, for biological reasons mostly.)

    But if you feel like family unity demands that someone change their name… it should be the man. *Especially* in a patriarchal society that tends to consider women less important; if he really loves her, and he strongly believes the family should share a name, he should make the sacrifice of giving up his *own* name, because he has all kinds of other privileges in public he’ll still have even without the name he was born with, and giving up his own name would symbolize his commitment to making sure she is equal to him in society even if he has to occasionally put himself below her in order to lift her up.

    Now *that* would be romantic. Screw a ring; can we convince young girls that the real test of his True Love is if he’s willing to take their names? :-)

  239. Jennifer
    Jennifer October 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm |

    I love that this is the first name change thread that I have ever seen on the Internet where some people actually SAID, “Yes, it’s your choice, but it does hurt feminism if you choose to take his name.” Thank y’all for being honest about it.

    Yes, everyone gets to choose, but think of it this way: is it easier to choose the choice where you might do paperwork, but otherwise everyone happily accepts your choice, smiles, calls you “Mrs. His Property” (because that’s what it REALLY means, people), and la la la, you get to go down the nicely paved and decorated primrose path of Other People’s Expectations, OR is it easier to choose the choice where you don’t do paperwork, but otherwise feel like you are climbing Mount Everest during a storm while everyone around you throws rocks at you for your choice? Isn’t it easier to come up with some kind of explanation as to why it’s easier to take his name than it is to spend the rest of your life arguing with everyone as to why you didn’t? Gee, no wonder things shake out the way they do now.

    I am not kidding when I say that I wish I was gay, because I loathe the whole man-woman traditional dynamic and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life fighting it if I actually get serious with a man again. I don’t want to have to continually argue that I don’t WANT to be Mrs. Hisname, and get called that no matter how many times I ask not to be. I don’t look forward to this At All. It makes me very angry and I don’t think I’m going to be able to let it go if that situation arises.

  240. this one
    this one October 29, 2009 at 12:02 pm |

    Coffeegirl,

    “Who said “required”…? There’s someone adding words to my post again and then refuting the word/concept that you yourself added. ”

    No one is putting words in your mouth; we’re following your arguments to their conclusion. Women have until recently, been REQUIRED legally to change their names, and they still have to face down social and familial REQUIREMENTS to change their name to foster ‘family unity’ – you are arguing some of them yourself in this thread. Just because you are personally happy to do something does. not. mean. that. it’s. not. problematic.

    “But I don’t understand why, because some people have a distrted view, the whole tradition needs to be done away with. What does that accomplish, exactly?”

    Yes, misogyny exists and likely always will to some degree. We still have an obligation to fight against it instead of accepting it. That’s the beginning of accomplishing something.

  241. Andie
    Andie October 29, 2009 at 12:05 pm |

    I am with everyone else in saying that a woman should have the complete ability to choose to use her own name or her spouse’s. It’s completely her choice.
    I just got married this summer, and I took my spouse’s name. Did I ponder this choice a lot, a while before the wedding (like months and months)? Of course! A lot of women who change their name at marriage do seriously consider keeping their names before changing. I know I did. But I also have an awkward last name that I have been teased about since I was very little. I’ve always wanted to change my name, not because I don’t love my father or his ancestry, but I really just wanted a different last name. When my now-spouse and I were engaged, we talked about name changing, and he was completely fine with the idea of me keeping my last name. He didn’t want to change his name to mine because he felt the same way I did about my last name. Hella awkward. So I changed my name legally, but I refused to be Mrs. Man New-last-name. My first name and middle name are completely intact. That’s how I am announced. That’s who I am legally, financially, etc. When people call me Mrs. B, I wonder if my mother-in-law is around. If I liked my name enough, or my spouse liked my name better, he would certainly have changed it.
    He’s a feminist. Really. :)

  242. Brenda
    Brenda October 29, 2009 at 1:51 pm |

    Bagelsan said: I totally respect her decision, but I’m not going to pretend there was anything feminist about it. And that’s okay, seriously. No need to delude yourself about it.

    Jennifer said: “Yes, it’s your choice, but it does hurt feminism if you choose to take his name.” Thank y’all for being honest about it.

    YES! I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days now, and where I’m at with it today is that it is important to consider your own situation honestly and compassionately. Acknowledge honestly that, yes, it’s problematic for feminism to take your husband’s last name, but really and truly, if that is the best choice for you, then have compassion for yourself and do it! Your every single decision doesn’t have to be pre-determined by the causes you support, and being a feminist shouldn’t mean that you have to do things that will make you really miserable in order to support the cause. I mean, it’s important to let the ideals of your cause challenge your own assumptions about what you need (that’s one way to grow as a person), but I also think it’s important to balance your own needs with those of the causes you support.

  243. Rachel II
    Rachel II October 29, 2009 at 2:28 pm |

    “is it easier to choose the choice where you don’t do paperwork, but otherwise feel like you are climbing Mount Everest during a storm while everyone around you throws rocks at you for your choice? Isn’t it easier to come up with some kind of explanation as to why it’s easier to take his name than it is to spend the rest of your life arguing with everyone as to why you didn’t? Gee, no wonder things shake out the way they do now.”

    Really good point. I do want to add, though, that in my experience, most people haven’t “argued” with me about my choices. I get questions about why my partner and I don’t marry or want kids, but those are usually honest, polite curious questions that I usually answer with a smile and “why would I want to?” If they give an honest answer (because you love each other, because children are fun, whatever), then I’ll go into a little more detail about my reasons and we’ll have a conversation about it. Usually, though, people readily accept my “why would I?” answer.

    I don’t know how a person could drag me into an “argument” about it, though, because there is no argument here. I’ve heard it all and nothing they say will change my mind. The few times someone acted like a dick about it to me wasn’t that hard to end with a smile and a “that’s a good point! I’m going over here now”.

    Alara, that was the most brilliant thing I’ve ever read! Thank you for putting that concept into words.

  244. Stacy
    Stacy October 29, 2009 at 3:25 pm |

    @Coffeegirl – Like someone else said up thread, it is disputable unity. After all, my boyfriend’s last name is ‘Johnson’ which happens to be the most common last name in the US. Does he automatically have unity with everyone who shares his last name? No, he doesn’t. I did read your post and the fact that you said that it created ‘indisputable unity’ is exactly what I took issue with – it doesn’t. Families who all have the same last name are not generally more or less unified than families who don’t. Maybe it’s viewed that way by some outsiders, but I haven’t seen that to be true in my own life or in the lives of my friends.

    Not only that, but saying that the woman should change her name for ‘family unity’ doesn’t make any sense, because for all practical considerations, its not like she literally gets kicked out of her family. After all, if having the same name as each other creates ‘indisputable unity’ then having different names would imply disunity. But it obviously doesn’t, and if it did, why should the woman ‘traditionally’ be the one to give up that unity with HER family.

    Also, I was more referring to a general argument that people use for changing their names (or for others to change their name) than referring to exactly what you said. You weren’t the only person here or ever to imply that ‘everyone in the family should have the same name’ for whatever reason, and I think it is not only untrue but disrespectful towards people whose families do all have different last names. Your post made me think about it, but I didn’t directly quote you for a reason. But now I will.

    These are some things that you have said:

    “The way I see it, one family should have one name.”
    “I support any kind of (IMO harmless; even laudable) tradition that supports kinship and family unity. ”
    “I do believe that it’s laudable to allow your family to have the unity and legacy of a common name.”

    Again, I disagree that having the same name creates family unity at all. What actually creates family unity is a lot more intangible than that. As far as a legacy, if both parents kept their names, then wouldn’t there be even more legacy? The kids names could be hyphenated (hispanic cultures do it, and they haven’t collapsed yet) or they could flip a coin or whatever. Anyway, in your posts, you definitely sound as if your saying that other women should change their names because it is traditional and creates family unity.

  245. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers October 29, 2009 at 3:31 pm |

    I don’t want to have to continually argue that I don’t WANT to be Mrs. Hisname, and get called that no matter how many times I ask not to be.

    Nobody calls me that unless they only know me through my children or my husband.

    For instance, if I show up with my husband’s car (legally, his is the only name on the title, because of how bad my credit was when we bought it) and ask for it to be serviced, and they call me Mrs. HisLastname, this is obviously because they don’t have *my* name in their records anywhere. It’s slightly more obnoxious when the school calls, because they *do* have my full name in the records, but they’re busy people and keeping track of parents with different last names than their kids is probably tough. I’m sure there are plenty of stepdads who get called by their stepkids’ last names when the school talks to them.

    But telemarketers calling the house are just as likely to misidentify my husband as Mr. Rogers as to misidentify me. No one who *knows* me makes the mistake of using his last name.

    Well, with one exception. Two of my husband’s friends, the male of whom is our business partner, just got married, and the mother of the bride sent the wedding invitation to Mr. And Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname. I declared, at length, that I couldn’t go to the wedding because I wasn’t invited, and had anyone asked Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname how she’d gotten such an unusual first name, given that it’s traditionally male? Then I didn’t, in fact, go to the wedding. (To be honest, it was five hours away and I couldn’t have easily gotten babysitting and I hate weddings, so I probably wouldn’t have anyway… but there was no chance of me relenting and going, since the invitation wasn’t to me.) But it wasn’t the bride herself who did that, it was her mother, who doesn’t know me and doesn’t know how very, very offensive I find that type of address (that being said, why doesn’t *everyone* know now that it is offensive to use the Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname construction, given that most young women are offended by it even if they take their husband’s name?)

    But no one I *care* about ever calls me by his last name. My mail gets delivered to Alara Rogers without any trouble. Once in a great while someone asks us if we’re married or just living together, but even that’s like once every two years at best. I live in Maryland, a blue state, and mileage may vary elsewhere… but seriously, it is so much less hard to keep your own name, in my experience, than anyone led me to believe. I thought I was going to have to fight all the time and people would constantly be calling me by his last name, but no. It hardly ever happens.

    My advice is, get your name put first on the joint tax return, get your name put first on anything you hold jointly (such as bank accounts), and get your name put first on the car insurance and the utilities and the mortgage. Then when the software inevitably screws up and only shows the first line of the joint name, it will be your name, and they will not mistakenly call you by your husband’s name; in fact they might mistakenly call him by yours. If asshole friends call you by your husband’s name, just go off on a rant in front of them about how fucking offensive it is, and they will go “back away from the crazy lady” and you will lose them as friends, which is good for you because they’re assholes who wouldn’t pay attention to your name, and all your other friends will get the idea that this will seriously offend you and will be careful not to do it.

  246. Jeanne
    Jeanne October 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm |

    I grew up in a non-western society, mostly chinese, malays and indians. Thank goodness this wasn’t a problem. For the malays and indians, children are called “‘first name”daughter of/son of”father’s first name’”, so there is no family name to be carried forward, and no pressure for the wife to change her name. For chinese, our family name comes before our given names, but it’d sound really odd for a new wife to take her husband’s name instead, I’ve never heard of anyone doing it. The closest I’ve come to experiencing this is when a woman is called Mrs. So-and-so in invitations and so on. So it was a surprise to me when I first realised in Western societies ‘name-changing’ actually means going to the registry and changing one’s name. It sounds horrible to me, it’s like losing your identity completely, being only defined all your life by first your father, then your husband.

  247. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. October 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm |

    @coffeegirl “KJG @ 240: ok, how so?”

    :gets a running start and rams head through nearby wall::

  248. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana October 30, 2009 at 1:18 am |

    I don’t know if my mother added my father’s last name to hers. But she did keep her own. Probably a good thing, because now they’re getting divorced. I have both their names and have always hated my father’s name. Not because the name itself is ugly or anything, seen outside of the context I kinda do like it, but it’s a very rare name, and when I use it everyone asks me if I’m related to x, y, or z. And yes to all of them. I am related to everyone with that name.

    For the first many years of my life, I was nothing more than the daughter of my father, and everyone expected me to be good at the same things he were. They weren’t even implicit about it. It usually went: “Oh are you x’s daughter? Cool, do you do so and so as well, then?” And no, I don’t and upon hearing that I do not follow in my father’s footsteps and not being a carbon copy of him people usually did the whole “But why? Your entire family is so talented at these things…” Yes, that’s probably a reason I’m not doing them, even though at some point I wanted to. Being my father’s daughter has effectively made me shun things I really wanted.

    And now that it’s turned out that he’s been abusive to my mum through 42 of partnership (only 25 of them married), I’m mostly wanting to ditch his name completely and keep mum’s name. Unfortunately her name comes from her father, who was also an abusive asshole to his wife, my grandmother, and racist towards the adopted grandkids, and as I grew older gave me feelings of creepitude around him, so I’m considering keeping that name because it’s my mums and then adding my grandmother’s maiden name as my primary last name. ‘Cause I adore my grandmother, who is an awesome and remarkable woman.

    Alara, you’re right about the friends thing. They’re not really friends if they can’t be bothered to get your name right despite repeated clarifications. Right after my boo and I moved in together we got an invitation for birthday or wedding (I forget which), where we were listed as Jem and Boo HisLastName. They didn’t actually know my last name and thus it’s kinda hard to write it. But seriously, we’re not married and they couldn’t be bothered to call us and learn my name. I commented on it, how it was rather annoying that in everybody else’s eyes he and I are just so well-suited that we’re practically already married. He said that it was kinda fun, to which I said: “One, I don’t want to get married for marriage’s sake, two, only children can make me want to go to city hall to ensure their inheritance rights by marriage, three, I don’t want children, four, hence not getting married ever, five, even if we were to get married, I’m keeping my own name.” He still didn’t see the harm, so I tried to explain to him hos disrespectful it was to me, to just completely erase my independent identity. I’m not sure he understood, but at least he accepted that it bugged me and didn’t press the issue. He has a lot to learn yet, but as long as he’s willing to, it’ll probably work out in the end, even if he doesn’t get to put a ring on my finger.

  249. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 30, 2009 at 7:23 am |

    Stacy, I pretty much agree with your post #256.

    Stacy says: “@Coffeegirl – Like someone else said up thread, it is disputable unity. After all, my boyfriend’s last name is ‘Johnson’ which happens to be the most common last name in the US. Does he automatically have unity with everyone who shares his last name? No, he doesn’t. I did read your post and the fact that you said that it created ‘indisputable unity’ is exactly what I took issue with – it doesn’t. Families who all have the same last name are not generally more or less unified than families who don’t. Maybe it’s viewed that way by some outsiders, but I haven’t seen that to be true in my own life or in the lives of my friends.[/quote]

    I haven’t said and I don’t believe that families who have the same last name are more unified than families who don’t, and I didn’t say that having the same name automatically unifies a family.

    I said that there is A unity of sharing a common name. A CERTAIN unity, that unity being the common name those of common blood share. This is an independent fact and doesn’t add or take away from any other kind of unity the family has. That’s all lol.

    I did mention that the people in my immediate family don’t share the same name, and we’re indisputably unified and are no less of a family because of it.
    But we don’t have the certain, particular unity of a last name. Again, just fact.

    [quote]Again, I disagree that having the same name creates family unity at all. What actually creates family unity is a lot more intangible than that. [/quote]

    I would disagree with that as well; I don’t believe that sharing a name creates family unity; rather that there already is a certain unity to sharing a common name. I don’t understand how yall can deny this.

    If there’s no such thing as a unity of a common name, then what’s the point of the 300 replies to this thread? Why are all these people making it an issue or question at all that they either keep their name, take their husband’s name, create a new name, hyphenate, etc? Why even give a second thought to what name your children will have if sharing a common family name means absolutely nothing?

    [quote]Anyway, in your posts, you definitely sound as if your saying that other women should change their names because it is traditional and creates family unity.[/quote]

    You’re correct about my position, but incorrect in that I think women SHOULD do it if they don’t want to. But yeah I’m doing it, and I think it’s a good thing, therefore I’d recommend/support it for any woman. :)

  250. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 30, 2009 at 7:51 am |

    Faith from F.N. says: “::gets a running start and rams head through nearby wall::”

    Um, thanks that was incredibly helpful lol. It was a sincere question. I’ll ask again…By taking my husband’s name, how exactly am I sending a message to the rest of the world that the historical oppression of women is ok?

  251. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl October 30, 2009 at 7:59 am |

    Stacy and all, sorry about post #261. I typed up the reply on my clipboard which has regular [qupte][/quote] tags and forgot to remove them. Apologies for making it harder to read.

  252. Jesurgislac
    Jesurgislac October 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm |

    Coffeegirl asked twice : I’ll ask again…By taking my husband’s name, how exactly am I sending a message to the rest of the world that the historical oppression of women is ok?

    That question has already been answered. You just didn’t like the answer. But no one has any new answers for you, beyond what you’ve already got and didn’t like in this very long thread, so why should people bother to answer you again when you have made clear by asking the question that you’ll pay no attention to answers you don’t like?

  253. Melissa
    Melissa October 30, 2009 at 5:10 pm |

    I’m stuck on should be required by law. Yeah, if that ever happens, I am NEVER getting married. (I’m ambivalent about what I’d do if my partner and I ever got married–on the one hand, he has an objectively awesome last name. On the other, I’ve started publishing under my name, his family is scary conservative, and I already call my partner BY his last name, so it would be somewhat weird. Plus, feminism. I’ve considered changing my last name to my mom’s in the past, but I don’t feel that would be the best choice now that my dad has died, plus practical considerations about publication still apply (I am way too lazy to juggle different names for different purposes!).)

    Also, “What about the children? They will be confused.” WTF. I never, ever thought “Gee, my mom has a different last name, maybe she’s not my mom!” I was never confused. Sometimes teachers called me Melissa [Mom'sname] (because she was the one who did all the pick-ups and drop-offs and so on, and one of us corrected them and I was in no way confused or traumatized.

    Children: not actually stupider than a box of rocks.

    There are many cultures in which it was not (and often still is not) customary for a wife to take the husband’s family name; in fact, it was not standard practice in all European countries historically, either. Yet somehow, those societies did not collapse into a chaos of “ununified” families and “confused” children!

  254. zuzu
    zuzu October 31, 2009 at 2:12 pm |

    Late to the party, as usual, but here goes.

    Where do y’all live where changing your name costs a mint? It’s 65 bucks and the cost of a newspaper notice in New York.

    I knew early in my life that I wouldn’t change my name upon marriage, even though I don’t like my name. To make it even more special, I was given the first name that I have — which is very similar to and singsongy in combination with my last name, with no middle name to break it up — because my parents liked the first name and figured I’d change it when I got married. Because that’s what girls do, of course.

    Mind you, not only did I decide as a child I would do no such thing, but here I am, 41 and never married anyhow. I’ve considered changing my name to either my mother’s maiden name, or something like my great-grandmother’s first name (Bratislava — how cool would that be even if it would totally be jarring with my Irish first name?), but at this point in my life, doing so would create more issues than it would solve.

    AND because it would be done mid-adulthood, the assumption would be that I’d changed my name because I’d gotten married! Because why else would a woman change her last name? If I’d done it, I’d probably have had to have done it at 18 or so, before I started building up transcripts and job history and credit history. But I didn’t even really think of it as an option at 18, and there would have been familial strife which would have been tough to endure as I was still based at home then. So my name-changing window is gone.

    Also, let me co-sign with Sheelzebub, Rachel II and others who have pointed out that just because a feminist makes a choice, it doesn’t mean that it’s a feminist choice. You may feel you have great reasons for choosing the option which just happens to be what the patriarchy has greased the rails for you to do rather than taking the harder path of going against tradition. But having good reasons doesn’t mean that you’re not adding your own grease to those rails, or transform your choice into something feminist.

    I mean, it doesn’t make you anti-feminist, either, but let’s not pretend it’s a decision made in a vacuum. You can acknowledge that you have limited options and are under tremendous pressure to do the patriarchally-approved thing, as are we all, and you can still make the decision that it’s not a battle you particularly care to fight. We all make our capitulations to the patriarchy to survive. Hell, you might even consider that getting married in the first place might be an even bigger capitulation than changing your name.

    Just don’t act like it’s a neutral, meaningless decision.

    I’d say I was surprised by the number of people getting defensive about having changed their names and lashing out at strawfeminists, but then, I’ve seen a lot of these discussions about personal decisions take this tack. Nothing like announcing that you don’t eat meat/don’t want kids/don’t intend to change your name/think engagement rings suck to bring out the defensive reactions of those who think they’re being personally attacked for their own choices.

  255. Karinna A.
    Karinna A. October 31, 2009 at 7:48 pm |

    Anecdote: I live in a very conservative part of the country. I did not change my name. I have only once ever gotten crap for it. Sure, various relatives have sent mail to Mrs. HisLastName, and there was that memorable birthday right after the wedding when my own grandmother sent my card to Mrs. HisName HisLastName. That’s been slowly dropping off, as word spreads that I kept my name. It takes people awhile to get that you made an odd choice, but thus far *knock on wood* it’s only been one receptionist who’s overtly questioned my choice. But then, being the only woman to have kept her name out of the seven married women we regularly socialize with is its own, unspoken kind of…awkwardness, almost pressure.

    Oh, DH reminded me. There was one spectacular incident where I was chosen as “employee of the month” for the temp agency I was working for. They asked for the names of any family members, so I gave the spouse’s full name. The person writing up the blurb somehow interpreted this to mean that not only did I take DH’s name, but that we had a son named “HisLastName.” The resulting article was surreal.

  256. R
    R October 31, 2009 at 9:27 pm |

    Me and my best friend decided in 8th grade that we’d never take a man’s last name as a replacement of our own. In fact, she didn’t want to get married at all – she preferred cats to husbands. That last part changed after she got older, dated a bit, and met the love of her life – something I supported her in. But I was kinda hoping the name part would stick, since I’ve always loved and envied her beautiful last name.

    But her firm convictions gave way to practicality when she actually got married. She confided that she still did not want to change her name, and would prefer not to, but she said her fiance wouldn’t budge. She said it was extremely important to him that she take his name, and he freaked out when she said she didn’t want to “take his name,” so she changed it. Right after the wedding, she changed her name on Facebook, and it made me cringe to see it there on her profile, in direct contradiction to her stated wishes. I intentionally neglected changing her name in my phone for about six months before I finally started to feel vindictive and bowed to the inevitability of the change.

    I still very much intend to keep my own name, though, and I also don’t intend to pick a guy who’d flip out over something like me not wanting to change my name to his. I respect my friend’s decision to give in, I guess, but it seemed pretty evident to me that she had been coerced out of her original, independent, feminist decision. If anything, this has only strengthened my convictions that naming is a political act, and that I won’t ever jettison my last name – hyphens might be cool, though.

  257. Name game « debgpi
    Name game « debgpi November 9, 2009 at 12:48 am |

    [...] Via: The Name Game — Feministe [...]

  258. Little Sara
    Little Sara November 9, 2009 at 4:18 pm |

    @comment 120
    “I think that in the Netherlands there is a new law that *forbids* the women to take their husband’s name. Bravo!”

    @comment 152, here is what the director of civil status says on Quebec province (the org responsible for all legal changes, including marriage, death, birth etc).

    Spouses’ names

    Both spouses keep their birth names after marriage and continue to exercise their civil rights under that name, i.e. they must use their birth name in contracts, on credit cards, on their driver’s licence, etc.

    This rule applies to all spouses domiciled in Québec, even if they were married outside Québec.

    However, women married before April 2, 1981 who were already using their husband’s surname before that date may continue to exercise their civil rights under their married name.

    Sex of the spouses

    In Québec, two people wishing to make a public commitment to live together may form a civil marriage, whether they are of the same or the opposite sex.

    —————

    Note: Civil marriage is *exactly* the same as a religious marriage in Quebec, in every single way (except where its celebrated and whom can celebrate it – allowing for more options). It’s not separate but equal or anything like this, all rights and obligations apply the same.

    Note2: My parents married in August 1981, my mother was not legally allowed to change her name to my father’s.

    Note3: About being able to change otherwisely by legal ways:

    Through administrative course of action: the Directeur de l’état civil

    The Directeur de l’état civil handles all name change applications that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the court. However, there must be a serious reason for making an application. Serious reasons include:

    * You have been using for at least five years a name other than the one that appears on your birth certificate
    * Your name is of foreign origin or is too difficult to pronounce or write in its original form
    * Your name invites ridicule or has become infamous

    The Directeur de l’état civil can also study an application for a name change for any other reason that you present.

    It is possible to request a change of name to add a part of your surname to your minor child’s surname if you are the father or mother declared in the child’s act of birth.

    ——-
    Court can do: if abandonment, adopting a child or other peculiar situations, not to get husband’s name.

    Note4: Those restrictions also make it quite hard for trans people to change their first name. Proof of Gender Identity Disorder must be given, it costs 300$ and takes 8-9 months total time to process, it can also be refused.

  259. Matvey
    Matvey November 10, 2009 at 4:50 pm |

    Two things. First, there is no LEGAL requirement for a woman to change her name – hence all the women posting that they chose not to. The marriage licence simply asks for the partners to fill in their names, sans any sort of mandate. (When my partner and I married each other there was no issue from the judge who presided over the ceremony.)

    Second, what is a conumdrum for me is the issue of naming children. I can’t see an easy solution. Someone in most couples will have to concede and there are good arguments on both sides, e.g. a system of genealogy is a system of genealogy whether matriarchal or patriarchal and giving birth does require a lot of sacrifice, but so does being a father. Thoughts?

  260. Kathleen
    Kathleen November 10, 2009 at 11:43 pm |

    I don’t call married women by their husband’s names and I always address the woman first, as in “Mary and Bob.” If I don’t know a married woman’s birth name, I will not address her or her husband by their “family” name. On snail mail, I have actually addressed a couple as “Ann and Bob.”

    Believe it or not, I have never gotten any flack for doing this sort of thing. Yes, women who says they freely “chose” to take their husband’s name feel perfectly fine when I address them by their birth name. :-)

    If a married feminist woman says, “I compromised because I didn’t have the energy or support system to deal with all the hassle,” I understand perfectly and don’t think she is less of a feminist. But if she says, “It is my choice and it should be respected,” I cringe.

    Naming is an important issue and feminists have a right to “make a stink” about it.

  261. Kathleen
    Kathleen November 10, 2009 at 11:54 pm |

    When will women stop taking their husband’s names? When men admit that patrilineal naming is pure egoism. I often call married men by their spouse’s birth name. Most of the time, they go along with it, but then, they know I’m a feminist. LOL

    When I was in high school and the feminist movement started calling women “Ms,” I felt uncomfortable with it. I considered myself a feminist but didn’t think I had to stop being called “Miss.” But after some friends addressed me as Ms, I started getting more comfortable with it and realized that titles like Miss and Mrs were @#$%^ oppressive. That experience taught me to stop arguing about names and just call married women by their birth names. It also taught me that if I REALLY want to make a point, I should call married men by their spouse’s names, even when it makes them squirm.

    Some women on this list have said, “Marriage means that two become one.” A nice sweet thought, but in reality, that often means the man is the one. I believe that the old English Common Law actually said, “When a man and woman marry, the two become one and the man is the one.”

  262. Kathleen
    Kathleen November 11, 2009 at 12:02 am |

    I cringe when people address the husband or the boyfriend first. Again, pure male egoism.

    Some friends got shocked when I said, “In marriage, the woman’s name, career, and orgasm must come first. And if you believe that marriage means the two become one, make sure the woman makes more money and has more orgasms – and that the man makes more career sacrifices and takes all the birth control responsiblity.”

    I’m not shocked by that study that showed that 70& of the population believes the women needs to take the man’s name, and that 50% believe it should be a law. America is a right wing country.

  263. technicolorsheep
    technicolorsheep November 12, 2009 at 11:09 am |

    Sorry I’m late to the discussion. I just can’t keep up with my reader.

    My resolve is this: Should I ever get published, I will use my partner’s last name as a kind of pseudonym. It’s just way catchier. (That is, if he’s ok with that. I’d better ask him first.)
    But should I ever, ever marry, I won’t go the hassle of changing all my details, ID cards, etc. Especially because I am, apart from my silly brother, the only left of our family to still bear the name – which doesn’t mean that I particularly like it, though. So, I won’t change because I am lazy, for when it comes to aesthetics, I prefer his by a long shot. And in terms of initials, it wouldn’t even matter because they’d still be the same.

    For me, it’s all a matter of convenience vs. attractiveness of choice (and Mr. agrees), and I feel pretty much pragmatic about the whole thing. Maybe here in Germany it’s not such a big deal and that’s why I don’t think it’s such a particularly unfeminist thing to do, changing your name.

    That being said, I believe that not so long ago couples weren’t allowed to go by different names unless the wife hyphenated hers and his. Now, that is effed up. But today? We can choose whichever we like best. And so I will do, and the first person stepping up judging me or my personal preferences (whatsoever inclined) will get a piece of my mind. Because, if you ask me, it’s just not your business.

  264. KJG
    KJG November 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm |

    I just have to say this has been one of my favorite Feministe comment discussions ever. I realize people are probably not reading it anymore, but I wanted to provide an update about something related that has happened since.

    My sister, who does not identify as a feminist, recently got married. We had talked about the name-changing issue before that. She had confided that she liked her name and didn’t want to change it, but she thought others would object. I tried to encourage her to do what SHE wanted to do and gave her my own reasons why I would never change my name. I also sent her this thread as food for thought.

    I just found out that she is keeping her name. She’s already had to deal with shit for it. Conservative friends asking her why, colleagues asking questions. She’s a teacher and her husband works in the same school. A lot of her young students, fellow teachers, and even her principal assumed she would be Mrs. HisLastName when she got back from the wedding.

    But she’s keeping it and I’m beyond happy for her. I’m happy because she did what SHE wanted to do. I’m happy because she has been brave enough to have conversations about this and go against the grain. And I’m happy that she’s showing her young students that there are other options for women. I give her so much credit. She’s not in the most liberal of places and is being questioned about this right and left, but she has courage to stand up to patriarchal tradition and say that her name is part of her identity and she’s keeping it.

    So thanks everyone. I think that this discussion has helped give her some of the encouragement and support she needed.

  265. Coffeegirl
    Coffeegirl November 20, 2009 at 11:33 pm |

    Sorry for my late reply; in the interim I got married two weeks ago (the wedding that I talked about in my first post! :)). And I did take my husband’s last name (!!). Since we’re married sacramentally, it’s now my last name as well as much as it’s his.

    Laurie: In looking back over the thread I saw you wrote a rather lengthy reply to me several pages back and I missed it; I apologize. I really didn’t see it at the time.

    Also wanted to reply to Jesurgislac here.

    “Coffeegirl asked twice : ‘I’ll ask again…By taking my husband’s name, how exactly am I sending a message to the rest of the world that the historical oppression of women is ok?’

    That question has already been answered. You just didn’t like the answer. But no one has any new answers for you, beyond what you’ve already got and didn’t like in this very long thread, so why should people bother to answer you again when you have made clear by asking the question that you’ll pay no attention to answers you don’t like?”

    Sorry that you saw my questions as insincere. They weren’t. I read the replies to that particular question and didn’t/still don’t buy the logic given. We just disagree. Or it could be KJG has a point…

    KJG says: “Coffeegirl: The answer to your question is all right here in this discussion. I’m not suggesting that you aren’t reading the comments, but I do agree with Rachel II that you just don’t seem to be at a point in your life where you can understand.”

    Perhaps not. Thank yall anyhow for the interesting discussion. :)

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