Bride Price

The wonderful Chloe Angyal is writing in New York Magazine about engagement rings, and the conspicuous showing-off of said rings on Facebook. I admit: I am a sucker for jewelry, so I actually don’t hate the engagement ring shots. That said, I don’t like engagement rings very much — or at least not the giant sparkly diamond kind. My objections are both political and aesthetic. You have to be living in a cave to not know just how evil the diamond industry is, and while conflict-free diamonds do exist, the cultural tying of “diamond” and “engagement” is a huge part of what drives the diamond market. And maybe it came from working at a law firm for so many years, but the look of all of those giant engagement rings was just… boring. They all look the same to me. But then I don’t think the tradition of exchanging wedding rings is a bad one. A token or symbol of commitment tied to a ritual is great. And a cool piece of jewelry? Sign me up — especially for some of the absolutely beautiful heirloom, antique or non-diamond rings that a few pals have procured. But the engagement, with only the woman wearing a ring and the attendant sense that she has accomplished something by getting a guy to ask her to marry him feels a bit weird. Not to mention the ownership/investment symbolism.

And rings are just a part of a heterosexual engagement process that feels like it’s taken on the worst aspects of tradition and modernity. The idea that a marriage is still something a man asks for — or even asks your dad for — is bizarre, and doesn’t seem like a great way to start a life together (although I often picture a gentleman asking my father for my hand in marriage, and my father’s look of utter WTF). If you’re joining each other in what is hopefully a permanent legal contract, doesn’t that merit an ongoing series of discussions culminated in some sort of agreement, and not simply a request whenever he’s ready? Doesn’t asking your dad (or your family) for their permission to enter into a legal contract with you, ostensibly a grown-ass woman, seem incredibly belittling? Girl, you can own property now! You don’t have to serve as it!

At the same time, the engagement itself is often a big public show. The flashmob engagements are the worst, but there’s a trend a few decades old now of surprising your girlfriend with a ring in a public place — on a sporting event jumbo-tron, at a fancy restaurant. Social media makes these events even more public. And while I am always psyched to see peoples’ engagement and wedding updates on Facebook (I am a huge secret stupid romantic and a sucker for happy people in love), when I see those viral videos of the dudes who hire 200 people to create the perfect over-the-top public engagement I can’t help but think, damn, he’s afraid she’ll say no, and that’s why he’s doing this in such a publicly humiliating way. I’m sure that assumption is wrong at least 75% of the time. But that’s what it feels like — put her in a position where she can’t really deny you.

I suspect these are the same people who post their baby’s 3D ultrasounds on Facebook with little speech bubbles coming from the fetus’s face.

And speaking of marriage-then-babies: I have yet to come across a married couple where the baby has only the woman’s name. Even in marriages where the woman keeps her name — and as a side note, I find it incredibly strange that women still change their names, and I honestly didn’t even realize that was a thing people did anymore until a few years ago when all of these strange female names started showing up on my Facebook feed — the baby is almost always Baby Hisname. At best it’s Baby Hername-Hisname. Even where He isn’t around anymore, and wasn’t around much during the pregnancy or when the baby was born, it’s still usually Hisname. I honestly do not understand why we remain so attached to patrilineal naming, even in feminist circles. Someday I’ll write a more thorough post about naming practices, but for now, let it be said that I just find it odd.

Although when I was in Seattle this summer I wandered into the lovely Isadora’s and tried on this ring for fun. Probably wouldn’t refuse that one under any circumstances — even if it came with a fifty-piece band and a flashmob proposal. This too. Kid is still getting my last name, though, if a kid ever comes into existence.

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226 comments for “Bride Price

  1. January 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I share so much of your skepticism about modern engagement practices, Jill! In the past ten years I’ve found myself baffled time and time again by otherwise feminist-minded friends and couples deciding to get married and suddenly she’s waiting for him to propose as an *event* … even though she helped pick out the ring or knows it’s going to happen. It’s just kinda weird.

    As someone in a same-sex relationship, we kinda felt our way through the whole engagement-to-marriage period. We’d talked about getting married for some time before my now-wife actually suggested the time was right, and I agreed. At that point, we’d already exchanged rings that were meaningful to us … mine one she used to wear that she gave to me, me one we picked out together as a replacement for her … and we’ve since taken to calling those our “engagement” rings. I still wear mine on a chain around my neck; she’s tucked hers away for safekeeping. We exchanged rings we’d custom-designed at the wedding, and I do find it’s important to me to wear something the culture at large interprets as “wedding ring” because it’s on the appropriate finger, that people know I’m tied to someone in that way.

    I always ask my male friends when they’re going through the whole proposal-engagement business whether *they’re* going to get an engagement ring, because I don’t think it’s fair that if they’re going to make the engagement a thing, the guys miss out. But I’ve never met a single couple yet who’ve made the engagement ring thing mutual — I hope they’re out there!

    • zayq
      January 18, 2013 at 10:09 am

      *waves* We both did rings, and picked them both out together, though we each paid for each other’s rings. (They’re not a matched set type of thing.)

      • January 18, 2013 at 11:06 am

        I love love love the idea of both people wearing rings.

      • mk
        January 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

        My fiancee and I both wear engagement rings. Hers is actually a brushed metal set of three stacked rings, the middle of which has a penguin on it. Mine doesn’t match at all–it’s made out of an Oregon state quarter.

    • Miriam
      January 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      I didn’t get my husband an engagement ring, but I did get him an engagement fountain pen that matches my engagement ring. He’s a fountain pen collector and often wears a fountain pen, so it seemed more logical to do that than a ring. My ring is also non-diamond… I’ve never liked diamonds so it wasn’t directly connected to the blood diamond issues, but I am glad to know my ring isn’t part of that.

      • Marksman2000
        January 19, 2013 at 3:03 am

        That’s so cool. I love pens as well, especially fountain pens. I’m the type of person who’d want to see his collection and listen to all the stories behind each pen.

    • Dancerjess
      January 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      When we got engaged, I offered my husband the opportunity to wear a ring as well, but he doesn’t wear jewelry. He did get me a ring, because, well, I like pretty rings. It’s not a diamond, though.

      We are getting matching tattoos, as well.

    • January 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      When the mister and I got engaged, I already knew that I didn’t want a “traditional” diamond engagement ring, because I’d read about the whole De Beers engineering of that social expectation, and I refused to play along (I didn’t know about blood diamonds at the time, but that would have made my feelings even stronger). A friend of Dutch heritage told me about a tradition she knew whereby affianced couples bought their wedding rings at the time of engagement and wore them on their right hands until the day of the wedding, when moving the rings to the left hands was one of the rituals of the ceremony. So that’s what we did.

      As he already had a wedding band from his previous marriage, and I already had an “eternity” ring from a boyfriend who gave it to me when I was 16(!), and neither of us hated these two exes, we decided to have those rings melted down to make two new matching wedding bands that honoured the fact that our past relationships were part of what made us who we were now.

      Then we spent the money that a “traditional” diamond engagement ring would have cost on a leisurely round-the-world trip for our honeymoon.

      I also kept my surname, and our kids are hyphenated HisName-MyName (because it sounded better that way, and also because what most people think they know about hyphenating etiquette is not traditional at all).

      • DouglasG
        January 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm

        That is a very clever idea with the rings, but I suspect that, given the requirement of both halves of a couple having an old ring and not hating the ex, it isn’t likely to catch on.

      • January 18, 2013 at 7:40 pm

        That wasn’t a requirement, DouglasG – it was simply an extra touch we added in our particular case. It would have been far cheaper to just purchase off-the-rack matching rings, after all, and that’s what I would expect most others who wanted to do the wedding-bands as engagement-rings on right hand and swap hands on wedding day idea would go for.

      • DouglasG
        January 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm

        Sorry, not a requirement for the hand-switching, but I was focusing on the other end and admiring the melting down, which struck me as particularly clever. I’m as fond of my exes as anyone who stops short of attempting to reunite and would like the idea exceedingly, but alas have no old ring I could melt down, as I was never given one. Congratulations on finding such a way to honour the past while moving forward.

      • DouglasG
        January 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm

        Silly of me to omit then obvious case in point, but the real DouglasG is one of my favourite exes, the one who probably had the easiest time influencing me. I have a charming picture of him committing a clear foot fault, but, alas, no ring.

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        January 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm

        Re-using your rings and incorporating your past is the best idea, tigtog!

  2. January 18, 2013 at 9:26 am

    My boss’s middle daughter recently got hitched. Before the dude even proposed, he took my boss out to dinner to ask for the daughter’s hand. My boss was pretty impressed with that, but when I discussed it with my friends (we’re all in our 30s) we agreed that it was weird. I can’t imagine what my dad would have said if my husband had done that. Well, I can. It probably would have been something along the lines of “since she’s the one you want to marry, you should probably be asking her.” As it was though my husband and I don’t have a proposal story. We had pretty much been living together since we met and continued to do so for 7 years before we got married. When we decided to think about getting married we went to a jewelry store in my hometown, looked at their loose stones, and I picked out a triangle-shaped garnet that we had put into a white gold setting.

    • Laura C
      January 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

      When my father heard that asking the woman’s father for permission was a thing some people did, he said that, if asked, his response would be that it was absolutely none of his business and not his right, but that for that reason, because it was such an inappropriate question, his answer was no.

      But I definitely know a bunch of people who’ve gone that route. Some of whom I adore.

      • CassandraSays
        January 18, 2013 at 11:15 am

        I can just imagine my Dad responding with raised eyebrows and “have you actually met her?”.

      • (BFing) Sarah
        January 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm

        LOL! Me too! I feel like my dad would be like, “You do know that if she had any idea you asked ME this…she would say no to you, right?” Because I would say no if I found out he asked FOR me before he asked me.

        That said, I wanted an engagement ring. Mine is non-traditional in that it is my favorite stone (a dark ruby) and its in an odd setting, but I still wanted the ring.

      • nentuaby
        January 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm

        I think if I were ever asked, I’d just flatly and plainly say “no” and let the dolt sort it out himself… It’s sort of a Zen thing– you’ll be ready for the answer when you forget the question!

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        January 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm

        LOL your dad sounds Ebil, Cassandra! :D

    • (BFing) Sarah
      January 18, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Oh and I have to say that the bf of a family member of ours asked her father to marry him and he said he’d have to think about it. He then asked her brothers to weigh in…I was pretty flabbergasted. The family member (female) had made it very clear that her bf was to ask her father. I know its “cultural,” but isn’t that the excuse for all kinds of sexist bullshit?

      • (BFing) Sarah
        January 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm

        That is: the bf asked the father for permission to marry his gf (the family friend)…not that the bf asked to marry the father. Whoops!

    • Computer Soldier Porygon
      January 18, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      It gets more and more bizarre as you age. Not that you should ever need your father’s permission, but when you’re in your mid-30s you’ve probably been out from under your parents for, like, over fifteen years.

  3. Wordwizard
    January 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Didn’t the engagement ring once (or still) have the purpose of proving that he could take care of you properly (or he couldn’t afford it), and serve as a last-ditch emergency cash fund? I.e., “We need to send for the doctor or the baby will die, so I’ll hock/sell the engagement ring!”

    • January 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      That’s part of why it evolved, yeah. It used to be that it was much harder for a woman to get engaged if she had one broken-off engagement, because it was often believed that “engaged” meant “having sex”. So, in order to prevent men from proposing, getting their rocks off, and leaving a “ruined” woman who can’t find another husband, engagement rings evolved as sort of a down payment.

      So, yeah, they’re a down payment on your virginity. Just like the “father owns a daughter” traditions, it’s based on this bizarre assumption that being treated like property is cute or sentimental.

      • Wordwizard
        January 19, 2013 at 1:41 am

        So THAT’s the reason one can keep the engagement ring [gift, not payment, supposedly] if the engagement is broken off??? I thought Southern belles used to delight in seeing how many rocks they could collect from as many broken-hearted beaux as possible, though, showing a woman’s power in a very sexist way in a very sexist milieu….

    • January 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      Yes, although pre-De Beers social engineering, the engagement gift was any precious jewellery, not just a diamond ring, since jewellery was one of the few valuable things a woman could own (and pass on as an inheritance) in her own right in many cultures.

      These days, the diamond market is so artificially inflated for retail diamond rings because of the engagement “tradition”, that if one does attempt to sell one’s engagement ring then one will only get a fraction of the price one paid for it at a diamond merchant – well less than half, often less than a fifth of the retail price, even if the ring has never been worn.

  4. Lolagirl
    January 18, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Yeah, I’m not a fan of either asking Dad for the bride’s hand or giving the bride away either.

    But, that being said, both went down in my own engagement/wedding. In my own defense, I would say that both were done for my father’s sake and really had nothing to do with me or the spouse. My dad is really old school, and very, very sentimental. The spouse didn’t take my dad out and ask him for his permission because he felt he actually needed it. He did it because he knew it would make my dad happy, and he wanted to build bridges with my family instead of burning them prior to our getting married. Just like we go along to get along with a lot of stuff when it comes to one another’s families. Not a big enough deal to fight over? Then let it go and wait to make a big deal over the important stuff.

    Ditto with my dad giving me away at the wedding. My dad had dreamed about that day for years, and the sentimental meaning behind it to him was enormous. Even though I had moved out of the house years prior and lived independantly, he still saw it as marking an important transition. And we let him, because it was so important to him and so not important enough to us to become a hill to die upon.

    So, when judging or thinking someone silly for doing these things, please keep in mind that it likely isn’t as simple as you assume it to be. And that while so many of these traditional things are silly and devoid of meaning to you doesn’t mean that they can’t be part of something important to others.

    • Computer Soldier Porygon
      January 18, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      I can see myself doing the father-walks-down-the-aisle thing. I don’t think marriage is on the table for me, but if I had a wedding with a full-on ceremony or whatever, I don’t know that I’d be willing to hurt my father to have the ceremony the way I want it. Maybe that seems a bit skewed, because the wedding is mine/ours and not his, but he would be extremely hurt. Like, do I think he should just get over it and recognize that it doesn’t have anything to do with him and how much I love him? Totally. But would he? Probably not.

      So you know, I’d consider compromising on that one.

    • Kasabian
      January 19, 2013 at 4:44 am

      I’m generally in agreement with you on this one. My brother-in-law, at my sister’s prodding, took my dad out for dinner before he ‘officially’ proposed to my sister, mostly because they meant it as a nice gesture towards my parents.

      Also, I really don’t think most people legit ask fathers for the daughters hand in marriage like it’s the fucking 1500’s, but it’s more like a “hey, we’re going to get married now, you down with this?” than a “I WILL PAY YOU FIFTEEN COW FOR DAUGHTER.”

      A lot of people see marriage as more than just two people coming together, but also two families. So it’s kind of polite to give the other a family a heads up, especially if there is financial commitment pre-supposed (if no one in the family has money to put on a wedding, you may wish to postpone, etc etc).

      I mean, obviously, it’s a sexist tradition and engagement rings are pure evil, but I think the traditions around marriage are becoming more and more egalitarian, or being ‘co-opted’ into more egalitarian traditions. The groom asking the father for permission symbolizing accepting the groom into the family, etc etc.

      Just curious for people whose parents used the split-name convention, what are your plans if/when you get married? Drop one of the parent’s last names? Put all three together? My girlfriend and I talked about maybe putting together a new name for both of us, or would that just be too weird?

    • January 21, 2013 at 4:12 am

      Yeah – with me, the only two things about my wedding that my dad will be involved in at ALL are (a) giving “permission”, and (b) walking me down the aisle.
      Much as I’d love to have him get involved in other stuff instead, my dad being involved in SOME wedding stuff is important to me – so (a) and (b) are it.

  5. memetikchik
    January 18, 2013 at 9:54 am

    On traditionally patrilineal naming practices – I actually knew a family growing up where all the boy-children had the dad’s last name, and all the girl-children had the mom’s last name. It seemed to work pretty well for them. At the time it was a little confusing to me as I was figuring the world out, but now I’m impressed that they at least came up with *some* solution to let the mom’s heritage get passed on in the name.

    • Alberthe
      January 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      My first boyfriend had his father’s last name while his siblings had their mother’s. His parents had decided before having children that the first baby would get the father’s name and the next the mother’s (and baby number two turned out to be twins, so they both got hers). I think they are the only ones I’ve come across who did it this way, but I like the idea. I suppose we would have to throw dice over who would get to name the first baby, though, because automatically naming the first-born after the father is still pretty ugh.

      • (BFing) Sarah
        January 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm

        You know, I have thought about this a lot, because I often feel bad about “taking” my husband’s last name. But the reason why I did it still stands for me. Society believes that a black child is “always” raised by a single woman, with no father in sight, and it is still seen as somewhat “unusual” for black children to be raised by married parents. So, for me, it was important that everyone can see that we are all a family unit. We all share a last name. My children have the same father, (which I have no doubt people would ASSUME they did not if they did not have the same last name), and I am married to their father (again people would probably assume that I was not if I did not take his last name). The assumptions wouldn’t be such a problem if society didn’t attach the label of “delinquent/criminal/maladjusted/emotionally damaged” to children of single mothers, especially children of color, but unfortunately that’s the way it is right now. I thought about hyphenating, but honestly, its a pain in the ass and requires going to court for both of us and our last names don’t really flow well together…so there you have it. Anyway, that’s my reasoning.

      • Jasmin
        January 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

        You read my mind, Sarah. The same assumption was in place when I was growing up (my mom had a different last name because she married my stepdad, but my sister and I were born when she was married to our dad, thankyouverymuch), and I also want to take my boyfriend’s name so we present as a family unit. And an additional layer is that we are an interracial couple (he’s white), so having the same last name is also a barrier against folks who can’t imagine why a white dude would have black kids.

      • Dee
        January 20, 2013 at 7:24 pm

        Me too, Jasmin and Sarah. I think the decision can influenced by racism and you can’t wish that away. Not as easy for a black family or a multi-racial family to just go with different names and not have to worry about nasty assumptions.

  6. Catherine
    January 18, 2013 at 10:02 am

    My husband asked my mom and stepdad if he could join their family, which I found infinitely preferable to him asking their permission to marry me. Come to think of it, I probably should have asked his parents the same thing. Oops. They got no choice.

    • January 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

      I really hope that if anyone ever asks my dad for permission to marry me, my dad says no — the explanation being, “clearly you do not know my daughter.”

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

        I hope you’re never dating someone who thinks asking your dad is a good idea.

      • Lolagirl
        January 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

        Well, like the old saying goes, you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.

        I think it’s great that so many posters here have such modern and open minded parents. Really, I do. But can everyone tone down the slamming of those who aren’t so fortunate? Please?

        I admit I’m getting defensive about this, but I spelled it out in my comment above already. Families are often complicated, coupling is often also quite complicated. It’s a give and take at times, that’s life.

      • January 18, 2013 at 11:47 am

        No one is “slamming” anyone. We are critiquing sexist cultural practices. That is what feminists do.

      • January 18, 2013 at 11:49 am

        Families are often complicated, coupling is often also quite complicated. It’s a give and take at times, that’s life.

        But Lola, why would that exempt anything from critique?

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm

        Not slamming anyone–families are definitely a complicated thing, especially when it comes to weddings. I am a firm believer that there are parts of your wedding that are all about you and parts that are not. In my case, my mother really really wanted there to be fancy flowers even though most of our guests were from out of town and not able to take them home and enjoy them. So we had fancy flowers. In your case, it was making your dad happy by observing some traditions that you, absent his preferences, might not have observed. We all do our best to navigate between our personal preferences/ideology and social and family expectations. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad feminist.

      • Ges
        January 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm

        Jill, I agree with the gist of what you’ve written, and this sentence:

        Doesn’t asking your dad (or your family) for their permission to enter into a legal contract with you, ostensibly a grown-ass woman, seem incredibly belittling?

        is totally on-point as a critique of the culture currently dominant in the US (white, individualist, patriarchal, capitalist, heterocentric). But as someone who comes from a different culture, I was uncomfortable with how some of the critiques of dominant US culture appeared to be universalizing that culture and ignoring the existence of other cultures.

        Discussions regarding collectivism vs. individualism can certainly benefit from a feminist perspective, but some forms of feminism do not see the US-style focus on individuals and couples but not extended families as ideal. People from certain Indian cultures can discuss what a non-sexist engagement would look like as a joining of extended families in addition to a joining of two individuals. Let’s not conflate coastal, upper-middle class, US cultural norms with universal feminist ideals.

      • (BFing) Sarah
        January 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm

        @Lolagirl, I get what you are saying. I was not down with the idea of my bf asking my dad. But, like I said below and above, I did take DH’s last name. I feel strongly that our children, who are black, should share their father’s name and that I wanted to share his name, too, so that people could not assume that we were not a family unit. It wasn’t an option for him to take my name or to create a new name because I really feel like his parents would have stopped speaking to us. They would have hated me forever and that would have really been a Very Bad Thing for my husband (and me). They are traditional like that. Mr. BFing doesn’t care so much, but they really care. I think a hyphenated name they wouldn’t have cared about, though, but it sounds like shit to combine our names so…there you have it. You work with what you’ve got!

      • Lolagirl
        January 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        But Lola, why would that exempt anything from critique?

        Mac, I’m not saying it should be exempt from critique of any sort. What I am saying is that the criticique should keep in mind that these things aren’t necessarily as black and white as some have intimated in this discussion. Nuance is complicated stuff to navigate, but we don’t just shrug and say forget it, because that’s not an intellectually honest way to engage in discussion and debate.

        And I have found it to be true that picking my battles on this stuff has been important. I gave on the asking my hand and giving me away business because it was my dad’s hill, and my dad has given on our raising the kids areligiously and his never, ever hassling us about it or in any way trying to inculcate the kids with his religion because that is my hill.

        I dunno, if other people feel the need to stand and fight on every single hill and fight to the death then that’s their right. That just isn’t my approach to life, and to family especially.

      • EG
        January 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm

        But Lola, I’m not sure how “it’s important to my family” nuances the critique. You seem to be talking about how and whether women decide to base their actions on that critique, which is a balance everyone has to strike for herself. But I don’t see what that has to do with the accuracy of the analysis/critique itself. Of course cultural practices are important to people. All the more reason to ask why they’re important and what they represent.

      • Lolagirl
        January 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm

        That’s not what I’m saying.

        Yes, marriage itself and the traditions surrounding it have roots in deeply sexist notions that treated women as chattel and marriage as a mercantile exchange of goods.

        But does that mean we take a baby and the bath water approach and toss the whole thing out the window as a result? I know there are plenty of people who say this is the answer, but I disagree. We can still get married and have a lot of these rituals without it being about holding on to the outmoded and sexist roots surrounding them.

        By pointing out that this discussion is missing out on the more nuanced aspects I’m saying that we aren’t recognizing how these traditions have evolved and become something else entirely. For my dad (and plenty of other dads I’ve known) the asking the bride’s hand thing has now taken on an aspect more like what mk addressed in his comment below. That is one where the groom is asking for the blessing of the bride’s family. Why is this important? Because it acknowledges that marriage is still often about uniting families as well as the two people who are getting married. It acknowledges that it’s often a nice thing to want both sides of those families to want that marriage to take place at all. Similarly, with stuff like giving away the bride it symbolizes the letting go by the bride’s family and the joining together of the two families into one extended family. Father/bride (or any combination of mother/father/bride/groom even) walk in together, the couple is united together and the whole new family they bring together all leave the ceremony together.

        Does that make more sense?

      • Lolagirl
        January 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm

        And I realize now that I wasn’t really be all that clear on these points in my earlier comments. I apologize for that.

      • Bagelsan
        January 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm

        Yes, marriage itself and the traditions surrounding it have roots in deeply sexist notions that treated women as chattel and marriage as a mercantile exchange of goods.

        But does that mean we take a baby and the bath water approach and toss the whole thing out the window as a result?

        By getting an engagement ring, having your boyfriend ask your dad, and being given away at the alter… exactly what bathwater has one actually thrown away? *skeptical face* I don’t see any difference from the women-as-chattel symbolism when a person, yanno, doesn’t do anything differently.

      • January 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm

        By pointing out that this discussion is missing out on the more nuanced aspects I’m saying that we aren’t recognizing how these traditions have evolved and become something else entirely.

        Mm, okay, but the issue as I see it is that in many parts of Christian culture those traditions haven’t evolved at all. In most parts, even. And in order for a tradition to evolve, there must be a specific shift in either the totality of perception or the performance of that tradition. (For example: Ayudha Puja used to be a ritual worshipping of weapons as late as the last century. It’s now a worship of all tools of all trades, so technically including such things as pens, computers, bullock carts and shovels as well as guns or knives or spears.)

        So, while I appreciate the point you’re trying to make, I think your example of wedding traditions is a bad one, since your argument amounts of “well I subverted those norms privately in my head!” …I’m not sure that counts, when what everyone sees, and remains uncorrected in thinking, is that you’ve adhered precisely to those norms.

      • January 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm

        I dunno, if other people feel the need to stand and fight on every single hill and fight to the death then that’s their right. That just isn’t my approach to life, and to family especially.

        And that’s every bit your prerogative. I gave in on certain things in my legal wedding ceremony too (no alcohol, formal Indian wear, etc). However, you can’t claim to retain the right to shut down discussions of problematic traditions just because you upheld those traditions yourself and you don’t want to feel hurt by others calling them problematic.

      • Lolagirl
        January 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm

        Umm, the murky bathwater whereby my family literally sold me to my future husband, and where I have nor legal right to own my own property post- marriage, or to say no to my husband’s sexual advances if I don’t want them, or where I don’t have the right to divorce him I want to, just to name a few.

        Or did you not actually bother read the rest of my comment explaining these things further?

        I’m guessing the answer to that is you did not.

        Because if you did actually read it you would see how I explained how the symbolism behind some of these marriage traditions have evolved and taken on new meaning for plenty of people these days. I’ve also spelled out how my dad never actually deluded himself into thinking we had to have his permission to get married, or that I was his to give to anyone.

        But, hey, why actually bother yourself with reading or understanding what I wrote, especially if it gets in the way of you making your point?

      • Lolagirl
        January 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm

        That comment was directed at Bagelsan, btw.

        Nested comment fail.

      • Bagelsan
        January 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm

        That comment was directed at Bagelsan, btw.

        Nested comment fail.

        Oh no, the nesting wasn’t the fail.

      • EG
        January 18, 2013 at 7:21 pm

        I take your point, Lola, but if that were the case–that the traditions have grown beyond their orgins in women-as-property-not-persons–I would expect to see them becoming egalitarian: each partner, regardless of gender, requesting the approval/blessing of the other partner’s parents of any gender; partners exchanging engagement tokens; partners being given away at the altar regardless of the gender of giver or given (Jewish tradition has each partner being walked down the aisle by both that partner’s parents, which sounds nice, but I could never ask my mother to do that with my father, so alas, not for me). And with very few exceptions, I’m just not seeing or hearing of those changes.

      • Lolagirl
        January 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm

        Mac, I’m not trying to shut down the conversation. Really, I’m not. I’m just trying to point out that it’s not so simple as some people are suggesting here. Because so far the insistence has been that it’s anti-feminist to give certain wedding rituals a different meaning because they once used to mean something else that are based in patriarchy and sexism. Arguably, even getting married at all is selling out to the patriarchy in the eyes of plenty of feminists. I disagree with that, flat out.

        I think we’re sort of talking past each other here, especially if you yourself admit that you conceded certain ground on your own wedding that you might not have otherwise. Hey, you even bothered to get married, so clearly you felt it was significant enough to go through the ritual of marriage at all. (And I hope this doesn’t come off as being confrontational to you, Mac, I respect your opinion and am genuinely interested in having a discussion on all this stuff with you and others. I just think it doesn’t have to devolve into a whole, hdu you prop up the patriarchy by getting married and reproducing thing that this topic often seems to devolve into.)

      • January 18, 2013 at 7:50 pm

        But does that mean we take a baby and the bath water approach and toss the whole thing out the window as a result? I know there are plenty of people who say this is the answer, but I disagree. We can still get married and have a lot of these rituals without it being about holding on to the outmoded and sexist roots surrounding them.

        …huh? No one is saying that your father literally sold you to your husband and that you have no rights. What we are saying is that most of these traditions are seated in sexism. And that they are still sexist. And that when something has sexist roots, you can do it in a way that is fun and not sexist, but it still has sexist roots.

        And sorry, but asking your dad for your hand in marriage is sexist. It might have still been the best thing for your family, and it might have been nuanced, and it doesn’t make you a bad feminist at all. But asking your dad’s permission to marry you is sexist. Was it equally as expected that he would ask your mom? That a brother would have gotten the exact same treatment — that his girlfriend would have had to request his dad’s permission before they could discuss marriage?

        No one here expects anyone to be the perfect feminist (says the blog proprietor who wears make-up and shaves her legs). None of us lives in a bubble, free of tradition and influence. We all do a great many things to keep the peace with our families or make ourselves feel better or simply get by in the world. What people are objecting to is the suggestion that critiquing sexist practices is mean or uncalled for because it makes some people who engage in sexist practices feel bad. I engage in sexist practices every day. I still recognize it’s the job of feminist theory to unpack those things, and not just go, “Well, you have reasons for doing this other than you hate women, so ok!”

      • January 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm

        Because so far the insistence has been that it’s anti-feminist to give certain wedding rituals a different meaning because they once used to mean something else that are based in patriarchy and sexism.

        Well, I’ve asserted, here and elsewhere, that there’s a performative aspect to changing traditions. You* (general you) don’t get to claim that you’re infusing traditions with different meanings if there’s no perceptible change – or stated change – in the meanings or performance of those rituals or traditions. See my example above. If no one could tell that you weren’t in fact participating in a transfer-of-property ritual, and you never stated openly to the gathered witnesses that you were not intending that ritual to indicate a transfer of property, what change did you actually institute? How could anyone tell that you had any ideas or thoughts distinguishable from those of a dutiful patriarchal woman who was being passed from one owner to another without questions of consent or desire?

        I think we’re sort of talking past each other here, especially if you yourself admit that you conceded certain ground on your own wedding that you might not have otherwise.

        It wasn’t ground that was charged with hundreds of years of meanings of ownership and slavery. There were plenty of Hindu rituals I flatly refused to entertain because they had ugly inner meanings.

        Hey, you even bothered to get married, so clearly you felt it was significant enough to go through the ritual of marriage at all.

        Immigration rules. Healthcare issues. The fact that I’d rather my wife has power of attorney etc than my parents. If I hadn’t had to think of any of those things I’d have never moved past the handfasting we did several months before the wedding.

      • January 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm

        To elaborate on my examples, Lola, here’s a couple more, from my wedding: the husband’s supposed to put a chain on the wife, which symbolises her becoming property, and makes a public statement of ownership, basically. Instead of just one of us wearing the chain, both of us have inscribed wedding rings on simple chains. They’re silver instead of gold, because I hate the Hindus-and-gold 4evah attitude and Valoniel went with that because she doesn’t like gold that much either. We used secular vows, that we picked ourselves, that explicitly stated certain ideals of our relationship, rather than the traditional Hindu sevenfold blessing chant, which includes certain things (fertility, sons, the carrying on of the family name) that really put my hackles up. I also skipped rituals of formally leaving my parents’ family – because fuck that, seriously, my family is MINE, it just got bigger and better – and of being given away. We didn’t serve alcohol at the wedding feast, but we moved out of the lounge we’d rented to come home and booze it up. (My mother the obsessive teetotaler entered a liquor store for the first time in her life to buy her daughter’s same-sex-wedding-after-party-wine with her new sambandhi (daughter-in-law’s mother). It was FUCKING HILARIOUS.)

        As I pointed out in the earlier comment, these are all either concrete changes in rituals and significances, or retained rituals which were openly subverted in the spoken rituals (the chains balanced out by the fact that the last line of the vows we both spoke were “this is the marriage of equals”). Etc.

      • January 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

        But asking your dad’s permission to marry you is sexist. Was it equally as expected that he would ask your mom? That a brother would have gotten the exact same treatment — that his girlfriend would have had to request his dad’s permission before they could discuss marriage?

        Actually, my fiance asked permission from both of my parents, not just my father. And we considered very seriously me ringing his mother to ask permission from her – but decided because of personal issues that this wouldn’t go down well.

        Asking permission isn’t always about sexism. Sometimes it’s about the seriousness of joining each other’s families.

    • mk
      January 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      Before I proposed I didn’t ask for anyone’s permission and I certainly didn’t ask for my fiancee’s hand. But I did call her mother to let her know that I was going to propose, and that I hoped I had her blessing.

      To me, this was less about treating my fiancee like property, and more about respectfully acknowledging that our marriage and our family will involve more than just the two of us. M’s family, and her mom in particular, are really really important to her, and it means a lot to me that they’ve welcomed me since day one. I try not to take that for granted, as I’m sure there are plenty families that wouldn’t be super thrilled if their daughter came home with me on her arm.

  7. thefish
    January 18, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Evil diamond industry. Evil blood diamonds.

    Anyway, if you are going to buy a diamond, buy a synthetic diamond.

    • wanttobeanon
      January 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

      Come 2015, the Amora Gem looks like it’s going to rock the diamond world. Silicon carbide, made in a lab, no one will die or suffer mining them, it’s a ‘forever’ stone unlike CZ which clouds, and it’s truly colorless unlike moissanite. And it’s looking like they’ll be way cheaper than lab diamonds.

      (For those who do like the sparkly white rocks but don’t want to participate in the diamond thing.)

      • MinervaB
        January 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm

        We went with lab-created sapphires in blue and white for our rings. Both my husband and I have gems in our engagement/wedding rings (getting two rings seemed silly, so we used the same rings for both purposes). I like that we match. Plus, the lab-created gems are so much cheaper, they actually have more clarity than mined sapphires, and no cruelty!

      • January 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm

        Yeah, ‘cept moissanite fluoresces under a black light, which makes it infinitely superior to any other diamond alternative. Hell yeah, disco diamond.

      • Dingo!
        January 22, 2013 at 12:34 am

        Plus it was first discovered in a meteor crater. That’s right, disco diamonds from SPACE.

  8. Susan
    January 18, 2013 at 10:07 am

    You can count me down as a woman who married, kept her own name, and my son has my last name, which was a deliberate choice that my husband and I made.

    • Bagelsan
      January 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Awesome. ^^

  9. FashionablyEvil
    January 18, 2013 at 10:15 am

    If my husband had asked my father’s permission to marry me? I would have dumped him immediately.

    Since I’m currently 8+ months pregnant the whole name thing is really bothering me. My husband is a 4th and, if it’s a boy, wants there to be a 5th. (I’ve known this for 10+ years, so it’s not as though it’s a shock.) At the same time, I find the whole thing kind of enraging and have no idea what to do about it. At the moment, I’m just hoping it’s a girl.

    • January 18, 2013 at 10:18 am

      Hmmm. I wonder how he would react if you said that any girl child has to be named FashionablyEvil II?

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

        Probably not poorly–he’s a pretty logical guy. (Personally, I am not interested in Fashionably Evil II).

        I will say, I am suddenly a lot more sympathetic to people who have a kid named, say, James Michael, and call him Pete.

      • January 18, 2013 at 10:28 am

        You should definitely name the kid FashionablyEvil II. Literally “FashionablyEvil II.” Not your real name II. FashionablyEvil II. PROBLEM SOLVED.

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        January 19, 2013 at 9:05 pm

        With a side order of “It’s spelled Fashionably Evil II but it’s pronounced Throat-Warbler Mangrove.” ;)

    • Past my expiration date
      January 18, 2013 at 11:28 am

      My husband is a 4th and, if it’s a boy, wants there to be a 5th.

      My opinion is that nobody but the kings of France should go past a 3rd, at the most. (And see how going past the 3rd worked out for the kings of France, in the long run.)

      But Mr. FashionablyEvil didn’t ask for my opinion.

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

        I think there is a social perception that people shouldn’t go past 3 or 4–when you have online forms, the suffixes only go up to 4.

      • (BFing) Sarah
        January 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm

        Yeah…that’s a tough one. I think my husband’s name is kind of dull, so I didn’t really want a Jr. I hate saying you are probably going to have to give in on this one (because he has been insisting on it forever), but…yeah…seems like you could name the baby Mr. FashionablyEvil V and then call the baby “DInosaur” or whatever you want as a nickname, though, right? That’s a good compromise. Then again, I definitely pulled this “this is the name I’ve been wanting forever, tough shit” card on my husband with our second, but I also had the “I carried the baby and delivered it” card to pull so that might make it different.

    • de Pizan
      January 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      My roommate in college loved her name and decided that her first daughter would be named after her. Her fiance totally supported that. Yet almost every single other person, including her family, she told about this tried to talk her out of it. Saying it was conceited, egotistical, confusing, etc. When she asked if they felt the same about a boy getting his dad’s name, they thought that was totally reasonable and no problem whatsoever.

      • January 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

        On my dad’s side of the family, Caperton is the middle name that has been passed down to numerous ladyfolk. I think that by the time my great-grandmother died, we were up to six carriers in five generations. And since most of them were SameFirstName Caperton, a lot of creative nicknames have gotten thrown around. But it’s nice to have that kind of a connection to a really great line of women.

      • de Pizan
        January 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm

        That’s awesome. Some of my sisters with their kids’ names have played around with using last names from both maternal and paternal sides as a first or middle names, or else taking first or middle names from aunts, uncles and grandparents and incorporating it into the child’s name somewhere. Since all my married sisters have taken their husband’s last names, it’s a nice way to acknowledge other lines of the family.

    • librarygoose
      January 18, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      There’s an abundance of a couple names in the family, but no juniors. I’m actually forbidden from marrying or naming “James” or “Troy”.

    • DouglasG
      January 18, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      I am a III, but fortunately there has never been the possibility of a IV. Reproductive virgin, hurrah, and staying that way. As my grandfather turned 100 last year (and his mother before him only missed the century by a few months), I have been dreading having to move up the chain to Junior, and hope there isn’t a lot of paperwork entailed. But if my father goes first among the three of us, I get to be a II, though probably not for long, but it does seem to have a certain cachet.

      There are some advantages, but on the whole I don’t recommend the practice.

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm

        What? It doesn’t work like that. The III is a legal part of your name.

      • January 18, 2013 at 10:50 pm

        Oh good, I thought it sounded wrong. The numbering convention is about how many there are, and born in what order, with the same name in the whole of one’s family tree, yes? Not just how many there are with the same name alive right now.

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm

        Right. Although, “senior” is not a part of one’s legal name, junior, ii, iii, iv all are.

      • January 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm

        Fascinating. It’s not something we do DownUnder, so it took me a while to grok numbering-based nicknames like Chip, Trip, Skip, Ivy, Quint etc.

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm

        Well, we call my husband and father in law Name Four and Name Three when referring to them, as in, “Name Four, can you bring me shoes downstairs when you come?”

      • Wordwizard
        January 19, 2013 at 1:35 am

        Junior is NOT a part of one’s legal name, and when a Senior dies, Junior becomes Senior, if there is a IIIrd.

      • DouglasG
        January 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm

        I’m going by Miss Manners. I actually hope you’re right, as I have no desire whatsoever to move up to Junior and have any of my father’s dubious opinions attributed to me. If it weren’t that it would have created all kinds of complications, I’d probably have changed legally to my pen name by now.

      • January 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

        DouglasG, I could see how people talking to/about you might switch to Snr/Jnr from II/III once the current Snr is no longer alive, but that doesn’t make it a legal requirement for your paperwork.

        Think about what a mess that would be if that’s how monarchs were counted (which is where the numbering idea originated before some folks in the USA decided to apply the idea to non-royal families). Elizabeth I of England died centuries ago, but the current British monarch is still universally identified as Elizabeth II.

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 19, 2013 at 4:47 pm

        Apparently Miss Manners is the outlier on that belief.

        I find it very strange to think that someone would re-order the family names, “Oh, he was Bill Junior from 1941 until his dad died in 1999, but now he’s Bill Senior. Little Billy was Bill III from 1977 until 1999. Now he’s Bill Junior.” Seems highly impractical.

      • DouglasG
        January 19, 2013 at 9:49 pm

        I’m as happy to be wrong as Toni Collette was as Harriet Smith in Emma when she admitted to the Westons that it had been her belief that one loved but once. Monarchs don’t seem to fit in the same system, though, as they generally don’t get numbered during their predecessors’ lives. There are probably some delightful discussions to be had about various Henrys and Edwards, but I’ll avoid the derail. It does seem that, if people didn’t move up the line, we’d see a lot more John Johnson XXIIIs.

        I have a vague memory of working with a IV who began life as a V and moved up, but it is most comforting to think that it isn’t obligatory. I thank you all.

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm

        Oh, I always thought it was because after 4 or 5 generations, someone doesn’t have kids, only has daughters, or thinks the whole tradition is silly and calls their son Brian instead of James Wallace VIII.

      • DouglasG
        January 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm

        I just hope that all those poor brothers named George Foreman II-VI after their father don’t keep to the same scheme, or who knows how high the tally could get.

        One thing I have seen done more than once is for the last survivor to drop any suffix when he’s the only one left, so that even those families with long patrilineal traditions get reset periodically.

        And it’s often not just names. Not only did I not consort with some unfortunate woman in an attempt to provide the world with a IV, I declined to follow the previous three generations in attending the same university. The line just changed gender, as the older of my sisters went there a decade later.

  10. January 18, 2013 at 10:38 am

    My engagement ring to Valoniel was a single gold earring, one of a pair I’ve worn for 23 years, give or take a month. Plain silver wedding rings (initials inside) on silver chains to accommodate the Indian thaali (wedding chain), and we still wear the earrings, too. It all seems much more meaningful than a rock covered in the blood of slaves and the grubby fingers of rich men, but what the fuck do I know.

    • January 18, 2013 at 11:01 am

      That sounds awesome. Er, what you did, not the rock covered in the blood of slaves.

  11. January 18, 2013 at 10:43 am

    The boy and I have had the ‘We are NOT getting married’ conversation (I am not emotionally invested in marrying again, he’s against the whole institution, to the point that he won’t even attend weddings) so my participation in this conversation is kind of moot, but long story short, someone who proposed with a diamond engagement ring probably wouldn’t be getting a yes from me since a diamond would be a HUGE indicator that they don’t get me at all. I don’t care for diamonds and I am hugely uncomfortable with going into debt for frivolous things. While I like jewellery.. it’s frivolous. You want to drop a huge amount of money to show you love me? Awesome. Put a balloon payment on my mortgage AND I’M YOURS. (with obvious caveat that this only applies to people I’m already in a long term relationship with.. otherwise, weird.)

    A ring? Sure.. especially if was some kind of cool antique ring and was no more than a few hundred dollars. True story.. when my ex and I got engaged, I had pointed out rings that I liked in a Sears catalogue. A $60 opal ring. He got me a diamond ring that put us into debt for two years when we were just starting out.

    Yeah, no diamonds, thanks.

    • January 20, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Y’know, Andie, I’m really starting to believe that if someone decides to give their partner overly expensive (I’m talking debt-making, like your example above) gifts it’s actually a red flag.

      • Bagelsan
        January 22, 2013 at 11:11 am

        “Here, I spent a significant chunk of our money on a piece of hardened crap. For you! Let’s legally combine our finances now.”

      • January 22, 2013 at 8:18 pm

        I totally agree with you on that one. I treat it as such, now. Fortunately current SO gets just as hyper-ventily when it comes to large-ticket items as I do and has no desire to combine finances either.

    • January 22, 2013 at 11:39 pm

      When my folks decided to get married, my dad took out all the money he had in the bank and took my mom to the store (Montgomery Wards – old school) to look at rings. My mom picked out two solid gold bands, one for each of them, and insisted on no engagement ring. Total cost was $20.

      I always liked that story.

  12. SoRefined
    January 18, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I happened to have a ring already when my husband and I decided to get married. (Grandma’s engagement ring, which she had given to me years back.) I don’t think I’d have bothered with one otherwise. I’m very much not a jewelry person though.

    Way before we considered marriage, I told my now-husband that I would break things off immediately if he ever asked my father for permission to marry me. I also made it clear I would never, ever change my name. Most of my friends are married now and I can only think of one other person I know who didn’t change her name. I gather the practice is still really widespread, and getting his family to accept that I’m not Mrs. Hisname has been a battle. Can’t wait until they discover we’re never having children!

  13. January 18, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I’m engaged. We talked about it enough before hand to ensure that we both actually wanted it, he didn’t have a ring which is fine because he knows I’m not really down with the ring thing, and I’m not gonna change my name because I’m an artist and I want people to be able to find me and my work after I get married

    . We got engaged after I was released from the hospital. We stopped at the store to get donuts first. We were both so happy that I was out of the hospital, at least for the time being, and he just felt the time was right so he made me put down my donut and got down on one knee, hahaha.

    I really don’t get the ring thing. I know that we are all different and complex and I don’t want to come off as snotty towards someone who wears a big diamond or changes their name. If women proposing to men and giving them rings was a more widespread practice here, I wouldn’t see engagement rings as such an odd thing, I think. As it is, because culturally men are expected to do the proposing, and expected to offer a ring, and expected to keep their last names, it all just adds up to something unsettling.

    Two of my co-workers got married a while ago and they both go on about how much work it is to change their name and what a hassle it is but they talk about it like it’s something they have to do. I know they may genuinely want to, just like they may genuinely want a big diamond on their hand, but I do raise an eyebrow when what someone says they really really want just happens to go perfectly hand in hand with that is expected of them from society and what they’ve been told is normal and right for their entire lives.

    All that being said, I always worry I come off sounding like a jerk when I talk about this! I mean, how do I question these practices without it sounding like I’m calling all these women stupid or saying I’m better than them or something?

    • CassandraSays
      January 18, 2013 at 11:03 am

      If only the store had sold tiny donuts so you could have used one of them as a temporary ring. An edible engagement bracelet, maybe?

      • January 18, 2013 at 11:26 am

        He later told me that he briefly considered handing me a donut in place of the ring but decided against it.

    • Laura C
      January 18, 2013 at 11:19 am

      I have a friend who proposed to her husband by getting down on one knee and giving him a ring pop.

    • JBL55
      January 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      he didn’t have a ring which is fine because he knows I’m not really down with the ring thing

      I wasn’t really down with it, but I wasn’t down on it either, and my husband really wanted to give me one, so we picked out the diamond and the setting together, and I gave him a very simple signet ring I knew he had always liked.

      Each couple is different and should do what is right for them both AFAIC.

      I’m not gonna change my name because I’m an artist and I want people to be able to find me and my work after I get married

      Many women keep their professional name separate from their social name for exactly that reason. I remember when Madonna was married to Sean Penn she would sign her name “Mrs. Sean Penn” under certain occasions but she never changed her name professionally. On the other hand Robin Wright added “Penn” to her name and since the divorce she’s dropped it. Seems to me it would have been a whole lot easier to just stay Robin Wright.

      Jessican Tandy never took Hume Cronyn’s name professionally and they were married for half a century; however, socially she was “Mrs. Cronyn.” Same idea with Georgia O’Keefe and Virginia Woolf and countless female professionals.

      “We got engaged after I was released from the hospital. We stopped at the store to get donuts first.”

      Us, too, except it was root beer floats!

      how do I question these practices without it sounding like I’m calling all these women stupid or saying I’m better than them or something?

      If you genuinely feel they are not stupid and you are not better than them, then it probably won’t sound that way as long as you read through what you’ve written to make sure you’ve phrased your thoughts respectfully.

      But often people are so invested in the opinions of others that they will take offense at the mere expression of a different way of doing things. One can’t worry about that.

      • EG
        January 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm

        Virginia Woolf took her husband’s name, both personally and professionally. He was Leonard Woolf, and when she was born, she was Adeline Virginia Stephen.

      • JBL55
        January 20, 2013 at 10:37 am

        Yup — I came back here to correct myself when I had a moment to reflect.

        Thank you!

        Note to self: verify examples instead of relying on faulty memory.

  14. Iam138
    January 18, 2013 at 11:19 am

    When I proposed in 1988, I never considered asking her father first. The thought never even crossed my mind. She was 33 years old, had been out of college for 12 years and law school for eight years, and she was eight years my senior (and a former professor of mine, to boot).

    She also made it clear that she did not want an engagement ring (the ownership issue), which was good since I wasn’t making much at the time. We did give each other gold band wedding rings, which we wore.

  15. LMD
    January 18, 2013 at 11:42 am

    My sister didn’t change her name when she married. She’s just had a baby boy and he has her last name. Other people do think it’s weird. She doesn’t care and neither does her husband.

  16. cameramachines
    January 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Honestly I took his name and considered it a non-issue. It wasn’t until after I got married that I became more aware of feminist issues. All through school and college, it’s you can do anything. Then you start working, get married, and it’s “when are you having kids” “aren’t you going to stay home with your children?” and not getting jobs in technical fields because you’re a woman and watching your female manager get disrespected and ignored in meetings. And people assume that I’m the one who cleans the house, which is insane because I work full time and he is a full time student with no job right now.

    I remember reading an article about marriage being a radicalizing event for women because of all the social pressures and assumptions and I really think that was true for me.

    It does drive me crazy when single moms give their kid ‘his name’. And it’s some deadbeat the kid will only rarely see.

    • (BFing) Sarah
      January 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      It does drive me crazy when single moms give their kid ‘his name’. And it’s some deadbeat the kid will only rarely see.

      I always feel bad verbalizing this, but I feel the same way. My cousin just did this and the dude is just not really that involved and she is doing pretty much everything. Seems like it would be more practical for baby to share the name of the person who is actually his parent, but whatevs. Up to her.

  17. chickwithmonkey
    January 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I told my partner from the beginning of our relationship that I wasn’t changing my name and any kids I ever had would have my name as well. Given that information, he elected to take my name when we married, which was easier than we thought possible and has definitely made my family happy. We exchanged inexpensive handmade jewelry when we first got together and then I bought my own engagement ring/wedding band (by trading in some old family jewelry) when we got engaged. He wanted an engagement ring too but we couldn’t afford it at the time, so he waited until we signed the papers to get a matching band. My ring has diamond chips in it but now I wish I’d gone for blue topaz. And if he’d asked my father for permission I hope my dad would have said no on the grounds that my partner clearly knew nothing about me, or he wouldn’t have asked!

    • (BFing) Sarah
      January 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      I love that idea (him taking my name, which is more awesome than his name)! But if I did that his family would hate me. No really. They would probably stop speaking to us. It would offend them in such a real, serious way that I don’t even think I’d even joke about it with them. Still, I like that idea.

      • chickwithmonkey
        January 22, 2013 at 9:44 am

        It sorta worked for us in that they hated me before we got engaged (kicked him out of the house for dating me). He’d been thinking of changing his name anyway but that sealed it. We had no contact for 5 years and now they’re back in our lives (but distantly) and the extended family has not batted an eye. His immediate family is pretending that the whole hating me thing never happened, so we just sort of roll our eyes and let it go.

  18. Meh
    January 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Re: patrilineal naming… I didn’t change my name when I got married, but our daughter has his last name. Husband cared a lot more than I did about the symbolic connection of a shared name, because between pregnancy and voracious breastfeeding, she and I were PHYSICALLY connected for the better part of two years. I saw it more as throwing him a bone than bowing to patriarchal tradition. Plus, he agreed that I got a 51% vote on the first and middle names, which are way more fun to pick out.

  19. pseudon mousie
    January 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    My coworker’s daughter has her last name. She explained that she & her husband had done research and found that it’s more convenient for certain paperwork-type things if the child has the mother’s name (rather than the father’s) but I don’t recall the details. & I’m not sure how it would apply to same-sex parents.

    (Hi-yo anecdata, away!)

  20. Stephanie
    January 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    My uncle gave me a lecture at our wedding about how I needed to change my name because men just don’t understand why I wouldn’t. My response of “well, *some* men don’t.” was unsatisfactory to him. Our baby, due in 2 weeks, will have my last name, and this wasn’t even slightly an issue for my husband, or for his family. My husband may or may not change his name, depending on how much hassle it is to have a different name than the baby, but we will see.

    As far as our engagement, we had a series of discussions about it, including naming kids, finances, and dealing with a couple of relationship issues that are not dealbreakers but could become so if we ignore them. So we decided, and then we were ‘engaged,’ but it wasn’t a big deal and I don’t remember telling anyone right away. His parents had some hand-me-down rings that we used, no diamonds.

  21. Miriam
    January 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    My mother didn’t change her name, so there’s never been a question for me that I wouldn’t change mine. I’m still mystified that women so commonly do, but I know that I’d grown up in a family where one last name was socially normative, I’d probably feel differently.

    With our child, we did do my husband’s last name. It was something I struggled with, but our names do not combine well so neither of us wanted to go the hyphenated or fused name route. My family name is a name that was changed explicitly to mask our ethnicity, so when push came to shove, I didn’t feel it was a name worth bucking tradition and familial expectations over. But we gave her a first name that clearly belongs to my ethnicity to balance as much as can be balanced.

  22. January 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Jack White took Meg’s name. He was born Gilles. He kept her name when they split up.

    • librarygoose
      January 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      I am fascinated by this.

    • rhian
      January 18, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      For some reason I had always thought they were siblings.

      • Denise Winters
        January 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

        So did I. I mean, I thought I could even vaguely remember reading about them being siblings.

      • January 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm

        They claimed to be siblings for a while, and then a copy of their wedding certificate was published. They were divorced after a few years together, but still kept on playing in the band, and they thought that claiming to be siblings instead would keep the focus more on their music than on their personal relationship.

  23. Henry
    January 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Canadian diamond, and opted for a smaller stone <1 carat, not one of those mega stones. I was told by someone my old boss that now that I had a real job I should upgrade her stone to a bigger nicer one…I really wanted to puke in their office, on their law degree.

    Sorry we’re attached to stuff..that rock survived the wedding planning, the beach giant cliff full of rocks near ocean that almost killed us pre-wedding photo shoot and it’s also less likely to get someone’s finger chopped off

  24. tessa
    January 18, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    i’m getting married in less than a month. i had told my partner years ago that i wanted no engagement ring, and no proposal: we were going to sit down like two adults and decide when and if we were going to get married, together. no one was going to make that decision for me! i have had to explain to many people – mostly co-workers – why i don’t have an engagement ring. i start out with, “i’m no one’s property!” hoping that will suffice. but it very rarely does.
    i have also told him that it is super important that our kids have my last name (if we have any). he has agreed.

  25. EG
    January 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I want at least one of my (future, still at this point hypothetical) children to have my last name. I’m willing to go to the mat over this one. My last name is unusual, the only people currently bearing it are women, and I don’t like the way patriarchal naming writes women out of history.

    • Donna L
      January 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      I know exactly how you feel, and think it’s great that you plan to do that. My mother’s last name was more than unusual; she was the very last person in the world to have that last name (which was invented by my great-great-great-grandfather in 1812 when the Jews of Prussia were required to adopt hereditary surnames), and it means a great deal to me that she gave it to me as my middle name — as completely embarrassed about it as I was when I was a child, because sounded so “foreign.” My son has told me that he’s thinking of legally adopting it as his middle name instead of “Michael,” which he’s never liked, since it also begins with an “M.” The idea that that name should be less worthy of continuing than my father’s surname makes no sense at all to me.

    • librarygoose
      January 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      My mother’s last name is on it’s last generation because her brother never had any biological children. I’ve already told my mother if I have kids I’m giving at least one her maiden name. She got all teary and hugged me, so now I’m committed.

    • Wordwizard
      January 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      I know a man with an unusual last name who supposedly believes girls are just as good as boys, but had a 3rd child he couldn’t really afford because he wanted a boy to carry on his name. Of course, the 3rd child turned out ALSO female, and his wife put her foot down on having any more. I suggested he simply ask his daughters to carry on his last name to their children––certainly the odds that at least ONE would indulge him are good––It had never occurred to him that girls COULD pass on his name! Go figure. Isn’t the EXISTENCE of a child or grandchild more important than the NAME they end up with, anyway?!?

  26. DP
    January 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I got married last year and while we’d already discussed marriage and had vague plans, I did surprise my wife with a ring afterward. I guess I wanted to have my cake and eat it too – romantic gesture but also have things planned out.

    She did change her name – but that’s because her father is an AWOL asshole and she doesn’t like him or his name. That’s one potential reason for it.

  27. Elizabeth
    January 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    My now-husband and I both wore engagement rings, too. And we both changed our names to a new one we chose together (it’s kind of a chimera of our family names at birth– some letters from each of my hyphenated name, and some letters from his, assembled into a name we both like). I also don’t do “Mrs. Lastname”– I don’t think my form of address should be dictated by my marital status– but getting people to use Ms. is an uphill battle for a married woman!

    He did ask for my parents’ blessing before he officially proposed to me, but we had talked terms and I knew that he was going to propose at some point soon. Nobody “gave me away” at the wedding, I didn’t wear the veil, we skipped the garter and the bouquet toss, and everybody walked down the aisle in the procession, groom and attendants included. We made our wedding rings ourselves– he made mine out of a silver dollar coin with the middle dremel-ed out, and I made his by wire-wrapping some gemstone chips.

    And yes, I am a stay-at-home parent, but my career (midwifery) is compatible with taking that role with my children, while his (engineering) is not. He does most of the cooking, I do most of the baking. He changes the diapers whenever he’s home and gets up with the toddlers in the night, and I breastfeed and do the first-aid and give the baths. We have a remarkably balanced life.

    But yes, the prevailing culture in the US is…confusingly patrilineal. Many of my friends– from my women’s college, no less– took their husband’s names or named their babies Firstname Hisname.

    • chickwithmonkey
      January 22, 2013 at 9:59 am

      I use Mrs. Lastname at my school counseling internship at a high school because when I say I’m a student at a local university, I’m mistaken for an undergrad. Most kids default to Mrs. for teachers and school staff anyway. I have terrible manners and would prefer to use just last names to refer to colleagues, but I have to set a good example for the kids, so I mostly call everyone Ms. But can we all agree that “Miss” is a terrible anachronism and deserves to be deleted from the lexicon?

  28. Donna L
    January 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Aside from being symbolically soaked in blood, I think diamonds are rather uninteresting regardless of how big and shiny they are. I have never owned any jewelry with diamonds, real or fake, and have no interest in it. I’d rather have something with emerald or ruby or sapphire or topaz any day!

    And never mind asking the father (which I think is such an offensive concept that I find it hard to believe anyone still does it seriously, as asking permission rather than as notification), I really, really dislike the one-sided nature of the whole asking to marry followed by an engagement ring. Yes, I did it myself, in my previous incarnation, and I was happy to be able to give my ex things, whether engagement and wedding rings or anything else, but I never understood why it couldn’t be more mutual. It all seemed so commodified, if I’m using that word correctly, especially since my ex had a cousin who was conveniently in the jewelry business on 47th Street, from whom I bought the stones. And it went right along with the strong feeling I had of being pretty much a supernumerary at the wedding itself, as if a cardboard prop would have served everyone’s purpose just as well. “Bride’s day” my foot.

    Not that it’s remotely likely that I’ll ever marry again, but there’s no way that I would ever go through anything like that process again, even from the “other side” of it.

    • Alexandra
      January 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      I agree. I didn’t really make the connection that diamonds = engagement ring until fairly late in adolescence, because my mother’s engagement ring is a sapphire – and I always thought it was JUST BEAUTIFUL, because my mother was just so beautiful and elegant to me as a child (she still is, actually). And so I’ve always wanted a sapphire engagement ring. Even though I don’t really want to get married.

  29. January 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    The amount of cultural emphasis and importance placed upon marriage is extreme. Feminism has made an impact over the years, but women still place (too) much emphasis upon engagement and wedding preparation. Old habits are hard to break, I suppose.

    I bet if we were more righteously indignant about the inequalities people might care more, but there’s still a romanticized, glossy notion of joy and celebration at play here. No one wants to be a downer or a buzzkill.

    I’d prefer we focus on the union of two people rather than the exhausting amount of pre-planning and ceremony that transpires before one even gets to the actual nuptials. Marriage makes traditionalists of even the most progressive-minded woman, I have found.

    Marriage and the formal process of engagement to me has always seemed very ephemeral. Maybe I’m too familiar with what happens in relationships after the honeymoon period subsides. I’d rather us place more attention about how to live with the same person for years and years. The wedding dress in the back of the closet will only keep collecting dust.

    • Past my expiration date
      January 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Marriage makes traditionalists of even the most progressive-minded woman, I have found.

      How about that.

      • Bagelsan
        January 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm

        Have you seen Lola above? He’s not far wrong.

      • Past my expiration date
        January 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm

        One progressive-minded woman does some wedding-related traditionalist things, therefore marriage turns progressive-minded women into traditionalists?

        How about that.

      • January 18, 2013 at 7:47 pm

        Congratulations on buying into Kevin’s idea that wedding=marriage? Because that was a fairly grody statement on his part.

      • Alexandra
        January 18, 2013 at 7:57 pm

        Do you not see how you’re playing right into the notion that all it takes to make a feminist into a good woman is a marriage and some kids?

        Promoting the idea that women can no longer be progressive, or radical, once they are wives or mothers is sexist and reactionary.

        Lola’s saying some stuff upthread that a lot of folks here disagree with, but are we really going to extrapolate from that that she has ditched all progressive values? It seems unlikely, since she’s here on this blog thinking and writing about feminism and how it affects her life.

      • Bagelsan
        January 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm

        Hey, all he’s talking about is in his experience, and all I’m doing is agreeing that there’s some supporting evidence for that experience on this thread. That’s hardly a treatise on Why Married Women Are Bad And Smell Bad. :p

    • EG
      January 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      I’d prefer we focus on the union of two people rather than the exhausting amount of pre-planning and ceremony that transpires before one even gets to the actual nuptials.

      Meh. Celebrations are important, as are rituals. And as far as celebrations go, we could celebrate many worse things than two people loving each other and making a life together. If you want to have a celebration of more than three or four people, it’s going to take some planning. These things don’t just happen.

      I don’t like to see traditionally feminine labor and activities disparaged for no good reason.

    • January 18, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Marriage makes traditionalists of even the most progressive-minded woman, I have found.

      Have you been reading the same thread I have?

    • January 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      there’s still a romanticized, glossy notion of joy and celebration at play here.

      Ah, yes. That romanticised “glossy” notion that people might have the odd happy feeling or two about solemnising a deep bond of love. What pathetic frivolous ladypersons they must be.

    • January 20, 2013 at 5:15 am

      Kevin, how about you actually talk with women when you come over here, rather than talk at us? Or is dictating to the laydeez how we “should” do things your job as a male “feminist”?

  30. January 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Feminism has made an impact over the years, but women still place (too) much emphasis upon engagement and wedding preparation.

    People place too much emphasis upon engagement and wedding preparation. Brides don’t make these choices in a vacuum.

    • January 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      Whoops, screwed that up. It was meant as a reply to Comrade Kevin, right above.

  31. Hasenbaer
    January 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I proposed to my now ex-girlfriend, mostly out of a sense of poetic symbolism, I would say. I loved her and still love her and I guess I grasped for a culturally anchored symbolic act. She accepted and I she introduced me to friends of hers as “my fiancé”, but we are both ‘progressive’, and the idea of marrying clashed with the intellectual composition of our minds. It’s a strange archaism. Why marry at all? There is a plethora of symbols you can choose to show commitment.

    • Miriam
      January 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      Depending on the country you live in, marriage has significant legal benefits that are challenging to replicate without marriage. It’s not just symbolic.

      I also don’t see anything anti-feminist or anti-progressive about marriage or weddings. They can be done in that way or they can be egalitarian. Children are much more of a challenge to egalitarianism, IMHO, than marriage and even that has as much to do with societal lack of support for egalitarian childrearing (again IMHO).

  32. Henry
    January 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Surname changes are horrible, especially today where people are looking for networking opportunities/jobs/ways to feed themselves online, changing a name professionally erases someone and puts the burden on them to get the word out to everyone that they are the same person as the former Ms. Smith. Google, Linkedin and other tools do not contain a maiden name index as far as I know (though this might be a nice idea Google/Linkedin). I’ve seen people list the maiden name in () which helps if they are the ones controlling the listing. But if you ever write for work or otherwise it won’t often be published with your former name in (), if you do anything like file patents, SEC filings and other things they will use the legal name too. In other words some new person no one has ever heard of will be getting the credit. If I had to change my last name I would lose so much business, half the time referrals are off hand comments (usually at 11 PM in some bar) to reach out to so and so – if they get your email address right it’s a bonus.

    • January 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Even the expression “maiden name” is all kinds of wrong. How many people’s names actually reflect their sexual activities? Why would they? I always say unmarried name for me or “your name prior to marriage” for others. I even cross it off and replace with “unmarried” on forms. Just no – we are so not talking about my status as a maiden or otherwise.

      • Wordwizard
        January 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm

        You’re forgetting that “maiden” can also mean “young woman” as opposed to “virgin”.

      • Donna L
        January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm

        You do realize, I hope, that the origin of the term “maiden name” is specifically based on the assumption that women are, in fact, “maidens” prior to marriage?

        I wince at the term “maiden name” and actively avoid using it. If I’m referring to my mother’s name before she was married, I usually just call it her “family name.” I do the same with any other woman’s family name which I come across in doing genealogical research.

      • Wordwizard
        January 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm

        Donna L: State your proof.

      • FashionablyEvil
        January 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm

        There’s this thing called Google? Maybe you’ve heard of it?

        Etymology of maiden name.

        Maiden means an unmarried (i.e., virgin) woman. Where do you think terms like “maiden voyage” and “maidenhead” come from? They’re all part of the virginity concept.

      • Wordwizard
        January 20, 2013 at 7:36 am

        I went to your link (see below), and it seems clear that the meanings “virgin” and “young” and “unmarried” are confounded. It is plausible, given that a young person is MORE LIKELY to be a virgin.
        maiden (n.)
        Old English mægden, mæden “maiden, virgin, GIRL; maid, servant,” diminutive of mægð, mægeð “virgin, GIRL; WOMAN, wife,” from P.Gmc. *magadinom “YOUNG WOMANHOOD, sexually inexperienced female” (cf. Old Saxon magath, Old Frisian maged, Old High German magad “virgin, MAID,” German Magd “MAID, MAIDSERVANT,” German Mädchen “GIRL, MAID,” from Mägdchen “LITTLE MAID”), fem. variant of PIE root *maghu- “YOUNGSTER of EITHER sex, UNMARRIED PERSON” (cf. Old English magu “CHILD, SON, MALE DESCENDANT,” Avestan magava- “UNMARRIED,” Old Irish maug “slave”).
        Example (Early music madrigal lyrics):
        Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard a YOUNG MAIDEN in the valley below:
        “O, don’t deceive me! O, never leave me! How could you use a poor MAIDEN so?” (etc.)
        Thus sang the poor MAID her sorrows bewailing, thus sang the poor MAIDEN in the valley below: O, (etc.)
        This poor young MAIDEN was very clearly no longer a virgin, having been used and discarded by a lover who had broken his vows to her.

      • EG
        January 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

        You might want to look at Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” in which “maids” hear the goblins’ cries, but after one of the girls “has to do with goblin men” and eats their fruit in a highly sexualized scene, she can no longer hear the goblins. It’s pretty clear that “maid” means “virgin.”

        However, if you want the OED on it, meaning 2a should suffice:

        a. A virgin; spec. the Virgin Mary ( †maiden Mary). (Not always clearly distinguishable from senses A. 1a, A. 3.) Cf. maid n.1 1a. Now rare.
        OE Laws of Cnut (Nero) ii. lii. §1. 346 Gif hwa mæden nydnæme [L. si quis uiolenter uirginem opprimat].
        ?c1200 Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 2102 Þeȝȝ wenndenn þatt ȝho wære wif Acc ȝho wass maȝȝdenn clene.
        a1225 MS Lamb. in R. Morris Old Eng. Homilies (1868) 1st Ser. 77 Þet hali meiden onswerede and seide quomodo [etc.].
        c1300 Holy Cross (Laud) 68 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 3 I-bore he was of þe maydene Marie.
        a1387 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John’s Cambr.) (1876) VI. 319 Þe kyng ȝaf here lond for to bulde tweie abbayes of maydons.
        a1400 (1325) Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) 28483, I..forced sum woman with nede, and maþens reft þair maþenhede.
        c1440 (1350) in G. G. Perry Relig. Pieces in Prose & Verse (1914) 29 Goddes sone tuke flesche and blode of þe blyssed maydene Marie.
        a1470 Malory Morte Darthur (Winch. Coll.) 1093 A clene mayden I am for hym and for alle other.
        c1540 (1400) Gest Historiale Destr. Troy 2940 Þat comes but to harme, Gers maidnes be mart, mariage fordone.
        1600 Shakespeare Much Ado about Nothing iv. i. 88 Why then are you no maiden.
        a1639 W. Whately Prototypes (1640) ii. xxxiv. 157 Though Shechem had done the Maiden this wrong to devirginate her.
        1855 Fraser’s Mag. 51 92 The maiden is pure all mays above.
        1871 H. James Watch & Ward in Atlantic Monthly Dec. 705/1 Don’t go back to Roger in a hurry! You’re not the unspotted maiden you were but two short days ago.
        1904 Hymns Anc. & Mod. No. 55 A maiden pure and undefiled Is by the Spirit great with child.
        1928 F. W. S. Browne tr. T. H. van de Velde Ideal Marriage ii. iv. 57 Within this space is the sexual orifice… In maidens this is closed by the hymen.
        1965 G. Greene in New Statesman 8 Oct. 518/3 ‘The definition of a maiden in common use’, Doctor Crombie replied,..‘is an unbroken hymen’.

      • Wordwizard
        January 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

        Definition 2a refers straight off to a couple of other definitions you didn’t post, “(Not always clearly distinguishable from senses A. 1a, A. 3.)” which I suspect means that the FIRST definition supports my contention!
        I am very familiar with Goblin Market, which ends with the maid (not maiden) Laura being RESTORED by her brave and loving SISTER Lizzie’s heroism winning the antidote. This does not fit in with the otherwise plausible sexual symbolism. (Why would having sex make one unable to hear the temptations of men any more, anyway?) Both become wives with children––neither is ruined. And the poem ends with a moral that has nothing to do with staying away from evil goblin men––

        Then joining hands to little hands
        Would bid them cling together,
        ‘For there is no friend like a sister
        In calm or stormy weather;
        To cheer one on the tedious way,
        To fetch one if one goes astray,
        To lift one if one totters down,
        To strengthen whilst one stands.’


      • Donna L
        January 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm

        Donna L: State your proof.

        Stop being such a fucking asshole. This isn’t a classroom. In any event, I think that even if this were an academic debate, the burden would be on you to prove that the term “maiden name” derives from something other than the obvious (given the self-evident implications and assumptions underlying the term). And EG’s evidence concerning the predominant meaning of the term “maiden” in general is far more persuasive than yours. So you found a literary example of “maiden” continuing to refer to a woman as such even after she had been “used and discarded.” So what? It proves nothing about the predominant meaning, let alone about “maiden name.” And the starting point even of your example is that the young woman was a “maiden” until she was so used.

        So where’s your evidence supporting your position that the term isn’t offensive? Nowhere, so far as I can tell.

      • Wordwizard
        January 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm

        Donna L: “State your proof” is not offensive, to anyone who cares about backing up their personal opinion with FACTS. Calling someone a “fucking asshole”, however, IS offensive. MY personal opinion is that it is obvious that MOST PEOPLE do NOT find the term offensive, given that it is regularly used without comment by everyone except radical feminists! That doesn’t mean radical feminists shouldn’t feel free to deconstruct any term they like, but YOUR OPINION that it’s “obvious (given the self-evident implications and assumptions underlying the term)” is NOT OBVIOUS, or SELF-EVIDENT, or EVERYONE would have stopped using the term long ago!

      • Donna L
        January 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm

        Calling someone a “fucking asshole”, however, IS offensive.

        It was fully intended to be. I can’t always live up to my reputation of being patient!

        And speaking of definitions, you obviously have no idea whatsoever of what the term “radical feminist” means.

      • January 20, 2013 at 6:16 pm

        YOUR OPINION that it’s “obvious (given the self-evident implications and assumptions underlying the term)” is NOT OBVIOUS, or SELF-EVIDENT, or EVERYONE would have stopped using the term long ago!

        Yes, because whenever any humans realise that something is obviously, self-evidently wrong (rape, harassment, jaywalking, liking Justin Bieber) we all stop doing it forever. That’s totally how it works.

      • EG
        January 20, 2013 at 8:56 pm

        I didn’t forget jack shit. I teach that poem at least once every term. Why would she be unable to hear the goblins once no longer a virgin? Because, symbolically, now that she has been deflowered and her virtue is gone, she has nothing of value to trade for the “fruit,” so they’re not interested in her any longer.

        Her “sister” is pelted with fruit by the goblin men after she refuses to trade away a piece of her body for said fruit (the body as sexual commodity), and returns home covered with juices which Lizzie licks off her body in one of the more explicitly lesbian scenes you’ll find in contemporaneous poetry (“Did you miss me? / Come and kiss me. / Lizzie, never mind my bruises. / Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices.”). Lesbian sex safes LIzzie from the depredations of heterosexual sex, but she is not “restored”–she is never referred to as a maid after her dealings with the goblin men.

        Bear in mind that Rosetti did a lot of volunteer work with “fallen women”–she is almost certainly referring to the power of women to aid each other after they have been ruined and discarded by men.

        Leaving that aside, the position that you’re staking out–that the term “maiden” means young woman, not virgin–is untenable. The two meanings are inextricable from each other. Seriously, in a community where we don’t use “lame” because of the inherent ablism, you’re going to claim that “maiden” makes no reference to virginity? No.

      • Wordwizard
        January 20, 2013 at 11:17 pm

        EG: Thank you for the explanation that the “sisters” are symbolically lesbian. I had noticed the passage you quote, but never actually put the pieces together. Odd that they became wives later, though. Thank you also for the context about Rosetti’s life. You are mistaken in that I never said that “the term ‘maiden’ means young woman, NOT virgin”, but that it is used both ways, and conflated. A “maiden name” is bestowed on an infant child, very young indeed, and certainly maiden at the time, however you wish to interpret the term. Hence “birth name” bestowed at birth, referring to a young woman long after she has been born, and after she may or may not have become sexually active.
        Donna L: Aren’t these comments moderated for abusive language? How did yours get through? If you are reduced to name-calling, what does that say about your ability to argue reasonably? I know what “radical feminist” means as much as the next woman who has studied feminism from NRW’s course.
        Macavitykitsune: Come on, now. I have been fighting an uphill battle lo these many years to get people around me to stop using the word “LADY”, for pity’s sake, because they TRUELY can’t see what’s offensive about it, and they SAY SO again and again!

      • January 20, 2013 at 11:59 pm

        WordWizard, the moderation filter is set to catch marginalising slurs, not general obscenities/profanities, because we’re not actually delicate flowers here who can’t stand “strong language” – we’re just trying to ensure some basic consideration of how word choices reinforce the kyriarchal status quo.

        Now, this subthread ran out of any possibility of being a productive exchange of views a while ago now. Nobody is supporting your view, you are most unlikely to persuade anybody over to your view, so it’s time to leave it at that.

  33. Karla
    January 18, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Jill, I so agree with you about the name-changing. It’s ABSURDLY sexist and I am bewildered that almost no one else sees it as even a little bit problematic. I will look forward to your article about it.

  34. GKing
    January 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Jill, thank you for finally giving me a single place to point to when some one questions my opinions on these matters, which perfectly mirror those you expressed. Beautifully done.

  35. hellkell
    January 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Jill, I got my engagement ring at Isadora’s! A 1930 art deco sapphire.

    I haven’t changed my name out of sheer laziness and the fact that that neither of us care very much about me doing it.

  36. January 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    In Iceland babies can be given matronymic names like the author Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir (Minerva’s daughter); I like the idea even though it can be a mouthful. And I believe in many Spanish speaking places the child is given both of the parents names. It’s interesting to see that other places do things differently.

    • Alexandra
      January 18, 2013 at 6:55 pm

      Feminist Kathie Sarachild changed her surname to honor her mother, I think.

      I’ve always liked Scandinavian naming traditions.

      What about giving sons X Mother’s Name Father’s Name, and daughters X Father’s Name Mother’s Name?

      Just hyphens, no middle names? Although that would complicate legal forms.

      • January 19, 2013 at 9:43 pm

        I changed my surname to my mother’s by deed poll some 25 years ago. There was no reason to keep my father’s surname. He was an adulterous twit who’d long since left; his name was really boring and not even his, since he was adopted; Mum’s surname and family tree has been traced back to the 16th century; and the name itself is way cooler, if harder to spell. :)

        Mum changed back to her own surname a few months later.

      • EG
        January 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm

        I’m not knocking your decision or defending your dad, but the surnames of my friends who were adopted are definitely theirs, as much as mine is.

    • Sancha
      January 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Yes you are right, in Spain we have TWO OFFICIAL SURNAMES. Traditionally Father´s First Mother´s Second but nowadays you as a parent can choose which one goes first. And when we get married you NEVER take your husband´s surname.

      Also, wearing a engagement ring is very RARE at least in the North part of Spain.

  37. Megan
    January 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    One of my guilty pleasures is going on to youtube and watching videos of those epic, 200-person, super public proposals … where the woman says no, and inevitably runs off. They’re so awful and fascinating.

    • January 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      Years ago now my mister had an ad for writing songs on commission for special occasions. We had this guy who had been so impressed by a friend’s proposal to the friend’s gf that he decided to duplicate it for his planned proposal to his own gf: so he had us write a song, we had it recorded for him by a friend who’s a classically trained light baritone, and gave him a CD of it to play during the proposal, which he intended to make at her 21st birthday party (with all those friends and relatives watching). Since we never ever heard back from him, we deduce that simply copying somebody else’s thoughtful romantic gesture (that his own gf had also witnessed) did not go quite so well as he had hoped.

  38. anna
    January 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Why marry at all? There is a plethora of symbols you can choose to show commitment.

    Yeah, but marriage comes with legal rights.

    I know some women change their names because they hate their birth names and marriage is an easy time to change your name, but that doesn’t explain why women are almost always the ones to change. Do women have all the lousy last names, all the bad fathers? Don’t men want to be part of a united family and show their love and commitment? Shouldn’t children, for that matter, be named after both their parents? Isn’t a man’s last name “just your father’s name anyway” as much as a woman’s is?

    If somebody wants to take their spouse’s last name, fine. But when the overwhelming majority of women do and not one man in a thousand does (in America at least) I think sexist pressure does play a part in SOME of these decisions, and it shouldn’t.

    I know a couple where the man took the woman’s last name. Vice versa, nobody would have cared. As it is, you would be astonished how many nice liberals are horrified at the idea. “But his family name will die out! His children won’t be known as his unless somebody asks! It might hurt his career!” Never mind that women are expected to accept the same with a smile. “Any man who would take his wife’s name must be a real wimp,” but they respect women who take their husband’s last name. And of course, “Any woman who would DEMAND her husband give up his name” – in fact they talked it over and agreed – “must be a real b—h.” But men who take their wives’ names are just fine people.

    • AnnieD
      January 19, 2013 at 1:05 am

      This, exactly. My second cousin married a man named Condon and works as a secondary teacher. She still changed her name from mockery-free for fifty years since the family stopped manufacturing toilets D******.

    • samanthab.
      January 20, 2013 at 5:13 am

      It does come with legal rights, but there was a time when progressives were campaigning for those same legal rights to be applied to common law marriages and civil unions. I tend to think it’s another form of backlash that the campaign has fallen by the wayside. I am totally sympathetic to those who marry for legal rights, but it’s sad to me that an alternative isn’t in our collective dialogue anymore.

      • Wordwizard
        January 20, 2013 at 8:03 am

        Common law marriages ARE marriages, and come with the same rights. Civil unions that are marriages made at City Hall with no minister ARE marriages, and come with the same rights. Civil unions that are NOT marriages are NOT marriages, and do not come with the same rights because people have CHOSEN to get a civil union that is NOT a marriage because they didn’t WANT to get married, for whatever reason. What WOULD be nice is if people were free to tailor their relationships to include the marriage rights they wanted, and not the ones they didn’t! When my father died, my parents’ joint bank accounts were all frozen, and my mother, who had been an equal partner in the marriage, and contributed money to the accounts when she was working (she had stopped, to have and raise kids, and both felt this was an equal contribution to the marriage as well). Suddenly this joint money was no longer accessible, even to buy groceries, and all had to go through the slow process of inheritance taxes before she could touch it, though she was his only heir. NOT what either of them had been expecting, and they had been expecting his death, too!

      • Donna L
        January 21, 2013 at 12:12 am

        Common law marriages ARE marriages, and come with the same rights.

        Not in the USA. Only 10 of the 50 states allow common-law marriages to be formed. (A few more recognize common-law marriages formed in the past, prior to specified dates.)

        Civil unions that are marriages made at City Hall with no minister ARE marriages, and come with the same rights

        To call those “civil unions” is a misnomer. That isn’t what they’re called. They’re simply civil marriages rather than religious marriages. To call them “civil unions” improperly conflates them with actual civil unions, which by definition aren’t marriages.

        Civil unions that are NOT marriages are NOT marriages, and do not come with the same rights because people have CHOSEN to get a civil union that is NOT a marriage because they didn’t WANT to get married, for whatever reason

        Didn’t “want” to get married, “for whatever reason”?! Try couldn’t get married, because the state they live in doesn’t permit same-sex marriage.

      • Wordwizard
        January 21, 2013 at 12:51 am

        Only 10? (I wonder how many common-law married people WANTED to become common-law married, without taking the deliberate step.)

        Thanks also for pointing out “civil marriage” is better than “civil union” in the sense I used it.

        As for the 3rd comment, OUCH! GUILTY! I was thinking as I wrote of some hetero couples I’ve known, who declined to use the option they had, and realized only AFTER I’d clicked “Post Comment” what I had done, [redacted] me. Thank goodness people can go out-of-state to get married, although they shouldn’t have to do so, unfair burden.

      • Wordwizard
        January 21, 2013 at 1:09 am

        I think what I was trying to say was, if civil unions had all the rights of marriages, they would BE marriages, as there would be no difference, but civil unions as a “compromise alternative” more pleasing to homophobic conservatives will NEVER become “just as good as” marriage.

  39. anna
    January 18, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Not every public proposal is an ambush, to be fair. Sometimes a couple privately talks over marriage and agrees on it, then agrees to have a “romantic” proposal later. Since the “romantic” story is so expected, I think this is a nice way of keeping the tradition, as long as people feel they must, and keeping the woman’s agency. And engagement rings can be equal if both halves of the engaged couple wear them. I’ve seen some really lovely matching sets in antique silver.

    Asking the father really pisses me off though. Why should it be up to him? Or even if you just want his blessing, like I’ll be asking your daughter to marry me, hope you’re happy about that, why not ask her mother too? Why not her asking your family as well?

  40. anna
    January 18, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    What about giving sons X Mother’s Name Father’s Name, and daughters X Father’s Name Mother’s Name?

    As for something like that, or giving the daughters their mother’s last name and the son’s the father’s last name, or vice versa, what if a family has only daughters or only sons? Then either the father or the mother gets left out of the naming.

    • (BFing) Sarah
      January 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Also, some people really would like the names of everyone in the family to match, to identify them as a part of the same family. There are different ways of doing that (combining last names, changing to the mother’s name, doing a hybrid name, etc.), but I can’t see myself letting my son have a different name than my daughter. People would flat out assume they had different fathers. I’m not okay with furthering that stereotype about black children. But, that’s me.

      I’ve been hesitating to say this, but it hasn’t entered into the conversation at all. I think its kind of privileged to be able to name your children different last names. Children who are read as “white” and parents that are read as “white” are assumed to be a part of a family grouping that deserves respect, no matter what their last name might be. I don’t think that same respect follows for black children. People would not assume that your children are being raised in a loving family where, despite the different names, everyone is in this together. Society assumes that your child is just another black kid being raised by his mom with no dad in sight (ie: headed for trouble). If you are a black woman in many (*most*) parts of the country, people may already assume you are unmarried and having a baby alone, even without having a different last name from your child and not changing your name. There is a whole lot of media and societal energy focused on policing the choices of black women with regards to parenting and marriage. Not everyone has the luxury of JUST thinking about sexism when making the name change decision, and I don’t think you can just forget about that when having the name change conversation.

      • January 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm

        I’d like to second you re: different last names. As things fall out, my wife, I and the stepkid all have different last names, which causes endless hassle. I wouldn’t even consider anyone changing their name to eliminate the issue, but it’s still annoying. And, of course, there’s the fact that my kid’s the Whitest Evar, and I’m Distinctly Not, which leads people to fisheye us when we’re in public. -_-

        Also: I don’t actually have opinions on the fact that my wife still also (on some documentation) has her ex-husband’s name, though she wants to change everything back to her maiden name the second we have the $100 or so that’ll cost. But the assumption several people have made that I would be taking her ex-husband’s last name – what the fuck, seriously, guys??? – unleashes my ragesaurus like whoa.

      • Ismone
        January 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm

        Good points, all.

        It is a form of privilege that a lot of times people of certain ethnicities and/or classes/perceived classes are assumed to have the “right” family structure and to be behaving in the “right” way, while others are perceived not to be, and therefore deserving less consideration.

        And there is a belief, in a lot of places, that married people are better. I remember when a lawyer who supervised me once told me and everyone else on the team that in an upcoming trial, we should all “wear our wedding rings.” Considering the fact that both a colleague and I were going through divorces at the time (I am sure it was aimed at us) it was a really ass-y thing for him to say. I am sure that the idea was to “humanize” us to the juries, and demonstrate that someone loved my harpy ass enough to marry it.


        Getting back on track, though, yes, I think women who aren’t able to “keep a man” particularly those of certain ethnicities, really are stigmatized and written off in incredibly offensive ways. A really awful feature of racism (and a lot of other isms) is having to play “dodge the stereotype” just to try to get treated with the basic amount of respect automatically extended to white people.

      • EG
        January 19, 2013 at 6:46 pm

        I think these are important points, really well made.

        It jumps out at me that the go-to way to address these embedded racism in the way white people and the dominant culture/systems treat black families and black children is for women to sacrifice their names and genealogies. On the one hand, that sounds like run-of-the-mill sexism; on the other, I can’t help but wonder if it’s related to the really poisonous racist misogyny that posits “black matriarchs” as the root of all the ills that this country inflicts on black communities, so that disempowering black women, symbolically and/or actually becomes some kind of “solution.” But of course, it’s very plausible that I’m way off-base here.

        As I am white and professional class, and don’t have to worry too much about these kinds of assumptions, I don’t have a problem with my kids having different surnames, but if a future partner does, I will graciously grant him permission to give all the kids my name.

      • Dee
        January 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm

        Meh. I know quite a few professional BW that decided to hyphenate to resolve this issue, so I don’t think going to the male’s surname is necessarily a reflex go-to solution. Anecdotal evidence, obviously, but the BW I know who have taken their husbands’ last names did it after careful deliberation. Does that mean its not sexist? No, its still sexist, but I think its not as simple as that. There is also a really poisonous racist narrative that pervades society that says “black men are worthless and cannot be a good father, partner, family member, community member” and because of that I think many members of the black community feel that its important to recognize and combat that. Kind of saying, “Hey, we are joining together and I want to join his family and take his name and be his partner for life. He is worthy of fatherhood and partnership.” Hyphenating does the same thing, but I don’t know that taking the female partners’ name does. I struggle with whether that is my own inner misogyny, and it probably is…but I still feel like the calculation is screwed differently when you also have to add in racism to the equation. I don’t think that we can forget that, historically, white men determined the last names of their wives, children, and the black women AND men that were their property. Black men have also been robbed of their names and identities in that way. I don’t think that it should be an automatic ‘take the man’s name’ response, but each couple can come to their own conclusion of what is right for their family. But my calculation will be influenced by racism and not just sexism. So. Yeah.

      • EG
        January 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm

        Yes to everything you said, but could you point out to me where I implied taking the man’s name was a reflex solution rather than one involving thought? Because that really was nowhere in my mind at all when I was writing the comment.

      • Dee
        January 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm

        Oh, you didn’t. I was just making a comment saying that in my experience the decision to go with the man’s name isn’t automatic. Not saying that you implied that, just musing about it.

        In my experience (albeit limited and not able to translate to everyone), it is the best that some people feel they can do to make wider society see their family as legitimate and see their partner as a contributing father and member of the family. Now…that DOES often go too far into “head of household” type stuff. And sexism and our sexist societal norms do contribute to that calculation. I struggle with the idea that maybe the concern is that families of color want to be seen as “normal” families before feeling like they can be “progressive.” That makes me feel sad. Or, with some families I know, they feel like they are non-traditional in at least one, highly visible and contentious way (couples that are read as being different races, esp black/white) that they just want to be traditional in the ways they can control. They are tired of always having to be different. I can understand where they are coming from with that sentiment. It seems privileged to argue as some posters above argued (not you) that

        It’s ABSURDLY sexist and I am bewildered that almost no one else sees it as even a little bit problematic.

        Like I said above, there are women who DO see it as very problematic, but they have other factors to consider. They might see it as problematic that they are taking their husband’s name, but they might see it as more problematic when their child’s teacher assumes that they are single parents and “struggling.” Or they might see it as more problematic that they are a BW coming to pick up a child that reads as “white” and they don’t share a last name and will have to prove their relationship to this child constantly. Those might be the problems they prioritize and I don’t blame them. Also, they might be tired of all of the commentary they receive about being an interracial couple, from strangers and family. They might just want to be seen as “traditional” in SOME way. For some (upper middle class, professional, white) women, the choice is about preference and subverting sexism. But, for me, it feels like there will be (negative) assumptions for me and my children no matter what I do. So, I think there should be some room for that in the discussion.

      • Dee
        January 20, 2013 at 10:42 pm

        I thought about saying all of what I said above in reply to the poster I mentioned, but I figured it might just go better within this discussion and might just get ignored above. I feel wary because this has not been a safe space for discussions about the intersections of racism and sexism in the past.

      • EG
        January 20, 2013 at 11:01 pm

        Well, I appreciate you putting them here. I’m learning a lot from what you and Angel H. are saying. This is one of the reasons why I think it’s so important to make the distinction between critiquing the practice and critiquing the women doing it. Women are balancing many competing concerns: sometimes they’re intersectional and sometimes they’re personal and most times they’re both, and nobody can take care of everything at once. Something has to give. Sometimes the concern that has to be set aside is a feminist one.

  41. January 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    I like my original engagement ring. Antique Roman brass ring estimated at 2000 years, plus or minus a couple hundred years. My husband picked it out on eBay because I had spend six years working at a jewelry store, and while he knew I don’t like diamonds, he wanted me to pick the final ring out.

    I would have gladly stuck with that ring, but it turns my finger green. He wears its match on a necklace. I still put it on for special occasions.

    It was fun showing that ring off until we got the final engagement rings. The looks people gave me when the ring on my finger was dull and pitted rather than sparkly and shiny was fun.

    My ring now is a sapphire. Our entire wedding set came out to well under half what he thought he was going to have to spend on the engagement ring alone.

    As for names, I did change my last name, mostly to keep the peace with his parents. I have my mother’s middle name, and so I passed that name along to my youngest daughter. Kind of fun having a name to pass along.

    • Wordwizard
      January 19, 2013 at 1:51 am

      If brass turns your finger green, why not apply a coat of clear fingernail polish to protect both the ring and you?

  42. January 19, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Good Jewelry like many women If somebody wants to take their spouse’s last name, fine. But when the overwhelming majority of women do and not one man in a thousand does (in America at least) I think sexist pressure does play a part in SOME of these decisions, and it shouldn’t.

  43. January 19, 2013 at 2:52 am

    A couple of my sister’s sons are currently going through the process of changing theirs and their children’s surnames to our father’s name, which is still patrilineal, if you think about it.

    I was thinking of changing my last name just because I am not particularly attached to it. I don’t plan on using my current name if I ever get published, so why not just legally change it? Also, it’s horribly Scottish, but we haven’t had a Scot in the family for six or seven generations. I worked it out. I’m 1/128 Scottish. My first and middle names I would keep. They’re my maternal grandmother’s name (Peggy) and my paternal grandmother’s middle name (Lucille).

    My father had the best thing to say about his daughter getting married. When I was about 10 we were at a cousin’s wedding and, he whispered to me, “Do me a favor, kiddo. When you get married: Elope.”

  44. Kerandria
    January 19, 2013 at 3:35 am

    My fiancee and I both came from terribly abusive families. I’m in the middle of changing my entire legal name to include a last name that has deep meaning to us both.. when we take the trip home to get married, she will take my last name. Taking an entirely new name is symbolic of both our union and moving forward in our own lives.

    • Rachele
      January 19, 2013 at 10:03 am

      I was surprised that distancing yourself from familial abuse hadn’t been brought up earlier. The tradition of taking the husband’s name was a perk for me. I couldn’t be rid of my father’s and step-father’s name quickly enough. And I definitely wouldn’t pass that on to my kids. His family get on my nerves, but they are ultimately decent people. At the time I wasn’t aware we could both change our names to something else entirely. I might have considered it, but I probably would have decided it wouldn’t be worth the headache of his family taking it as a personal insult. I played the traditionalist because I was lazy.

      • Bagelsan
        January 22, 2013 at 11:20 am

        I believe it was Amanda Marcotte (?) who did a really excellent takedown of abusive fathers being the usual reason for women to take their husband’s last name. It’s true in some cases, obviously, but doesn’t account for the population data. It’s not like women have a monopoly on shitty parents, so why is it almost always the woman who changes her name?

      • Rachele
        January 23, 2013 at 11:46 am

        I didn’t mean to imply that was the primary reason women choose their husband’s name. I suspect it is more that it is traditional, expected, and easy to set things up this way, and so it is more defaulted to, as opposed to consciously chosen. I was only trying to say that I don’t consider my birth name to be mine. It came from my father. So the choice between my name and my husband’s name feels false to me. It was a choice between my shitty dad’s name, and my awesome fiance’s name. And if I had chosen my dad, I’d be securing the legacy of my dad’s family… Since I was part of the patrilineal tradition, I don’t really see that as a great victory for recognizing my maternal line (which kicks all kinds of ass and I wish there was a traditional name I could take that would do it justice.) Starting with a new surname altogether seems like a good idea, as does deciding as a couple which family name they wish to honor. The hyphenating of names seems cumbersome for future generations. I’m interested in ideas on how we could structure our families to pass on legacies in ways that show we give two shits about what the women in those families do.

    • January 19, 2013 at 10:47 am

      we picked a new last name together too!

  45. Constance
    January 19, 2013 at 5:49 am

    I remember years ago that horrible Maggie Gallagher wrote this article where she chortled and smirked and giggled about how young women were finally coming to their bridal senses and not keeping their own names. She was bizarrely gleeful. It was weird. Evidently, in her world, a rise in the number of women taking their husbands’ names meant this pesky feminism was finally over! I can’t remember her stats, none of which could ever be trusted until double and triple-checked anyway, but I do remember how she waxed on and on about how wonderful it was that young women had given up feminism for the honor of becoming Mrs. John Does.

  46. January 19, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Mr. Bleh and I wore matching inexpensive engagement rings (no jewels), which we purchased together the day after we decided the timeline was in motion.

    Also, my colleagues sometimes name their babies with her lastname.

  47. chava
    January 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Am generally in favor of bling and fairly ambivalent on How Jewelry Relates to Feminism; however, if I could do it again I’d suggest that we put the ring money in a joint mutual fund or the like and get something cute off Etsy.

    And as much as I adore stones (as in, have taken multiple geology courses for fun), mining is a fucking horrid affair, and I like my wildlife alive and well.

    (she says, typing on a laptop with enough copper and silicon in it to have polluted an acre of wetlands, most like)

    • chava
      January 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      this is, FWIW, what annoys me about the “how DARE you get a diamond ring–do you not know how terrible diamond mining is??? You bad feminist/woman/environmentalist!” Because hells yes, diamond mining is bad, but so is ALL MINING. When men start getting yelled at because of the copious amounts of silicone, copper, gold, etc in their electronic toys–or hell, their gold wedding bands–maybe then I’ll feel like yelling at women for enjoying the bling isn’t just a liiiiitle gendered.

      • anna
        January 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

        Recycled gold/silver/etc is a cool idea I think. YMMV.

      • CassandraSays
        January 19, 2013 at 6:06 pm

        We could all do with admitting that the high tech industry is about as far from environmentally friendly as it gets.

      • Bagelsan
        January 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm

        Who’s yelling? I think the idea behind the bling is what people are taking issue with.

      • chava
        January 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm

        Eh. There’s plenty of tut-tutting, why don’t you have an appropriately-ethical-ring (or no ring) from the left as well as why-don’t-you-have-bling from the right. Just starts to feel like yet another of those issues where what a woman does with her clothing/accessories gets politicized for both sides, with a nice helping of hypocrisy.

        CassandraSays: Yep.

        Anna: Yeah, it is. I won’t really buy non-recycled metals in jewelry anymore, but OTOH….it’s all over my tech toys, my car, my wiring….it’s a harder thing than you’d think to disentangle oneself from.

  48. Lori
    January 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you, Jill! You hit on so many things that I am constantly annoyed by — including the engagement ring photo trend and 3D sonogram trend. And don’t get me started on the “how many carats is your ring?” talk that I used to hear at my old law firm. Then again, I’m constantly told I’m a “crank” for railing on the diamond industry, for complaining about how demeaning the tradition of the guy asking the father of his girlfriend “permission” to marry her, and for criticizing the public engagement trend. (Check this one out: in the NYC marathon in 2011, at mile 24, some dude had a big sign with his girlfriend’s picture that said: “[Insert name here] please marry me.” As if she should stop with 2.2 miles to go to say “yes, yes, I trained so long and hard for this race, that I think I should stop to make it all about you!” I hope she said no. And, I too, don’t understand why women still change their names, and worse, when women look at me like I’m crazy for having changed it. Once someone said to me: “do you really feel married?” (True story.) I lost the battle to use my last name for my kids, but it’s good to know that some women will insist upon her name being used. I am probably too much of a crank, but then again, I’m not at all a secret romantic as you describe yourself, and if I was ever one, it stopped when someone I see every day (who everybody thinks is “perfect”) just spent the first year of his marriage to his long-long-term-met-her-in-college-girlfriend doing things with another woman he shouldn’t have been doing. Down with all of these wedding trends and making it all about the event, and all about the show, rather than the relationship.

    • Wordwizard
      January 20, 2013 at 7:48 am

      I agree with almost all you’re both saying, but give the guy a break! Of COURSE he didn’t expect her to stop dead just before the end of the race to give him an answer––he wanted to help give her an extra spurt of adrenaline when she (and everyone else) was flagging! It might also cheer her up if she was limping.

      • Lori
        January 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm

        Yes, of course you’re right! And yet those public engagement things are really not about the woman — they’re about the dude wanting attention. That’s my view. It’s not romantic. It’s just a public show for him.

  49. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
    January 19, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Mr K and I have been married six years, and now I’m getting an engagement ring purely by chance. My GF saw a ring with a stainless steel fleur-de-lis on a blue stone backround going for $10 on the internet. She’s getting it for us and Mr K and I decided it’d make a cool engagement ring. It fits doing it now, since we were already married when he did a jokey on-the-knee proposal. We like being disorganised. :) (He’s French, hence the relevance of the fleur-de-lis.)

  50. January 21, 2013 at 10:24 am

    When my son and daughter-in-law became engaged, they gave each other rings. When they were married, they had those rings blessed and continued to wear them. They got the rings from a small local store, things that they knew the other would like, but that weren’t expensive, status symbols.

    I think we can find alternatives that have meaning. On the other hand, I’ve found that “bride price” is sometimes useful. After my divorce, too battered to work for a while, I was able to support myself on my wedding ring, engagement ring, and the gold and rubies my husband bought me every time I caught him cheating.

    Both my son and I are single now. Obviously the thought (or lack there of) behind the symbols are less important than the rest of the relationship.

  51. NC73
    January 21, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    While I don’t share your distaste for diamond rings, I do appreciate the issues you raise. (Alas, I am of the SPARKLY THINGS ON MY FINGER ZOMG variety, but yes mine is conflict-free, thankyouverymuch.)

    But I have a friend who got engaged over the holidays, and before the engagement was made official, she and her boyfriend went shopping around for rings. She had a similar attitude to yours about diamond rings – in fact, she didn’t even really raise any political/consumerism objections, she just doesn’t like diamonds and wanted something either pink or black for a centre stone. It’s as simple as that. But she said that jeweller after jeweller kept trying to convince her that an engagement ring isn’t an engagement ring unless it’s a diamond, to the point where she started getting pissed off at people.

    I mean, if he gives her a ring as he proposes to her, and she accepts both the ring and the proposal, and then they christen it “her engagement ring” together, then I am *pretty sure* that is an engagement ring. That’s how it works. That’s not even necessarily how it works for everyone, but in the most traditional, generic definition of what an engagement ring is, THAT IS HOW IT WORKS. It is ridiculous that the people she was trying to give her money to were telling her she couldn’t call her pink-stoned ring what she wanted to call it.

    Anyway, they decided to ignore all the asshole prescriptive jewellers that tried to define their relationship mementos for them, and he ended up getting her a custom-made pink sapphire ring and it is absolutely gorgeous and perfect. That’s my little fluffy feel-good story for the day.

  52. Alara Rogers
    January 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I am actually still kind of sad that my kids don’t have my last name.

    I had good reasons. My two older children are not biologically mine — they are technically my stepkids — and if I find the thought of children giving up their existing name to take NewDad’s name after Mom remarries rage-inducing, why would I think it’s a good idea to do it when it’s NewMom instead of NewDad? So I wanted my biological kids to have the same last name as their older siblings because I didn’t want distinctions like “they’re my half siblings” or “she’s my mom but my older brother’s stepmom” to be in our family discourse. I wanted my kids to all be family, together. So the same last name.

    Also, my last name is Rogers. It’s boring and it’s at the end side of the alphabet. My husband’s last name is at the front end of the alphabet, unusual, and a Latin word with a powerful meaning. I would never take his name myself, because it’s not my name — I mean, the whole concept of taking another person’s name just breaks my brain, because it’s not YOUR NAME. Your name was what you were born with. You change it because it’s horrible and you can’t stand it and it doesn’t reflect who you truly are, not because you married someone. But I didn’t keep my name because I loved it, I kept it because it was mine; given the choice, new people who don’t already have a name who could be given either my name or that one should have that one because it is objectively cooler.

    But my insurance company screwed up one time and sent all my cards with my last name assigned to my kids… and I saw Alexander Rogers and Natalya Rogers and I felt a terrible sense of loss, because they could have been named for my lineage, they could have shared a name with me, and I made a decision that they would not and I still think it was right but selfishly I wish I had made a different decision. I wish they were Rogers. It’s good that they’re not; Alexander Rogers, in particular, is so generic there are probably 12 million of them, and at least with the last name I did give him, my son can be relatively uniquely named. And I was often frustrated by how low in the alphabet I was. But… it makes me sad. No one who carries my mitochondrial DNA will carry my name.

    I don’t understand why other women who aren’t faced with my particular circumstances don’t give their kids their own names. I mean, yes, I understand this is a White Person Problem and people of color have their own good reasons for assigning the father’s name, but why do so many professional white women give the kids the father’s name while keeping their own? Or take the father’s name in the first place and then give the kids that name? He didn’t do the work of bearing them, why does he get the privilege of them carrying his name? And why doesn’t it make other women sad that their children don’t have their name?

  53. shfree
    January 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    My daughter doesn’t have her dad’s last name, or my last name, we gave her her very own last name, from scratch. Initially, we thought of the whole thing of if the baby was a boy, he would get his, if the baby was a girl, she would get mine, but then we realized that all names are handed down through the father. So ultimately we were all “Fuck it, she can have her own, and if she opts to have kids, she can come up with her own naming tradition.” And so far no one has said boo to me about it, at least not to my face.

  54. Henry
    January 27, 2013 at 4:06 am

    You could just drop the last name entirely – go with a mononym. Many countries existed with mononyms for centuries, some well into the 1800s (e.g. Netherlands). There will never be a gender neutral solution – when the kids with combined names have kids (the grand kids) do we have a child with the last name Smith-Jones-Joyce-Benet … which grandparent gets cut?

    • January 27, 2013 at 4:23 am

      Why angst about what the next/future generations will do with their surnames? They will make the best decision for themselves, just like the current generation is doing. It’s not really any of our business to project on them our concerns over what today’s decisions might lead to if they become traditions.

  55. Esis
    January 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    For my boyfriend and I engagement has definitely been a long conversation. We both intend to be together indefinitely regardless of marriage, but we’d like to get engaged and get married. We’re just waiting until it seems like the right time for us.

    Also, we plan to BOTH wear engagement rings. Not technically a matched set, but we’re thinking of getting rings that have a Celtic theme to them.

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