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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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501 Responses

  1. Larkin Callaghan
    Larkin Callaghan March 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm |

    I loved your Guardian piece. I wrote about the name-change in the Feministing Community Blog about a year and a half ago and the comments were pretty interesting. I also found the comments on the Jezebel article that summarized your Guardian piece to be a tad…defensive. Thanks for writing this!

  2. Raging Leftie (@ragingleftie)
    Raging Leftie (@ragingleftie) March 8, 2013 at 6:54 pm |

    God I read this earlier today and I just knew it would kick up a storm, well done by the way. I changed my surname to my mother’s maiden name when I was younger – it was my distinct belief that she should never have changed her name and that I wasn’t going to change my name for any man. I might have been younger and more idealistic but I was right, I guess I’m just a cranky feminist too.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 9, 2013 at 8:30 pm |

      I did that too, in my early twenties. Different motivation: my father was a tosser and his name wasn’t even his, since he was adopted. My mum’s family history (with that surname) has been traced back to the 1500s, which is a pretty damn good reason for adopting it, as far as I’m concerned. :)

      1. stonebiscuit
        stonebiscuit March 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm |

        I’m sorry your dad was a jerk, and good on you for changing your name to something that was powerful and meaningful to you, but being adopted doesn’t make his last name not his. My dad was adopted, as were his siblings and all my cousins on my mom’s side; that doesn’t make them any less members of the family.The idea that adopted children aren’t real members of the is real and harmful, and I’d rather not see it promoted.

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 9, 2013 at 11:10 pm |

          You’re right, and I’m sorry, I framed that badly. I don’t think he felt much attachment to the name, but I should have made it clear that it was my feelings about the name – ie. my original surname only went back to him and then the people who adopted him as unpaid labour, who I’d never met and had no biological connection with. I’m none too sure he ever was considered a real part of that family, as it happens, but I take your point and will phrase it more carefully in future.

      2. Cycleboy1957
        Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm |

        his name wasn’t even his

        Careful. You may paint yourself into a corner with this line of argument.

        In the Guardian article, I challenged many of the commentators who argued that a woman’s name is not really hers, but that of her father. My counter to this view is that a girl is given her surname at birth just as a boy is and has just as much right to call it her own as he does. And that obviously applies to the father who bestowed it.

        I realise that you said your father was adopted and therefore his surname was not that on his birth certificate, but if you claim that your father’s surname is not his real name then any woman who decides she does want to change her name cannot lay claim to having a realname either. By that token, my own double-barrelled name is not the one I was born with either, but I still consider it mine.

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm |

          I don’t know if you’ve seen my second comment, but my father didn’t get the surname until he was eight, and he was essentially unpaid labour in that family. It’s a name with which I feel no connection at all, and my feelings refer to this situation specifically, not to inherited, acquired or adopted names in general. My surname is mine by choice because it’s the name of my ancestors, and it’s definitely my name. As I always say, I paid good money for this name! :)

      3. Cycleboy1957
        Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

        My mum’s family history (with that surname) has been traced back to the 1500s,

        One posted to the Guardian article argued that his son’s surname should take preference over that of his prospective daughter-in-law because he could trace his surname back to 1240. I (gently) pointed out that this could be a very good reason for perpetuating the name. However, if that were the prime reason for his name taking preference over hers, then she could trump the decision if she could trace her surname back to 1239. I think the poster was then strangely silent, or was he abusive? I forget.

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm |

          I agree with your point, but remember that this was my choice about my name, not someone else expecting me to take his.

  3. tomek
    tomek March 8, 2013 at 6:59 pm |

    well i am sure this comments thread is going to be in hundreds and hundreds of comments in pretty soon.

    when i was in my teenage years and naive i was often saying “yes why should woman have to give up name when man doesnt? this is sexism”. but since that i have found that the majority of people pushing to have woman name change is actually woman, i am disinclined to think this anymore. it seem very condescending for me to hold that view in the face of woman wanting to change her name.

    i think there is something biological (yes i know everyone is tired from me saying this) about how this is currently. in all cultures woman takes the name of the man, throughout all of history. and the biggest proponent of this is woman. so no i cannot take opinion of “woman shouldnt change name when get married” because it seem very disrespectful of what women actually want.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 7:13 pm |

      in all cultures woman takes the name of the man, throughout all of history. and the biggest proponent of this is woman.

      How about no.

    2. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet March 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm |

      You do realize that for the majority of history, and all over the globe, last names haven’t even been a thing?

      I don’t think you understand what “history” means. (I also don’t think you understand what biology means, but we’ll get to that another day)

    3. Emolee
      Emolee March 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm |

      when i was in my teenage years and naive i was often saying “yes why should woman have to give up name when man doesnt? this is sexism”. but since that i have found that the majority of people pushing to have woman name change is actually woman, i am disinclined to think this anymore. it seem very condescending for me to hold that view in the face of woman wanting to change her name.

      tomek, while I don’t necessarily agree with your views on name-changing, I do have to say that reconsidering whether you, as a man, should tell women How To Do Feminism Right sounds like a good thing to me.

      And while I believe that you think it is mostly women pushing for women to take the man’s name, I would be very suprised if that were the case. It may more likely be that this is something that women discuss while most men just take it for granted. (And, of course, women can push sexist norms. Obvs.)

    4. mxe354
      mxe354 March 8, 2013 at 7:30 pm |

      when i was in my teenage years and naive i was often saying “yes why should woman have to give up name when man doesnt? this is sexism”. but since that i have found that the majority of people pushing to have woman name change is actually woman, i am disinclined to think this anymore.

      That a sexist notion is endorsed by some women doesn’t mean it’s not sexist. And it certainly doesn’t mean that all women are okay with it.

      Also, what mac said.

    5. Brennan
      Brennan March 8, 2013 at 8:06 pm |

      A desire to change one’s name has got to be the strangest thing I have ever heard attributed to biology (and I have heard the evo psych folks spout some very strange things). Go find me a name-changing-gene and then we’ll talk.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan March 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm |

        It’s related to the urge to gather berries, I’m sure.

    6. Nomad
      Nomad March 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

      Hi.

      I’m from Spain, living in the US right now. Women don’t change their names over there, that’s why I have 2 last names: my dad’s and my mom’s. Don’t make the mistake to assume that what is normal to you is universal. I do think that over there we have a different view on marriage: for example, girls don’t write their names followed by their crush’ last name.

      And yes, women can impose sexism on other women.

    7. ellid
      ellid March 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

      Uh, in Hispanic cultures not only do women not take their husband’s names, children’s full names include the surnames of both parents.

      1. Colin
        Colin March 10, 2013 at 12:54 am |

        They can’t include the ‘full’ surname of both parents, because then surnames would get exponentially longer over the generations. As I understand it the ‘traditional’ pattern is to take two surnames coming from the child’s two grandfathers. So it’s still essentially patrilineal, just one generation removed from the Anglo-Saxon convention.

        1. Maki P
          Maki P March 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm |

          Yes, it is patrilineal, and yes it’s sexist; however, the point in relation to this particular conversation is that, even in sexist societies like the Hispanic ones, women aren’t expected to surrender their identities to their husbands’ and are even part of their children’s name (it’d be better to have the mother name first since until DNA she was the sure one, but whatever)

    8. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 2:10 pm |

      i think there is something biological…. in all cultures woman takes the name of the man, throughout all of history.

      Just to add my penny-worth to the above replies.

      Your argument falls down on a couple of points:
      1) Actually, about half of the world’s population does not follow this tradition. It is restricted mainly to societies based on the Western European tradition, and that doesn’t even include the entire Spanish speaking nations.
      2) Surnames are only about 1000 years old and therefore the practice is far too young to have affected our DNA (even if it could, which I doubt).

    9. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 10, 2013 at 7:48 pm |

      If names are biological, want to explain why other animals don’t (as far as we know!) use names at all, let alone have this nonsense of one sex being expected to take the other’s name?

      Could be tricky for species that have different mates every season. Good thing other animals don’t have paperwork, either. Just think of the bloated bureaucacies keeping up with all those name changes.

  4. xenu01
    xenu01 March 8, 2013 at 7:17 pm |

    My favorite defensive excuse, by the way, is “well, it was just easier.”

    Socially, sure. But no, it’s actually much more difficult when you consider the actual logistics of it all. Thanks for covering that bit.

    When I don’t feel like having a politically charged discussion about it (at work, etc), I just say, “Well, I didn’t change my name because I was lazy.”

    It makes me feel guilty taking the easy way out, though.

  5. Donna L
    Donna L March 8, 2013 at 7:23 pm |

    Jill, I have to say that I agree with Melissa McEwan’s take on your column, which begins as follows:

    http://www.shakesville.com/2013/03/on-naming-identity-and-choice.html#disqus_thread

    On Naming, Identity, and Choice

    Posted by Melissa McEwan at Friday, March 08, 2013

    Yesterday, Jill Filipovic wrote a piece for the Guardian about male-partnered women changing their names upon marriage. The subtitle of the piece is: “Your name is your identity. The reasons women give for changing their names after marrying don’t make much sense.” and says in the piece that she “fundamentally…oppose[s] changing your name.”

    A familiar debate about name-changing and individual choice ensued on Twitter (and elsewhere), which highlighted many of the issues that are casually elided with this position, including cultural differences in naming traditions, disparities in the authenticity of externally perceived choice (i.e. different pressures on individual women in separate spaces), and, if Filipovic is right that “Your name is your identity,” are we not keen to support women in decisions about self-defined identity.

    I have made my position on name-changing abundantly clear, and, while I absolutely believe it is important to do awareness-raising around the option to keep one’s name, I also believe it is possible to have those conversations without judging women for whatever choices they ultimate make.

    Central to feminism is the idea that women are not a monolith, and recognizing that individual women have individual reasons for their individual choices is a crucial act in demonolithizing women.

    (As an aside, I have also found that many of the reasons deemed insufficiently reasonable, e.g. “I wanted my whole family to have the same last name,” frequently are simplistic expressions of a more complex motivation. Sometimes they are not, but sometimes they are an easy and less vulnerable way to communicate something about insecurity or belonging or symbolically establishing new family patterns after a lifetime of dysfunction.)

    Anyway. I noticed a couple of things about the public discussion of the piece and its assertions that I want to mention. . . .

    Much more at link and in comments.

    1. tomek
      tomek March 8, 2013 at 7:32 pm |

      while i disagree with position of jill i also disagree very more strongly with position of mellisa.

      mellisa is engage in too much of this “everyone is snowflake” thinking where every has individual choice and the individual circumstance and blah blah. this is weak thinking and just avoid facing to the question of why woman take the husband name, but husband do not take the womans name. either it is jills answer, of it is society norms. or it is my answer, it is complex result of biological fact. mellisa answer is the politically correct position for people who cannot think for themself.

      1. mxe354
        mxe354 March 8, 2013 at 7:53 pm |

        You didn’t even read her article, I’m guessing.

        1. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet March 8, 2013 at 7:59 pm |

          [Moderator Note: irrelevant and off-topic snidery deleted]

        2. Donna L
          Donna L March 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm |

          That’s both an unfair characterization and a derail. I’m just about ready to call for a Giraffe for you. Your comments have been consistently nasty.

        3. mxe354
          mxe354 March 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

          That’s both an unfair characterization and a derail. I’m just about ready to call for a Giraffe for you. Your comments have been consistently nasty.

          I apologize. I’m not exactly sure what I did that’s offensive (although I know it’s entirely possible that I have without intending to offend anyone) but I’ll try my best to stop doing what I’m doing.

        4. SophiaBlue
          SophiaBlue March 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm |

          I believe Donna’s talking about Barnacle, not you mxe.

        5. Donna L
          Donna L March 8, 2013 at 8:37 pm |

          Oh God, mxe, no, not you, never you. You’ve never been nasty to anyone, ever! I’m so sorry!

        6. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm |

          You’re in rare form tonight, Donna (and I mean that in the best possible way).

        7. mxe354
          mxe354 March 9, 2013 at 2:22 am |

          I see. My bad!

    2. Emolee
      Emolee March 8, 2013 at 7:37 pm |

      I found myself agreeing with much of both Jill’s and Melissa’s articles (there are those contradictory thoughts again!)

      This is a topic I have thought a lot about recently. For practical reasons, I’d like to take my fiancee’s name because a) I like it, b) mine is always causing problems (misspellings, misfilings, etc.), and c) I kind of do see mine as just my father’s name. But it just feels soooo icky to carry on what feels to me is a patriarchial tradition (sometimes just the thought of marriage to a man squicks me too for this same reason, although that is not my main feeling about it).

      Anyway, I think on an individual level, people should choose for themselves, and that any choice of what to call oneself is valid. However, on a societal level, if 90% of women are choosing the man’s name, the cumulation of these choices is not just personal preference but does say something about patriarchy.

      I kind of hope my finacee and I end up choosing a third name, or combo of our names.

      1. Cycleboy1957
        Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm |

        I kind of do see mine as just my father’s name.

        Could I ask, how did your father get his surname and by what mechanism does he own it? I’m guessing that he was given it at birth.

        Now, ask yourself, how did you get your surname? You too were given it at birth.

        So, what’s the difference? If your father owns his surname then so must you. Or, neither of you can claim ownership. Given that the law does not give anyone preferential ownership of a name (to the best of my knowledge), simple logic states that you both must own your surname.

        While it is true, your father’s name probably came from a man, but that might have been centuries ago. Therefore, it has simply been handed down ever since. Each generation must therefore own their own surname from birth.

        1. Emolee
          Emolee March 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

          I meant my father’s as opposed to my mother’s, or some combination thereof. It is how I see the name (representing my father and his side of the family). Obviously, no one else is required to see their name as their father’s, even if the origin is their father.

    3. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen March 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm |

      I agree with that as well, Donna. Talking about and critiquing social pressures and broad social trends about naming? All good. Shaming individual women for making the choices that seem best to them given their individual circumstances and desires? I’m not on board with that. Plus there is the fact that we are not just talking about cis women here, but that as you of course know questions of naming and identity can be really crucial for trans and genderqueer people as well. Shaking a finger and saying ‘you’re doing feminism wrong!’ isn’t actually that helpful to and trusting of women as people rather than a monolith….

      1. Emolee
        Emolee March 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm |

        Jill does address the fact that changing one’s name can be powerful for trans people in her article at the Guardian.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L March 8, 2013 at 8:22 pm |

        I agree, moviemaedchen. This is what I said over there a little while ago, after mentioning that Jill’s thread on her Guardian article was up:

        in this case, Melissa’s viewpoint is closer to mine. Even though I do believe that it would be great if there were a change in the underlying cultural assumptions and cultural pressures that result in 90% of US (cis) women who enter into marriages with (cis) men changing their names. And since those assumptions aren’t likely to change anytime soon unless men do something about it, I agree with a point made in this thread that it should be just as easy for men to change their names upon getting married in different-sex marriages as it is for women. If there’s a choice to do that practically automatically, it should be equally available to everyone.

        As far as trans and genderqueer people are concerned, it’s not just changing first names, although that’s obviously very common. I’ve known quite a few trans people who’ve changed their last names, too, whether to a partner’s or entirely on their own. Sometimes, people don’t have pleasant associations with their birth families, and don’t necessarily want to be reminded of their families every time they say their name or someone else does. And that goes for cis women too. If you had an abusive father or an abusive family in general, is that a good enough reason to want to change your name? If so, exactly where does the line get drawn between acceptable reasons and reasons which supposedly make no sense? (Leaving aside the fact that, as Melissa points out, sometimes the reasons women give out aren’t the real ones.)

        1. Miss S
          Miss S March 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

          Sometimes, people don’t have pleasant associations with their birth families, and don’t necessarily want to be reminded of their families every time they say their name or someone else does. And that goes for cis women too. If you had an abusive father or an abusive family in general, is that a good enough reason to want to change your name? If so, exactly where does the line get drawn between acceptable reasons and reasons which supposedly make no sense?

          Thank you for saying this. Seriously, women are not identical people with identical lives. I’m certainly changing my name when I get married, though not because of abuse. I had my father’s last name for the first 8 years of my life, and when my mom got married my 1st stepdad legally adopted me so I took his. My mom and my first stepdad get divorced, and my mom remarries later. (Third time is a charm). My last name attaches me to someone I don’t particularly care for, have no biological connection with, and no contact with. It doesn’t benefit me at ALL to keep this name. I also don’t talk to my bio dad, so I’m not taking that name again. The only father relationship I have is with my second step dad, and what’s the difference between taking his name at this point and waiting to take my husband’s?

          Am I really expected to explain this to people? Judging women for not making the same choices as you is a shitty thing to do. It also reinforces the oppression of women because we have to justify and have a good reason handy for damn near everything in a way that men do not.

          Jill this blog… can you really call it feminist at this point?

        2. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan March 11, 2013 at 11:41 pm |

          Miss S, that last question is ridiculous. Questioning patriarchal practices isn’t feminist now, just because you’re engaging in one? 9_9

      3. SophiaBlue
        SophiaBlue March 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

        Right. I mean, I agree that things like “We want our family to share a name” or “His last name was better” or “My last name was just my dad’s anyway” can’t account for the fact that 90% of women take their spouse’s name or the fact that so few men do, but that doesn’t mean those reason s are never valid or antifeminist. To use an analogy macavitykitsune used downthread, it’s problematic that women are expected to wear makeup and shave their legs and men are expected not to, but if you tell a trans* women it’s antifeminist for her to do those things that’s going to raise my hackles, to say the least.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

          Actually, I can think of several valid points about the reasons you pointed out, Sophia.

          “We want our family to share a name”

          I can see this being a highly political decisions in black families (as BFing Sarah pointed out in another thread on naming conventions), as well as gay families.

          “His last name was better”

          My dad named me in Sanskrit explicitly because he grew up being south Indian in a north Indian city, and being subjected to discrimination for it. I didn’t even realise how much he must have endured until I moved up north briefly myself, and was given a fair amount of shit (my last name is still recognisably south Indian).

          “My last name was just my dad’s anyway”

          I…you know, I feel complex about this. My last name is my father’s first name (which is the naming convention where I come from), and frankly, I adore my dad. If he were a douchebag, I’d probably have taken Valoniel’s name, but I also want to maintain cultural connections, etc.

        2. SophiaBlue
          SophiaBlue March 8, 2013 at 9:26 pm |

          Absolutely, mac. While these reasons don’t explain how prevalent women taking their spouses’ last name is, they certainly explain why some women do, and I found it dismissive of Jill to say they “don’t make sense.”

          I think your point about how those reasons may apply for non-white and non-straight women is particularly important. I think a lot of the time when people criticize “I choose my choice” feminism, they’re doing so from a white, straight, cis perspective.

      4. Katniss
        Katniss March 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm |

        Well said, and I agree. And Donna, thank you for linking the Shakesville response. I don’t always agree with Shakesville but I agreed 100% with Melissa’s take on this.

    4. Donna L
      Donna L March 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

      And this is Melissa’s follow-up post on the same issue:

      http://www.shakesville.com/2013/03/on-naming-identity-and-choice-part-ii.html

      1. Safiya Outlines
        Safiya Outlines March 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

        Donna L – Thank you so much for linking these pieces. I strongly object to Jill’s piece, and struggle to word those objections beyond “Mind your own business”.

        To go into my personal circumstances, I took my husband’s surname and kept my birth surname as a middle name. I think it should be obvious that there was some thought and reasoning behind those choices ( thoughts that took place on more then just the axis of gender) and that someone thinks they can chuck some trump card of proper feminism of proper feminism at them is infuriating.

        Jill – I get that you feel strongly about “I choose my choice feminism”, indeed, there is a lot to critique about it. It’s just that all of the pieces you’ve written about it thus far, seem to come from a very set viewpoint that completely ignores the circumstances many women have to deal with.

        1. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah March 10, 2013 at 7:36 pm |

          Yup. Kept my birth surname as my middle name and took my spouse’s last name. It is not because I didn’t think about sexist implications, I did. But for me there were additional considerations. How lucky to have nothing else to consider…what is that called again? Oh, yes! Privilege! SIGH. I am SO TIRED of this name change conversation. I get the reasons for it, but I hate that perfectly valid reasons for changing your name (like being seen as a legitimate family when normally people would just assume you were a “broken, dysfunctional” family because of racism, for example) are just mentioned as an aside kind of like, “well for MOST, IMPORTANT women there are no other consideration and the rest…well, they have their reasons, but lets be honest: who gives a f—, amirite??” Annoying.

    5. ChariD
      ChariD March 11, 2013 at 11:24 am |

      Agree with Melissa as well.

      With decisions like this, whether there’s a patriarchal history with the choice of changing one’s name or not — it’s a *choice* and it’s not up for debate by those of us on the outside looking in. It’s not anyone’s business except for the person making that choice.

      If you still feel you need to pass judgement on a woman who makes a choice you wouldn’t — don’t.

  6. Emma
    Emma March 8, 2013 at 7:29 pm |

    Freedom of choice. Thats what being a feminist means to me. Not having to defend my decisions to anyne. Not having to express all the initmiate details of my life to the world to justify those choices. Not to be audited by other women, to be judged by other women on the choices I make regarding my name, my body, my sex life, my marital status, my passport, my online presence…
    There are real and valid reasons for why women might or might not want to change their names, as there are real and valid reasons why women might or might not want to consider abortion when they are pregnant. The personal is political, sure, but its also personal. Freedom of choice. Freedom against judgement by others. Freedom to keep some things personal. Thats what feminism is to me.

    1. t
      t March 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm |

      This. All of this. It really astounds me that there are feminists out there who lose sight of that.

      I’m all for examining and challenging societal pressures on women to do certain things a certain way, but unless you’re absolutely sure a woman is deprived the right of choice on a particular matter, don’t run to the assumption that they’re doing it for the wrong reasons and judge them for it.

      Some of us can’t help it that our choices may align with sexist assumptions of what’s considered “proper” for a woman to do, but even in a perfect feminist world we’d likely make those choices anyway. We all have different desires, sometimes it fits with what the majority goes for. That shouldn’t be considered anti-feminist.

    2. karak
      karak March 9, 2013 at 12:33 am |

      I have always disagreed with this. I have never thought feminism as being free from judgement, and I’d stop calling myself a feminist if I did.

      There are plenty of things women do that are fucking stupid. I think it’s stupid, I’ll tell my friends and intimates that people who do those things are stupid, and if the person asks me, I’ll tell them they’re stupid.

      But I will allow that she is allowed to do that stupid thing, that her housing or her job or her basic bodily autonomy or ability to identify as a woman shouldn’t be in question for the crime of being a dumbass. Feminism is about giving people the right to make choices, and not have other people destroy them over it, or even have people get in their faces about it.

      But I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m never allowed to use my mean words because feminists Are Really Nice and Women Shouldn’t Be Mean. That’s bullshit.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 9, 2013 at 8:41 pm |

        My take on Emma’s “freedom from judgement” comment (and I have no idea whether this was what she mean, obvs) was along the lines of being free from other people judging you because you are a woman doing X or not doing Y, when they wouldn’t flip into judgemental mode if it were a man. The whole having to explain, having to have Valid Reasons for wanting to do things or not do things, when a bloke can say “I don’t want to” and there’s an end of it. That’s the sort of judgement it brought to mind for me, rather than the “well that was a stupid thing to do” at someone diving into shallow water, or whatever.

        1. Lara Emily Foley
          Lara Emily Foley March 10, 2013 at 6:44 am |

          For what it’s worth I judge every man for not offering to take his wife’s name as much as I question the status quo.

          This whole idea that we have to just let everyone do what they want without saying anything about it all is total baloney.

    3. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm |

      There are real and valid reasons for why women might or might not want to change their names,

      My problem with that statement is the use of the word ‘women’.

      For me, the whole reason for questioning this practice is not that it is done at all, but why is it only done by women? Men have shitty Dads too. Why are they not queueing up to change their name? That is not a rhetorical question; I genuinely do not know.

      It seems to me that men and women have been acculturated to regard their surnames in different ways, and I’d be interested to see a study into this.

      1. closetpuritan
        closetpuritan March 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm |

        One reason why, right now, is that in most places it’s harder for men to change their names than women. That’s certainly not all of it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the % of men who changed their names upon marriage doubled if we made it as easy for men as women.

        My sister’s ex-husband was going to change his name to hers. (He didn’t feel a really strong identification with his family, especially his father, and I don’t think he liked his name very well). He changed his mind when he saw how complicated the name change would be for him, and they each kept their own names.

        I keep seeing perfectly good reasons why a woman would want to change her name on marriage, but most of them should apply equally to both genders. And in many cases (abusive birth family, dislike the name) there’s no reason to wait until marriage beyond the assumption that you’ll get married eventually, so why do it twice? Which is a good enough reason, but it only applies to women. For other women, there’s no reason to change one’s name, but there’s no reason not to. Or a reason that’s good enough to go with the flow and change her name at marriage, but not good enough to make it worth changing her name if she never gets married. For plenty of men, there’s also no reason not to change their names, but when two such people get married and they want one name for the family, they’ll default to the husband’s name. Probably we’re as much in need of making it easier for men to change their names upon marriage, and for everyone to change their names at times other than marriage, as to make it easier for women not to.

  7. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

    Oh, look, it’s the “having kids vs not” argument 2.0, where once again a person with no dog in the race tells everyone else what to feed their greyhounds.

    Jill, what’s your big resistance to choice feminism anyway? And why so selective a resistance? I mean, why is it a “complex issue” when you’re discussing why you feel the need to shave your legs and put on makeup, but so very simple and “oh, well, some choices are intellectually lazy” when it’s something that you don’t personally have to worry about in your own immediate future? I’m just really…amazed by the consistency of your double standard on choice feminism.

    1. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen March 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm |

      Yes.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm |

      To elaborate: On the personal scale, I can’t imagine changing my name, or asking Valoniel to change hers. (We didn’t, ftr.) On the general scale, I absolutely agree that it’s problematic in some ways for women to change their names. On the philosophical/moral scale, I think it’s still none of my goddamn business, or anyone’s, what anyone wants to call themselves. I don’t care if people change their last name to their dog’s. I don’t see everything “Kosher Feminist” I do as an opportunity to waggle a disapproving finger at other women. I wish everyone would do the same. Waggle not lest ye be waggled at, etc.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl March 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm |

        Mac, ilu.

        I get that this is one of those issues Jill apparently identifies with strongly, and thus it has become her hill upon which to die. But on the yardstick of what makes one a feminist this one just seems way less fist shake worthy than so many others.

        I ended up hyphenating my last name in professional settings and changed it to my husband’s in my personal life. My maiden name is a very french one that ends in a t. I can’t even tell you how annoying it was to spend nearly every day of my life correcting the butchering of my last name. So, yeah, the spouse having a super easy to pronounce last name was a huge plus as far as I was concerned.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

          But on the yardstick of what makes one a feminist this one just seems way less fist shake worthy than so many others.

          Low-hanging fruit, what can I say. The fact that it makes a lot of people who are, as Becca said below, trying to navigate a deeply shitty world with deeply shitty choices, feel awful? Oh, well, casualties of war. You know, the one that’s supposed to be about helping us deal with the enemy in the first place.

          I guess I just see a lot of “kill them all and let God sort them out” attitudes in this kind of discussion. And it’s really, really tiresome.

        2. Cycleboy1957
          Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 5:57 pm |

          My maiden name is a very french one that ends in a t. I can’t even tell you how annoying it was to spend nearly every day of my life correcting the butchering of my last name.

          Of course, this is a fair reason to change your surname. However, do you have a brother? Presumably your surname came from your father and he also had years of it being misspelled. What is curious to me is that so many women see that as a reason to change yet so few men do.

          Please believe me when I say that this is not a critisism of you personally. In fact, it’s not a critisism of anyone. I’m just genuinely puzzled. Clearly, the irritation of having your surname butchered outweighed the loyalty to your surname and, conversely, the loyalty your father felt towards his surname outweighed his irritation at the misspelling. However, why should this difference occur?

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 11, 2013 at 11:52 am |

          Hey Cycleboy, cut it out with the gotchas.

          No, I don’t have a brother, for whatever it’s worth. And actually my father is also, still, on a daily basis annoyed at people butchering the last name. How about you stop presuming that you, a total stranger, know my mind or my father’s mind or even the mind of my imaginary brother better than we do? Because that, right there is quickly veering from mansplaining territory into jerk territory.

        4. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

          Coming back to this, because I’m so freaking annoyed at Cycleboy’s smug and unexamimed sexism.

          Why in the hell should my decision to change my surname be informed by whether or not daddy or my imagimary brother like that surname? It would be none of their business, and they would have no right to make that choice for me. Because my mind is my own and I am the only person who has the right to decide what is best for me. Period, the end.

          Which means that Cycleboy’s opinon counts not at all.

        5. Cycleboy1957
          Cycleboy1957 March 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm |

          Apologies, Lolagirl. As I said, I am not trying to critisise you or anyone else.

          If the business of changing surnames were to be genuinely discussed by all couples, and all men were as open to the idea as women seem to be, there would be an equal number of men who would choose their wife’s name. However, this is very seldom seen. It is the imbalance that is being questioned here. It is not the fact that some women choose the default option, but that so many do.

        6. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 12, 2013 at 10:09 am |

          Oh fuck right off, Cycleboy.

          You questioned my motives in a manner that was absolutely sexist, and your attemp at deflection does not change that. Stop acting like you are the Feministe Cruise Director, because you are once again completely out of line in telling me anything about what this conversation is or is not.

        7. A4
          A4 March 12, 2013 at 10:35 am |

          Lolagirl, right here your argument seems to basically be “I’m choosing my choice and no one has a right to examine it at all”. I don’t think cycleboy was being sexist at all. I think he was pointing out that it possible for someone to have very strong reasons for making a choice, and at the same time have that choice be constrained and shaped by society. This doesn’t seem like a very radical idea to me.

          I think that examining how the social reaction to a man changing his name for the reasons you mentioned would be very different is exactly the issues of institutionalized sexism I see being discussed.

          You are welcome to swear at me, I won’t take it personally, but I also hope you will answer my questions.

        8. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 12, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

          A4, if you don’t understand why it is sexist to ask me why my father and brother’s opinion on my changing my name didn’t matter to me, then you need to get a clue.

          Women are least of all beholden to the manly opinions of their manly relations when it comes to decisions impacting their own lives. The fact that Cycleboy never bothered to inquire as to the opinions of my mother or sister or aunt, etc gives away his underlying pov as a sexist one. And the bottom line of feminism is that all women are supposed to be free to make their own choices and know their own mind without giving a damn about what family or some stranger on the street thinks about it.

          Ask yourself if you felt the need to close ranks with Cycleboy as a fellow man. Because that is sexism as well.

        9. Emolee
          Emolee March 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm |

          I don’t necessarily disagree with cycleboy that it says something about gender that women often change their names for so many different reasons, while men, who may have all of these same life situations, typically do not. However, what I find deeply irritating about cycleboy is that he chooses to push this idea by interrogating women about why they changed their names instead of asking men why they didn’t change theirs. If he was truly interested in the sexism of the practice, he would focus on changing men’s attitudes instead of picking on women’s choices. It is also annoying how he acts like it is such a big mystery why women chnage and not men, as if socialization and social norms just don’t exist.

        10. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm |

          I also agree with Emolee wrt Cycleboy’s insistence upon picking apart and demanding explanations from women and not from men. The privileging of men and their opinions over womens is breathtakingly sexist, flat out.

        11. closetpuritan
          closetpuritan March 12, 2013 at 7:23 pm |

          No. Cycleboy didn’t question Lolagirl’s motives, he asked why her father or hypothetical brother wouldn’t/didn’t find her motives sufficient to change their names as well. That’s the opposite of only asking women why they change their names. I think maybe using people’s personal stories as examples comes off as a bit insensitive, but I don’t think there’s anything worse than that going on here.

          Also this:
          If the business of changing surnames were to be genuinely discussed by all couples, and all men were as open to the idea as women seem to be, there would be an equal number of men who would choose their wife’s name.
          Is the opposite of talking as if “as if socialization and social norms just don’t exist”.

          I’m a woman, BTW, just in case you were about to tell me that I’m closing ranks with my fellow men or whatever.

        12. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 12, 2013 at 7:44 pm |

          Did you even read my responses? And do seriously not understand why it is utter sexist bullshit to insist that my father or brother’s opinions need be consulted or influence my own personal opinions or decisions?

          It is only a relatively recent historical development that women in the U.S. that women became free to legally make their own choices without the permission of their fathers. Even so, we still give greater importance to men’s opinions over womens, as you have also just done in your comment, closetpuritan.

        13. closetpuritan
          closetpuritan March 12, 2013 at 8:32 pm |

          And do seriously not understand why it is utter sexist bullshit to insist that my father or brother’s opinions need be consulted or influence my own personal opinions or decisions?

          Did you read MY response? You misread me and you misread cycleboy, that is my point. AGAIN, no one said that you should consult or take into consideration your father or brother’s opinion. NO ONE.

          The point of the original question was, men who have French-names-ending-with-T rarely change their names, and if having a hard-to-pronounce name was the ONLY influence on whether someone changed their name, men would do so in equal numbers with women.

          How would it even make sense to think we’re saying you should take your father’s opinion into account? For all I know, he’s a traditionalist who’s very much in favor of you taking your husband’s name.

      2. fruitonica
        fruitonica March 8, 2013 at 10:09 pm |

        I feel like you are exaggerating the extent of Jill’s waggle. She does say:

        “I make anti-feminist choices all the time, so I’m not saying that you are a Bad Feminist for changing your name”

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 11:42 pm |

          “I make anti-feminist choices all the time, so I’m not saying that you are a Bad Feminist for changing your name”

          Which would be a lovely statement, and one I am totally down with, if it wasn’t pastede on yey in an article that basically says that everyone who changes their name is a Bad Feminist.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 11:52 am |

          I do think that the cultural practice of name-changing is incredibly sexist.

          Well, as I repeatedly said, I agree with you.

          But, as I also pointed out, if the main disagreement with taking a husband’s name is that you’re marking yourself his property, why is it more feministically acceptable to be your father’s property? Why not pull a full-on Cheris Kramarae and make up your own name? Why aren’t you Jill Filipova yet?

          It does mean that I get tired of the justifications and the “Well I choose it so it’s feminist!” thing.

          Except I’ve never heard anyone make a statement precisely like that. It’s like the “why no kids” argument – sure, the end result might be you or I snapping back at people “because THE PLANET” or “because I’m selfish”, but that’s only because the legitimate reasons we have (which could be as simple as “I don’t want to”, as it is in my case) are not considered Good Enough. There have been so, so many reasons put forward in this thread – many of them, by the way, by people like me who didn’t change their names – why people change their names. Fuck, if my last name were my father’s last name (it’s not; it’s his first name) I’d change the hell out of it too – I can count the people in my father’s family I like on one hand and have fingers left over, and also, I’d be sharing a last name with my molester and how lovely that would be.

          And yes, for something as important as identity and naming — which I think is really fucking important — I’m ok with using strong language and pushing back, hard, on the cultural narratives and the defenses that coopt feminist language.

          Identity and naming ARE important. I agree with you there. Don’t get me wrong, my personal opinion is right with you. But my personal opinion is also that if I ever got pregnant I’d be at an abortion clinic faster than Nightcrawler. Neither of these are personal opinions I feel terribly moral to tell other people to adhere to. Nor do I expect – or like – others telling me what I should be doing with my body.

          And frankly, here’s the thing. Analysing why something happens in society? Cool. Do it. I’m all for it. Hell, I agree with you. But that’s not what your post is – not from its imperative title (and you DO have control over titling in Feministe, it being your own blog and all) down.

        3. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 12:05 pm |

          I don’t think inheriting one’s father’s last name connotes quite the same level of ownership as adopting one’s husband’s. For one thing, both sons and daughters usually take the father’s last name, whereas husbands usually keep their names in marriage. Sons aren’t normally considered property, and to the extent that they are, their last name at least doesn’t make a sexist distinction between sons and daughters (though it does between mothers and fathers, granted). There’s also a difference between being born with a certain name (everyone is these days, even Nell, and nobody has a choice in the matter, male or female) and making the choice to change it according to sexist societal patterns.

        4. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm |

          Really, if you want to make even a feminist-minded heterosexual guy flip out, suggest to him that if you got married and had kids, the kids should take the wife’s name. I’ve tried this a bunch of times, and upwards of 90% of even the most liberal-minded men freak. They’re fine with their wife keeping her name or hyphenating (“I think she should choose whatever she wants!” they’ll say), but suggest that his name doesn’t get put on the kids? Total meltdown.

          Really, they freak out over that? Color me surprised, honestly. I consider myself to be a heterosexual guy who tries to be feminist-minded but often fails, and even I still think that someone who donates (or sacrifices) her body for nine months to bear a child has more right to name that child than the person whose ejaculate wasn’t exactly a huge sacrifice to donate in the first place.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 11:54 am |

          And honestly, Jill, I DO think you don’t have a dog in this race at this point. Changing your name isn’t a possibility on your horizon unless you’re doing it just because. And I think that until someone’s navigated an oppression, any oppression, any view they have of it is external. I say this as someone who navigated this oppression in exactly the same way you would.

        6. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm |

          Well, like I said, I know this is your hill to die on. In my big picture, a name is just not that big a deal. I understand you believe that names and identities are inextricably linked, but I just don’t. I honestly did not feel any shift in my identity by changing my name. It was just 8 more letters tacked onto my driver’s license and nothing more.

          I also disagree with the concept of identity as a static thing as you appear to view it. In my experience, my identity has always been a changing, growing and evolving thing. And I’m glad for that, because life experiences and education should result in one growing and evolving as a person. And disallowing marriage and parenting as acceptable things from a Feminist perspective thay may alter a woman’s personal sense of identity smacks of sexism to me.

        7. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

          Really, if you want to make even a feminist-minded heterosexual guy flip out, suggest to him that if you got married and had kids, the kids should take the wife’s name. I’ve tried this a bunch of times, and upwards of 90% of even the most liberal-minded men freak. They’re fine with their wife keeping her name or hyphenating (“I think she should choose whatever she wants!” they’ll say), but suggest that his name doesn’t get put on the kids? Total meltdown.

          And this DOESN’T suggest that these men definitely see the father’s name as a mark of ownership to you?????

          How in the hell does it not? I mean, what in fucking fuck? I’m flabbergasted how you imagine you’re proving your point.

        8. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm |

          it presumes that the name given to me at birth, that I’ve used my entire life, is somehow less “mine” because it was also my father’s (and the one my mother had taken, by the time I was born).

          Sure, and I agree, personally, that taking the husband’s name marks you as a second-class citizen who changes names. Of course, as ibbica pointed out below, in societies where the wife keeps her family name, it’s construed as her being an “outsider” and used to keep her in a second-class position. It’s almost like there’s a common denominator between the opposite naming conventions in the US and China, something beginning with a P…patriarbitrary? Patriotism? Damn it, I just can’t seem to remember.

        9. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm |

          Last names in general fall into a few categories: sexist (Jones, Wilson, Filipovic), racist (Moore, Savage, Norris), classist (Smith, Barber, Clark), lookist (Brown, White), etc. I don’t know if anyone is innocent.

        10. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm |

          Derailing: one thing that I haven’t actually heard talked about much on feminist forums is the question of why societies are patriarchal; it’s taken as a given, and it’s pretty universal in the modern world, but why is that so? Maybe this question is completely addressed in the literature but I haven’t encountered it in my reading so far. Maybe it just doesn’t matter much because things are the way they are and we should focus on changing them. But my useless random conjecture is that patriarchy in society is primarily a learned social phenomenon but ultimately derives from some biological differences between the sexes, in particular disparities in necessary parental investment and in assurity of parentage. Societies evolve to be patriarchal because men (a) aren’t forced to invest as much effort in bearing children and (b) can’t be certain that they are the real biological fathers of their children. The first issue plays out evolutionarily via sexual dimorphism making men on average physically stronger than women, which lets them address the second issue by constraining women’s freedom.

          On the other hand, women get their revenge by having complete control of the evolution of mitochondrial DNA, leading to them having significantly longer lifespans. Or something.

        11. SophiaBlue
          SophiaBlue March 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm |

          I hate the “well it’s your father’s name!” argument. Nope. It is, for many people, the name you were born with and raised with your whole life. That is your name.

          OK, but why can’t I turn that around and say “It’s not my husband’s name, it’s my name that I took to symbolize a new stage of my life”?

        12. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm |

          Briefly, because men don’t take new names to symbolize new stages in their lives.

        13. Buttered Lilies
          Buttered Lilies March 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm |

          It does mean that I get tired of the justifications and the “Well I choose it so it’s feminist!” thing.

          Huh, that’s not what I hear women saying. I hear “I choose it, so you need to respect my agency and stop telling me I’m a brainwashed tool of the patriarchy.” I hear “I choose it, so butt out of a decision that’s none of your business”. On the rare occasion that I do hear someone claim it as a *feminist* choice, it tends to be after they’ve been told it’s anti-feminist and they’re defensive.

          So yes, I shave my legs because it makes me feel better, but it makes me feel better because Patriarchy. I still do it anyway, because I’m going to pick my battles. When I hear people defend leg-shaving or whatever else as “I DO IT FOR ME!!!!” and “I choose to shave my legs and feminism is about CHOICE!” I also roll my eyes.

          So, because that’s your though process around leg shaving, it must be all women’s and other women are just lying to you?

        14. SophiaBlue
          SophiaBlue March 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm |

          Briefly, because men don’t take new names to symbolize new stages in their lives.

          Right, and I think it’s a problem that women overwhelmingly change their name to their spouse’s name and men rarely do, but my point was that on an individual level I don’t think you can say changing your name is always an antifeminist choice.

          When I hear people defend leg-shaving or whatever else as “I DO IT FOR ME!!!!” and “I choose to shave my legs and feminism is about CHOICE!” I also roll my eyes.

          Wow, I somehow missed this. I’m genuinely a little annoyed. Jill, I hope you don’t roll your eyes at trans women who tell you they shave their legs for their own sake. Like, I’m sure that’s not what you meant, but I think that’s the problem with making a general statement that changing your name or shaving your legs or things like that is always unfeminist.

        15. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm |

          @lolagirl –

          I also disagree with the concept of identity as a static thing as you appear to view it. In my experience, my identity has always been a changing, growing and evolving thing.

          This. The core of me is me, but a hell of a lot has changed and developed in a half century. I’m not who I was at four or fourteen (thank Ceiling Cat, she said fervently) or even forty. My name change at twenty-something was a shift, and changing my given name shortly afterward even more so. I would be more than happy to have my beloved’s last name – it has even more serious history behind it than mine – except that I’d never hear the end of the alcohol jokes (it being Bourbon) from history-ignorant ninnies, and the mispronunciation would be even worse than with my name, which is German. But it would speak a great deal for who I am now, that’s for sure.

          Hmm, hyphenation maybe … ?

        16. AJD
          AJD March 9, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

          Last names in general fall into a few categories: sexist (Jones, Wilson, Filipovic), racist (Moore, Savage, Norris), classist (Smith, Barber, Clark), lookist (Brown, White), etc. I don’t know if anyone is innocent.

          There’s actually a moderately large class of last names of Yiddish origin that originated as metronymics (i.e., based on the mother’s name)—typically recognizable by the suffix “-kin”. Some possibily familiar examples include Rifkin , Sorkin, and Malkin, which are based on the names Rebecca, Sarah, and Malkah.

          …Anyway, I just thought that was interesting. I bet there are names from other cultural/linguistic backgrounds that have similar histories.

        17. EG
          EG March 10, 2013 at 12:04 am |

          Last names in general fall into a few categories: sexist (Jones, Wilson, Filipovic), racist (Moore, Savage, Norris), classist (Smith, Barber, Clark), lookist (Brown, White), etc. I don’t know if anyone is innocent.

          Kind of bullshit, actually. What is classist about names that describe different kinds of labor/professions? Acknowledging the existence of labor isn’t classist. What’s lookist about describing a look? You might have a case if you claimed that such names as “Brown” and White” were racist, but they don’t privilege cultural norms of beauty.

          My last name comes from a word that is either an adjective meaning “beautiful” or a woman’s name, suggesting that it is a matronymic. It’s a lovely last name.

          I also can’t help but notice that all your examples are European. You know there are other kinds of last names, yes?

        18. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 10, 2013 at 10:38 am |

          @EG:

          Kind of bullshit, actually. What is classist about names that describe different kinds of labor/professions? Acknowledging the existence of labor isn’t classist. What’s lookist about describing a look? You might have a case if you claimed that such names as “Brown” and White” were racist, but they don’t privilege cultural norms of beauty.

          I think “Brown” and “White” usually described hair color, and calling those names “lookist” was a stretch and just meant as a throwaway remark. I do think there’s something classist about having a link between one’s name and the profession of one’s ancestors though, at least particularly in the past when professions were passed down like last names.

          I also can’t help but notice that all your examples are European. You know there are other kinds of last names, yes?

          I glanced at the most common last names in the U.S. and picked out ones whose origins were clear to me as an American of predominantly European heritage. I believe that some other cultures follow similar patterns, e.g. Gandhi means “perfume seller”, Patel means “landowner”. I don’t know what many other names from non-European sources mean, and I didn’t want to speculate erroneously. Since the article seemed to be addressed to Western Anglophone culture I tried to go with names whose meanings would be clear to English speakers. I didn’t mean to exclude other cultures or names out of malice, so I apologize for my lack of knowledge in those areas, and please share any knowledge you have about them.

        19. EG
          EG March 10, 2013 at 11:51 am |

          I do think there’s something classist about having a link between one’s name and the profession of one’s ancestors though, at least particularly in the past when professions were passed down like last names.

          What’s classist about it? We’re not living in the past. We’re living now. In the US, now, as you say you chose your examples from, professions are not passed down, and last names that describe professions have no impact on your class standing.

          I know very little about non-European surnames; that’s why I wouldn’t, for example, make a pronouncement about the categories “most” names fall into.

        20. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan March 11, 2013 at 11:48 pm |

          And honestly, Jill, I DO think you don’t have a dog in this race at this point. Changing your name isn’t a possibility on your horizon unless you’re doing it just because. And I think that until someone’s navigated an oppression, any oppression, any view they have of it is external. I say this as someone who navigated this oppression in exactly the same way you would.

          That’s bullshit. Did you even read her post? She mentions that women are acculturated this way. Last I checked, Jill is a woman; how did she magically get privileged not to be raised with the expectation that she’ll change her name? ‘Cause I’d love to know how that’s done, so I can skip having the culture impact any future children I might have.

        21. Emolee
          Emolee March 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

          Briefly, because men don’t take new names to symbolize new stages in their lives.

          Why should women refrain from doing something simply because men don’t do it? We don’t have to copy men. Now, it makes sense to say that women should not be *expected* to do something (like change names) if men are not expected to. However, if women *want* to do something, why the flip does it matter what men do?

      3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm |

        I don’t care if people change their last name to their dog’s.

        I could have the best hyphenated name evah if I changed my name to my kitties’! (Lots of cats in our family.)

    3. Donna L
      Donna L March 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm |

      Mac, I am told that if you take your spouse’s name when you get married, you have 70% less fun than if you keep your birth name.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl March 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm |

        Donna wins the internets tonight!

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm |

        *GIGGLEFIT*

      3. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm |

        LOL!

    4. Amanda Marcotte
      Amanda Marcotte March 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

      If choosing against dignity for women is so I Portland, why be a feminist? That’s what I don’t get. The idea that women should be equal in the home is repugnant. Got it. Own it. Why pretend it’s something it’s not?

      1. Katniss
        Katniss March 8, 2013 at 11:30 pm |

        Do you think choosing to change one’s name is always “choosing against dignity”? If so, why?

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 11:41 pm |

          No, no, Katniss, when Amanda does something anti-feminist it’s because she’s making complex decisions and taking her circumstances into account. All the rest of us, well, we’re just sucking the patriarchy’s dick. Or something?

        2. Katniss
          Katniss March 8, 2013 at 11:53 pm |

          That does seem to be her general theory!

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 11:40 pm |

        If choosing against dignity for women is so I Portland, why be a feminist? That’s what I don’t get. The idea that women should be equal in the home is repugnant. Got it. Own it. Why pretend it’s something it’s not?

        Hey Amanda, fix that, maybe?

        No, seriously, what are you even talking about? Does your equality in your relationships, or lack thereof, stem solely from your name being your name? I know it doesn’t in mine. I mean, it’s not like any abuser in the history of anything has said “whoops, she kept her maiden name, guess I can’t beat on her now, lol”? @_@

        Also, if you bothered to read my comment before jumping all over me in the most incomprehensible way since tomek informed me I could my eggs with electricity join, I didn’t change my name. Could I trouble Your Wisdomfulness to enlighten me as to where I said that women’s equality was repugnant, or any of the things you’ve blithely attributed to me? I thought you were over the making shit up when you can’t find wank thing…

      3. Giraffe
        Giraffe March 9, 2013 at 6:39 am |

        Yes, the dignity of retaining your father’s name.

        1. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date March 9, 2013 at 7:01 am |

          vs. changing it to your husband’s father’s name. Either it’s your name and your husband’s name, or it’s your father’s name and your husband’s father’s name. (Assuming typical American naming conventions.)

        2. igglanova
          igglanova March 9, 2013 at 7:11 am |

          If you want to play that game, your last name isn’t your father’s, either. It’s the name of the first person in your ancestry to bear it.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 11:17 am |

          Why, is it more feministically acceptable to be your father’s property?

        4. Hrovitnir
          Hrovitnir March 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

          I always think this is a slightly ironic argument because it assumes that (a) your mother took your fathers name and if not (b) you were given your fathers name.

          I have my mother’s last name – though that is HER father’s last name, but then her mothers maiden name is her fathers and so on – and have had it since the 80s when it was fairly unusual. It’s never been an issue for me.

          I am strongly of the opinion that kids should have the surname of the primary caregiver, when there is one. There are individual circumstances that would differ, but as it stands most people would have their mother’s last name.

          My much younger [half] siblings have their father’s last name, because it would be easier! His slightly older daughter from another relationship would have the same name! As far as I can tell they got his last name because he would have had a melt down if they hadn’t. -_-

      4. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl March 9, 2013 at 10:01 am |

        Waitaminute, when did I miss Amanda being appointed the President and CEO of the Sooper Exclusive Feminism Club?
        Thanks for dropping in to let the peons know that because we are doing it all RONG! we get our Feminist cards revoked despite Jill’s reassurences to the contrary.

        1. Safiya Outlines
          Safiya Outlines March 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

          She’s not just the President, but Feminist Accountant too, working out exactly what our feminist and fun percentages are.

          I’m probably on minus scores. *sad face*

  8. Saby
    Saby March 8, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

    So, historically in France pre-Napoleon, women didn’t take their husbands’ names. This is because women retained their own legal identity separate from that of their husbands, which was not the case under British law. In Quebec, Ancien Regime (pre-Napoleonic) civil law was retained after British conquest as per the Quebec Act, meaning that women legally retained their own names. English-speaking women used their husbands’ names socially, as per English tradition, but French-speaking women didn’t start doing this with regularity until the mid-1800s. Women taking their husbands’ names was written into law in the 1860s.

    In the 1980s, Quebec reversed that law, so that people don’t get a free and easy name change when they get married. If they want to take their spouses’ names, they must go through the same legal name change process as anyone else changing their name. Not only does this hearken back to Quebec’s heritage (which not gonna lie was probably the main motivation), but there was also a fear that people were marrying and changing their names to hide their criminal records, which is now not an option. It’s been almost 30 years and Quebec is still functioning just fine.

    This tale shows how, in fact, taking a husband’s name is not the historical default across all cultures everywhere, how women not taking their husbands’ names isn’t ruining society or anything ridiculous like that, and how it’s possible to compromise so that people can take their spouses’ last names without there being a cultural expectation that straight women do so.

    1. MariaM
      MariaM March 8, 2013 at 11:13 pm |

      I live in Quebec and it’s interesting seeing peoples reactions who grew up here vs. those who didn’t. Those who grew up here have the attitude of “why on earth would a woman change her name?” vs. those who didn’t who go “well, I wish I had a choice!”. But it makes it SO MUCH EASIER in terms of bureaucracy to not have a bunch of people assuming their spouses name every year. And now people with hyphenated names (because that was popular with a lot of kids born in the 80s) are having kids and it’s not a huge deal figuring out what to name the kids (which is one of the “problems” people seem to cite when thinking of hyphenating names) It’s usually another hyphenate, one last name from each parent.
      And for the record, here in Montreal we have a huge Italian and Greek community where many of the women take their husbands names socially. Their legal documents remain in their names, but they use their husbands last name. Honestly, I think Quebec’s system is the best, use whatever name you want socially, but legally it stays yours no matter what, no one changes their names unless it’s a legal name change (where your birth certificate changes). It only took one generation for the whole name changing thing to become obsolete.

      1. Andy
        Andy March 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm |

        I have to admit, anytime this topic gets raised here, I just do a CTRL+F for “Quebec” and try to hide from the rest of the discussion. No automatic marriage name change. If you hate the name you grew up with, you change it independent of marriage, and it’s the same whether you’re a woman or a man. The end.

        *sets out poutine and bagels for anyone who wants to hang out in the nice “I grew up in Quebec; thank god I don’t have to worry about this bullshit” thread with her and MariaM*

        1. t
          t March 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm |

          True, I’m originally from there, and this whole married name debate fascinates me. I grew up without certain ideas about gender roles impressed upon me, so I’m completely baffled by the controversy over not adhering to them once I’m immersed in a less liberated culture.

          *takes some poutine and fries*

        2. t
          t March 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm |

          *whoops, I meant bagels*

        3. Saby
          Saby March 11, 2013 at 9:04 am |

          This is the thing I don’t get about the “I’m not connected to my father/he was an abusive asshole/I hate bearing his name, so I’m going to take my husband’s name when I get married” argument. What if you never get married? Why would you not just legally change your name as soon as you can? I know women who took their mothers’ maiden names when they were in their early 20s. It worked fine. Most of them still aren’t married, or didn’t get married until their late 20s/early 30s. That’s a long time to go with a name you don’t identify with.

        4. Saby
          Saby March 11, 2013 at 9:06 am |

          Also, @t: yes, sometimes US feminist blogs completely baffle me. “Why are we fighting against this, no one actually thinks this… oh. They do? Oh.”

  9. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date March 8, 2013 at 7:59 pm |

    I am personally indignant when women change their names to their husbands’ names when they get married. Which is completely ridiculous.

    I would settle for not ever again hearing “Well, it’s either your father’s name, or your husband’s name, so it’s a man’s name either way.”

    1. Aoife
      Aoife March 9, 2013 at 3:50 am |

      Especially since it isn’t a choice between those two! I use both of my parents’ names when I can, and if I have to pick one or the other I go with my mother’s name. Have done since I was a cranky teenager just discovering feminism. And yes, you could say that using my mother’s name is really just using my mother’s father’s name.. but it’s the name I got from her. So I use both (because I adore both sides of my family and both of my parents) and on forms that don’t have enough room for two names I use my mother’s. Never had a problem.

    2. t
      t March 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm |

      Are you personally indignant at the cultural mandate that married women change their names or are you personally indignant at the individuals making that choice for themselves? Because if it’s the latter, you’re directing your anger at the wrong place for the wrong reasons.

  10. dc
    dc March 8, 2013 at 7:59 pm |

    i also just read that column.
    http://www.shakesville.com/2013/03/on-naming-identity-and-choice.html#disqus_thread

    & also noticed she did change her name,(tho still uses the old one,sometimes.)
    it seems harder to feel that someone is being completely objective when they are arguing both from their own position, and (supposedly) philosophically as well…..not sure about that.

    this tho was the most alarming aspect of this whole thing,which here, and at sh**ksville, seems to be being ignored:
    50% of the American population thinks women should be legally required to change their names upon marriage.
    wtf??
    do we not care about this static?
    maybe jill should have lead with that quote?
    “i choose my choice”is superfluous really,then.

    and now the discussion is just a “she said she said”,and real discussion around patriarchy is back benched.
    that really sucks when infighting becomes the end result, not discussing the thing which is actually the problem,control of women’s choices, by men.

    1. TMK
      TMK March 8, 2013 at 8:37 pm |

      this tho was the most alarming aspect of this whole thing,which here, and at sh**ksville, seems to be being ignored:
      50% of the American population thinks women should be legally required to change their names upon marriage.
      wtf??
      do we not care about this static?
      maybe jill should have lead with that quote?
      “i choose my choice”is superfluous really,then.

      Nah, it’s very sloppy sciencey on Jill’s part, to make an understatement.

      For more info, there:

      http://boingboing.net/2013/03/08/sloppy-statistics-do-50-of-a.html

      1. Anon21
        Anon21 March 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm |

        Nah, it’s very sloppy sciencey on Jill’s part, to make an understatement.

        Or, you know, a complete overstatement. The article’s points seem to be:

        1) First off, this was a survey of a little more than 800 people, almost half of whom were from Indiana. They were randomly chosen — so that’s better than, say, a survey of college students — but it’s still a far cry from saying, “This is what half of all Americans believe.”

        Okay, but this is just how public opinion research is done. We don’t go around asking every person in the country what they think, we get a randomly-selected sample. I guess the fact that half of respondents were from Indiana has some bearing on something, maybe, but I’d appreciate the author drawing that out a bit more; it’s not like Indiana is a Bible Belt state, for example.

        Then the author says 22.3% of respondents said they “strongly agree” with the statement “In the past, some states legally required a woman to change her name to her husband’s name. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that this was a good idea?” But then 27.6% “somewhat agreed,” and that makes 50%. And says something about how we don’t know exactly what “somewhat agree” means in this context.

        But, I mean, this isn’t some kind of push poll. You’ve got choices for “agree” and “disagree” to the question is it a good idea for a state to legally require that a woman change her name upon marriage. And 50% of respondents said, yes, that’s a good idea. How on earth is it in any way misrepresenting the results of the survey to accurately report that?

        what respondents thought about name changes didn’t necessarily reflect what they thought about female equality. Sixty-seven percent of these people disagreed with the idea of strict “man as breadwinner, woman in the home” gender roles. Eighty-two percent thought that working mothers could have just as good of a relationship with their children as stay-at-home moms. And 80% disagreed with the idea that it was more important for a woman to support her husband’s career and goals than her own.

        But, you know what? This is cheap talk. People are reasonably educated that they are “supposed” to offer nominal support for women’s equality, and they know what buttons they’re supposed to push for obvious questions like these ones, designed to draw out really blatant misogyny and/or chauvinism. None of these results in any way alter the fact that 50% of respondents think it would be a good idea for women to be legally required to take their husband’s name upon marriage.

        And frankly, that disparity in response just suggests to me why that it’s a good thing that Jill is out there raising a bit of public consciousness on why the whole practice of women taking their husbands’ names is seriously problematic from a feminist viewpoint. I guarantee you that if feminists hadn’t spent the last few decades loudly pointing the sexism inherent in the idea that married women’s primary ambition in life should be to support their husbands’ careers, you would not see anywhere near 80% of people offering even tepid disagreement to “the idea that it was more important for a woman to support her husband’s career and goals than her own.”

        In conclusion: a transparently weak hit piece that seems to just be masking the author’s objections to Jill’s larger point. For my part, I’m glad Jill is making this point and pushing people to examine why it feels so uncomfortable to this sexist practice interrogated.

        1. TMK
          TMK March 9, 2013 at 7:18 am |

          Now, i didn’t read either the blogpost and the paper in entirety, but skimmed through them. Time, you know.

          Still, i have to disagree that’s how the opinion research is made. In such research, having randomly selected sample is very important, and a sample with half of respondends from Iowa doesn’t fit.

          Which doesn’t mind that the research they did is bad, because they weren’t researching opinion about that particular issue. From my quick glimpse they didn’t do an exploratory research about name change opinion, but they were researching something more complicated (from what i gathered, something that could be called familial attitudes, but don’t quote me on this).

          Point is, it wasn’t opinion research, it shouldn’t be used as such, and Jill shouldn’t have used it that way.

          (and imo and somewhat besides the point, opinion polling isn’t that good way to know opinions in first place. So much depends on how the question is asked…)

        2. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date March 9, 2013 at 9:06 am |

          Now, i didn’t read either the blogpost and the paper in entirety, but skimmed through them. Time, you know.

          You didn’t have time to read, but you did have time to comment on what you didn’t have time to read?

          Still, i have to disagree that’s how the opinion research is made. In such research, having randomly selected sample is very important, and a sample with half of respondends from Iowa doesn’t fit.

          Indiana is a state. Iowa is a different state.

          The study authors say that it was a nationally-representative sample. And that it was opinion research.

          Majority of Americans say wife should change her name. Today’s couples continue to struggle over whether the woman should change her name upon marriage, despite the gains women have made in the workplace and other aspects of American society since the 1970s. In a national survey, 71 percent of respondents agreed it is better for women to change their name upon marriage, with only 29 percent disagreeing. Surprisingly, respondents even split fairly evenly in their support of government regulation requiring name change. Researchers from Indiana University and University of Utah say these findings come despite a clear shift to more gender-neutral language. “The figures were a bit sobering for us because there seems to be change in so many areas. If names are a core aspect of our identity, this is important,” said Brian Powell, professor of sociology at IU Bloomington. “There are all these reports and indicators that families are changing, that men are contributing more, that we’re moving toward a more equal family, yet there’s no indication that we’re seeing a similar move to equality when it comes to names.” Co-author Laura Hamilton, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington, presented findings from the study, “Mapping Gender Ideology with Views toward Marital Name Change,” on Tuesday at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting. The survey, a nationally representative sample, tapped 815 people and asked both multiple choice and open-ended questions. It was part of a larger survey probing public opinion of a range of gender- and family-related topics. Somewhat contradictory, almost half the people surveyed said it would be “OK” for a man to change his name to that of his wife. But for respondents, male name change was so implausible that they off-handedly or hesitantly agreed it would be OK. For example, Powell said, one man laughed as he responded: “Sure, why not. Hey in America, anything goes!” Others said that it was OK because: “Sure, a man should be able to do it because he’s a man.” Advocates of women changing their names emphasize a family and marital identity for women, indicating one family name makes more sense from a family and societal point of view. They rely on religion and tradition as the authority in this area. Name change critics focus on the importance of women’s independent identities and to the ways they benefit individually, such as professionally, by keeping their own name. They also think the decision should be left up to the women.

          (from the Indiana University press release on 8/11/2009 on IU research at the American Sociological Association annual meeting.)

        3. Lauren
          Lauren March 11, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

          FWIW, IU is a universally respected school on the subject of gender, sexuality, and sociology. Don’t get all het up because of the word “Indiana.”

        4. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan March 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm |

          @Anon21: *applause*

  11. theLaplaceDemon
    theLaplaceDemon March 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm |

    I really love the Kate Harding piece linked.

    I do think it’s an unfeminist choice to take your husband’s last name. But I make unfeminist choices every day when I wake up in the morning and put on eyeliner, and carefully select clothing that makes me look appropriately feminine but not too sexual. These are unfeminist choices that come from a combination of socialization that has shaped my aesthetic preferences on a level so deep that it feels innate, and cold hard calculation about how I will be judged for my appearance and how that influences how I am judged professionally and socially.

    I am happy to spend time listening to people discuss the ways in which this is unfeminist. That will not bother me. But it’s also something I’ve put a lot of time into processing and coming to terms with. I’m sure you can find other unfeminist things I do that I’m not even aware of that I will be more defensive about.

    I do think that a lot of the criticism of “choosey choice” feminism crosses a line into shame-y, bullying, controlling-women territory (not necessarily on this blog, but elsewhere on the feminist internet). And I really do have a problem with shaming women for the choices they make about their bodies and lives*. I feel like there is plenty of room to both criticize societal trends and choices as unfeminist while still respecting that women make the best choices they can with the knowledge they have and the options provided to them. It doesn’t make their choices “feminist choices” (and it does sort of make me want to bang my head against the wall when people try to argue they are). But I don’t think that shaming them for their choices is a “feminist action” either.

    *caveats about hurting other people etc etc.

    1. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters March 8, 2013 at 8:39 pm |

      I also love the Harding piece. Especially on how the conversation of societal pressures usually gets shut down by individual anecdotes and this part:

      Look, you’re a feminist who, in this particular case, made the non-feminist choice. That’s all. I assume it was the right choice for you, or you wouldn’t have done it, and that’s fine! But feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are fucked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.

      Having to listen to other feminists talk about why the tradition of wives taking their husbands’ names really sucks, and feel as though you’re being judged by them, is not punishment. Having your ex-husband use the fact that you didn’t change your name as evidence that you “weren’t committed” in a custody battle is punishment.

      However, I think that it should be acknowledged that it isn’t always a “choice” (such as immigration cases that were brought up). But overall, I agree. It seems like everytime the conversation happens it ends up being dominated by people justifying their choices. But in this case, I feel like Jill’s article necessitates those conversations by being more individual -focused than many articles. And I for one do not think judging and shaming are always bad tactics. I would not mind articles and conversations that judge and shame men who have the privilege to be in a situation to file lawsuits against laws that make it harder for cismen to change their name after marrying ciswomen than it is for the other way around, but chose not too.

      1. theLaplaceDemon
        theLaplaceDemon March 8, 2013 at 9:06 pm |

        Yes, that is an excellent excerpt!

        “However, I think that it should be acknowledged that it isn’t always a “choice” (such as immigration cases that were brought up). ”

        This is also a great point, though it also can be used as a bit of a derail – that applies to many women, but probably not the majority of those who take their husbands names.

        “And I for one do not think judging and shaming are always bad tactics. I would not mind articles and conversations that judge and shame men who have the privilege to be in a situation to file lawsuits against laws that make it harder for cismen to change their name after marrying ciswomen than it is for the other way around, but chose not too.”

        Oh, absolutely. I don’t think judging and shaming is always inappropriate. But in a world where women in particular are judged and shamed quite heavily for the choices they make about their lives and their bodies, judging and shaming women for making non-feminst choices about their lives and bodies strikes me as kinda fucked up. It doesn’t mean we have to pretend those choices are “feminist” choices, and it doesn’t even mean those choices are immune to criticism. But they DO get to make their own choices, and I really do think there is a meaningful difference between acknowledging the unfeminist aspects to something and shaming women to get them to make the choice you think is right.

  12. Donna L
    Donna L March 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm |

    & also noticed she did change her name,(tho still uses the old one,sometimes.)
    it seems harder to feel that someone is being completely objective when they are arguing both from their own position, and (supposedly) philosophically as well…..not sure about that.

    You’re being unfair. First of all, the idea that anyone can be “completely objective” about the issue is absurd. Is any woman who kept her birth name upon marriage also insufficiently objective to avoid having her viewpoint dismissed?

    In addition, what’s wrong with pointing out that it isn’t a zero sum game in which changing your name necessarily means losing your identity? It’s hardly uncommon for women in Melissa’s position — essentially, a public figure — to use one name publicly (in this case, her married surname, McEwan) but to continue to use her prior name in her private life.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L March 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm |

      Substitute: “to avoid having her viewpoint listened to.”

  13. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm |

    Really, the fact that so many women adopt their husband’s name upon marriage is a logical consequence of the extremely patriarchal society we live in. The underlying belief that most people have is that men are superior to women and should therefore dominate women. This domination is supposedly part of the natural order of things, although it’s also supposed to be obscured with a lot of superficial talk and thought about things like “equal opportunity” and “respect for women.” So it’s only logical that in such a society the family unit should be structured around the man, his economic prerogatives, his identity, and his name. Telling individual women to take responsibility for not changing our names is simply victim-blaming. . .akin to pointing the finger to gay folks who chose to stay in the closet. OF COURSE women would not want to subsume our identities into our husbands’ identities in a perfect world, but in a patriarchal world, it’s an effective and logical survival technique for most.

    I do think the emphasis on “your name should not change” and “your identity should not be temporary” is misplaced, even with the caveat that these principles don’t apply to trans people. Temporary, evolving identities and constant name changes would ideally be great for everyone, I think, and would be consistent with a more existential, healthy, and satisfying way of experiencing life. The problem here is really in institutions like patriarchy and marriage, not in the fact that women change their names (I’d like to see all sorts of women changing their names for all sorts of reasons. . .and all sorts of men, too). The fact is that, in our current society, our names are used against us as instruments of domination from day one. Our parents choose our names at birth. By giving us their last name, they are perpetuating the oppressive institution of the nuclear family, by choosing a (usually) gendered first name, they are perpetuating gender essentialism. A more just alternative would be if children were encouraged to pick their own names, including their own last name. Our naming customs also encourage white supremacy. . .as the most common, most Euro-centric last names like “Smith” and “Jones” and “Anderson” perpetuate themselves while Anglicization is forced on more “ethnic” sounding last names.

    Basically, we live in a really oppressive society. Women are oppressed, trans folks are oppressed, children are oppressed, people of color are oppressed, immigrants are oppressed. These systems of oppression affect everything, so of course they will affect our naming conventions as well. I believe ultimately the solution to this is oppressed people organizing together in networks of solidarity. Victim blaming individual women for their personal choices is not the answer and undermines the solidarity we should be going for.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L March 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm |

      Anglicization is forced on more “ethnic” sounding last names.

      I don’t remember at the moment where you live, but that’s considerably less true than it ever was. You haven’t noticed that it’s no longer very common at all for well-known people to change their Jewish or Hispanic names to Anglicized names? I known exactly one Jewish person who changed their last name to make it sound non-Jewish in my entire life.

      the oppressive institution of the nuclear family

      I strongly dislike this particular generalization. There are many different kinds of nuclear families, and I don’t for a moment believe that they are any more inherently oppressive than any other kind of family arrangement.

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm |

        I live in Oregon currently, Donna. The Anglicization phenomenon may have not been a suitable example for me to use. You’re right that it was much more a thing that happened in the United States historically as opposed to currently. I was aware of that, but I wasn’t really thinking it through as I wrote my paragraph there. Although, there’s still tons of people who are hanging on to their family names that were Anglicized in past decades, and I think that says something.

        But yeah, the family is an oppressive institution to organize a society around (although I shouldn’t have put nuclear because my criticism applies to all patriarchal, anti-community forms of family–including our current nuclear family system). Basically, in my opinion, our family system serves to uphold male supremacy; encourage the isolation, control, and abuse of children; and discourage a feeling of social solidarity with one’s neighbors because, after all, it is one’s family that is MOST important. In the society I’d like to see, people would be just as likely to feel strong feelings of connection to any human being as they would be to a spouse or blood relative. That’s the essence of my view. I have no problem with people who have strong feelings of connection to relatives, and indeed, I have such feelings toward some of my relatives as well.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm |

          In the society I’d like to see, people would be just as likely to feel strong feelings of connection to any human being as they would be to a spouse or blood relative.

          ….humans don’t work that way, though. They really just don’t. Pretty much 99.999% of humanity has a fairly fixed/finite ability for concrete connection. And hell, it’s not even as extreme as stranger vs spouse. I don’t feel as kindly about or connected to tomek as I do to you, and we’re all essentially internet names and squiggly gravatars to each other, in terms of “concrete” connection…

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm |

          And frankly, I realize that evo-bio gets eye rolls a lot in feminist circles (often appropriately) but kin-preference is a pretty fucking indisputable, near-universal example of biological determinism.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L March 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm |

          In the society I’d like to see, people would be just as likely to feel strong feelings of connection to any human being as they would be to a spouse or blood relative.

          In order to have a possibility of that happening, and not tip the scale in favor of parents, I guess the State will have to take babies away from their parents at birth and send them to the collective farm. That always works out well, as I was trying to explain to Aldous Huxley just the other day when we were sharing some LSD with each other.

        4. LotusBecca
          LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm |

          amblingalong. . .the idea of “kin” is largely socially constructed, as evidenced by societies in which fictive kin receive as much consideration as biological kin. Given this, I think under the right cultural conditions it would be possible to shift to a view where human beings view the entirety of humanity as our kin. We would be taking the natural biological preference for one’s kin and sublimating it into a feeling of solidarity with all of humanity.

          And Mac. . .I wasn’t saying that I think one day each person will like all other people equally. Obviously, If one is to form deep, individual bonds of intimacy with people (which is a great thing) this would be impossible. I’m just saying that who we develop these deep intimate bonds with should not be limited by traditional conceptions of family, as it currently is. I think we LGBTQ people have it right with our conception of “chosen family.” In the future, I would like to see people feel love toward all people. . .but who we are most intimate with would purely be our uncoerced, individual choice.

          I’m glad you like me more than tomek BTW. The feeling is mutual.

        5. LotusBecca
          LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm |

          In order to have a possibility of that happening, and not tip the scale in favor of parents, I guess the State will have to take babies away from their parents at birth and send them to the collective farm. That always works out well, as I was trying to explain to Aldous Huxley just the other day when we were sharing some LSD with each other.

          LOL. No, Donna. I’m talking about a world where babies don’t belong to their parents to begin with, and there’s no need for a State to take them away.

        6. Donna L
          Donna L March 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm |

          LOL. No, Donna. I’m talking about a world where babies don’t belong to their parents to begin with, and there’s no need for a State to take them away.

          Really? You do know where babies come from, right? At what point do you start the mandatory separation from the birth mother and father, so zie can start feeling more of a connection to all humankind than to hir own parents?

        7. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 9:55 pm |

          I’m just saying that who we develop these deep intimate bonds with should not be limited by traditional conceptions of family, as it currently is. I think we LGBTQ people have it right with our conception of “chosen family.”

          Becca, I don’t disagree with that. But I also DO see a high level of choice already in families. And frankly, in the nuclear family more than any other, where the primary bonds are either romantic or parental.

          I’m glad you like me more than tomek BTW. The feeling is mutual.

          Dear gods, much more! I set the lowest bar I could without actually addressing an asshole troll.

          Though, weirdly, tomek seems to be…becoming intelligent. I’m disturbed by this development. I feel vaguely like I’m in some sort of science-fiction movie where the Creature’s learning to think and I’m busy watching it run through mazes while I adjust my labcoat….

        8. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

          That always works out well, as I was trying to explain to Aldous Huxley just the other day when we were sharing some LSD with each other.

          Dying laughing!

          I’m talking about a world where babies don’t belong to their parents to begin with, and there’s no need for a State to take them away.

          So…how would that work? Like…that’s pretty much exactly how Brave New World worked, iirc…

          There have been many, many, many attempts in the history of mankind (and I do use “mankind” deliberately) to dictate, top-down, that children are in no need of parental figures. And from what I can tell, they all worked splendidly, if by “splendid” one means “having rampant child abuse and rape, leading to a hyperviolent, , traumatised and alienated population”.

        9. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm |

          LotusBecca- They’ve tried it. Many times. I’m assuming you’re familiar with the work of BF Skinner and his followers, or Fourier a century before him?

          Turns out that no matter how you educate kids, no matter what rules you put in place for moms and dads, that connection between parent and child is stronger. Every single organized attempt to do what you’re talking about has ended in a colossal, disastrous failure. Telling a mother who’s just given birth that she has to feel exactly the same connection to her child as all the other infants in the creche tends to be a non-starter.

          And incidentally, you’re exaggerating the degree to which Other societies construct kin differently. There’s a difference in the degree to which families are extended and the ease with which non-blood can become relatives, but the preference for one’s own kids over the neighbors is pretty much universal. It’s hardwired into us at a deeper level than basically anything else; from a coldly evolutionary perspective the second we stop reproducing the only thing valuable about us is our ability to keep our offspring alive. Sure, we can trick ourselves into transferring those feelings to non-genetically advantageous kids (and truly, I don’t mean this as a jab at adoptive parenting- people who think evolutionary forces equate to moral imperatives are idiots) but there’s a limit to how broadly the principle can be stretched.

        10. LotusBecca
          LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm |

          Really? You do know where babies come from, right? At what point do you start the mandatory separation from the birth mother and father, so zie can start feeling more of a connection to all humankind than to hir own parents?

          Donna, I don’t think parents have an inherent, biological interest in individually raising their own offspring. I recognize it can seem that way under our current social conditions. But I envision a world in which everyone in a community feels love toward all babies, and babies therefore develop the closest connections to whomever the baby naturally gravitates to. It will be the baby who determines what adults ze wants to bond with and the baby will be given a broad array of choices there. And I think all loving, biological parents will gladly welcome the baby choosing hir own path from the beginning. I think our current way of doing things where babies are forced to rely solely their parents and parents are legally obligated to every last bit of care for own their children will seem very rigid and impoverished by comparison.

        11. LotusBecca
          LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm |

          Becca, I don’t disagree with that. But I also DO see a high level of choice already in families. And frankly, in the nuclear family more than any other, where the primary bonds are either romantic or parental.

          Many or most marriages are dysfunctional and not freely chosen because they are distorted by sexism as well as the belief people have that they should stay together even if they are unhappy because divorce is wrong. And children don’t choose their own parents.

          So…how would that work? Like…that’s pretty much exactly how Brave New World worked, iirc…

          I’m against top-down. I’m in favor of bottom-up. My utopia is more The Dispossessed than Brave New World. I don’t think the family is natural, so I think that in order for it to exist, it much be actively and continuously justified and defended (see how some people are talking on this thread, for instance). In absence of these continual, pro-active justifications, society will naturally evolve to the point where the family is no longer an essential building block of things.

        12. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm |

          Donna, I don’t think parents have an inherent, biological interest in individually raising their own offspring.

          Long post is in mod, but short version is: this is just not true, empirically. We have exactly two evolutionary imperatives; reproduce, and then ensure our offspring survive to reproduce themselves. Everything else is deadwood (from a coldly evo-bio perspective; evolution != moral imperative, obviously). So there is a massive innate biological interest in raising one’s own offspring, because that’s the offspring that carry our genes. Sure, that hard-wired impulse to protect our kids is missing in some people, and sure, we can transfer those feelings to a kid who doesn’t share our genetic material- our brains are complicated like that- but there’s a limit to how far the principle can be stretched.

          I envision a world in which everyone in a community feels love toward all babies, and babies therefore develop the closest connections to whomever the baby naturally gravitates to.

          No, not everyone will ever love babies. I don’t. Unless we’re going back to Huxley, that type of broad social uniformity will never exist.

          It will be the baby who determines what adults ze wants to bond with and the baby will be given a broad array of choices there.

          Everyone stands in a circle and the baby crawls towards its choice?

        13. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm |

          Donna, I don’t think parents have an inherent, biological interest in individually raising their own offspring. I recognize it can seem that way under our current social conditions.

          Mammalian evolution would like to have a word with you.

          Becca, I seriously… look, I know you’re serious, and I know you’re invested in thinking this way, but when you get right down to it? Humans are animals. And animals, particularly our closer relatives on the tree, are incredibly invested in kin-groups. How in the world are you arriving at a conclusion that biology and sociology and psychology and basic sense all refute? I agree that not every parent is profoundly bound to their child, but, well…the entirety of human history says that that’s the exception rather than the rule.

          And what other social conditions have there been, in which parent-bonds didn’t exist? To what are you looking to prove your point that we parents (or parent-type people) are just sadly deluded by society telling us we should like our kids? And more importantly, how did those societies look? Because if you’re going to hold up Sparta as the human ideal (because it’s the closest thing I can imagine, and even they kept kids with parents until age 5 or so iirc), there’s something so far beyond wrong with your reasoning on this that I’m…not even sure what to do with it.

        14. Donna L
          Donna L March 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm |

          Everyone stands in a circle and the baby crawls towards its choice?

          LOL

        15. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 10:19 pm |

          Imagine a tribe of cavemen. Life isn’t great for our tribe; food is scarce, and saber toothed tigers keep picking off stragglers. Imagine that our tribe is divided into two broad groups, A and B. Group A are the selfish ones. When the saber tooth tigers raid the camp, they only protect their own kids, with all the resources they have; when food is scarce they only make sure their own kids eat. Group B are the altruists. They not only look after their own kids, but also protect group A’s kids. Who’s kids are getting more food, A or B? Who has more defenders when the sabertooth’s attack? Who stands a greater chance of making it to adulthood, the ones with the protect-my-kids-at-all-cost phenotype or the the protect-all-the-kids-equally phenotype?

          Guess who keeps winning over a couple hundred million years of animal evolution? Guess who our ancestors are?

        16. LotusBecca
          LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm |

          Becca, I seriously… look, I know you’re serious, and I know you’re invested in thinking this way

          Actually, I couldn’t care less about this topic. I have merely been trying to be polite and answer people’s questions and respond to their objections. I was much more interested in the original content of my post, which was mainly about how patriarchy and other forms of oppression pervade everything, and therefore how we shouldn’t victim-blame oppressed people who are trying to navigate shitty circumstances in the best way they know how.

          People think I’m some sort of super idealist because I always seem to be talking about the world I’d like to see. But I am not a super idealist. I’m invested in political struggles in the here and now. The problem is most people are invested in the status quo while I am not. I reject most aspects of the status quo as oppressive and unfair. But people gets uncomfortable hearing about the ways in which our world is shitty. The ways in which our world is shitty is what I really prefer to talk about. But I always see people deflecting from this and trying to get me to explain what my “alternative” is, and since I’m too polite and accommodating I go along with it. But honestly, I couldn’t care less about some far-future utopia. Sure, it’s part of my beliefs, but I only talk about under pressure for others who don’t seem to think I can issue radical criticisms of our society unless I have some sort of perfect “plan” for how to fix things. But that’s not the point. I’m just trying to encourage people to criticize social practices that they are taking for granted. All I really want is people to think more critically about what we’ve all been told.

        17. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

          I was much more interested in the original content of my post, which was mainly about how patriarchy and other forms of oppression pervade everything, and therefore how we shouldn’t victim-blame oppressed people who are trying to navigate shitty circumstances in the best way they know how.

          Actually, I’m totally down with that (with the one little caveat I mentioned below, obviously). I don’t want you to think I’m disagreeing with your main point, just because I’m disagreeing with how your ideal worldview looks. (Hell, if I don’t have an ideal world in my head, it’s only because my deepest belief is in the ineffable grubbiness of humanity.)

        18. theLaplaceDemon
          theLaplaceDemon March 8, 2013 at 10:40 pm |

          Becca, to be fair, I think a lot of the responses in this subthread are people thinking critically and responding to the things you wrote.

        19. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet March 8, 2013 at 10:52 pm |

          @amblingalong: your reasoning just seems… over-simplistic perhaps? It might seem to make sense that selfishisness would be the best survival trait, for one’s genes or one’s self, but I honestly don’t think so.

          There’s a reason why people band together and cooperate. And most of us seem to “need” other people than just our family members for healthiness and survival. You let someone’s kid get eaten and see how likely they’re going to help you out. More likely they’ll shun you, possibly even attack you. In a group situation you might be driven out of the group, which has been an almost certain death sentence in some of the scenerios/circumstances that humans evolved in.

          Your logic is ignoring that people evolved to feel compassion, even for total strangers, for a reason. You’re forgetting the other biological imperative: survive to reproduce, which is necessary before one can, you know reproduce. Being a selfish bastard is not the great survival trait one might think it is. Putting the group first is probably a better overall strategy for genetic survival than selfishness. Selfishness would lead to a smaller, weaker tribe, with less genetic diversity, which would lead to more defects and weaknesses.

          Smaller, weaker groups were more likely perish completely than larger groups with more resources to fight off predators or problems.

          Honestly, amblingalong, I would hazard that a lot of our ancestors are group B.

          Evolutionary biology isn’t my thing, but it seems to me to be a not particularly useful thing to apply to modern social problems anyway.

        20. Alara Rogers
          Alara Rogers March 8, 2013 at 10:53 pm |

          Amblingalong, while I am overall quite in agreement that humans have a much stronger biological connection to related individuals, particularly our own children, than we do to strangers, I do think your example is not accurate because it leaves out something very important, and the thing it leaves out explains why human altruism exists at *all*.

          Group A and B are within the same tribe. Group A is selfish and only protects their own kids. Group B is altruistic and defends everyone. Group A people prefer Group B people to other Group A people, because Group B people will protect the selfish Group A’ers kids too. Group B people prefer Group B people because they pull their full weight on the task Group B’ers think is important to do. Guess who is more likely to run the tribe? Get the best food? Have top social currency? Get the best mates?

          Altruism, in humans, isn’t selfless. Acts of altruism, in a very small group, do two positive things for the altruist: they promote the spread of the altruist’s genes, because in a small group like a tribe a lot of the other people are related to the altruist, *and* they give the altruist social currency. The altruist is likeable and popular because they are generous. Likeability and popularity translate to power. In larger groups this starts to fall apart, when power turns into the power to coerce, but at the level of the small group, power is all about how many other people in the group want to listen to you. And if you are generous, you are better liked, and better liked people are listened to more often.

          So, in fact, humans do have a very, very strong tendency to be altruistic toward anyone perceived to be “like me”. Outsiders, however you define an outsider, are potentially dangerous and you don’t get much bang for your buck being generous to them, because they don’t know you and they don’t share your genes. But people you know, people close to you, people in your “tribe”… we are evolved to be altrustic and generous toward those people. And as the human population has expanded, human society has enlarged the size of the “tribe”. Some people genuinely consider all humanity their tribe. Many, many people consider their entire nation to be their tribe. And this is a good thing, because we are evolved for altruism toward others in the tribe.

          That being said, yes, a preference for your own children will tend to make you more reproductively viable. There’s a caveat there too, however, but this is already long. :-)

        21. shfree
          shfree March 8, 2013 at 11:04 pm |

          Becca, I know you mean well, but you are just not going to be able to separate the babies from the vast majority of the folk that birth them without a BIG, HUGE, FIGHT. I’m all sorts of down with anarchist mutual aid utopias, but if anyone came up to me after I gave birth to my daughter, and even as exhausted as I was, and told me there was a possibility I wasn’t going to be the primary care provider for her “for the sake of the community”, I would have punched them in the face and run away with my baby.

          Now, when I was pregnant I went around to all of my friends and told them I wanted them to teach her everything they knew, because it was important to me that they understood that there was going to be a new person around me all the damn time, and they were going to be a part of her life if they were going to be a part of mine. And that they should play a part in how she sees the world. Hell, we even lent her out as a loaner baby for a weekend for a couple where the woman wanted kids and he was reluctant. (she was a REALLY calm baby, he warmed to the idea) HOWEVER, like hell were they actually going to raise her, not because I didn’t trust them, (well, not all of them, anyway) but because she was mine. Even if my daughter was hella attached to one of them, fuck that. Even if the law said I didn’t have any legal responsibility to keep her clothed, fed and housed, she is was mine and her dad’s, and she was ours to raise, and I don’t want anyone overruling either of our decisions with regards to parenting her.

          Maybe it makes me crazy selfish, but I went through all that effort to gestate her, birth her, and her dad went through along side me, so while I was sure going to be willing to share the love with others, like hell was I let anyone supplant me. I won’t speak for my ex with regard to his level of selfishness, but I know he was not going to step aside and let anyone else parent on his behalf. The fact of the matter is getting a child is hard, whether it’s biological or adoptive, so parents are going to be protective of what is theirs. And that goes straight to the base core of rearing our own young.

        22. Alara Rogers
          Alara Rogers March 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm |

          LotusBecca, I agree with you that we can expand our notion of “kinship” to a certain degree, such that we encompass people we’re not closely related to, but I think the biological mechanisms that underpin this human ability are fragile and it will never be possible for humans to fully uncouple themselves from biological kin. In particular, there is strong evidence that humans have evolved for a certain degree of “love all the children” but also a good bit of “but my child is more equal”.

          Humans have fathers. This is pretty unusual in the mammal kingdom; most mammal male genetic donors have nothing to do with the offspring. Whatever reason there may be for the male human ability to bond with a child in the same way that a mother does, the existence of this ability guarantees that humans have some ability to define “kin” as “whoever I think of as my kin”… because men cannot be certain of paternity. And men and women are similar enough that traits that are adaptive in men appear in women almost as frequently or just as frequently. A man who rejects a child who might not be his will overall be less reproductively successful than a man who cares for a child who might not be his… because men don’t get to mate in a vacuum. Women will prefer a man who is generous toward children and not obsessed with making sure the child is his biological kin (if the women have freedom of choice and the culture doesn’t basically force all men to act like this.) If rejecting a child he thinks is not his causes a man to lose opportunities to father another child (which, in the ancestral environment where everyone knows everyone else, it might), he is doing less well than the man who is raising a kid who is not his own and also raising other kids that are his own with the mother of the first child.

          But humans also have mothers, and mothers know who their child is. And any trait that’s adaptive in women appears in men. And men are physically stronger than women. So the desire to care for your own particular child *existed* because it’s useful to women, but its presence in men has probably resulted in patriarchy and pretty much every damn thing women have suffered at the hands of men throughout history… because the only way a man can be sure that the child he’s caring for is his is to control the woman he mates with, through violence or cultural coercion.

          You say that our desire to care for our own children and reject others is culturally constructed and the result of patriarchy. I say that it is heavily biological and possibly the origin of the patriarchy, but as with all human things, cultural construction has a *lot* to do with it. I don’t think we will ever have a society where everyone takes care of babies equally… babies are too tough to deal with. But I do think we could have a society where young children are free to form bonds with pretty much any adult they feel a mutual bond with, and children could be literally raised by a village, where your “aunts and uncles” include pretty much every adult you know and you are free to turn to any of them for your needs if you like them and they like you. I suspect, however, that before we could ever get there, we would have to change society so radically that most of the toxicity between parents and children that make a *need* for “families of choice” will be gone.

        23. Donna L
          Donna L March 8, 2013 at 11:25 pm |

          people gets uncomfortable hearing about the ways in which our world is shitty.

          Sometimes informed people actually disagree with you about what is or isn’t necessarily shitty. Like the parent-child bond.

        24. LotusBecca
          LotusBecca March 9, 2013 at 2:51 am |

          Becca, to be fair, I think a lot of the responses in this subthread are people thinking critically and responding to the things you wrote.

          I don’t care about critical thinking one way or another. Critical thinking in defense of the status quo is worthless in my opinion. I’m interested in encouraging people to look critically at dominant institutions and social practices; that’s what I was saying. And I know people were responding to what I wrote. They were responding to what I wrote is a way I found frustrating for the most part. I’m just a nobody on the internet, and I don’t think my perspectives are generally worth taking the time to criticize. I think most of the pushback I get in situations like this happens when I criticize hegemonic practices and ideas that people just don’t like to see criticized, even if it’s just some nobody on the internet doing it.

          Sometimes informed people actually disagree with you about what is or isn’t necessarily shitty. Like the parent-child bond.

          Well, I don’t think the parent-child bond is shitty. That’s why I need to learn to not get involved in these conversations. Not only do these conversations not matter to me, but people usually wind up arguing against things I stuff that I don’t even think.

        25. mxe354
          mxe354 March 9, 2013 at 11:56 am |

          Altruism, in humans, isn’t selfless. Acts of altruism, in a very small group, do two positive things for the altruist: they promote the spread of the altruist’s genes, because in a small group like a tribe a lot of the other people are related to the altruist, *and* they give the altruist social currency. The altruist is likeable and popular because they are generous. Likeability and popularity translate to power.

          This view of altruism, while respectable, skims over important philosophical issues that need to be discussed. In particular, before we talk about what scientific research suggests, we need to understand the philosophical aspects of moral motivations. For instance, I think that altruistic motivation itself has a rational basis and so altruistic motivation is entirely possible. See Thomas Nagel’s book The Possibility of Altruism to learn more about a similar perspective.

          But no one needs to agree with me in order to see that all scientific analyses of human altruism must always be done within particular philosophical frameworks that define aspects of moral motivation. We need to know what kind of moral motivation is philosophically possible in the first place. Those as obsessed with philosophy as me probably see how a Humean perspective of moral motivation will have a profound influence on moral psychological analyses.

          If we always stubbornly view science as a fact-finder rather than what it really is – a useful but flawed tool for empirical analysis – we will never make any sound claims about human nature. While the scientific method is an indispensable tool for understanding the natural world, we should keep in mind its limitations. Otherwise, scientific discourse concerning human nature will continue to be full of problems.

        26. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm |

          But I envision a world in which everyone in a community feels love toward all babies, and babies therefore develop the closest connections to whomever the baby naturally gravitates to.

          What about those of us who don’t like babies at all? Who find the thought of breeding repugnant, and who don’t care for children’s company? Are we not allowed in this society where everyone has the warm fuzzies over babies?

      2. amblingalong
        amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm |

        Altruism, in humans, isn’t selfless. Acts of altruism, in a very small group, do two positive things for the altruist: they promote the spread of the altruist’s genes, because in a small group like a tribe a lot of the other people are related to the altruist, *and* they give the altruist social currency. The altruist is likeable and popular because they are generous. Likeability and popularity translate to power.

        Totally granted that the example has some holes, but the general principle is basically sound; group selection’s been discredited for a while, now. The section I bolded is key; the benefits of altruism are inversely proportional to the size of the population.

        But yeah, your point is certainly well taken.

      3. GreenieB.
        GreenieB. March 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm |

        I don’t remember at the moment where you live, but that’s considerably less true than it ever was. You haven’t noticed that it’s no longer very common at all for well-known people to change their Jewish or Hispanic names to Anglicized names? I known exactly one Jewish person who changed their last name to make it sound non-Jewish in my entire life.

        Er, what do you think people are talking about when they say they want to take their fiance’s name because: “I don’t like my last name”/”I’m sick of misspellings”/”If the host mispronounces my name as ‘(very-bad-word)-witz’ one more time, I’m going to hit him over the head with my beer bottle,” etc.? People don’t talk say they want to change their names because of Anglicization, but if you really think about it, that’s what these complaints ultimately mean.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L March 9, 2013 at 1:42 am |

          “Er” yourself. I wish people would stop the “er, um” passive-aggressive openings. We all know what they mean

          I was talking only about my personal experience, living my entire life in the New York metropolitan area. Where the Jewish women I’ve known with Jewish-sounding birth names who took their husbands’ names usually were marrying Jewish men with surnames that sounded equally Jewish. (Or Jewish men with “Gentile” surnames that were so commonly adopted by Jewish families 100 years ago that if you grow up in New York they sound Jewish anyway!) And believe it or not, I’ve known a lot of people — myself included — who love the way that “Jewish names” sound, and wouldn’t dream of changing theirs (by reason of marriage or otherwise) to some boring white-bread name!

          When my parents got married in 1948, my mother took my father’s name, but kept her own birth name as her middle name (instead of her original three middle names, which she used to tell me she dropped in the Atlantic on the way over in 1943), and frequently used both of them together. And gave me her birth name as my middle name, too. And I’m glad she did, as unusual and difficult to spell as it is, because I’m the last person in the world who has it — it was first adopted 201 years ago in Pomerania, and it will die with me. My last name is another one of those difficult-to-spell Jewish names, but that’s never bothered me either. It was misspelled on the ship passenger list showing my 15-month old grandfather’s arrival with his family in July 1888, and has continued to be misspelled ever since, so I’m just carrying on a family tradition. And I would very much like to think that even if I had been raised as what I am now, and had ever married a man, I would have kept it. It certainly wasn’t unusual to do so among women I knew, even 25 years ago.

        2. Amelia the Lurker
          Amelia the Lurker March 9, 2013 at 5:03 am |

          (In reply to Donna)

          I totally agree about this: “And believe it or not, I’ve known a lot of people — myself included — who love the way that “Jewish names” sound, and wouldn’t dream of changing theirs (by reason of marriage or otherwise) to some boring white-bread name!”, to such an extent that despite my attitude towards name-changing being just as knee-jerk as Jill’s—and that it also has an Ellis Island misspelling, and that it goes with my first name both in terms of family history and sound—I might seriously consider changing it if I were to marry someone with such a name.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm |

      By giving us their last name, they are perpetuating the oppressive institution of the nuclear family

      Becca, while I’m totally down with most of the rest of your comment, I really wish you’d stop having this attitude that a nuclear family is somehow oppressive, without ever having really experienced one. Speaking as someone who came from one of the LESS abusive extended families I’ve seen, I still maintain that breaking away to live alone was the best goddamn thing that happened to any of us. Seriously, an extended family is not the sort of gender-egalitarian haven you seem to think it is. Usually what it means is that, in abusive families, there’s six or nine adults flinging you into walls or ensuring you starve instead of one or two.

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

        I apologize Mac for using sloppy language to describe this again. I really should stop directing criticisms to the “nuclear family” per se. . .as doing so erases the experiences of oppression that people in non-Western cultures have had with extended families, families which I also recognize as oppressive. I have more of a problem with “the family” than “the nuclear family.” I would like to see society organized on a non-patriarchal, communitarian basis that empowers children to develop their autonomy and creativity.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm |

          *nodnod* No, if you’re criticising the family unit in general, I’ve got no issue with the argument. I might not necessarily agree, but I don’t see it as an inconsistent position, at all.

    3. GallingGalla
      GallingGalla March 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm |

      Cosigning this.

      1. GallingGalla
        GallingGalla March 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm |

        Mac and Donna, I see your points, though. (I do remember my uncle threatening to break my arm if he ever saw me pick up a Talmud again…)

    4. A4
      A4 March 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm |

      I find this to be excellent, but that does not surprise me coming from you.

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca March 8, 2013 at 9:26 pm |

        Wow, thank you, A4. That’s high praise, and I appreciate it! :-)

        1. A4
          A4 March 9, 2013 at 10:37 am |

          Oh gosh I just read through the big conversation above where you had evo-psych and snark coming at you from all sides and I sympathize. People kept telling you that you’ll never be able to take people’s babies away as if that’s actually what you were saying at all.

          It seems pretty clear to me that you weren’t saying anything of the sort. You were just encouraging the idea that it’s okay for parent child bonds to deviate from the current incredibly rigid social script. If people were allowed to explore different parenting situations without so many legal and social repercussions then the very restrictive and oppressive aspects of the family might lessen. Perhaps if this exploration were allowed to continue we would become a more communitarian society when it comes to child rearing! This could be a part of a general shift towards breaking down the social barriers that prevent different groups of people from connecting which would break down the dehumanization of others that is rampant in our culture.

          You obviously are never going to tell a parent that they need to pay more attention to other babies than their own because that is the exact type of social dictation you are trying to do away with in your bottom-up thought experiment. If all these people who are so vehement about biological bonds are correct, then that will come out over time naturally.

          The people arguing against you seemed hell bent on misunderstanding your position and motivation in criticizing the status quo of the family, but I am way on board. My own family has abused the social requirement for familial acceptance all my life and it strikes me as very worth criticizing.

    5. the_leanover
      the_leanover March 9, 2013 at 8:53 am |

      Posting here in response to the arguments above with my take on Becca’s ideas, which may or may not align with what she was trying to say, but I’d like to get some things clear in my own head. To call ‘the nuclear family’ or the family in general an oppressive institution isn’t to say that any given family unit or parent-child bond is intrinsically oppressive; it’s to say that a system in which the autonomous, self-contained family is the supreme unit of social organization, and the nuclear family is socially, legally, culturally and economically privileged – vastly privileged – over any other mode of connection or way of living, is an oppressive system. Personally, I do not envision a world in which deep parent-child connections do not exist at all, or are forcibly prevented from existing (obviously, because the brave new world stuff is just a bit of a silly straw man), or where everybody has to love all the babies equally. I do envision a world in which the parent-child bond is not considered a moral imperative (because, biological or otherwise, the exceptions to the tendency for deep and abiding parental love are numerous enough to matter); where parents are neither granted unique sovereignty over their children nor obliged to take sole responsibility for their children’s welfare; where a biologically-based self-contained two-parent family unit is not privileged over other forms of connection, and where more open community structures offer a freer possibility of choosing other forms of connection; where the mythologies and sanctions and assumptions that surround the idea of ‘family’ no longer hold the cultural power to coerce and exclude.

      1. A4
        A4 March 9, 2013 at 11:18 am |

        Right! This!

      2. mxe354
        mxe354 March 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm |

        I’m in total agreement there.

  14. Glitch
    Glitch March 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm |

    This is the first time I’ve really felt compelled to comment on an article here–though I’ve been reading and loving this blog for quite awhile now.

    I was raised in a very liberal environment, and always assumed growing up that (of course!) I would keep my last name if I ever got married. This was partly due to being the youngest of three girls, so I felt that I was the only one who could “carry on the family name.” When the subject of possible marriage arose with my ex, I suggested that he take my name since I couldn’t stand his extended family and would rather he join my family (he flat-out refused).

    I now find myself engaged to a wonderful man and expecting a little girl in the early summer. I’ve decided to follow my mother’s example and exchange my given middle name (which I’ve never been all that attached to) for my current last name and then take my fiance’s last name, because I want to be part of his family.

    Not because I’ve ever felt societal pressure to change my name. Not because I want him to represent me. Not because I ever felt like my name was not permanent. My identity is not hanging in the balance here. I want to be a member of his family because his family is awesome (at no point did he suggest I take his name or pressure me in any way, but he is honored that I’d like to join his family).

    Honestly, that’s all I’ve ever thought of the whole name-changing thing–it’s something you do if you feel like it, but hardly obligatory. I must say that I deeply resent the idea that by joining my future-husband’s family I’m surrendering my identity. I’d like to think that I’m merely expanding it. Of course, it’ll be cold day in hell before I let anyone refer to me as Mrs. [husband's first name] [husband's last name] because I have my own goddamn first name and a much-loved nickname, thankyouverymuch. In fact, I’m not fond of “mrs.” at all, for the reasons you mention above.

    In my opinion, denying myself that connection to his family for political reasons? Fucking dumb. It reminds me of middle school, when I refused to make Bubbles my favorite Powerpuff Girl because everyone else liked her too much.

    For the record, my fiance’s last name is actually his mother’s maiden name. Just FWIW.

    1. Miriam
      Miriam March 8, 2013 at 11:58 pm |

      But if you were a man engaged to a woman with a really awesome family, statistically speaking, you would not take her name to be a part of her family. You probably wouldn’t even think about it. Your reason sounds lovely when you write about it, but there is nothing about it that is so unique to women as opposed to men that it explains the sharp disparity in women who change their names versus men who don’t.

      When 90% of women make a choice, I think we need to be willing to examine how non-obligatory it really is. It cannot be the case that 90% of women are freely choosing that they want their last names to represent their husband’s family over their own or to make a shared family through their husband’s name because those reasons are not unique to women. Why isn’t the statistic more balanced? Why aren’t more men so besotted by their wives’ families that they exchange their name for hers? Why don’t more men have ugly sounding last names that they’ve never liked so marriage is a great opportunity to get rid of it? Why don’t more men decide to take their wives’ names to be a nuclear family unit? Individual choices may feel individual, but the possibilities that seem open and reasonable to us are accepted by wider societal structure.

      I didn’t change my name when I got married. My mother didn’t change hers, so I think it was easy for me to never consider it. But my child does have my husband’s last name instead of mine. I can tap dance around our reasonings all I want, but ultimately, I am lying if I deny the sexist society in which we live is the largest factor in why we made the choice we did. I think we all need to be willing to look at how the way in which we weigh our possibilities is affected by our gender. Because lovely though it is to expand your identity and your family unit through name changes (and that’s sincere, not sarcastic), it is not lovely at all that it is only women who ever do this.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 12:15 am |

        When 90% of women make a choice, I think we need to be willing to examine how non-obligatory it really is.

        Or we could examine the converse, too – that men don’t feel they can change their names to their wives’ without being subject to ridicule, aggressive mockery or even threats. (This is not, I think, a feeling that has no basis in reality.) I mean, we live in a world where kids get kicked off football teams for wearing pink cleats as an anti-cancer statement. So, while men might hate their names, or abusive families of origins, or what have you, the social consequences for a man changing his name to his wife’s are very different from that of a woman changing hers. Dismantle that, and I suspect we would see a sharp spike in the ratio of men who would be willing to hyphenate or change their names.

        1. Miriam
          Miriam March 9, 2013 at 1:15 am |

          I definitely think we should explore both aspects of the stat–but I don’t think we should assume men’s reasons for them. Maybe they worry about ridicule or maybe they just never even consider that changing their name is a possibility.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:21 am |

          Maybe they worry about ridicule or maybe they just never even consider that changing their name is a possibility.

          And if there were no social consequences to changing their name, would they not be quicker to consider it? How is it that we’re willing to talk about how the patriarchy hurts men in the abstract, but whenever it comes to a concrete expression of how it hurts them we suddenly “don’t want to assume” and would rather think they’re all just entitled assholes who think they own women? (I’m not saying you do, you clearly don’t, I’m saying that’s a trend I’ve noticed.)

        3. Miriam
          Miriam March 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm |

          Eergh, there’s a certain point where the easy embedding breaks down and I never know how to do actual replies. Usually, I just drop out of the conversation at that point, but I really want to reply to this question from macavitykitsune: “And if there were no social consequences to changing their name, would they not be quicker to consider it? How is it that we’re willing to talk about how the patriarchy hurts men in the abstract, but whenever it comes to a concrete expression of how it hurts them we suddenly “don’t want to assume” and would rather think they’re all just entitled assholes who think they own women?”

          I can’t speak to your actual question about the entitled assholes since you explicitly didn’t direct it at me :). But I want to back step to the not assuming men’s motivations and why I said that. I think it is a huge, huge issue in gender studies research that there is so little work on straight, cisgender men. I’m eek, almost a decade out of grad school at this point, so I am hopefully also be out of date on this. But when I was in grad school, this was a glaring omission. It felt almost like because we’re so used to having straight, white, cisgender men as the default, researchers couldn’t conceptualize how to study people in that group. There were some good exceptions, but not many compared to others.

          So my point was really to highlight how much men’s choices are unknowns.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

          @ Miriam, most of us have generally settled on copious quoting and just nesting things… I don’t like it either, but it’s better than having to un-collapse massive threads, I guess.

          So my point was really to highlight how much men’s choices are unknowns.

          Absolutely, and I appreciated that you did that rather than assuming on the negative side. But it really bothers me how many people do, particularly since the consequences for men aren’t actually that hard to find. I mean, look at that guy who got in trouble in Florida for taking his wife’s name! (Also, if I had a kid and named it in the Tamil fashion – its last name would be my first – I know I’d get in massive headache-inducing situations all over Canada. Hell, I’d get into them in north India.)

          It felt almost like because we’re so used to having straight, white, cisgender men as the default, researchers couldn’t conceptualize how to study people in that group.

          Yep. They’re both the normal and the invisible. Which displeases the hell out of me, frankly. But I’ve remarked before, on other threads, that the feminist movement in general (and the radical feminist faction in particular) is quick to chastise people for expecting feminists to study or discuss issues that affect straight white cis men, AND to chastise men who set up their own spaces for being separatists and secret anti-feminists. (That many of them are open anti-feminists doesn’t change the fact that this is true.)

        5. er
          er March 10, 2013 at 11:55 am |

          I think you’re right here about men – that is to say, feminism recognizes that men are also oppressed by patriarchal norms, even though they benefit more from them than women do. So men cannot ‘act like women’ which restricts and controls their behavior. That’s why many feminists argue that feminism liberates both women and men. I agree that men are not allowed to take their wife’s name (culturally speaking). I’m sure that many people think my husband is less of man because our children have my last name. of course, he doesn’t care, because he’s a feminist

      2. Glitch
        Glitch March 9, 2013 at 10:05 am |

        But if you were a man engaged to a woman with a really awesome family, statistically speaking, you would not take her name to be a part of her family.

        Hey, don’t put words in my mouth. Even if you’re just “statistically speaking,” neither of us have any idea what I would do in that situation–though I probably would at least hyphenate.

      3. Cycleboy1957
        Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

        Miriam: YES! Well put.

  15. trees
    trees March 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm |

    As a happy divorcee, I’m very grateful that even though I gave up so much of myself to the marriage, at least I kept my name (although my kid does have his name). Considering the very high U.S. divorce rate, this factor is worth taking into consideration.

  16. shfree
    shfree March 8, 2013 at 9:48 pm |

    A common last name does not a family make, and people that tell anyone otherwise can get bent. When I was with my ex, he, our daughter and I all had different last names (we gave her her own) and I think only one person gave him lip about it, and I never heard anything personally.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the tremendous attachment people have to their individual names and how it relates to their heritage, and why if their spouse had that attachment they would want to honor that aspect of them. It just really, really cheeses me that it is harder for men to change their names than it is for women, and that often women who claim to have always hated their name for one reason or another only wait until marriage to change it, and then it is to the name of her spouse.

  17. amblingalong
    amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 9:51 pm |

    Not a fan of my last name- I’d happily take my wife’s, if I ever get married. Worst case scenario, we flip a coin; hyphenated names are no fun, and in a perfect feminist utopia where all the kids hyphenate, what about when they get married? Quadruple hyphens? Will the next generation have eight last names?

    No, thanks.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm |

      in a perfect feminist utopia where all the kids hyphenate, what about when they get married? Quadruple hyphens? Will the next generation have eight last names?

      I like the Icelandic system, myself. Or, hell, the Tamil system. You have your own name, a direct connection to whichever of your parents you choose, and a direct connection to your pair-bond, whoever they may be, or (in the Tamil system) to your place of birth or community/caste. I don’t see why it’s not replicable.

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 10:04 pm |

        a direct connection to whichever of your parents you choose

        That’s the part that makes it a non-starter for me; being forced to pick between parents is no good.

        Not sure I get the Icelandic system- that’s still a patrynymic, it’s just taking the first name instead of the last, no?

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 8, 2013 at 10:45 pm |

          That’s the part that makes it a non-starter for me; being forced to pick between parents is no good.

          So…don’t? Pick both? Middle names are a thing. I don’t see the issue.

          And no, the Icelandic system doesn’t have to be a patrinymic, it’s just “how it works out” (coughcoughpatriarchycough). As a system, though, it’s gender-neutral; it’s just that people aren’t generally out of the “people taking their mother’s name are illegitimate” mindset in general. Ditto the Tamil system. (Which is basically “birthplace, firstname, father’s/mother’s firstname/caste name/community name”, btw.)

      2. tigtog
        tigtog March 8, 2013 at 10:39 pm | *

        There have also been many documented societies in which a person has a child-name which lasts to puberty or a cultural rite of passage/initiation, at which point they take on an adult-name. It would be perfectly simple in the feminist utopia to have hyphenated surnames as part of the child-name, and then ditch them when the child becomes an adult and takes on their new name (which they should ideally be free to choose entirely by themselves).

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm |

          Yeah, I like that more; it leaves the door open to children retaining an adult name that’s symbolically linked to one/both of their parents, without compelling a choice.

          Sold and sold.

        2. Miriam
          Miriam March 9, 2013 at 12:01 am |

          I wish we had that in US culture. I think it has unexpected resonance in this modern day of Google. A culturally recognized name change also seems like a beautiful way for adults to start somewhat free of their child/teen web footprint.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L March 9, 2013 at 1:18 am |

          Just think of all the additional opportunities for emotional blackmail (and bribery) by divorced parents as name-choosing day approaches.

    2. Aoife
      Aoife March 9, 2013 at 4:01 am |

      Hey, I love my hyphenated name! And a lot of my cousins (on both sides) hyphenate too- it’s lovely to see that connection and difference in all of our names. Don’t knock hyphenated names just because you think they’re clunky!

      1. tigtog
        tigtog March 9, 2013 at 9:38 am | *

        I’m with you Aoife. It’s also not this generation’s problem what their offspring will do with surnames – they’ll make their own decisions for their own reasons.

    3. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 6:37 pm |

      Quadruple hyphens? Will the next generation have eight last names?

      My solution would be a version of the Spanish one: When two people marry, each decides which one of their two surnames they will give to their children.

  18. draconismoi
    draconismoi March 8, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

    As a legal aid attorney, I see a huge burden on women changing their names following divorce.

    After escaping an abusive situation, it can be extremely beneficial to the victim’s mental health to change her last name.

    However, if there are children involved, she now has a different last name then her children. Which can lead to all kinds of difficulties when it comes to access to medical records, school records etc etc.

    Teenagers tend to be very understanding of their mother’s desire to change her name, but young children are often extremely distressed, especially when they are also recovering from violence.

    So then the woman is forced to make a choice that will either ease society’s automatic acceptance of her children as hers – or will serve to further separate her from an abusive ex. Privacy laws, such as HIPAA, and restraining orders, are essentially just useless pieces of paper on a day to day basis. When the abuser has the same last name as the victim, they’ll easily be able to monitor every aspect of the victim’s life.

    I don’t see these problems when dealing with restraining orders and custody disputes between unmarried parents (or married parents where the woman did not change her name in the first place).

    1. Treebeard
      Treebeard March 9, 2013 at 10:41 am |

      However, if there are children involved, she now has a different last name then her children. Which can lead to all kinds of difficulties when it comes to access to medical records, school records etc etc.

      Is that still really an issue? It was never an issue for us growing up with a mother with a different last name, but I imagine that could be partly because we were a white, educated, reasonably well-off family.

      1. draconismoi
        draconismoi March 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm |

        Yeah it is. There is still that assumption that you have to have the same name as your kids. It allows a step-mother to arbitrarily authorize a child to undergo medical treatment without the consent of either parent, and prevents a birth mother from enrolling her child in school because she doesn’t have her divorce decree on hand.

        *Both of these scenarios have happened multiple times in the last year with my clients.

      2. shfree
        shfree March 9, 2013 at 10:22 pm |

        I would think it was a well-off white family thing, and/or where you live thing. My ex, our daughter and I all have different last names, always have, and no one has ever questioned whether or not either of us were her parents, or if she was our child. Even the fact that we were giving her her own last name didn’t faze the social worker who filled out her birth certificate. Usually the only mistakes that are made are people calling me by her last name, and those are usually her friends’ parents, not anyone with an official role to play in our lives.

  19. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm |

    I changd my name to please my in-laws. I kept my own name for three years and then changed it. Sigh. I wish I had just been secure enough to stand firm in my convictions. I could change it back, I suppose – or just use my original name whenever I want to.

    Over the years, I’ve learned so much about myself, about patriarchy, about standing up for what I believe in, and about individuating. Had I the opportunity to do it over again, I would not change my name.

    1. karak
      karak March 9, 2013 at 12:58 am |

      Completely Off Topic, but I feel like I haven’t been seeing you around as much. I might just be seein’ things, but I am glad to see you now~~

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie March 11, 2013 at 3:08 am |

        Thanks, karak.

  20. tomek
    tomek March 8, 2013 at 10:08 pm |

    well allow me to ask it like this:

    in a “perfectly feminist world” which mean one where there is not historical and social norm for woman to change her name to man name, do you think man or woman would be more likely to change there name to partner name?

    i have strong feeling that even without social pressure still woman would do this.

    1. shfree
      shfree March 8, 2013 at 11:11 pm |

      What? I don’t see the reasons for people in a non existent feminist utopia to EVER need to change their names at all, female or male, whether they get married, partnered, what have you. Everyone would just keep their own damn name, and they would just figure out what to do about their kids on their own.

    2. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers March 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm |

      Yeah, but not at the rate of 90%.

      Biologically, men should be changing their name to the woman’s name. The family unit in mammalian biology is the mother and child. In most mammals, males are extraneous to that pair bond. In humans, males are capable of being fathers (that is, being males who behave like mothers do in that they care for children), but they’re *still* statistically much less likely to be the primary caretaker or anywhere near as involved with the kid. So if the name represents the family unit, it should be mother and child, and the man is connected as a closely bound satellite; the phenomenon where the woman takes the man’s name and then gives it to the child makes no biological sense, and is based around the concept that women and children are the property of men.

      But women are more socialized to prioritize pair bonding and togetherness, so yeah, even without social pressure and the concept of the man owning the woman, it’s likely that more women would change their names than men do. But it would be *nowhere near* 90%. Probably more like 55%.

      1. j-dub
        j-dub March 9, 2013 at 11:03 pm |

        But in a feminist utopia women wouldn’t be socialized to prioritize pair bonding and togetherness.

        I would think in a feminist utopia either the idea of taking someone else’s name would be absurd. People would either keep their names or create new ones.

      2. Henry
        Henry March 11, 2013 at 3:34 am |

        http://www.parentingscience.com/evolution-of-fatherhood.html

        mammals cover such a diversity of species, from fruit bats to caribou, I do not think you can engage in inter species generalization of male mammalian parenting. even in a completely gender-role imposing patriarchy where men own their families, men are not satelliting, they are off earning wages to “support their family” as expected of them by such a society. So in a utopia as postulated by Tomek, I would have to assume people would flip coins, or assign a third name to their kids. Surnames might not even exist at all.

    3. Emolee
      Emolee March 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

      No. There is nothing biological that makes women change their names. This is a cultural thing, although it is found in many (but not all) cultures because of wide-spread patriarchy.

      1. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia March 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm |

        Biological name changing. Like molting. Shedding your name.

  21. amblingalong
    amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm |

    Just want to quickly point out that for black women the choice isn’t nearly as straightforward as Jill seems to think. When the default assumption is that you’re unmarried and your kids are ‘illegitimate’ (and what a fucking awful term that is), taking your husband’s name is a political act, too; it’s a complicated one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

    1. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters March 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm |

      I hardly see this as a political act if the default is for the woman to change her name rather than the man to change his. Not to mention it can be something that plays up the notion that certain family models are better, more stable, and more “legitimate” than others because being recognized as “properly married” can take the forefront.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 12:04 am |

        Not all people and all races and all minorities, subcultures etc have the same definition of “political act”. I would argue that for African-Americans, for example, marriage itself is a political act because of a societal proscription on either legally recognising or socially rewarding their marriages.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 9, 2013 at 12:21 am |

          would argue that for African-Americans, for example, marriage itself is a political act because of a societal proscription on either legally recognising or socially rewarding their marriages.

          Exactly. Thanks.

          And Denise, I don’t know if you’re black or not, but if you’re not, I really don’t think it’s your place to make that call. I cannot emphasize that strongly enough.

        2. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 9, 2013 at 1:06 am |

          People can consider their marriage a political act, and when some people are kept from marriage and some unions from state recognition, I would argue all marriages are political acts.
          However, this still does not code black women in the U.S. as a majority defaulting to the husband’s name. It comes back to why the default is for the woman to change her name under the guise of wanting the family to have the same name.

          When the default assumption is that you’re unmarried and your kids are ‘illegitimate’ (and what a fucking awful term that is), taking your husband’s name is a political act

          Again, the default position is for women as a class to take their husband’s name. I also feel that this sentiment can, and often does, come across as privileging state recognized marriages as the best form of family building. It potentially casts being unmarried with children as something to avoid being associated with in and of itself. I absolutely think it is racist to make assumptions about people’s relationship and familial status, but I do not feel the answer is to reinforce the status of one type of relationship (and the traditionally associated roles of that relationship, in this case the woman changing her name always) as privileged and valued over another. This, in some cases can certainly lead to, reminds me of the notion that instead of pushing for equity and equality, black women should by default aspire to the pedestal that has been denied.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 9, 2013 at 1:15 am |

          Sometimes the pedestal that’s been denied is the best you can aspire to, short-term.

          This reminds me a bit of all the (straight) people telling gay marriage activists to stop because marriage isn’t radically liberatory enough. There’s a big class of white middle-class oh-so-progressive folk who really love telling oppressed people not to try to get on equal footing with said white middle-class, because really it’s not so great, and we should actually be working towards a different Utopian vision. Hopefully my opinion about these people is clear.

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 9, 2013 at 1:16 am |

          Also, I’m not denying that there are issues of sexism tied into black women changing their names. My point is that there are other issues as well, and there isn’t necessarily an easy answer.

        5. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 9, 2013 at 1:16 am |

          Also, I’m not denying that there are issues of sexism tied into black women changing their names. My point is that there are other issues as well, and there isn’t necessarily an easy answer.

        6. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 9, 2013 at 1:28 am |

          The main difference between this and straight people telling marriage equality activists to back off is that name-changing after state-approved marriage is not a right that is being denied. Also, there is a great deal of pushback within the LGBTQ community on the centering of marriage equality by many LGBTQ organizations.
          There is no doubt a lot of pressure to change last names because of societal pressure and the legitimizing of state-sanctioned heterosexual marriage. Perhaps some might even feel the need to cave to , take the default option to avoid being labeled another “embarrassment to their race”, or because they do not want scrutiny of their family ties in a society that values certain family forms to the exclusion of others. But that should not, imo, be an excuse to defend the status quo of women being the default name-changers or name-hyphenators. And it does not excuse suggesting that traditional marriages are a better option than other family-forming choices (not that anyone in the thread has necessarily done that) and something for all to aspire to and want to be associated with by default. Once again, the default is for women to cave to sexist societal traditions, and any attempts to discuss why, on a whole and national level, this is a jacked-up trend tends to get lost in the telling of anecdotes to defend a societal-level status quo that does not need defending.

        7. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 9, 2013 at 2:49 am |

          Also, in relationship to name-changing on the part of women as a class and heterosexual marriage as a choice (as oppose to a right) in the U.S.:

          There’s a big class of white middle-class oh-so-progressive folk who really love telling oppressed people not to try to get on equal footing with said white middle-class, because really it’s not so great

          really seems to imply that a marriage where the woman changes her name is superior to other relationship models. The idea that black women changing last names to husbands by default en masse means “getting on equal footing” with white people seems to imply that women who don’t change their name are not on equal footing, and that they should want to be (which would necessitate adherence to certain norms that society privileges). Which goes beyond talking about erasing, and denial, of traditional relationship models within the black community. To me it is the different between acknowledging a need to access certain statuses, and reinforcing the privileging of those statuses (name-changing for women as something that should be aspired too as oppose to something that shouldn’t be denied).

      2. (BFing)Sarah
        (BFing)Sarah March 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

        The main difference between this and straight people telling marriage equality activists to back off is that name-changing after state-approved marriage is not a right that is being denied.

        But, being a married black couple recognized as a family unit wasn’t a right denied at one point in this country? Lest we forget that it was also illegal to be in an interracial marital relationship, I will also remind you of Loving v. Virginia…which was 1967, so not so long ago.

        I absolutely think it is racist to make assumptions about people’s relationship and familial status, but I do not feel the answer is to reinforce the status of one type of relationship (and the traditionally associated roles of that relationship, in this case the woman changing her name always) as privileged and valued over another.

        Super. I’ll go ahead and tell my kids to prepare themselves for being assumed to be father-less (like they already are…even though we, as a family, already do share a last name) so that we can “take down the patriarchy.” That’s totally our/their burden, I forgot. Because we totally have nothing else to battle. I should make your priorities my priorities! Got it! You know, white kids are almost NEVER assumed to be fatherless, neglected, and on the way to prison, but in our society TODAY, the world we live in RIGHT NOW, MY KIDS ARE. Excuse me very fucking much for making decisions that make their lives just a little bit easier.

        1. Henry
          Henry March 11, 2013 at 3:59 am |

          Exactly Sarah. To demand black women join the battle to erase name changing upon marriage is to demand much more of them than it is from other groups. If a white woman keeps her name, the most she’ll be labeled as is a “liberal”. When 90% change their names and with a black population at roughly 12% I think people whose entire families (mother, father, kids) will be materially harmed with the “unstable family” label for the rest of their lives can sit this one out.

    2. karak
      karak March 9, 2013 at 12:59 am |

      Like Beyoncee’s “Ms. Carter” tour?

      1. Safiya Outlines
        Safiya Outlines March 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    3. Amelia the Lurker
      Amelia the Lurker March 9, 2013 at 5:10 am |

      This is the same dynamic at play when Black mothers decide to be SAHMs; the political statement can be totally different from when White mothers do it, since WOC are often thought of as absent or simply not “good” mothers. (Wish I could remember what thread this was from and who said it.)

  22. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 8, 2013 at 11:02 pm |

    Interestingly (to me, at least!), I kept my name for feminist reasons. I never thought women should have to change their names when they got married. I never thought of my name being tied up with my identity, though – I think of my identity as all of me, not my name.

    I have always regretted bowing to emotional pressure and trying to be a people-pleaser.

  23. Angelia Sparrow
    Angelia Sparrow March 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm |

    That is, quite literally, what name-changing still is — it is changing your identity.

    Yes, that was EXACTLY the point.

    I was no longer the expensive baggage. I was no longer the unwanted step-child. I was no longer a child. I was no longer trapped in a small town where I would never be anything but what everyone had decided I was when I was six.

    I married for many reasons, but I knew when I started my own family, I was not going to be an outsider in it. Names are powerful things. And I was eager to shed my childhood identity and family of origin and be done with all of it.

    I’ve been Angelia Sparrow longer than I was Angelia Moss. However, should I marry again (unlikely), I will remain Sparrow, because I have a professional life under that name.

    1. Miriam
      Miriam March 9, 2013 at 12:05 am |

      Genuine question… if what you wanted was to rid yourself of your family of origin, why not do that as soon as you legally could for a name you chose completely on your own instead of waiting until it was an exchange? And why don’t men–who also become estranged from their families–make this choice in a statistically significant way?

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 12:11 am |

        Maybe because a name associated with a beloved partner and an accepting family means slightly more than something one picks out by stabbing a pin into the phonebook? And if one has been made to feel meaningless and unwanted for years/decades, a name attached to a family that has meaning and offers belonging is more attractive than a statement of independent construction? Just a wild guess, here.

        1. karak
          karak March 9, 2013 at 1:04 am |

          But, again, why don’t men do it?

          My biological father walked out on me when I was just a baby, and it was me and my mom, with the same last name. When she married my stepdad, I was four, and I was so excited to have a daddy. I told my mom I wanted to have my new dad’s name, because we were a family, and after some pressuring from various sources, my mom changed her name, too, so we all had the same last name.

          It’s sweet, but even at four, I knew that you took your a man’s name, and that was part of family. Both of those notions are rooted in sexism. I still have his name, and I’ve had boyfriends talk to me about changing my name to theirs, and I’m incredibly resistant because my name represents the day I got a father. It’s a huge milestone in my life.

          But–why didn’t my dad and stepbrother change their names to my mother’s and mine? And especially since my dad has one of the most ten common names for white people in the USA, and my mom’s is about to die out and represents a rare, small family line.

        2. Miriam
          Miriam March 9, 2013 at 1:06 am |

          “Associated with beloved partner” vs. “stabbing a pin into the phonebook” aren’t really the only two choices available.

          Nor does your response address why men–who also can be made to feel meaningless and unwanted–do not make the choice to choose a name associated with a beloved partner in any statistically significant way.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:10 am |

          Nor does your response address why men–who also can be made to feel meaningless and unwanted–do not make the choice to choose a name associated with a beloved partner in any statistically significant way.

          http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/03/08/dont-change-your-name-when-you-get-married/#comment-614271

      2. wanttobeanon
        wanttobeanon March 9, 2013 at 10:43 am |

        Another reason people who don’t like their last names might not change them earlier than marriage is that it can be expensive if you want to change your name when not marrying. When I changed my name after my wedding (I hyphenated, ftr) the cost was pretty cheap, an administrative fee. Maybe $25? When my mom looked into changing her name, not in the context of marrying, she was told she would have to go before a judge to petition for the change, and IIRC it was going to cost her a couple hundred bucks.

        1. wanttobeanon
          wanttobeanon March 9, 2013 at 10:49 am |

          And I should add, for me there was none of this “go before a judge” business. I filled out a form saying what I wanted my last name to be, they stamped it and whatnot, and done, I could go have my passport and driver’s license redone. Legal procedures make it seriously easy for women to change their names in the context of getting married. Not necessarily so otherwise.

          Related – does anyone else remember reading of a case not too long ago in California where a man who wanted to change his last name to his fiance’s was told that instead of a small fee and a bit of paperwork (which is what it would have been if his fiance was changing her last name to his), it was going to be a chunk of cash and hoops to jump through? I can’t recall how it was resolved, if he sued or what, but that sort of thing is definitely a barrier to equality when it comes to men taking women’s names.

      3. catfood
        catfood March 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm |

        I agree with your “statistically significant” qualifier, but it reminds me that two of the men I shared a house with in college, out of nine housemates overall including five men? Later changed their last names. Neither did it for marriage, both did it to distance themselves from family-of-origin crap.

        I know it’s one data point, not a trend, and definitely not statistically significant, but I still find it really interesting.

      4. Angelia Sparrow
        Angelia Sparrow March 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm |

        Because I was 21, hyper-Christian and doing the whole anti-feminist thing into the bargain.

        It seemed like a marker, a way to break from my old life, to end my childhood, to signify I was an adult.

        And there was the whole unity aspect. I wasn’t going to be a visitor in my own made-family as I was in my mother’s second marriage.

        I don’t know why men don’t do it. I’m not sure I care. I’m just saying for some of us, the whole point is an identity makeover.

        1. Cycleboy1957
          Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 6:48 pm |

          Because I was 21, hyper-Christian

          I find it curious that people (possibly the churches themselves) see the changing of surnames as Christian. Christ lived 1000 years before anyone even thought about surnames.

      5. Henry
        Henry March 11, 2013 at 4:14 am |

        Because a man who actually wants to change his last name faces social issues also (most men do not of course, but I am answering Miriam’s question here). Changing your last name in a non-socially accepted manner (e.g. if a man changed his last name) means you get suspected of (1) having committed some heinous offense like a crime under your past name, (2) having had a huge falling out with your family over some horrible thing, or (3) are some sort of hippie non-conformist. Having to explain it to everyone over and over would not be fun. I decided against changing my last name to my Mom’s, even though it’s a nice Anglo-sounding name that would help me in the job market partly for these reasons.

      6. Emolee
        Emolee March 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm |

        I am really tired of people asking women who changed their names to explain why men don’t (usually) change theirs. Why is it these women’s job to explain what men do and don’t do?? I mean, yes, the discrepancy shows something about patriarchy, but why is the burden always on women to change/justify their behavior??

  24. GreenieB.
    GreenieB. March 8, 2013 at 11:17 pm |

    I think it’s also important to remember that if you want to change your name without getting married, courts frequently may not let you. As far as I can tell, it’s not just a question of being harder: it’s a question of being arbitrarily rejected based on credit score, prior arrests, etc.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L March 9, 2013 at 11:45 am |

      Or rejected because you’re trans and the judge doesn’t like trans people. It happens.

    2. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

      I think it’s also important to remember that if you want to change your name without getting married, courts frequently may not let you.

      I guess this may be country specific. In the UK you are allowed to use any name you like, as ling as you don’t do it for fraudulent reasons. And you can do it by Deed Poll for about $100, the last time I checked.

  25. amblingalong
    amblingalong March 8, 2013 at 11:18 pm |

    Hey, I know it’s off topic so I’ll be brief- I posted in spillover #2 about a facebook exchange with a super-dedicated academic feminist who thinks porn should be illegal. It may sound juvenile, but this exchange matters to me, and I’d love advice on resources/links I could share; I’m trying to avoid mansplanation and I’ve usually found the best way to do it is share the voices of of other people (who are usually more eloquent than I anyways).

    Just wanted to get some of the brilliant eyes here on this post. Sorry for the derail, if you don’t mind heading over to the spillover I’d be super grateful.

  26. Alexandra
    Alexandra March 8, 2013 at 11:31 pm |

    What troubles me about women mostly changing their names to their husbands’ name upon marriage is this —

    if you start your marriage with a man (one which will hopefully endure for the rest of your lives) by changing about yourself something as symbolically profound as your name, what precedent does that set for the rest of the marriage? I mean, what other “choose my choice” arguments do we hear?

    That it makes sense for women to quit work to look after small children, “because my salary was just going to daycare anyway.”

    That it makes sense for a woman to quit her job and move cross country for her husband’s career, “because marriage is about compromise.”

    — this is what worries me about starting of a marriage with a woman changing her name to her husband’s surname. If you want a unified identity, why don’t more of us create new surnames? And what’s wrong with distinct identities anyway?

    1. Miriam
      Miriam March 9, 2013 at 12:12 am |

      The “my salary was just going to daycare” drives me crazy every time I see it because I do.not.get.it. So your salary goes to daycare… so what? You’re still in the workforce, doing your job, keeping on in your career. I get the argument that some parents discover they’re more fulfilled being a full-time caretaker than a corporate drone. But I don’t get the mothers (because I’ve only ever seen this from mothers) who admit they wanted to work and didn’t feel happy with SAHMhood but felt it was financially unfeasible since their salaries were barely more than daycare. If you’re not losing money, how is it financially unfeasible?

      And I agree with you about the other compromises. We have GOT to be willing to look at our own choices in terms of statistical disparities and start admitting to ourselves however much they may FEEL individual, there’s a certain point where it’s just impossible to be. Lord knows, I have made plenty of choices that are problematic from a feminist perspective (including a very disruptive move for my husband’s career). Yes, they felt logical. Yes, I can defend them. But at the end of the day, I have to be willing to admit that when statistics say it is predominantly women making these choices to their own detriment, I’m not a special snowflake exemption; I’m a case study.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 12:21 am |

        But I don’t get the mothers (because I’ve only ever seen this from mothers) who admit they wanted to work and didn’t feel happy with SAHMhood but felt it was financially unfeasible since their salaries were barely more than daycare. If you’re not losing money, how is it financially unfeasible?

        It’s financially unfeasible if you think about the effort, time and energy that holding down a full-time job takes. How that fucks with the ability to handle the home – since, you know, second shift and all. How that fucks with the ability to spend time with your kids because you need sleep.

        And then let’s get into the more esoteric stuff. How maybe, just maybe, $100 a month isn’t worth spending 30 hours a week doing something that demoralises the hell out of you. How maybe some of those mothers are disabled, or mentally ill, and don’t necessarily feel like taking on all that shit for peanuts AND losing out on the ability to maintain family relationships because of exhaustion in the bargain. How maybe some of those women live in awful neighbourhoods and can’t trust anyone with daycare unless they’re paying through their nose. How the whole assumption of “getting on in a career” assumes that this is a career that goes up someplace significant either finanically or in status, which I assure you many jobs/workplaces don’t. How maybe those mothers might want to write, or take a few classes at the local college, or knit sweaters to put up on Etsy, or do Doctor Who cosplay, and that $100/month is something they can afford to lose because their husband makes $60K a year and nobody’s exactly going to starve.

        1. Miriam
          Miriam March 9, 2013 at 1:03 am |

          So somehow, even with including it in your quote, you apparently missed the part wherein I specifically said I was talking about women who self-identified as WANTING to work and NOT being happy staying at home. So everything you wrote about demoralizing jobs or preferring cosplay is completely irrelevant to what I actually wrote.

          And even in your first paragraph, which sort of could apply, it’s only financially unfeasible if you accept that the household labor should be the mother’s responsibility alone, which I’m fairly certain you don’t. It’s also not really an argument about finances. It’s an argument about time and energy that is applicable to both parents.

        2. shfree
          shfree March 9, 2013 at 1:16 am |

          This. When I got pregnant I was working food service, and was probably making about the same amount as an entry level childcare worker, which meant that for me to return to that job that I didn’t remotely like we would be losing money. Assuming we could find childcare in Chicago close-by without us having a car, and with us having no friends with children in our social group.

          And I dunno, while I’ve never been the sort of parent that has been all about feeling like staying at home was a calling and what I was “meant” to do, it wasn’t as if I would ever want to define myself by a fucking job, at least not the ones I’ve had. People should count themselves lucky to have a job they feel satisfaction with.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:16 am |

          So somehow, even with including it in your quote, you apparently missed the part wherein I specifically said I was talking about women who self-identified as WANTING to work and NOT being happy staying at home.

          Has it ever occurred to you that maybe they don’t feel like they’re working with a “point” and that’s what makes the points I made relevant? Because honestly, if someone wants to work that badly, they’d put the kid in daycare. What you’re seeing is the end of the cost/benefit analysis of “shitty job plus housework plus childcare” vs “no job” where the person arrives at “no job” being the better option – not a GOOD option, but a better one. Which also leaves them with the ability to do all the things I mentioned. The choice of the least shitty option is still going to be, well, at least somewhat shitty, so these women you know (if they’re anything like the women I know in the same position) feel somewhat shitty, with the advantage being that they don’t feel extremely shitty.

        4. anna
          anna March 9, 2013 at 10:51 am |

          If there are children in a two-parent household, shouldn’t both the parents be paying for half of the daycare? Why is daycare just taken out of the woman’s salary? And don’t knock having something to put on a resume if she ever gets divorced or otherwise needs to earn a living. With 20 years out of work being a housewife, on the other hand, how is she going to find a job?

        5. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 9, 2013 at 11:40 am |

          Oh, good, not only do I get to be taken to task for selling my soul to the patriarchy by changing my surname, I also have to answer for the sin of deciding that the prospect seeing my earnings no longer being sufficient to bring an income surplus into my household after fulltime daycare for my twins was paid for is still not good enough reason to stay home to care for them.

          If one can not wrap her mind around this scenario then consider yourself fortunate. It sure doesn’t give you free reign to pass judgment on those who find themselves in the shitty position of choosing between the less shitty of two shitty choices. Yes, yes, I know, I didn’t have to get married, and I chose to reproduce. I can’t even with this feminist dystopia where we all have careers we love! and could never bear to walk away from, and where it shouldn’t matter to us how much daycare costs in relation to our own income.

          *kicks dirt, hangs head* Am I supposed to run away in tears because I have been put back in my righful place now?

        6. Miriam
          Miriam March 10, 2013 at 1:19 am |

          Apologies if I’m getting the embedding wrong on this, this is a reply to “Has it ever occurred to you that maybe they don’t feel like they’re working with a “point” and that’s what makes the points I made relevant?”

          Answer: No. Because I’m taking people at their word that if they say they wanted to work and don’t particularly enjoy being a SAHM, they mean they want to work and don’t particularly enjoy being a SAHM. All of your reasons are a way of tap dancing around the core premise of the woman actively wanting to work by pointing out reasons why a woman may not want to work. Maybe that’s really the case. Maybe the women are lying or self-deluding when they say they want to work. However, since it’s coupled with frank discussions of being unhappy as SAHMs, I think that’s unlikely.

          Also, as Anna pointed out, daycare does not come solely out of the wife’s salary. The husband’s salary should also factor in. Couples divvy up money in all sorts of way, but per every article on this I’ve seen, the most common forms all involve people retaining some percentage of personal income under their unique control. So even if a wife’s salary on paper is 100% equal to the cost of daycare, the practical loss shouldn’t be 100% because some of it should be coming out of the husband’s salary, leaving her with more money under her direct control than if she were to stay home. This is in addition to not having any gap in employment history on her resume, which is a pretty big thing if she either intends to resume work or needs to resume work in the future.

          And if anyone’s really looking at the equation “shitty job plus housework plus childcare” vs “no job” where the person arrives at “no job” being the better option – not a GOOD option, but a better one” I, again, really question why there the option of offloading more of the housework and remaining childcare to the other person in the marriage seems to be missing.

          Lolagirl, no one’s criticizing you for making the choice to stay home with your kids if that’s what you want to do, especially if you would have lost household income by paying for daycare. However, if you wouldn’t have lost income and staying at home is NOT what you wanted to do, I am asking you to explain the logic. Because unless you’re losing income (in which case nothing I said APPLIES to you), your household ends up with the same amount of money to spend, so I truly don’t see the benefit in the wife staying home. Note again, because it seems to keep needing to be said, if you find more enjoyment in staying home than in working, nothing I said applies to you.

      2. karak
        karak March 9, 2013 at 1:07 am |

        Working 40 hours a week to come home and do all the home chores, filling my entire waking hours with work of some kind, and I don’t have the money to show for it seems… depressing and futile. I’d rather have the whole 15 waking hours of my day to spend with my kids and do my “home stuff” than have four hours to do my home stuff, spend time with my kids, and relax.

        1. Bunny
          Bunny March 9, 2013 at 5:31 am |

          Wait, if you’re married and working 40 hours per week, why are YOU doing ALL THE CHORES?

          Why the flying fuck isn’t he doing the other 50% of them?

        2. robotile
          robotile March 9, 2013 at 10:42 am |

          karak, in theory that sounds true. But i was willing to lose money on the proposition of daycare for the short term to not have to spend 15 hours straight with my kiddo. I love him to death, but four hours in a row is enough for me.

      3. (BFing)Sarah
        (BFing)Sarah March 10, 2013 at 9:11 pm |

        [raising hand] OOOOH!! OOOOH!! CALL ON ME, CALL ON ME!!

        I can answer this! I don’t really want to be a SAHM (caveat, I actually do work part-time now, but I was a full time SAHM for awhile), but my husband and I both had demanding careers that require much more than 40 hours a week. Add that to the fact that I was on bedrest and needed to stop working early…add that to the fact that I wanted at least one of us to enjoy the children I almost killed myself to have…add that to the fact that I have worked with small children before and have much more experience with babies and little kids than my husband…add that to the fact that my (black) husband felt very uncomfortable not working and giving other people the impression that he was “just another lazy black man living off of his woman” (yeah, I know that white guys don’t really have that stereotype to combat…not all of us are white, though, imagine that!)…add that to the fact that I don’t think I’m too good/educated to consider raising children an actual job (does it cease being work because your are caring for your own kids? Or does it cease being considered legit work because generally its done for pay by women of color?)…add that to the fact that just because I say that I don’t/didn’t particularly WANT to be a SAHM mom and I might wish to work in an ideal world doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes enjoy being a SAHM. Being a SAHM is still work. Its not outside the home, its not for pay. But, its work. So you might not “enjoy” it all of the time. Sometimes you hate it. You often complain about it. In an ideal world, I could have a super awesome job that pays the bills, but also allows for time with my family. Its not an ideal world. I made the choice I made for the above reasons, and I shouldn’t have to set them out for you, but I did. People’s lives are complex and they make choices based on those little details that you, as an outsider, do not and cannot know. Also, they make those choices for reasons that you might know, but you might not understand, because you don’t face those same pressures so you can’t know how it is for them.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

          Oh, Sarah, there you go being all thoughtfull. And nuanced too?! Thar’s not allowed, we must al lok at these issues starkly with no grey area ever to be acknowledged.

          In other words, thank you for this comment, in all seriousness. You put these things into words better than I can. I’m afraid I can’t type well while banging my head against the keyboard in frustration.

        2. Emolee
          Emolee March 12, 2013 at 12:01 am |

          People’s lives are complex and they make choices based on those little details that you, as an outsider, do not and cannot know. Also, they make those choices for reasons that you might know, but you might not understand, because you don’t face those same pressures so you can’t know how it is for them.

          Beautifully stated and applicable to sooooo much.

    2. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm |

      “because my salary was just going to daycare anyway.”

      This drives me insane also. Just occasionally, I hear a woman say “x% of our income goes on childcare.” but it is VERY rare. And I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a man say it of his salary.

      That said, I had a neighbour who gave up working because his wife earned more. So, it’s a start.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

        To be fair, this is exactly why I don’t work. But for my wife and I, it’s because I also have school and (most of the) housework to handle. I still work part-time (6 hours/week), but that’s because I want to and it’ll pad out my resume, not because my wife insists I work. Hell, she practically had to strong-arm me into cutting back my hours a bit until just now, because this one client I was teaching was making me uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to give up my hours, and the money I made. Gah. I don’t know. It just seems to me that the lesser-earning person’s salary should be considered as going towards childcare, since they’re less able to fill out the family income. Right now, that’s me. Once I get my degree, it’ll be her. (Of course, the kid will be way past needing supervision by then, but still.)

  27. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers March 8, 2013 at 11:33 pm |

    Personally, I have never been able to relate to *any* of the arguments for changing your name.

    My name is my name. I am sufficiently attached to it that I post on the Internet using it. I was born with it. It is not my father’s in the sense that it’s his and not mine; I have it for the exact same reason my father does, ie, his father gave it to *him*. Even if I wanted to reject my family, which I don’t, rejecting my own name seems like cutting off my nose to spite my parents. It’s *my name*.

    The argument that it is easier to change your name is absurd. It is much harder. If you’re American, you have to have Social Security issue you a new card with your new name attached to your old number. You have to get the motor vehicle bureau of your state to update your license. You have to get all your credit cards reissued. This is only *easy* if you are a teenager or college student who has no credit cards in her own name and whose mommy and daddy will step in and help her with the paperwork. When I got married and didn’t change my name, here’s what I did: nothing. I wrote down my own name on the marriage license and then I didn’t do anything else, because I didn’t have to.

    There are arguments that make sense to me. The argument made by black women is compelling, though I can’t help but feel that a black man who is sensitive to the symbolic meaning of names should be willing to change *his* name to his wife’s so their children can be identified as “legitimate” without the implication that he owns his wife. There are people with truly terrible names, though honestly I don’t understand why Jacob Lipschitz isn’t 100% as likely to change his name on marriage as his sister Esther Lipschitz. There are people who really want to say “fuck you” to their families, though again, why are these people always women? Somehow, men never want to send the message “You suck and I have a new family now that loves me like you never did” to their abusive parents, and yet, many women with abusive parents do.

    But the argument that it is easier? It is not. The argument that it’s not really your name anyway? It sure as shit is. The argument that you need to be one family? Yes, that’s a good argument, and since you’re the one who’s going to be transmitting the mitochondrial DNA and since you and the child are statistically likely to be a closer unit than the dad and the child, how about he changes his name to join your family rather than you joining his?

    My husband’s last name is actually cooler than mine. I don’t care. It’s not my name. I don’t understand how people can feel like it’s a good idea to change their name just because someone else has a better name. I do understand the desire to tell bio-kin to fuck off and die, but not why apparently only women ever have this desire. Because I personally feel very, very strongly attached to my name, I feel a possibly overblown sense of the importance of names, and maybe other people just don’t care as much, but it just frustrates the shit out of me. 90% of married women do something that is objectively harder and puts them through extra bureaucratic hell and in some states may even jeopardize their right to vote, because they choose their choice. NO THEY DON’T. Most of them are having their choice chosen for them. Because if choice is freely made then you’d never see 90% of one group and less than 10% of another group making a particular decision.

    1. Katniss
      Katniss March 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm |

      Is it really hard to believe that someone might simply change their name because they have no particular attachment to the one they were born with? Insisting that people didn’t make their own decisons the right way according to you is really infantalizing.

      Look on an intellectual level I understand the objections to “I choose my choice feminism”. But sometimes those objections seem to just become yet ANOTHER way to police women for being women the wrong way. It is exhausting enough to be a woman in this sexist society without being questioned about the choices you’ve made by other women because it fails to pass some test of being feminist enough or because they’ve decided you must not have REALLY meant to make that choice.

      Cliff Pervocracy pretty much summed up my feelings on this whole thing on twitter: “Feminism should be about making women more respected, free, and safe, not about making women more feminist.”

      1. Miriam
        Miriam March 9, 2013 at 12:20 am |

        It is really hard to believe that 90% of women have no particular attachment to the name they were born with and less than 10% of men have no particular attachment. That’s too disparate a statistic.

        It’s also not the way social norms work. We KNOW that the social norm in contemporary US is for women to change their last names to their husband’s last name when they get married. So why pretend that this social norm has no effect on how people conceptualize their choices. If 90% of women truly have no particular attachment to their names, maybe it’s because they grow up in a place where they receive the message that their current name isn’t really their permanent name (whereas boys are getting the opposite message).

        That doesn’t mean individual women are bad for making their choice, but it does mean that they’re not making it freely. We get how social norms affect our choices when we talk about why women don’t negotiate starting salaries or enter STEM fields or ask for raises/promotions the way that men do. Why is it taboo to talk about how our perception of choices are shaped when it comes to names?

        1. Katniss
          Katniss March 9, 2013 at 1:28 am |

          Can you understand why other women might be upset being told that they didn’t really make the choices they made?

        2. igglanova
          igglanova March 9, 2013 at 3:00 am |

          They might be upset, but that is just the reality of living in a human society. Nobody makes free choices. If social norms never factored into my decision-making, my name would be Xanthorp Laserblade and I would feel no shame in wearing my underwear on my head every day.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 3:09 am |

          f social norms never factored into my decision-making, my name would be Xanthorp Laserblade

          DO THIS

      2. robotile
        robotile March 9, 2013 at 10:36 am |

        Katniss, I know of two women who changed their name where that explanation holds water. One was abused growing up and wound up in a foster family. She couldn’t wait to drop her birth last name because it reminded her of the mother she loathed. She was too broke to change it beforehand but you get a free name change on marriage. The husband changed his first name to his middle name and took her middle name as his middle name. They both took his last name.
        The other person was someone whose father had changed his name from a particular caste-related name in India so he could practice medicine. When she married, she married a man from her exact same caste and culture, who happened to have a name that her uncles and aunts had. So in taking it, she felt she was reclaiming her true name.
        Everyone else I’ve ever met who changed their name are just making excuses, as far as I am concerned. That’s fine. You dont’ need to justify every choice you make.
        But please don’t be naive enough to ignore the fact that you are creating the norm by changing your name, and that you then make it harder for women who don’t change their name, by making it more socially acceptable for parents to pressure their daughter-in-laws, send them mail with the wrong name, etc. etc. etc. And dont get me started on how much push back I got from my husband’s family about my son’s last name, which is mine. Choices have consequences for other people, and making this particular one makes it more difficult for people who feel their identity is bound up in their name and that taking their husband’s feels oppressive.

        1. t
          t March 10, 2013 at 5:11 am |

          But please don’t be naive enough to ignore the fact that you are creating the norm by changing your name, and that you then make it harder for women who don’t change their name, by making it more socially acceptable for parents to pressure their daughter-in-laws, send them mail with the wrong name, etc.

          Choices have consequences for other people, and making this particular one makes it more difficult for people who feel their identity is bound up in their name and that taking their husband’s feels oppressive.

          It sounds like you’re blaming women who change their last names for the widespread pressure for women to do so even when it’s against their will. Which isn’t fair, or even a feminist thing to do for that matter. Instead of implicitly blaming women who choose differently than you, how about pointing the finger towards those who judge and shame women who don’t adhere to the status quo? It’s no different than the argument that women who wear makeup, get married, have children, or become SAHMs ruin it for those who wish to do otherwise because it just furthers an already established norm. It’s a slippery slope, and one that’s bound to backfire even on you since you mentioned two things about yourself that is still very much considered a societal expectation for women (married with a child).

          It’s people who oppress others for not doing what is some silly standard of “proper” who need to change their behavior, not women who make a choice that is in accordance with their wishes that just happens to be held up as a social norm.

      3. Treebeard
        Treebeard March 9, 2013 at 10:46 am |

        Is it really hard to believe that someone might simply change their name because they have no particular attachment to the one they were born with?

        But maybe they have no attachment because they grew up with the expectation that they shouldn’t, because it would just get changed anyway?

        1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help March 9, 2013 at 9:48 pm |

          Not necessarily. I never thought about that sort of thing as a child, and I never liked my surname. I changed it by deed poll to my mother’s name when I was 21; marriage had never entered my thinking.

      4. Cycleboy1957
        Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm |

        Is it really hard to believe that someone might simply change their name because they have no particular attachment to the one they were born with?

        Not at all. But I do find it hard to understand why that “someone” is almost always female.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L March 9, 2013 at 1:13 am |

      Alara, I have no idea if you’re Jewish yourself, but if you aren’t (and perhaps even if you are), the next time you pick a stereotypically Jewish surname as your example of a “terrible name” — and God knows, I’m sure that the 16th-century Bohemian rabbi who first used that name, which was simply the name of the town he lived in, wouldn’t have taken it had he known that people would be ridiculing it 500 years later — please try to restrain yourself from going out of your way to assign stereotypically Jewish first names to your hypothetical pair. Stereotypical for 110 years or so ago, that is.

    3. Buttered Lilies
      Buttered Lilies March 9, 2013 at 1:21 am |

      If you haven’t just gotten married, changing your name is really hard. In addition to having to get a new Social Security card, driver’s licence, credit cards, etc, you have to go through a long and expensive process that involves lots of paperwork, lots of fingerprinting, lots of announcements in the local paper, spend hundreds of dollars, etc. But if you are a woman who’s just married a man, it suddenly becomes much cheaper and easier.

      I would suspect that many men from abusive households would change their name if the legal process for them was as smooth as it is for married women.

      If you can’t related, then yeah, you can’t relate. My birth name has never felt like my identity. It feels like the name of the person my parents wanted me to be, the person they tried to force me to be. When professors call me my full name on the first day of class, because they don’t know to call me my nickname, I get triggered. I have no desire to take on my future spouse’s name, but since I can’t currently afford a legal name change, being able to change my name to my nickname + new middle name + new last name in a comparatively easy manner sounds awesome.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L March 9, 2013 at 2:01 am |

        If you haven’t just gotten married, changing your name is really hard.

        Yes. I know this from personal experience. It takes months. You have to run ads in the newspaper announcing your present name and proposed new name. (Not necessarily something that’s enjoyable to do.) You have to go to court. And especially if you’re trans and want to change your first name, if you’re unlucky you’ll get a bigoted judge who refuses to grant your request.

      2. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie March 11, 2013 at 11:57 pm |

        Easier in some states than in others. In Virginia, a couple of notarized forms, $41.00, and a three-week (approx.) wait is all it takes.

  28. Asmodeus
    Asmodeus March 8, 2013 at 11:42 pm |

    I was married to a guy and he changed his last name to mine because we both liked it better. No problem at the Social Security office, took two extra minutes at the DMV to call someone’s supervisor, and the deed was done.

  29. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 March 9, 2013 at 12:00 am |

    Wouldn’t bother me. If you don’t want to change your name, don’t change it. To hell with what outsiders think. What am I suppose to do? Break off the engagement with the person I love over something like this?

  30. Radiant Sophia
    Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 12:52 am |

    Solution: Don’t get married. Ever. Marriage is institutionalized oppression of one person over another.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong March 9, 2013 at 12:57 am |

      Unless you’re poor and need the tax break. Or are disabled and want to make sure your partner can make medical decisions if necessary. Or you’re black and tired of being held up as stereotype-fuel.

      I’m sure your feminist utopia is a nice place to live, but until we all live there we’re stuck real world, which has fewer easy answers predicated on moral absolutes.

      1. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 2:04 am |

        “Unless you’re poor and need the tax break. Or are disabled and want to make sure your partner can make medical decisions if necessary”

        Hence the problems with marriage.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 2:10 am |

          Why is being able to have Valoniel make medical decisions instead of my parents (who are in India and who have differing views on DNR than I do) a downside of marriage? I ask, because this was like 90% of my reasons for getting legally married (as opposed to the handfasting we did before it) that weren’t about immigration.

        2. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 2:27 am |

          Oh (sorry).
          Because marriage isn’t available to all couples. I think it will take a radical redesign to make marriage NOT about a heterosexual couple raising children.

          I absolutely think you deserve those benefits, but I wonder why others don’t.

          I guess I’d be interested on what your view on two people who are not sexually/romantically coupled, and not raising a child, but who are committed to sharing their life together is?

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 2:39 am |

          I guess I’d be interested on what your view on two people who are not sexually/romantically coupled, and not raising a child, but who are committed to sharing their life together is?

          Companionate relationships? I don’t see why they shouldn’t be common-law, if they’re subject to a similar level of intimacy (living together, owning things together, generally doing things together). Hell, where I live now, you’d get shoehorned into a common-law marriage automatically after a couple of years, and you’d have to actively undo the benefits. (AFAICT the only difference between common-law and civil marriage is the level of effort that disentanglement requires, and you’d naturally not get the child-related benefits since you don’t have one together.)

          If you’re an aromantic asexual, though, it gets thornier. Again, in Alberta, there’s nothing stopping you from entering into a common-law marriage – you basically draw up a partnership agreement and there you go (obviously you need to cohabit, that’s the main requirement, but you and your roommate already do that). Your lack of sexual contact with each other wouldn’t render the partnership agreement void.

          Also, if you want, civil/religious marriage is still open to you as an option, because companionate marriages are a thing! Like I said, I define marriage as “love and fidelity”. “They must have hot monkey sex” isn’t exactly one of my criteria for judging someone else’s relationship; every and any relationship might possibly reach a point where sex is Not Happening anyway, because of lack of interest or just plain old age or what have you, so sex (and “romance” in the sexual sense, as you use it) isn’t really something I personally feel is remotely relevant as a validating factor. Nor is it any government’s where I’ve lived – not in Canada, not in India.

        4. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 2:48 am |

          Actually, we do share finances, a (single) bank account, we are both on the bills, etc. It’s VERY strange to think we’d be common-law married in Canada.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 3:13 am |

          Actually, we do share finances, a (single) bank account, we are both on the bills, etc. It’s VERY strange to think we’d be common-law married in Canada.

          Hehe, I can imagine it’d be strange.

          Personally, I’d really like to separate sex from marriage. It occurs to me that a whole range of people – people on the ace spectrum, disabled people, elderly people, who might have limited or no interest in sex – would feel more able to be married, or seek marriage, if we stopped perpetuating this bullshit that it’s allllll about sex sex sex sex all the time.

        6. Raging Leftie (@ragingleftie)
          Raging Leftie (@ragingleftie) March 9, 2013 at 11:20 am |

          When I was a lot younger I decided to change my name to my mother’s maiden name – I couldn’t understand why she would change her name and I didn’t understand why I had had to change my name also. I would never change my surname – not because I hate men or think that women are better – but because if we are supposedly equal with men – why would we ever have to change either of our names – what about creating a new name between the two of them.

        7. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm |

          Actually, I found out that there is common-law marriage where I live. But you have to be having sex (exact language: consummated) with said partner. It’s also only for heterosexual couples.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:07 am |

      With me and my wife, who’s oppressing who? I must know! We’re heading to bed shortly, and we can’t decide which of us has to lie stewing in resentment all night!

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong March 9, 2013 at 1:10 am |

        Oooh oooh, I really want to hear the answer to this one.

      2. Radiant Sophia
        Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 1:32 am |

        Mac, you know I don’t think you are oppressing Val, or the other way around. But I do think marriage has it’s roots in oppression/ownership of another, and I have absolutely seen it used for such.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:38 am |

          But I do think marriage has it’s roots in oppression/ownership of another, and I have absolutely seen it used for such.

          But…can you name any institution or relationship that doesn’t have its roots in oppression/ownership and can’t be used to abuse? On any scale, from government and religion to the small-scale relationships of parents and friends and bosses and concierges and teachers and and and. Why single out marriage? If the point is that humans can make something into something horrible – yes, humans can. Humans are awesome at making things awful. That doesn’t mean that other things can’t be beautiful, that the same country can’t build gorgeous mosques and temples and slums and safehouses for crime lords.

          (Also, sorry, I got really snarky. I know you don’t think that, Sophia.)

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:40 am |

          Landlord, not concierge. WTF, brain.

        3. SophiaBlue
          SophiaBlue March 9, 2013 at 1:48 am |

          Sure, but perhaps we should not be making the jump from “Marriage has patriarchal roots and still has patriarchal aspects even today” to “No one should ever get married ever.”

        4. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 1:57 am |

          O.k. I’ll try to explain better. I think marriage is like celebrating thanksgiving or Columbus day. It’s really hard to support the idea once you know the history. I realize personal experience and disposition color my view.

          Also, to be clear, I do think that some form of committed partnership should exist, but I also think that such a thing needs to be instituted from the ground up, and not simply tacked onto the existing form of marriage.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 2:06 am |

          It’s really hard to support the idea once you know the history.

          Which idea? That’s the question. If your definition of marriage is “puppies” and my definition of marriage is “chair”, then you talking about a warm, cuddly, not-quite-housebroken marriage is going to sound really weird to me. So, if your definition of marriage is “abuse and ownership”, and mine is “love and fidelity”, then we’re not going to really ever see eye-to-eye on it. That said, a century or two ago, you would have had a much better supported definition of marriage, since it was all about ownership. In a country which does not define marriage as legalising ownership, rape and abuse, though, I do feel that my definition of marriage comes much closer to the social definition. (This is also why I refused a religious ceremony, because I didn’t think that skewed towards my understanding of marriage as much as yours.)

        6. thinksnake
          thinksnake March 9, 2013 at 2:09 am |

          … But you just made that leap.

        7. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 2:35 am |

          Mac, In response to above…
          Totally accurate. I have the unfortunate quality of living where I do, so marriage is something that is predefined for me.

        8. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 3:06 am |

          Totally accurate. I have the unfortunate quality of living where I do, so marriage is something that is predefined for me.

          This is definitely true. Like I said, it depends on the definition of marriage each person has. If it’s icky to you, don’t do it, I guess? I don’t know what to advise, honestly.

  31. thinksnake
    thinksnake March 9, 2013 at 2:10 am |

    My last post was in reponse to Radiant Sophia’s “Sure, but perhaps we should not be making the jump from “Marriage has patriarchal roots and still has patriarchal aspects even today” to “No one should ever get married ever.””

    1. thinksnake
      thinksnake March 9, 2013 at 2:11 am |

      And I screwed up by mixing up two different people’s names. I need more sleep than I’ve been having. Sorry!

    2. Donna L
      Donna L March 9, 2013 at 2:12 am |

      Thinksnake, Radiant Sophia does not = SophiaBlue. Speaking of names.

    3. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia March 9, 2013 at 2:56 am |

      Sorry for the confusion.

    4. thinksnake
      thinksnake March 9, 2013 at 3:34 am |

      Yeah, those were the names I was talking about. Complete stuff up on my part.

  32. V
    V March 9, 2013 at 3:59 am |

    I was born in Spain, where everyone has TWO last names, which are a combination of your father’s first surname and your mother’s first surname. So….

    Father: Pepe Perez Garcia
    Mother: Luisa Alvarez Fernandez

    ALL the siblings will be either:
    Sibling Perez Alvarez, or
    Sibling Alvarez Perez

    depending on the order, which will get decided by the parents.

    So in Spain, all siblings have the same two last names, which are different from their parents’.

    I never understood the taking your huband’s name, and sure as hell I’m not changing mine when I get married this summer!

    1. A4
      A4 March 9, 2013 at 11:06 am |

      This is an excellent naming algorithm! Thanks for sharing.

  33. Amelia the Lurker
    Amelia the Lurker March 9, 2013 at 4:43 am |

    FWIW, I think I can pin down a distinction between shaving your legs and changing your name.

    Shaving your legs can be something you do to appease society in general, while hopefully the people close to you wouldn’t care one way or the other.

    But changing your name to your husband’s is personal in a very particular way; you are not only acquiescing to society’s demands, but, in a way, to his. And I think that’s why name-changing squicks Jill and Amanda out more than leg-shaving, and, more to the point, why Amanda was talking about inequality in the relationship; it’s one thing to do things for the benefit of the judgy masses, and another to do it because someone intimate might judge you. Of course, lots of women change their names even though their husbands don’t care, and in this way it is pretty much equivalent to leg-shaving. But I think this distinction might be what some people are driving at.

    1. timberwraith
      timberwraith March 9, 2013 at 7:30 am |

      And also, hair grows back rather quickly. It’s a lot more difficult to get your name back… and thus more likely to be a permanent matter. This raises the degree of social impact.

  34. FYouMudFlaps
    FYouMudFlaps March 9, 2013 at 4:55 am |

    This is actually very important. Most of it is simple ignorance and/or “that’s just the way it is” type of tradition nonsense. Sorry if it’s been mentioned a bunch, but LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a hero of mine since he was born Antonio Ramon Villar Jr., married Corina Raigosa, thus his legal name since is a portmanteau of sorts with his former spouse. Awesome.

  35. Feminist Dave
    Feminist Dave March 9, 2013 at 7:43 am |

    I think the idea of changing one’s name to match one’s spouse’s is ridiculous. My wife and I haven’t done it–it never even arose as a serious topic of discussion. (If I remember, correctly, she tentatively broached that she wasn’t planning to change her name, and I said I wasn’t planning to change mine, either, and we had a good laugh.) What to name the kids did, however, pose a conundrum, and our solution was to give the girls my wife’s surname and the boys my surname. This gave my side patriarchal continuity and her side the beginning of a matriarchy. Our surnames are not merely inherited, but also defined by our individual conduct and achievements. I still have not seen a fairer solution to the question of post-matrimonial nomenclature.

    1. Pseudonym
      Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 11:51 am |

      I was thinking about using this kind of solution for the unlikely chance that I should have children, but I’d probably choose to give the child the opposite-sexed parent’s name. I may be overthinking things, though, now that I’m starting to worry about whether it’s right to decide a child’s sex for xem based on mere anatomy or genetics.

  36. Syn Delano
    Syn Delano March 9, 2013 at 7:48 am |

    I am the feminist who had no problem changing my last name to my husbands. It was a last name we both accepted together as something new in our lives. It is not his birth last name either. So for us, it truly is about building something new.

    I’ve had my father’s last name for 33 years so there’s no way changing it removes WHO I am. I have the perspective that I’m adding to the history of life I’m creating for myself. As a Walker, my life was on thing. As a Delano, it is ALL of the Walker plus so much more. If I could just go by Syn, I most definitely would but the PUBLIC demands we use 2-3 names so they can feel comfortable about who they’re dealing with. Some may disagree, of which they are allowed, but because it is such a personal situation, to be pushy about it is unacceptable.

    If the name is a big deal for some feminists, why not separate your last name from any man and change it to something of your own choosing? Everyone is associated with another man’s last name, whether our mother’s chose to give us their last name or the man’s name who assisted in siring us. So at some point, this becomes about splitting hairs.

    There are more important things for me to worry about than how others view my choice to keep or drop my last name. So, while it makes for interesting conversation, I reserve my deepest passion for another topic :-)

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 11:29 am |

      Everyone is associated with another man’s last name, whether our mother’s chose to give us their last name or the man’s name who assisted in siring us. So at some point, this becomes about splitting hairs.

      This exactly.

      Of course, some of us have different naming conventions – my last name is my father’s first name.

    2. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm |

      why not separate your last name from any man and change it to something of your own choosing?

      That is a reasonable idea.

      Everyone is associated with another man’s last name

      Technically, yes. However, that man lived about 1000 years ago (the original Smith or Cooper). Since then it has been handed down. It was ‘given’ to your father just as it was ‘given’ to you. He does not own it any more than you do.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan March 12, 2013 at 12:14 am |

        The “it’s a man’s anyways!” argument could not bug me more. It’s basically the reasoning behind spelling shit with a y all the time; “wymyn” didn’t used to own anything, that’s changed, now we can own things, like our names (and the syllable “men” too.)

  37. Mike McQuaid
    Mike McQuaid March 9, 2013 at 10:58 am |

    I’m a male feminist (or ally, depending on your taste) and taking my wife’s name (in the UK) was pretty straightforward. Got a deed poll confirming my name change, got my passport, driving license and various other things in my name changed, changed it on all my online accounts (most made it easy, a few did not). Within a few years most people aren’t even aware that I changed my name (or that my wife did not). We giggle occasionally about whether I should fill in the “maiden name” section of forms and I lost a few acquaintaices who outed themselves as misoygnistic assholes but it’s otherwise been easy. I recommend that men at least consider it.

    1. Mike McQuaid
      Mike McQuaid March 9, 2013 at 10:59 am |

      Gah, apparently I can’t spell misogynistic.

      Also wanted to say: great post Jill (from a long-time lurker)!

    2. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm |

      I never even bothered with a Deed Poll and the only thing left to change is my passport. Apparently, even they will accept my marriage certificate.

    3. Pentheus
      Pentheus March 11, 2013 at 2:07 am |

      What inclined you to do that?

  38. Pseudonym
    Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 11:36 am |

    My mother kept her maiden last name when she married. It wasn’t a huge issue but did cause a little confusion. I remember asking her why she kept her name, and she said something like it wasn’t a huge feminist thing, it just didn’t seem fair to her that women should have to change their names and men didn’t. I didn’t recognize the irony at the time.

    1. Amelia the Lurker
      Amelia the Lurker March 9, 2013 at 6:52 pm |

      I’ve gotten crap for it too. Usually people assume that my mom divorced and remarried and that’s why we have different names. I nonchalantly (well, semi-proudly) told somebody that she kept her name, and the woman was like “Oohhhhh, one of those people.” Believe it!

  39. Pseudonym
    Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 11:43 am |

    Also, how does one pronounce your last name, Jill? I assume it’s from the Slavic Filipović/Филиповић? Is the “c” pronounced like “cat” or “chat”? Which syllable is the stress on?

    1. Amelia the Lurker
      Amelia the Lurker March 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

      I always assumed it was “ch” as in “chat.” It sounds Serbian.

  40. ibbica
    ibbica March 9, 2013 at 11:44 am |

    I’ll just leave this here:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-28/china-s-in-law-wars-hammer-on.html

    Historically, when a young woman goes to live with her husband’s family, she’s expected to maintain her own family name. However, far from being a signifier of independence, the maintenance of that identity was (and perhaps is), a signifier of outsider status, even after children are born. Likewise, a maternal grandmother is commonly referred to as the “outside grandmother.” A daughter-in-law’s place (and that of her family) is never certain, and traditionally second-class.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

      Now, ibbica, let’s not talk about nuances. Nuance is bad. And possibly unfeminist.

      It also rings really true to me, because of my parents’ experience; their inter-sect marriage meant that my mother taking my father’s name could be construed as a political act.

    2. Datdamwuf
      Datdamwuf March 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm |

      isn’t this because the mother-in-law has higher status due to having birthed a son?

    3. igglanova
      igglanova March 9, 2013 at 1:11 pm |

      I guess examples like these illustrate that it isn’t the specifics of naming asymmetry that are the main problem, but the fact that such an asymmetry exists at all. I think it behooves us to push back against any practice that designates a person as other or subordinate.

      1. Pseudonym
        Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm |

        But aren’t we all basically subordinate to Jill, Empress Regnant of this blog?

        1. igglanova
          igglanova March 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm |

          Re-reading that, it seems that I have left out an important word. Any arbitrary practice that designates a person as other or subordinate. The first wording accidentally implies that any hierarchy or designation of authority is wrong. Noooo…sometimes, those are functional and necessary.

          Such as: this blog. If we didn’t have a mod team, we would rapidly descend to the level of a YouTube comment section.

  41. TomSims
    TomSims March 9, 2013 at 11:46 am |

    From what I’ve observed , celebrities never change their names, but most average folks do. I’ve seen many hyphenated, for example Mary Smith-Jones over the past 40 years. I agree the bride should choose, but there is social pressure coming for the most part from her own family. And well we now how families can be.

    But I strongly object to any government mandate requiring the bride to take her husbands name. That is just plain wrong.

    1. Pseudonym
      Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm |

      Robert Zimmerman? Carlos Estevez? Nicholas Coppola? Farrokh Bulsara? Allen Konigsberg? Amanda Lee Rogers? Issur Danielovitch? Jon Leibowitz? Marion Morrison? Oh, you mean change their names when they marry; never mind.

      1. TomSims
        TomSims March 10, 2013 at 10:33 am |

        I was referring to women celebs changing thier names after marriage.

    2. thinksnake
      thinksnake March 10, 2013 at 12:02 am |

      A lot of actors have stage names which stay with them throughout their lives, for ease of the public recognising them if nothing else. That doesn’t mean anything when it comes to their legal names, except in cases where they change their legal name to their stage name.

    3. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm |

      I agree the bride should choose

      I think the whole point of this discussion is; why is it only the bride who has to make the choice?

  42. Datdamwuf
    Datdamwuf March 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

    I have always believed marriage was only necessary as a contract to protect children. However, my abusive (now ex) convinced me to marry him – not going into how that happened. It never occurred to me to change my name, he did ask me if I wanted his name and I said hell no. I continued to go by Ms Dat Damwuf, I also never wore a wedding ring so I never got a question about it, it never occurred to me to use Mrs either. I ask myself why I did that without a single thought. I believe it was this; I was my fathers first born, he did not have a son, he was very proud of being “Dad Damwuf” and he inculcated that in me. I grew up with my father (and other family) saying things like, you are a “Damwuf”, good! that’s what a “Damwuf” does, go get what you want, you are a “Damwuf” etc. So I really get the “your name is your identity” point. I was in effect socialized by my father and extended family to see myself as “Dat Damwuf” and proud to be a “Damwuf”. I think this is a piece of the root of why most men never consider changing their name while most women do. The socialization within the family is strong.

    I also typed my real last name twice by accident writing this post and that cracked me up, so does using my nick for this example. :) On the kids names; I do remember a time when I thought I wanted them and feeling strongly that if I was going to give birth, that child would be a “Damwuf” also. Not sure how that would have played out since I changed my mind.

  43. A4
    A4 March 9, 2013 at 12:33 pm |

    Wow. Apparently this is the article that proves that Jill is a secret anti-feminist and feministe is a secret feminist shaming site.

    No, but seriously, changing your name is value neutral. But it is incredibly powerful. Why is it powerful? Because of the cultural hegemony of spoken language each person’s name is used as a stand in of for entirety of who they are.

    Oh look, our heterosexist society’s pair-bonding ceremony is culturally linked to the act of one or both people changing their name.

    It seems like usually the names are changed with the goal of indicating this new union, so the change is designed to give both parties a shared name. How do they pick the shared name? Wow, the woman changes her name 90% of the time to match the man’s name? That sounds pretty fucking sexist to me. This must be part of that institutional sexism that I’ve been hearing about. You know the one where acts of power are socially geared toward the identities and experiences of men while women’s identities and experiences are subordinated.

    Maybe we should all remember that when we’re making name-changing decisions.

    Regardless, I’d like to say a blessing derivative of certain Jewish traditions since today is the shabbat.

    Blessed are you Jill, moderator and leader of Feministe, for running my favorite feminist blog, and creating discussions criticizing Patriarchy; may it continue forever.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

      Wow. Apparently this is the article that proves that Jill is a secret anti-feminist and feministe is a secret feminist shaming site.

      Citation needed. I only see Miss S making a throwaway comment. It’s not exactly a Blogpocalypse.

      No, but seriously, changing your name is value neutral. But it is incredibly powerful. Why is it powerful? Because of the cultural hegemony of spoken language each person’s name is used as a stand in of for entirety of who they are.

      Everyone changing their name is doing so for trivial reasons, everyone keeping their name is doing so for profound reasons. Right, right. The complexity of your thinking is hereby noted.

      This must be part of that institutional sexism that I’ve been hearing about. You know the one where acts of power are socially geared toward the identities and experiences of men while women’s identities and experiences are subordinated.

      Again, name me a person who outright refuted the idea that the act itself is sexist, as opposed to explaining their own reasons for navigating their metrics of oppression in the way they did.

      Maybe we should all remember that when we’re making name-changing decisions.

      Why thank you, manly man! I would never have known what to remember or not remember about my life and my name without your hairy-chested contribution! Us wimminz are so weak-brained after all.

      1. Pseudonym
        Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm |

        It’s almost like social trends can be sexist but individual choices that happen to align with those trends might not be. Dogs and cats living together!

        1. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm |

          Also, the Metrics of Oppression are one of my favorite bands to see live.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm |

          As I said, nobody here is saying those choices don’t align with sexist ones. -_- It’s right there in my comments.

          Would Reading Comprehension perhaps be a band you like to see live too?

        3. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

          Yes, I’m agreeing with you, sorry that wasn’t more clear.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

          And wow, now I’m wondering if you’re being sarcastic. I genuinely cannot tell. Talk about reading comprehension.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

          Yep. I cannot sarcasm today, clearly. Sorry, Pseudonym, I’ve got two final essays and a story I’m writing with Valoniel open in tabs and I clearly put all my Englishing in there…

        6. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm |

          No problem. I can hardly criticize; for my part I usually save my Englishing for the pool table.

      2. A4
        A4 March 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm |

        Wow. Sick burns.

      3. Miss S
        Miss S March 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm |

        Citation needed. I only see Miss S making a throwaway comment. It’s not exactly a Blogpocalypse

        I don’t know if my comment seemed unnecessary? I just don’t see the feminism in expecting that all women do exactly the same things, regardless of what they want. Especially when the people in charge of mainstream feminism are white, middle-upper class, cis, heterosexual women, you know? Everyone is expected to go along with their program, because they decide what’s feminist or not.

        As a woman, I just want equality, not a book of rules for living a feminist life. Women deserve equality because we’re people, not because we’re living our lives a certain way.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm |

          Miss S, I didn’t mean that your comment was unnecessary – far from it! I meant that your reference to Jill being unfeminist was kind of superfluous to your point, and wasn’t really essential, so it doesn’t exactly need to be demonised as if you left a 2000-word screed on The Badness Of Jill.

          Honestly, I don’t think most people on the thread even feel that Jill’s wrong per se, just that it’s a more nuanced situation than she’s willing to treat it as. I’m certainly one of them.

        2. Miss S
          Miss S March 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

          Honestly, I don’t think most people on the thread even feel that Jill’s wrong per se, just that it’s a more nuanced situation than she’s willing to treat it as. I’m certainly one of them

          Yes, this! I don’t think it’s as simple as “don’t do this.”

  44. sheriji
    sheriji March 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm |

    I agree.
    The only problem, (and one which all women who DON’T change their last name face), is that your children still “get” their father’s name. We have three last names in our house — my 2nd husband, my last name, which I took back after I divorced my first husband, and my children, who have their father’s last name.

    Unless you create some kind of hybrid of the last names of yourself and your child’s father. . .or hyphenate them (but not yours).

    Anyway, every email I send to a new teacher or coach or club supervisor requires me to identify myself as so-and-so’s mother, since the name alone will not readily identify me.

    Does anyone have an elegant solution for that problem?

    1. Pseudonym
      Pseudonym March 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

      Have you thought about changing your children’s last name to Sherijisdöttir?

    2. EG
      EG March 10, 2013 at 12:07 am |

      The only problem, (and one which all women who DON’T change their last name face), is that your children still “get” their father’s name.

      At least one of my children will have my last name. This is non-negotiable. Any man who doesn’t want this doesn’t have to partner with me.

      1. may
        may March 10, 2013 at 11:03 am |

        I didn’t change my name and our daughter has my last name. The hardest part to deal with day to day is the number of people who assume that her father is her step father once they know her name. And if they don’t know her last name, they assume it is his. People also assume I have his name. There is just a lot of assuming. But he’s great, she’s great and I am happy. Other people just have to figure it out.

    3. shfree
      shfree March 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm |

      Your children don’t have to”get” their father’s last name. My daughter’s dad and I gave her her very own last name that is entirely unlike both of ours and can’t even be considered a melding of our two names. (We tried it and we both agreed the combinations sounded stupid, and neither of us cared for hyphenations) Granted, her father and I weren’t legally married, but I don’t think they ask that on a birth certificate necessarily if the mother has her own last name. And her dad is listed as the legal father on her certificate, but the social worker didn’t ask us a single question about her last name when we were having her fill it out at the hospital when she was born. I dunno, maybe they tightened up naming regulations since the late 90’s, but it really, really is easy to give a baby the name you want, surname included.

      But as far as having to identify yourself as “so and so’s mom”, I’ve always had to do that initially, since from the time my daughter was in playgroups as a toddler. We just tended to remember people by their children’s name first until we got to know them as individuals in their own right. It sucked, but that was how it was in toddler age playgroups.

    4. Emolee
      Emolee March 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

      your children still “get” their father’s name … Unless you create some kind of hybrid of the last names of yourself and your child’s father. . .or hyphenate them (but not yours).

      Why not yours? Kids can be given their mother’s name.

  45. Luna
    Luna March 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |

    In Japan changing last names goes both ways, the partners keep the last name of the wealthiest or more politically or socially important of the couple. For example, in the period of the great generals and before, if a shogun had a daughter, he didn’t go trying to have a son; the daughter would marry the best samurai (or the son of the best samurai) or a wealthy man and the husband would change his name to enter the wife/shogun’s family. This lives up to our days, and men getting married to an important woman (wealthy, better educated, comes from an ancient family, etc.) change their names.
    Obviously the root of this comes from patriarchy, as the daughter of the shogun didn’t have a choice on her future husband, and this husband was to become the next head of the family. But the fact that men can and would change their names after marriage, and are aware of this possibility, and it’s considered normal, is not unheard of.

  46. Megan
    Megan March 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm |

    I understand the point; but my maiden name was originally my father’s; so it’s really just trading one man’s name for another’s.

    1. anna
      anna March 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm |

      You might as well say every man’s name is really just his father’s name, not his own, so he shouldn’t at all mind dropping it.

      Anyway, I know some women make the decision to change their last name for all sorts of non-patriarchal reasons, but I don’t think we’d see 90% of American women taking their husband’s last names and hardly any man doing the equivalent in a non-sexist society. Rather than focusing on the individual women, I would focus on the sexism and point out that, for example, the idea that a man’s last name is his own but a woman’s is just her father’s is unfair. As is not even considering his taking her last name, if being part of a family with one last name is important to the couple.

    2. Sheelzebub
      Sheelzebub March 9, 2013 at 7:28 pm |

      Maybe so, but it’s also MY name and I’ve grown quite used to it.

      I remember mentioning off-handedly to a guy friend that I didn’t think I’d ever change my name if I got married because I like my name and besides, it was odd to me that the woman was automatically expected to do it. He went off on me, ended up yelling at me actually. To which I said, “yeah, but it’s my name. And if it’s no big deal, why the fuck are you yelling at me?”

    3. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm |

      my maiden name was originally my father’s

      Q: how did your father ‘get’ his surname? A: he was given it at birth.
      Q: how did you ‘get’ your surname? A: you were given it at birth.

      So, logically, how come the surname is more his than yours, given that you got it in exactly the same way?

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie March 11, 2013 at 3:26 am |

        Because I didn’t get my mother’s surname. I got my father’s.

        1. Cycleboy1957
          Cycleboy1957 March 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm |

          I got my father’s.

          True, but we have to start somewhere.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie March 12, 2013 at 12:05 am |

          So if I “start” by trading one man’s name for another man’s name, I have committed a non-feminist act. But keeping a man’s name is a feminist act, because my birth name IS my identity (No, it’s not. I am not my name.).

          A wise commenter, somewhere that I now can’t remember, said, “There are no ‘women’s names.'”

        3. EG
          EG March 12, 2013 at 12:11 am |

          A wise commenter, somewhere that I now can’t remember, said, “There are no ‘women’s names.’”

          Bullshit. My surname is a matronymic. And my first and middle names are absolutely women’s names. And my name, which I got from my father, yes, is actually mine, just as my first and middle names are, given to me in precisely the same way, and since I am a woman, it is now, once again, a woman’s name.

  47. Mezzanine
    Mezzanine March 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm |

    Saw a response I agree with. It says, in part:

    But the anti-name-change argument seems like yet another case of a common-enough feminist error: that because something is ‘what women do,’ it’s necessarily the inferior situation. Getting paid less, that’s definitively worse. Obviously, very very often, the women’s version of whichever lot in life is straight-up worse. But, consider makeup. Is it oppressive because men don’t (generally) wear it? Or is it oppressive to men that if they want to experiment with their looks, or enhance their beauty, this isn’t an option for them? Whatever penalty exists on (some) women (in certain circumstances) who don’t wear makeup, it’s zilch compared to that on men who do.

    Instead of trying to change things by limiting women’s options (yet again), why don’t we change things by expanding men’s options? Make it socially acceptable for any of us to change our names, or not, upon marriage. Because some of us are really attached to our birth names, and some of us just aren’t.

    (In my case, my fiance is happy to change his name, keep it, and for me to change my name or keep it – whatever I decide we should do. And I’m planning to take his name. Because I want to.)

    1. theLaplaceDemon
      theLaplaceDemon March 9, 2013 at 5:19 pm |

      I’m sympathetic to a lot of that perspective (having only read what you quoted and your comment) but it sort of ignores the historical context under which current naming traditions in Euro-American cultures came about. I guess you could make the argument that the historical context is so far removed from present day relationship dynamics that it is irrelevant, but I’d argue that there is plentiful evidence that we haven’t fully exorcised those demons.

      Also, I think “women do it therefor its bad” is a mischaracterization of the argument being made. “90% of married women and 10% of married men do this, and I think it’s for sexist reasons” is more accurate. I don’t think anyone would be bothered if the stats were more equal.

    2. Miriam
      Miriam March 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

      I think what Jill and Kate are pointing to is really about expanding options for both men and women. Take away the social pressure on women to change their names, and more women will probably opt to keep them. Take away the social pressure on men not to change their names (and apparently in some states, the legal barriers) and more men will probably opt to change them. More families may create new family names entirely.

    3. Emolee
      Emolee March 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

      Instead of trying to change things by limiting women’s options (yet again), why don’t we change things by expanding men’s options? Make it socially acceptable for any of us to change our names, or not, upon marriage. Because some of us are really attached to our birth names, and some of us just aren’t.

      Yes, yes THIS!!

  48. IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN! | Congratulations, it's a grain of rice!

    [...] Is it time to judge and shame women for their personal choices?? [...]

  49. Gillian
    Gillian March 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm |

    I’d also like to point out (in hopefully a not “what about teh menz” derailing way) that one of the factors which makes this a clear and straightforward issue of sexism rather than simple ‘choice’ is that, turned around, it can and is used to penalize men who similarly choose not to adhere to social expectations about gender behavior.

    Take the case of Lazaro Dinh in Florida, where a man sought to change his name to honor his wife’s family name. When a woman takes her husband’s last name that is good and right and proper, but when a man chooses to do so that is evidence of potential fraud.

    If this were just an uncomplicated social choice that people make, the system would enable it with minimal fuss and all choices would be welcome. It’s not. There is a “right” choice and a “wrong” choice and those are structured according to (outmoded) gender stereotypes, and you make the “wrong” choice at your peril, as there are consequences and penalties (both legal and social) that will be applied.

  50. Jen
    Jen March 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

    The other day I was talking on the phone to my 20 year old nephew, here’s the conversation:

    Him: Are you getting a lot of snow?

    Me: Not as bad as I thought is was going to be. You?

    Him: We are getting raped by snow.

    Me: What?

    Him: It’s raping us, almost 2 feet.

    Me: Please, please do not use that word to describe anything but what it is. And please, if your friends use it like you just did tell them to stop.

    Him: Oh man, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.

    Me: No problem.

    So, I asked my 14 year old daughter if her friends use the word rape in the same context and sure enough, they all do (except my daughter who constantly reminds her friends that it’s not cool to do – love her).

    My Point? There are many more important feminist issues that could be discussed/debated besides whether or not a woman’s identity suddenly evaporates because she changed her name – the fact that we have a generation of young men and women using the word rape to describe a bad snow storm or getting punished by their parents just being one of them.

    1. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters March 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm |

      There are many more important feminist issues that could be discussed/debated

      Telling people to stop discussing something because you don’t consider it important enough is just beyond obnoxious. Not only can people discuss/debate and give attention to more than one thing, but they can discuss whatever they damn well please and if you don’t think it is worthy of attention then you are more than welcome to blow off and have your own super important discussions elsewhere.

      Plus, why the hell are you concerned with people using the term rape to describe certain situations? I mean, the meaning of words change and none of these people are promoting rape. You are being oversensitive and focusing on something trivial. Maybe you should be more concerned with actual things that affect women, like women being pelted with dead salmon for showing their pinky fingers on Thursdays in Generic Country with Nonwhite Majority? While you are being PC language crusader against well-meaning people who aren’t sexist and don’t even mean it that way, women are being pelted with salmon. Are you saying that we need to focus on social trends that trivialize violence against women, use the term rape as to suggest that the survivor or victim has been owned and shamed, and reinforce harmful hyper-masculinity? Well, that is pointless and nothing more than an exercise in PC navel-gazing. Way to see problems where there are none. You are everything that is wrong with feminism, and the reason no takes feminists seriously.

      1. Jen
        Jen March 10, 2013 at 7:59 pm |

        I did not tell anyone to stop discussing the subject and nowhere did I write that people weren’t capable of multitasking issues. I merely suggested that there are more important issues to discuss other than the ridiculousness of whether or not a woman changes her last name. If you don’t like that I pointed out the Emperor Has No Clothes, then maybe you’re the obnoxious one and it is you that should, “blow off and have your own super important discussions elsewhere”, hmmmm?

        And I’ll tell you “why the hell I’m concerned with people using the term rape to describe certain situations” (it’s apparent it went over your head so I’ll be simple and straightforward so as to not make your brain explode, which it did so eloquently in your reply). It concerns me that our tweens, teens and 20somethings, male and female, are using the word rape to describe some uncomfortable yet totally benign and unforgettable situations because it desensitizes EVERYONE to the horror that is rape. If you are unable to grasp that, then it is you, not I, that is “everything that is wrong with feminism, and the reason no one takes feminists seriously”.

        Have a nice day!

        1. Sheelzebub
          Sheelzebub March 11, 2013 at 8:00 am |

          Jen, she was using your tactic “why are you concerned with silly little issue X” WRT an issue you said is important to you.

          You’re happy to dish this shit out. She did the same thing I did, we turned your argument around on you. You don’t like that. Odd how it’s okay for you to do it but not okay for anyone to do that to you.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L March 9, 2013 at 5:28 pm |

      Denise, you’re being sarcastic, right? The first time I saw what you wrote, I thought you were serious about the supposed “pointlessness” of misusing and trivializing the word “rape.” Now I’ve decided that you weren’t serious, and were just trying to get across a point to Jen. It isn’t always easy to tell.

      1. Past my expiration date
        Past my expiration date March 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

        (I was actually admiring Denise’s post as a stylistic masterpiece of sarcasticness.)

      2. Denise Winters
        Denise Winters March 9, 2013 at 5:44 pm |

        Yes, sarcasm meant to get across the problem with trying to dictate to others what they should and shouldn’t consider worthy of attention and discussion. Same with the salmon pelting. I detest when the oppression of non-white women at the hands of non-white men are used to silence objections to sexism within societies dominated by mostly white cisgender men (looking at Richard “Stop whining about verbal harassment b/c FGM is so much worse!!11!” Dawkins and his ilk here). However, did not want to turn around and use examples of those same oppressions, even sarcastically, in my spoof of a certain mindset.

    3. Sheelzebub
      Sheelzebub March 9, 2013 at 7:32 pm |

      If you feel this isn’t important, why are you on here posting about it? Use your energy for the stuff you feel is important?

      Some people feel this IS important, and you have no right to declare that it isn’t. While we’re at it, the “what about the important shit” argument could be used about people misusing the word rape. I mean, someone could tell you that you could spend your energy on helping women who actually WERE raped instead of worrying about a silly slang term.

      1. Jen
        Jen March 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm |

        If you don’t agree with me, fine. But trying to guilt me into not posting because you can’t deal with my opinion, on top of assuming that I’m not using my energy on the “stuff I feel is important” or “helping women who actually were raped” makes your argument moot.

        1. Sheelzebub
          Sheelzebub March 11, 2013 at 7:50 am |

          I suggest you take your own advice. YOU were the one lecturing us about the important shit and not realizing that we can and do prioritize several issues at once. If YOU don’t like the assumption that you cannot do this, perhaps YOU should refrain from making the same assumptions about us.

          I used the same rhetorical tactic you did. You didn’t like that. Perhaps you should take a moment and think how you came across.

          Shorter me: Dish it out, learn to take it.

        2. Sheelzebub
          Sheelzebub March 11, 2013 at 7:54 am |

          Also, if my post was an attempt to “guilt” you into not posting, what was your post? “There are more important issues to worry about” comes off the same way. Telling how it’s only a bad thing when it’s turned around on you.

        3. Jen
          Jen March 11, 2013 at 11:59 am |

          Where on earth did you and Denise come up with this “you don’t think we can do two things at once” thing? For that matter, please point out exactly where I lectured anyone. I’ll wait. … … … Oh that’s right, you can’t, because I didn’t.

          If you (and the above posters) took what I wrote personally then perhaps it is *you* that needs to take a moment to think about how you are perceiving my post, why you are reading into it things that are clearly just not there and why you are so defensive.

        4. Sheelzebub
          Sheelzebub March 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

          My Point? There are many more important feminist issues that could be discussed/debated besides whether or not a woman’s identity suddenly evaporates because she changed her name – the fact that we have a generation of young men and women using the word rape to describe a bad snow storm or getting punished by their parents just being one of them.

          Ahem.

          If you care to debate this, do so in good faith or begone. Your attempts at injured innocence are tiring.

        5. Jen
          Jen March 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

          Please do tell me what is wrong with believing there are more important matters to discuss other than whether or not someone changes their last name? You can’t, because there isn’t anything wrong with it.

          Now, had I actually written, “Because this topic isn’t ‘worthy of my attention’ you need to ‘stop discussing this because I don’t think it’s important enough’. Not to mention I just know people ‘can’t discuss/debate and give attention to more than one thing'” then you’d have a point. But I never said any of the kind, did I? In fact, it was Denise putting those words into my mouth because she (as well as you) assumed I felt/thought that way.

          The problem is with you – own it.

        6. Gillian
          Gillian March 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm |

          The problem is not with thinking whatever you want to think. The problem is that, instead of saying ‘meh’ and moving on, you decided that you know better and that it was up to you to judge and then scold everyone for being concerned with an issue that you have decided is trivial. You think it’s trivial, fine. Then don’t waste your time trying to wag your finger at those who don’t agree with you. Just move on; we’ll all be better off.

          You did in fact come here to a discussion of a topic you don’t seem to feel is important, and (in a patently obvious derail attempt) then took the time to tell us all that there were more important things to discuss. Are you really so socially and linguistically unsophisticated that you can’t recognize that you did, in fact, try to tell everyone here that we should be discussing the “more important” issues that you would prefer to talk about?

          Blogs are free. If you’d like everyone here to comment on your ideas about the trivialization of rape, go write up a post and link to it on the next self-promotion opportunity. Maybe some of us will come by and engage with you. Maybe not. But don’t come here to tell us what we should and should not be talking about.

          It seems fairly significant that everyone here read your whining in exactly the same way, so maybe the problem is with you.

        7. Sheelzebub
          Sheelzebub March 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm |

          So, here’s what I’ve gotten from you so far:

          1) There are more important things for you to worry about.

          2) HOW DARE YOU USE MY LOGIC TO SHOW HOW MY ARGUMENT IS WEAK. You are trying to GUILT me into not posting but it’s totally DIFFERENT when I say the same things because. I am special. Or something.

          3) You are all saying I can’t care about more than one thing at once, and I totally can! But I’ll make comments about how there are more important things to worry about and imply that you can’t. I will also come back to this thread over and over again because although this is totally not important, I will dedicate more of my time to arguing about it on the internet.

          4) I never said the things I actually said. Even though I’ve been quoted. You all are just defensive and cannot see what it is I actually mean, which is whatever I have pulled out of my ass at the moment.

          5) Well what’s WRONG with telling people there are more important things to worry about?

          Do you get dizzy with all of this spinning, Jen?

        8. Gillian
          Gillian March 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm |

          Incidentally, there’s no shame in saying “oops, that’s not what I meant to say, sorry for any misunderstanding.” I think we’ve all had moments when that’s happened, especially as the medium of text can make it difficult to perfectly represent what is in our heads.

          The problem arises when we get huffy and insist that people should respond to what we meant to say instead of what is up there in text form.

          You’re down about six feet. Stop digging.

    4. Lara Emily Foley
      Lara Emily Foley March 10, 2013 at 7:56 am |

      The other day I was talking on the phone to my 20 year old nephew, here’s the conversation:

      Him: Are you getting a lot of snow?

      Me: Not as bad as I thought is was going to be. You?

      Him: We are getting raped by snow.

      Me: What?

      Him: It’s raping us, almost 2 feet.

      Me: Please, please do not use that word to describe anything but what it is. And please, if your friends use it like you just did tell them to stop.

      Him: Oh man, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.

      Me: No problem.

      So, I asked my 14 year old daughter if her friends use the word rape in the same context and sure enough, they all do (except my daughter who constantly reminds her friends that it’s not cool to do – love her).

      My Point? There are many more important feminist issues that could be discussed/debated besides whether or not a woman’s identity suddenly evaporates because she changed her name – the fact that we have a generation of young men and women using the word rape to describe a bad snow storm or getting punished by their parents just being one of them.

      The inhabitants of the village of Fakesville upon Madeupland had a problem: there was a robbery at the intersection of Twothings Lane and Atonce Boulveard and an assault on the corner of Multi Street and Task Avenue. Now the question for the village was which one is more important to deal with. You see despite having plenty of police and time, it was written on fireproof/rip proof/all around destruction proof paper that the police can only deal with one crime at a time! So the question became who to save, who to save? Sadly while trying to decide the robber got away and so did the assailant. It was said that day that a singe voice echoed through out the land, and that voice said: “If only we could do more than one thing at a single time!!!!!”

      1. Jen
        Jen March 10, 2013 at 9:14 pm |

        I’m sorry, did you have a point?

        1. Sheelzebub
          Sheelzebub March 11, 2013 at 7:57 am |

          on top of assuming that I’m not using my energy on the “stuff I feel is important” or “helping women who actually were raped”

          That’s kind of Lara Emily Foley’s point. I just figured I’d use your own words.

          Do you have different standards for yourself than you do for others, Jen? Or do you just lack simple logic?

      2. Jen
        Jen March 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm |

        You see Sheezlebub, you actually wrote those things, where as I never said anything of the kind in my original post. You (and Denise) assumed that because I believe there are more important discussions to be had that I must frown upon the people having the one I think is low on the priority list.

        Here’s some advice, save your money and don’t buy that neon psychic sign. Actually, you might want to spend it on a reading comprehension course – I hear they’re pretty inexpensive.

        1. Sheelzebub
          Sheelzebub March 11, 2013 at 1:14 pm |

          You see, Jen, I actually used the words you wrote. You need to pull your head out of your ass. Breathing in your own farts has pretty much rendered you incoherent.

  51. Gillian
    Gillian March 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm |

    Jen, with all respect (and as someone who has been raped and is consistently outraged at those who frivolously abuse the term), feminism is not a zero sum game. I can be outraged by and work against rape culture and the trivialization of rape and still also work to improve pay equity and unsettle historic patterns of discrimination wherever I see them.

    If you can’t, or if you find such topics beneath you, I completely get it, but please don’t presume to tell me what I, as a feminist, ought to be concerned with or ought to be doing.

  52. Ridya
    Ridya March 9, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

    Why are some people here being so egoist? Sorry :/ I’ve read the two responses from Melissa’s, and she made some good arguments, like name-changing is personal like pregnancy-decision is personal, etc, but… why is people in the comments attacking Jill because of this? Seriously, it’s like she cursed all the namechangers in their face, because the responses here are reaaaalllyy inappropriate to the article.

    Name-changing is choice, name-changing is personal… all of the reasons I’ve read in the comments (macavity’s in particular) struck me as incredibly defensive and self-important.

    I’m from a part-arab family, and like all of them except very few, the children got my father’s name attached to a long list of males in the family. It’s an incredibly patriarchal practice.

    I digress; If women in the past, for example, said that they didn’t vote because of this, because of that, personal reasons, why should I give the reasons to you, if they feel offended because their situation was different, you’ll never get to where you are now, discussing name-change instead of can women vote or not, or something.

    I get the trans argument, etc etc, but when half of the college students in that study said that women ought to change their name, that’s fucked up. Your culture’s acceptance is fucked up. Not from U.S, but even from a country with undeveloped feminism I could see that some of the people in the comments are being.. egoistic, really, with their feelings and so on. Just accept the article as something akin to a reminder, don’t take it to the heart, overanalyze it, make it personal, etc etc. It’s just excuses, excuses. Really, people saying that this post degrade their view of Jill? :/ if some of the voting activists in the past ever listened to their detractors, they’ll never get past the “talking” part.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 9, 2013 at 7:51 pm |

      Name-changing is choice, name-changing is personal… all of the reasons I’ve read in the comments (macavity’s in particular) struck me as incredibly defensive and self-important.

      Defensive of what…? I didn’t change my name… so I’m genuinely puzzled how you imagine I could be defensive of something I didn’t even do and don’t personally believe.

      I digress; If women in the past, for example, said that they didn’t vote because of this, because of that, personal reasons, why should I give the reasons to you, if they feel offended because their situation was different, you’ll never get to where you are now, discussing name-change instead of can women vote or not, or something.

      Did they say this for a reason they don’t vote, or as a reason to deny other women the vote? Has anyone here argued for mandatory name-changing?

    2. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters March 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

      I do not think voting is an apt comparison because voting was about the right to vote, not trying to convince women to vote. This is more akin to other POC saying that there is a problem regarding the relative lack of voting amongst black people giving the history of denial of voting rights, and then a bunch of black people giving their conscientious reasons for noting participating in the U.S. voting process to one degree or another.
      For the women’s suffrage comparison to really work, the article would need to have examined the problem with discriminatory laws that make it easier for women to change their name after a marriage than for men. Making it just as easy for men to change their names after marriage or just as hard for women would be more analogous to the right to vote because it deals with a legal right that reinforces sexism. Instead, the way the article is written makes women the target rather than going after laws, and going after men who are in a position to challenge state laws alone or as part of a class action but decide not to do so. I think that the discourse gets directed away from examining social pressures and focused on personal defenses way to much when topics like this come up, but I also think that this article invites that criticism by essentially actively telling women what they should/should not do, which is a far cry from encouraging the examination of assumptions and default decisions.

  53. ellid
    ellid March 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm |

    I didn’t change my name. Never wanted to, never saw the reason for it, and man oh man it made things easier when I got divorced.

    Weirdly enough, my in-laws never had a problem this, nor did my mother. My AUNT, though, insisted that I HAD to take Wingding’s name, and I had to contradict her in public several times when she introduced me under the wrong name.

    Best part? My aunt never got married to anyone. So how would she know?

  54. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll March 9, 2013 at 10:49 pm |

    Married twice, changed my name once. Frankly, I enjoyed the aspect of “changing one’s identity”. And I sure as shit didn’t assume my husbands identity, pretty sure no one we know would even take that one seriously if it was suggested I had. (then again I’m the one with the family that stopped my wedding vows in order to laugh hysterically after the stupid preacher slipped in the “submissive wife” crap. My 80 year old grandmother gave the first snort)

    Honestly, there’s so much going on right now with womens rights that name changing is so far down on the list I can’t really muster any feeling about it.

  55. Misakyra
    Misakyra March 10, 2013 at 7:39 am |

    For anyone who thinks that the “my current name is my father’s name” argument is somehow invalid, I would say, try telling that to my mom.

    She changed her name when she married my dad (for reasons she’s never given me, but considering that she would eventually go through the court appearances/fees/etc to legally change her first name to get more distance from her birth family, I can hazard a guess). After having me (her only child, as it turned out), she was put under immense pressure from Dad’s relatives to have another child because they wanted to make sure that the family name continued, and (of course) only a boy would guarantee that. She told that story a lot.

    So, were I to keep my last name upon marriage, I would be highly aware that I’m keeping my father’s family name. If I gave my last name to any of my children, I’d be even more aware.

    So for me, the decision on whether or not I change my name really would feel like choosing which part of the patriarchy I’m choosing to uphold. And maybe I’m somehow completely unique in that situation, but it’s part of the reason I don’t try and make other people’s decisions for them.

  56. megara
    megara March 10, 2013 at 8:23 am |

    As a woman, when I was engaged, and changing my name got brought up, my response was “Oh! I already have one of those.”

  57. er
    er March 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |

    I don’t know if you’re still reading the thread, Jill, but a-freaking-men, especially the point you make upthread: “Really, if you want to make even a feminist-minded heterosexual guy flip out, suggest to him that if you got married and had kids, the kids should take the wife’s name. I’ve tried this a bunch of times, and upwards of 90% of even the most liberal-minded men freak. They’re fine with their wife keeping her name or hyphenating (“I think she should choose whatever she wants!” they’ll say), but suggest that his name doesn’t get put on the kids? Total meltdown.” Seriously. To me, that’s how you know this whole name thing is pretty sexist. Also, have you noticed how many of the people say, “Oh, the other person’s name was easier to spell or the other person cared more about the name change than I did” are women? Like 98% of them. Men almost never say, Man I’m tired of my long complicated name that I have to spell all the time – I’ll change to my wife’s! Name-changing is not a default option for men. I don’t care about my name either. That’s clearly gendered (I’m a woman). Being tired of the sexist pattern of society, however, I refused to change it and I refused to marry a man who cared what I did with my name. Furthermore, I made it clear to my partner that it was absolutely non-negotiable that our kids have my last name. They do. My name. No hyphen. I’m in academia, so I know a ton of women who have kept their own names (that’s the norm in my biz, it’s a bit shocking when a woman academic changes her name) – numbers of other families I know where the children have the wife’s last name? Zero.

    I do not like choice feminism at all, but on the other hand, I’m not interested in other women’s choices. (because of the wholly navigating sh*tty choices business.) Mostly, I want to talk structure. The fact is, our patriarchal heterosexist society coerces women into taking their husbands’ name for themselves and for their children. And while I don’t give a crap what anyone else does with her name, I do give a crap that society pushes back against women who try to do escape the name-change. So I felt like I had a responsibility, in a way, to stand my ground. If enough of us do that, it will eventually make space for all women *to make their own choices free of coercion*. That’s feminism.

  58. amblingalong
    amblingalong March 10, 2013 at 11:41 am |

    They’re fine with their wife keeping her name or hyphenating (“I think she should choose whatever she wants!” they’ll say), but suggest that his name doesn’t get put on the kids? Total meltdown

    I’ve read this three times and it still makes no sense. You’re darn right I’d be upset if someone told me that my kid wouldn’t have my last name, just as I’d expect my (hypothetical) wife to be equally upset if I told her our kid wasn’t going to have her last name. Hyphenating or middle-naming exists for a reason. What?

    1. EG
      EG March 10, 2013 at 11:56 am |

      What Jill means is that such men have a total meltdown if a woman suggests the kids have her last name as their surname and his as a middle name. They melt down at the thought that their last name isn’t the surname.

      I’ve had this argument with at least one boyfriend. Middle-naming his last name wasn’t good enough for him, but somehow, it should have been good enough for me.

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong March 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm |

        What Jill means is that such men have a total meltdown if a woman suggests the kids have her last name as their surname and his as a middle name. They melt down at the thought that their last name isn’t the surname. I’ve had this argument with at least one boyfriend. Middle-naming his last name wasn’t good enough for him, but somehow, it should have been good enough for me.

        That’s certainly fair enough. I guess ultimately the entire convention of last name of parents -> last name of kid inevitably is going to create conflicts without good answers (I mean, why should either parent’s name have more weight, in any case?). But obviously the position of your ex is untenably sexist.

        My personal, non-universal take is that if I ever get married, I’d happily take my wife’s name if she wants to keep it, and I’d be happy if she wants to take mine; either way, unless she feels strongly about both keeping her name and me keeping mine, we end up with one name and less of a headache. But that’s just me.

      2. robotile
        robotile March 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm |

        Seriously! It’s amazing how men feel entitled to have the kid get their last name even if it seems totally nonsensical to them to have their wives assume their last name.
        My husband and I had several intense fights about this issue, and basically the only way I could convince him was to say that if we were unmarried, he would have no say in the name anyways, and to appeal to his sense of lineage. My last name can tie the kid to hundreds of years of known ancestors in India while he has no idea where his comes from. Also our son will very tangibly know my husband’s family because they live in the US, but the name was one way to tie him to my father, who is very old, and Indian family he may rarely see, but who love him very much.
        Now, however, I think partner kind of likes it. He feels like the last name was a survival of the fittest thing and mine won.

    2. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm |

      Really? Really? You honestly don’t see a problem with this scenario:
      Jane Doe and John Smith get married. John expects the kids to be Lil Smith and freaks out when it is suggested they become Lil Doe. Smith would have no problem, would not even give a second thought, to naming the kids Lil Smith, but the idea of Lil Doe freaks him out. Even when middle names are used, the expected configuration is Lil Doe Smith, with Smith being the last name given and used as opposed to Lil Smith Doe. Hyphenating is considered fine for the wife, but not the kids.

      The scenario you describe is not what is being talked about and you must know this after reading the post and the thread. The very bit you quoted points out the reality of what happens in the U.S. Women are expected to take their husband’s name by default, and the children get their father’s name which has also become the mother’s. This happens by default. So no, a woman is not expected to be upset at children having the father’s name, but to see it as expected along with them taking their husband’s name as default. Because it is seen as traditional and just the way things are. But excellent exercise in making the very real social phenomenon of women in the U.S. (which the article focuses on) being expected to take their husbands name by default and the children getting the husband’s last name by default as well, and making it about how terribly progressive minded you are and how you would totally expect your hypothetical children to get their wife’s maiden (a term which highlights the problem) name also.

      The problem with individualizing a social problem can pretty much be summed up by this comment.

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong March 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm |

        Based on our interaction upthread, I’m done talking to you, permanently. Feel free to respond to my posts, but don’t be under any illusions I’m going to read what you write.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm |

          To be clear: if a person of color says “I realize this situation has implications for feminism/sexism, but it also has racist/anti-racist connections to consider; I don’t know if you’re black, but if not, this isn’t the place for you to tell me what to think” and you respond “shut up/ you’re a misogynist/ racism has nothing to do with it/ feminism is more important/ go away” you’re a fucking asshole, and probably racist to boot.

          And since you’ve been rude and condescending to a whole bunch of the POC on here, I feel absolutely zero compunction to give you the benefit of the doubt.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 10, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

          compulson*

        3. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

          “shut up/ you’re a misogynist/ racism has nothing to do with it/ feminism is more important/ go away” you’re a fucking asshole, and probably racist to boot.

          Yep, cause that is defiantly what I said. And I stand in awe of your ability to render me non-black through the powers of the internet. Way to erase my existence as a black female because they do not align with what you want them to be.

        4. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

          And another thing, if you think that I was erasing racism and creating a racism/sexism dichotomy, it probably speaks to your ignorance of/inability to recognize a very real train of socially conservative thought that suggests that black women should aspire to the traditional roles of upper class white women because those roles are inherently better. A thought that even tries to shame/pressure black women into certain roles and suggests a responsibility to the community to fulfill those roles. I even recognized the context of certain roles being denied black women and the status symbol they can afford. You then proceeded to use marriage equality as an example, completely denying the actual push back against the centering of marriage equality within the LGBT community.

          How many of my actual identities do intend to school me on, identities which you admittedly don’t share, before it occurs to you that it isn’t your place to dictate what I should feel, believe, and think as queer black female? FFS, I provided a different perspective, while acknowledging context, and you proceeded to question my race while you made no questioning of your place to comment as a man? But no, I suggest that while understandable there is a problem inherent in holding up certain family and relationship models as the ideal on a community and social level (not individual level), especially when it works to try and pressure black women into those familial models regardless of how we want to form our families and relationships, and you call into question my blackness because of it?

        5. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

          To be clear, I said:

          It potentially casts being unmarried with children as something to avoid being associated with in and of itself. I absolutely think it is racist to make assumptions about people’s relationship and familial status, but I do not feel the answer is to reinforce the status of one type of relationship (and the traditionally associated roles of that relationship, in this case the woman changing her name always) as privileged and valued over another. This, in some cases can certainly lead to, reminds me of the notion that instead of pushing for equity and equality, black women should by default aspire to the pedestal that has been denied.

          And, to be clear, I did not respond to your veiled questioning of my blackness because the idea of a man commenting on the thoughts and reasons of black women asking me to show my papers, while not chiding a commenter who is not a black woman but agreed with them, is beyond fucking insulting.

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm |

          while not chiding a commenter who is not a black woman but agreed with them

          Curious: did you not notice that I explicitly attributed my thoughts on this to BFing Sarah, who is a black woman? Or is the cited paraphrasing of black women inappropriate these days in the blogosphere? I never do keep up adequately with the Sanctimonious Styleguide.

        7. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm |

          macavitykitsune,
          1). In the comment thread where I responded to amblingalong, you did not attribute your comment to anyone. That is the one I was referring too.
          2). Amblingalong asks me to identify myself, because apparently my examination of the comment can only occur if I am black, but they do not question you in the same manner. You are not black, did not attribute your ideas to a specific black thinker/commentor in that post, but still got a past from Amblingalong who then turned around and suggested I didn’t have any right to respond because I may not be black. They then turn around and assume that I am not black or another POC because I did not respond to their condescending, belittling, erasing, and hypocritical question. This makes me think that it had everything to due with my reluctance to accept the stated reason as explanation for the default of women choosing to take a husband’s last name.
          3). You can quote the ideas of whoever, but suggesting I must not be black, and going so far as to explain to me what marriage might mean for some black women, for having certain opinions goes beyond being sanctimonious.

        8. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm |

          1) Ah, you’re right. I did that elsewhere on this thread, and I had the comments mixed up. FWIW I would have attributed it in that thread too if I’d noticed I’d forgotten.

          2)

          You are not black, did not attribute your ideas to a specific black thinker/commentor in that post, but still got a past from Amblingalong who then turned around and suggested I didn’t have any right to respond because I may not be black

          I can only assume that it’s because he’d seen my comment attributing BFing Sarah, which is much further upthread? In any case, I didn’t read him as saying you had no right to respond, but that you didn’t get to judge if you weren’t black. I agree with that statement in and of itself. Unfortunately, in this case it was applied to you, and you’re a black woman (which I didn’t know either, ftr, I had a vague recollection you were LGBTQ of some sort, and that you weren’t white, but wasn’t sure what your identity was precisely).

          3) I admit I don’t know amblingalong IRL, but I have extreme difficulty believing he’d deliberately say someone wasn’t what they identify as. That’s…simply not how he’s behaved in the past. So unless you can concretely prove that amblingalong knew you were black (say, a reply from him to a comment of yours identifying yourself on another thread on Feministe) and was deliberately erasing your identity, I’m not going to assume the worst of someone who’s not done such a thing before, to my knowledge. If you do have some proof, I’d be happy to change my mind on this, of course. But not everyone reads every thread in the history of a blog or remembers everyone’s identity perfectly.

        9. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

          And macavitykitsune,
          Even if you had attributed those thoughts to a black woman in the thread in discussion, it would still be irrelevant to you and Amblingalong assuming that I was not black/questioning if I was black. And I now include you because that is exactly what you did when you dropped that condescending crap to me about how some black women might view marriage. Because I sure as hell hope you wouldn’t think it necessary to explain that to someone who might actually be a black woman. And I hope you wouldn’t find it appropriate to dismiss the ideas of one black woman because you totes could paraphrase/quote the ideas of another. And I wouldn’t even mind that much if you just disagreed with me, but to talk to me as though I am white and then turn around and play the “but black lady says this and you disagree so you must not be black/I can dismiss your thoughts” game is infuriating.

          You disagree with what I have to say about societal level pressures and assumptions? Fine. But assuming that I am not black because of what I have to say is complete garbage. And then, turning around and talking about how you attributed your ideas to a black woman (which you did not do in that post) when called out on it is real low, because it does not even address my comments to Amblingalong which is that they have erased my identity on several different axises, and it doesn’t negate that you spoke to me as though I were not black.

        10. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

          to talk to me as though I am white and then turn around and play the “but black lady says this and you disagree so you must not be black/I can dismiss your thoughts” game is infuriating.

          I…explicitly did not assume you were black or white or…anything. Like I said in my comment above, I knew you were POC of some sort and LGBTQ of some sort, but I didn’t have a clear recollection. Do you keep a careful chart of every commenter on Feministe and all their races, gender identities, sexualities, religions etc?

          And I hope you wouldn’t find it appropriate to dismiss the ideas of one black woman because you totes could paraphrase/quote the ideas of another.

          Again, in my comment above I explicitly said it wasn’t appropriate. And I never dismissed your ideas; I pointed out, even in the original thread (on which I just left the one comment, so I’ve no idea why I’m being told I condescended to you), that some people have X interpretation. That doesn’t mean everyone has that interpretation, or even that it’s accurate. As I’ve repeatedly said on the thread, I don’t personally believe in changing names on marriage, not the woman’s, not the man’s. I just see a bit more nuance in the issue.

          But assuming that I am not black because of what I have to say is complete garbage.

          Okay, this is my original comment:

          “Not all people and all races and all minorities, subcultures etc have the same definition of “political act”. I would argue that for African-Americans, for example, marriage itself is a political act because of a societal proscription on either legally recognising or socially rewarding their marriages.”

          THIS SAYS NOTHING ABOUT NAME CHANGING. Nor does it assume you’re black! Or white! Or anything! It makes a massively general statement about what is and isn’t a political act. How you can extrapolate from that to “Mac thinks I’m not black and tells me how black women feel about marriage or naming conventions because she thinks I’m whiter than RPatz” is… I don’t get it.

        11. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm |

          Also:

          and then turn around and play the “but black lady says this and you disagree so you must not be black/I can dismiss your thoughts” game is infuriating.

          PLEASE show me where I did this. No, seriously, please show me where I said you weren’t black or dismissed your thoughts because you disagreed with BFing Sarah. If I did, I apologise sincerely; that would be a horrible thing if I did that.

        12. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm |

          So unless you can concretely prove that amblingalong knew you were black (say, a reply from him to a comment of yours identifying yourself on another thread on Feministe) and was deliberately erasing your identity, I’m not going to assume the worst of someone who’s not done such a thing before, to my knowledge.

          He assumed that I was not black, and then dismisses me here on the basis of that assumption. That is what I find erasing, he had absolutely no reason to assume that I am white other than me criticizing his assertion. That’s it. I criticized his assertion and then because I did not respond to his condescending passive question about my race, he assumes that I am not black and then turns around and tells me I am being dismissive of POC. And then, on top of that, you agree with his assertion, and seemingly because of that are given a pass for commenting on the discussion despite not being black (even if you had quoted someone, quoting doesn’t make up for lived experience and if I have no reason to comment on the conversation because he assumes I am not black, then why justify your inclusion in it?).
          And the irony is staggering. A lot of my comment had to do with identifying a very real trend of criticizing black women who question social pressure for black women to assume certain roles, and then because I do, I have my identity erased. There is nothing justifying him assuming that I am not black, let alone assuming I am white. The lack of justification for that assumption, and the way it has been used to dismiss my opinion strikes me as erasing. They didn’t just say “I’m not gonna talk to you unless you say you are black” (which would have been condescending enough) but went full out and assumed that I am a white person being dismissive of POC. And to top it all off, I am a black woman am being dismissed on my ability to talk about experiences and pressures as a black woman by man. And I am suppose to give benefit of the doubt?

        13. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 10, 2013 at 3:27 pm |

          @Denise,

          That’s fair enough. I see your argument on amblingalong’s actions as reasonable.

          even if you had quoted someone, quoting doesn’t make up for lived experience and if I have no reason to comment on the conversation because he assumes I am not black, then why justify your inclusion in it?).

          To be fair to me, I never said you didn’t have a right to respond, just that a non-black person (which I explicitly said you weren’t) wouldn’t have a right to judge. Of course, if you’re fine with non-black people judging black women’s decisions solely from non-black perspectives….well, that’s your call I guess?

          And…what about the rest of my comments? If you’re going to throw around blatant misreadings of what I said, you could at least do me the courtesy of not ignoring my responses to them.

        14. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm |

          That reply on marriage reads to me like one that would be posted in reply to someone who is assumed not to be black. If you didn’t mean it that way, and generally left it as a reply to someone you recognized could very well be a black woman (all be it a condescending one, because I hope you would trust black women to recognize the barriers to marriage and deligitimizing of our families that we have actually experienced), then so be it. (And for the record, I would even amend my comment in the thread above. I absolutely see family members having the same last name as a political act, but question how it still, on a societal level, defaults to the woman to change her name.) No doubt my anger at amblingalong unjustifiably crossed over to you in that regard. And for some of the tone (not all) of the comments here directed at you, I apologize.

          But then, when I reply to amblingalong’s assumption that I am white, instead of either staying out of it or acknowledging that they were unjustified in making assumptions about my race, you get defensive and bring up paraphrasing another black woman (which you did not even do). That might have stoked the flames just a little. You wrongly asserted that you attributed the comment in question to a black woman as though that somehow justifies how amblingalong can tell me that I should stay out of the thread unless I am black, but gives no such conditions to you. If it matters that much, why the pass in one case of agreement, but nor when the commentor disagrees.
          If you get my anger at amblingalong, then why even come back with that unnecessarily defensive comment? It doesn’t even make sense. I only mentioned you in passing because amblingalong did not question your right to comment in the thread despite you not being black. That’s it.

          In a long screed where I talk about how dismissive it is to assume that I am not black, you ignore all of that and then post a defensive comment in which you claim to have paraphrased a black woman in the comment and then accuse me of being sanctimonious? I wasn’t even the one who suggested that non-black people shouldn’t comment, amblingalong did that to me while giving you a pass. When you responded about how you were paraphrasing a black woman how was I suppose to take that? If it had no bearing on whether or not amblingalong was justified in questioning and then dismissing my blackness through assumption, then why even post it? Really, why post that comment if not to justify why you as a non-black person might not have your presence in a discussion given a pass while mine is questioned? If amblingalong thought that me possibly not being black, not being a non-POC but black specifically, should mean I should not comment, then why the pass to a non-black person who backed up his position? That’s the only reason I mentioned you in passing. But then, you ignore all that and post a defensive comment that should have no bearing on the comment at hand.

          I’m not asking anyone to keep a catalog of identities, but just not to make assumptions when someone’s position or criticism doesn’t line up with what they think it should be. Because I believe that is what is at the crux of all this, amblingalong found my comments negative for whatever reason and from that, and my refusal to respond to a dismissive and condescending passive question, assumed I wasn’t black.

        15. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters March 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm |

          And…what about the rest of my comments? If you’re going to throw around blatant misreadings of what I said, you could at least do me the courtesy of not ignoring my responses to them.

          The comments do not necessarily post in order. My comment to the post of yours you reference was in composition while yours posted and is now in moderation. The main point of it is that if you did not feel that having paraphrased a black woman (which you admittedly did not do in the comment) was not justification for amblingalong welcoming your comment but dismissing mine on the assumption I may not be black, then why even respond with that assertion here? I am not attacking anything you wrote but rather amblingalong’s dismissal of my voice and welcoming of yours. That’s it, if you think you qouting a black woman wouldn’t matter either way in regards to that point, then why show up and turn a comment thread about how I have had my identies dismissed through assumption into a vindication of you and what you said, when you are not even being attacked or questioned originally, by saying you paraphrased a black woman? If you really feel that black people have no place in commenting, which amblingalong more or less stated they felt, then a non-black person qouting black women shouldn’t be given a pass. That’s all, this is about amblingalong’s presumptive dismissal, not you or anything you said originally.
          I only became really irate at you when you popped into this thread to give defense of yourself, where one should not have been required and was not needed, and in the process completely dismissed my anger at having my identity ignored and erased.

          I never said you didn’t have a right to respond, just that a non-black person (which I explicitly said you weren’t) wouldn’t have a right to judge.

          The comment was never really about you, and I do not mean to say you did, but I certainly felt that amblingalong questioned my right to be there or the appropriateness of me responding as evidenced by dismissing me now under the assumption that I am non-black and non-POC.

        16. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll March 10, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

          I’m stuck at trying to figure out why a man (POC or not) needs to be opening his mouth on whether or not ANY woman (POC or not) is making a political/nonpolitical statement with HER life and HER identity and HER name. It’s not subject to male approval/agreement, period.

          Since when do women need the approval/agreement of a member of the oppressor group to make any statement with her body or name?

        17. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 10, 2013 at 4:44 pm |

          Denise- I sincerely apologize. Our conversation felt like it was following a script that I’ve read through many, many times, and that I am profoundly sick of, and so I lost my temper. That’s not an excuse, in any case- I behaved like an ass. Again, I’m sorry.

      2. Sheelzebub
        Sheelzebub March 11, 2013 at 8:27 am |

        I’m stuck at trying to figure out why a man (POC or not) needs to be opening his mouth on whether or not ANY woman (POC or not) is making a political/nonpolitical statement with HER life and HER identity and HER name. It’s not subject to male approval/agreement, period.

        This.

  59. cim
    cim March 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

    My approach to this sort of issue is: imagine an egalitarian utopia. In that utopia, would it be a problem for an individual to take this action?

    If so (e.g. rape, paying someone less for the same work, having steps rather than ramps to your shop) then it’s obviously also a problem to do so now, and we should try to deter individuals from taking that action at the same time as trying to remove the structural reasons people do that.

    If not (changing names to mark relationships, wearing makeup, being in heterosexual relationships) then we should only be trying to remove the structural reasons, rather than criticising people for making an action which we are trying to make a neutral one.

    By “criticising people” I of course mean “criticising less privileged people”. No-one ever gets an article published in the national press criticising as unfeminist the major tendency for US/UK men to not change their name on marriage, not wear makeup, and not shave their body hair, though that’s at least equally unfeminist, if not more so.

    (If you believe that “changing a frequently-used name to be more similar to the name of someone you are emotionally close to” is always a morally negative act, then you’d come to a different conclusion than me by applying that rule, of course.)

  60. Cycleboy1957
    Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm |

    we also need to look at what’s going on when 90% of women change their names upon marriage

    When this subject is written about, what is very striking are how many women post comments to justify why they decided to change their surname on marriage. And (usually) they give very sound reasons for doing it; such as an abusive or absent father.

    What causes me to sigh with disappointment, is that these women feel the need to justify their own personal choice, when the articles are aimed at a criticism of the practice in general. I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that no woman should ever change her surname under any circumstances, only that the changing of surnames ought, by the laws of statistics, be done by as many men as women. Yet it is not. THAT is what is being highlighted (IMO).

    Besides, the women who write such comments are, by definition, self selecting and, though they may seem numerous, their reasons are very likely quite genuine and will not reflect the vast majority in the 90% of married women who change.

    Actually, I think an even more important discussion (given the sensitivity people feel about this issue) is to examine what message men and women feel they are transmitting when the do or do not change their surname.

    For example, when one gets married, ones family and friends generally know it and who the spouse is. The changing of the surname is of little importance (apart from symbolically) to them. However, you are making a statement to society in general. My question is why, and what sort of statement are you making? I get the strong impression that some women feel that their social status rises (yes, even in the 21st century) when they get married. That then begs the question, why do these men and women care about the opinions of people for whom they care little or may never even meet?

    Some years ago I wanted to cite an accademic paper and wrote to the author using the name she put in the paper. In her reply, I was gently chided over the fact that she’d married since the publication and I’d not used her married name. What puzzled me is why she was even the slightest bit concerned that I might think she was unmarried, given it highly unlikely that we’d ever meet. I’m still puzzled.

    1. EG
      EG March 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm |

      In her reply, I was gently chided over the fact that she’d married since the publication and I’d not used her married name. What puzzled me is why she was even the slightest bit concerned that I might think she was unmarried, given it highly unlikely that we’d ever meet. I’m still puzzled.

      What puzzles me is how she thought you were supposed to know about her married name. Telepathy?

      1. Cycleboy1957
        Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

        how … were supposed to know about her married name

        I guess, in fairness, the very fact I’d tracked her down to her place of work meant I could have discovered her ‘new’ name. However, perhaps partly out of cussedness, but partly because that was the name on the paper, I used that original name and she clearly didn’t like it.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong March 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm |

          I guess, in fairness, the very fact I’d tracked her down to her place of work meant I could have discovered her ‘new’ name. However, perhaps partly out of cussedness, but partly because that was the name on the paper, I used that original name and she clearly didn’t like it.

          Which is totally understandable, because that’s not her name any more. You may disagree with her reasons for changing it, but it’s not your job to police her choice (which is what you admittedly were at least ‘partly’ doing). Good for her for being as polite as she was.

        2. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl March 11, 2013 at 2:08 pm |

          No, no, Amblingalong, she was supposed to thank him for setting her to rights. But for Cycleboy and his superior intellet her addled little lady brain would never be able to see the errancy of her ways.

        3. Cycleboy1957
          Cycleboy1957 March 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

          Not really. It was a colleague told me where she worked. I think I sent the email to the department with an FAO (name). Yes, with a little digging I could have established whether or not she’d changed her name (to be honest, it’s over 10 years ago and I’m a little hazy on the details). However, as the paper had been written in her ‘old’ name and it was that paper I wished to cite, I didn’t think is was an incorrect choice.

  61. Cycleboy1957
    Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm |

    May I be cheeky and include a link to some of my own thoughts on the subject?

  62. Cycleboy1957
    Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm |

    May I be cheeky and include a link to some of my own thoughts on the subject?

    http://keepyoursurname.livejournal.com/

    This article dismantles most of the reasons I’ve seen in discussions such as these and I’d welcome and constructive comments.

  63. Jay
    Jay March 10, 2013 at 2:27 pm |

    This post seems to have drawn a boatload of comments, so maybe I missed something upthread. If I did, apologies for not keeping up, but…is there alot of reporting out there on dudes who take their ladies’ surnames? For various reasons, I wouldn’t be opposed to it come my own “marryin’ time,” and I’m sure I’d get a heckuva reaction.

  64. tigtog
    tigtog March 10, 2013 at 4:37 pm | *

    Just a quick moderator note as to why some submitted comments are going into moderation as this thread gets longer and some arguments get more complex: one of our moderation filters is a length filter. Any comment over 500 words goes into the moderation queue automatically. There are Reasons for this which I am happy to discuss over on #spillover, but I thought that some of you might like to know this so you can factor it into your comment composition.

  65. Cycleboy1957
    Cycleboy1957 March 10, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

    Cary Tennis、 http://www.salon.com Nov. 16, 2007

    Feminism made it possible for women to declare themselves as exactly who they are. And I suppose it could be said that for all its gains, if women now slip back into the old, comfortable models, then to that extent the historical memory of feminism slips away. Refusing to take the old patriarchal name is a way of extending a certain idea of freedom into the future and into future generations. It is a powerful step. It is a reminder.

    You, as a woman, having acquired and having been bequeathed certain gifts, a political dowry, as it were, are free to use this dowry as you see fit. But it does come with certain expectations. What are those expectations? Chiefly: freedom from unspoken bondage to family, work and society, freedom to make individual choices about how you present yourself to the world, what work you do and whom you associate with. Freedom from the assumption that the husband has the final say. Freedom from the assumption that in the end, all he has to do is put his foot down. Freedom from the historical assumption that the husband’s word in the house is law. It is not law. The law is the law and women can be lawyers and there is no other law, no household law in which man is king. Man is king no longer. That is the gift that you have been bequeathed: You are no longer subject to unspoken authority rooted in family. You are in all respects an independent operator.

    Then the question is, might this general independence that has been granted to all women atrophy if not openly and vigorously exercised by women every chance they get, in every instance of public and private interaction, not just now but into the future for generations? Well, yes, of course there is that danger. People are lazy. We like to slip into something comfortable. So every time we encounter a woman who has a different last name from that of her husband we are reminded: Yes, you can do that. Whereas when we encounter a woman who has the same name as her husband, although this, too, was a choice, we are not reminded, oh, yes, you can do that. Not so much. We more slip into the historical slumber of the status quo.

    Nonetheless, to take your husband’s name is also among your freedoms. …. My choice would be to go ahead and choose a name that puts it in the record books, that puts one in the win column for feminism.

    1. Amelia the Lurker
      Amelia the Lurker March 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm |

      Whereas when we encounter a woman who has the same name as her husband, although this, too, was a choice, we are not reminded, oh, yes, you can do that.

      Unless you feel strongly about the subject, in which case when you see people with the same last name, you are in fact consciously aware of someone having changed their name (probably the woman). I actually do go, “Oh, God damn it” every time I see evidence of this.

      1. Cycleboy1957
        Cycleboy1957 March 11, 2013 at 7:50 am |

        I actually do go, “Oh, God damn it” every time I see evidence of this.

        Me too. Sadly, I think we are in a minority

  66. Maki P
    Maki P March 10, 2013 at 9:47 pm |

    *Foreigner Perspective Time!* I just want to be another one that says that the name-change thing from the English Speaking countries is far from universal.
    I’m not entirely sure, but I believe that all Spanish-speaking countries have the 2-last-name system, and women do not change their names upon marriage. In fact, changing your name would be consider absolutely abnormal, I suspect even conservative people would see it as oppressive.
    Also, I’ve learned (from Anime) that in Japan is not unheard of for a man to take the name of his wife’s family if she’s more important than him (Ikari Gendo, comes to mind)

    1. Athenia
      Athenia March 11, 2013 at 9:44 am |

      Another otaku here! It may be possible in Japan, but Japan is an interesting case—the government register has a bunch of rules about entering names in the register, so someone has to change their name upon marriage and unfortunately it’s still very taboo for the dude to change his name. An acquaintance told me a friend of hers changed his name because his wife was an only child etc. etc, and his family still disowned him.

  67. magista
    magista March 11, 2013 at 1:05 am |

    I don’t have a dog in this hunt; my parents changed their names to a combination of their two last names when they married (not bad for 1960), and I kept it. There are six of us with this surname in the world (so I don’t often use it online, as you can imagine).

  68. Athenia
    Athenia March 11, 2013 at 9:37 am |

    I find it disappointing that a conversation about name changing quickly becomes a conversation about judging women’s choices. I mean, heck, at least why aren’t we having a conversation about men’s choices? I find that telling.

    1. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen March 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

      Yeah, I agree. Or more pointedly: I find it disappointing that the conversation *starts* from the position of judging women’s – and only women’s – choices. It would be lovely someday to read an article in a major publication telling men not to judge, coerce, or shame women into changing their names, or telling lawmakers to write and support laws that make name-changing a fairer, neutral legal process. Or even just one investigating what the range of circumstances and pressures are that lead women to changing their names. But no, when the subject of names comes up at all it has to be “Women, you’re doing it wrong!”

      Because fixing the world and ending patriarchy is women’s work alone, it seems. Not the rest of the goddamn population’s problem.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie March 12, 2013 at 12:12 am |

        Yup. Where are the innumerable posts on feminist blogs shaming, blaming, and scolding the men who do NOT change their names? Apparently, it is feminist to decree that women are responsible for dismantling our own oppression.

        1. EG
          EG March 12, 2013 at 10:32 am |

          Apparently, it is feminist to decree that women are responsible for dismantling our own oppression.

          We are. People in power don’t give up that power willingly. If we wait for men to end our oppression, we’ll be waiting a long, long time.

  69. roro80
    roro80 March 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

    I think one of the problems that comes up in these discussions is that all these things the post talks about — losing identity, being “subsumed”, “waiting” for a permanent last name, thinking that my maiden name was somehow impermanent when I wasn’t married — that doesn’t bare any resemblence to my experience. I won’t go into my specific experience, but I am a woman married to a man and I changed my name, and not necessarily for reasons like not connecting with my birth family, or children, or whatever. But I know for certain I didn’t feel impermance with my birth name, I didn’t feel my identity was co-opted, and I don’t feel like I’ve had any long-term ramifications of the name change. I totally respsect those who chose not to change their names, or chose to hyphenate, or whatever. But whatever fantasies Jill has about the experience of name changing, while certainly being valid for those women who have them, are far from universal.

    In any case, it feels a lot like people without children telling people who have them how to raise them. Or men telling women how to do feminism. Or white people telling people of color how they experience racism.

    My decision to change my name wasn’t particularly “feminist”, and I’m ok with that. But I also don’t think it’s particularly progressive to proscribe the Correct Solution to Name Changing to everyone, while ignoring all the actual lived stories and reasons that many women (including feminist women) do make that choice.

  70. TomSims
    TomSims March 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm |

    Here’s a thought. Since in the US anyway, marriage is a binding business contract, why not have the couple merge their names the way corporations do when they merge. For example when Martin Marietta and Lockheed merged they became Lockheed Martin. A married couple could do something along the same lines, thus marking the official merger of the two.

    1. roro80
      roro80 March 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

      Companies that merge actually get to decide what name they will take as a single company. Sometimes they merge names, sometimes they take the name of the larger portion of the company, sometimes they choose something new.

      1. Cycleboy1957
        Cycleboy1957 March 11, 2013 at 4:37 pm |

        Having worked in a company that was taken over I can speak of my own experience. At the time of the merger, our company traded under the joint name of A & B. However, after a few years, the parent company decided they’d had enough of such nonsense and dropped ‘our’ original name (which had actually been in existence for over 100 years).

  71. a lawyer
    a lawyer March 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm |

    Name changing is certainly a feminist issue. But (in a good marriage at least) it tends to happen in the context of a lot of other negotiations.

    When should we get married? Where? how fancy a party? when? Where will we live? Who will work? Do we want kids, and if so should they be Catholic, or Jewish, or atheist, or…? Will one or both of us agree to let our parents stay with us when they get old? And what are we going to name the kids, anyway?

    Some of those things are really important to some folks. Some aren’t. Names are in that category for some folks; not for others.

    Of course that doesn’t really change things; it just changes the analysis. Obviously, when you have huge gendered differences in who happens to care about what things and how strongly, they don’t usually arise from genetics. Society is to blame.

    But you can have a “discussion of equals with different priorities” even if those priorities are socially mandated. IOW society’s to blame for the fact that more women than men would value wedding choice and childcare flexibility and various other things. but given that those ARE their values, it’s not unsurprising that they would bargain for them to the exclusion of other less valuable-to-them things.

    1. TomSims
      TomSims March 11, 2013 at 1:44 pm |

      In recent years as same sex marriage has become legal in many states, there has been an explosion of marriages, however in the straight community marriages are at an all time low and it seems soon married straight couples will be in the minority.

      http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57342962-10391704/u.s-marriage-rates-at-all-time-low-why/

      So it may be that marriage for straight folks may be losing its appeal and may soon only be done by The Christian Right aka The American Taliban. And we all know how they like to tell everyone how to live.

  72. Karen Harper (nee Brooks)
    Karen Harper (nee Brooks) March 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm |

    I changed my name when I got married last year. I saw it as a new chapter. I’d had my own last name – and yes it’s my own – for 40 years. I’m a published writer and now publish under all three names – Karen Brooks Harper – and I’m totally fine with that.
    This does not mean I lose my identity. I am still very much me, no matter what people choose to call me. Unlike some of you, my identity goes waaaaaay deeper than my last name. My name is NOT, in fact, my identity.
    And yet I found it important enough to change, you say? Good point. Here’s why: It symbolizes to me the melding of two families – his and mine. It’s a way for me to communicate to the world that we are family – we have the same last name, we are on the same team – and that we formed our family when we got married.
    Yes, I realize it’s his name and not OURS. But I didn’t want to hyphenate because that would make our kids have to deal with a hyphenated name, and what if they marry someone with a hyphenated name, and want to form their own Team Name, so to speak, do they end up with four last names? Six? 10? … Where does it end?
    On a separate note, I’ve never been told my whole life that I need to take his name. In fact, I didn’t think I would, until I married him. I felt the same way about having kids.
    I’m excited and happy about my decision, and I don’t need a bunch of strangers telling me that it’s undermining my own individuality. My husband will be the first to tell you that I am very, VERY much my own person and that nothing can or will ever undermine that.
    What undermines people’s vision of themselves is, in part, a bunch of strangers telling them that they may not know it, but they’re being undermined or lessened.
    “Really? Because until I met you, I was just fine.”
    I have my own career, since long before I met my husband, and my own life and still call my own shots. I’m even the breadwinner in the house.
    So thanks for your concern and all, to those of you aghast at my decision to take my husband’s name, but I’m doing OK without your help.
    – A cranky feminist (GASP!) who’s cranky about cranky feminists.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan March 12, 2013 at 12:30 am |

      Unlike some of you, my identity goes waaaaaay deeper than my last name.

      OH SNAP, Y’ALL.

    2. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan March 12, 2013 at 12:32 am |

      But I didn’t want to hyphenate because that would make our kids have to deal with a hyphenated name, and what if they marry someone with a hyphenated name, and want to form their own Team Name, so to speak, do they end up with four last names? Six? 10? … Where does it end?

      Well, assuming that the number of names doubles each generation, they won’t end up with 6 or 10 because of MATH.

      1. Ledasmom
        Ledasmom March 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm |

        You could have 10 in binary. Of course, it wouldn’t take long.

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan March 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm |

          OMG I already have 10 last names!

        2. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom March 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm |

          And your kids could have 100. Where does it end?

    3. Donna L
      Donna L March 12, 2013 at 1:16 am |

      Not one person here is aghast. But please don’t act as if it’s simply a random coincidence that your husband didn’t adopt Brooks as his last name. Which would equally avoid the dreaded hyphenation issue.

  73. Karen Harper (nee Brooks)
    Karen Harper (nee Brooks) March 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

    I’d add, too, that if you’re OK with people getting married to begin with – a purely traditionalist action – you ought to be OK with people continuing other related traditions as well.
    I want to be clear that I don’t think everyone should change their names. I have friends who have hyphenated, and then both husband and wife take the new one. I have those who made up new names. I have those who simply kept their surnames, though when they had a child it then became an issue.
    My point is that it takes all kinds to make the world turn, and people like me, who went ahead and went the traditional way, don’t need any sympathy from you guys. Well meaning thought it may be.

    1. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

      (I) don’t need any sympathy from you guys

      Honestly, Karen, I really don’t think anyone here (or not many) are offering sympathy or even critisism. However, I still find the whole business puzzling.

      I have argued that your name is your identity, by which I would define the word ‘name’ as that by which you are identified. I certainly would not say it defines you or by changing it your character or personality would be affected. Simply that, were an acquaintance who was searching for find you, and did not know your ‘new’ name, would have some difficulty in finding you or, to use my definition, identifying you.

      As I have said in rather more detail here (http://keepyoursurname.livejournal.com/), having a single name for your family is a perfectly reasonable thing to desire and, in my ideal world, this choice would be equitably chosen. There would be as many women who, like yourself, would choose their husband’s name, but there would be an equal number of men who would choose their wife’s name. However, the latter option is very seldom exercised. It is this very imbalance that is being questioned here. It is not the fact that some women choose the default option but that so many do.

    2. Cycleboy1957
      Cycleboy1957 March 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

      I didn’t want to hyphenate because that would make our kids have to deal with a hyphenated name, and what if they marry someone with a hyphenated name, and want to form their own Team Name, so to speak, do they end up with four last names? Six? 10? … Where does it end?

      Again, this has been dealt with earlier in the thread. Each generation simply chooses which of their two surnames they pass on to their offspring. So, to answer your question: where does (the multiplicity of surnames) end? It never actually starts.

    3. EG
      EG March 12, 2013 at 10:28 am |

      My point is that it takes all kinds to make the world turn, and people like me, who went ahead and went the traditional way, don’t need any sympathy from you guys.

      Did anybody offer you any?

    4. EG
      EG March 12, 2013 at 10:30 am |

      I’d add, too, that if you’re OK with people getting married to begin with – a purely traditionalist action – you ought to be OK with people continuing other related traditions as well.

      What a foolish statement. Are you under the impression that all traditions are equal in their significance, legal weight, and development, just by virtue of being traditions?

  74. LR of The {No Longer) Frozen Midwest
    LR of The {No Longer) Frozen Midwest March 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm |

    I also wanted to chime in with my own experience of Slavic patronymic naming conventions, which I didn’t see mentioned in the comments yet.

    Being born in the Czech Republic, my surname had the traditional suffix “-ova” added, which literally translates as “belonging to [male surname],” in this case, my father.

    In Czech (and Polish, I think) only female surnames use this possessive suffix. Russian and Bulgarian surnames also often use this patronymic, although Russian also uses the masculine version “-ov,” “-ev” or “-off” to denote “son of,” so the connotation isn’t as sexist, in my view.

    When my family came to US in the late 1960s, the fact my mother’s name and mine were different than my father’s apparently caused quite a bit of consternation in immigration court; to save trouble, my mother’s name and mine had the offending “-ova” chopped off, and henceforth we all had the same surname.

    Family members in Europe I keep in touch with are puzzled why I have a “man’s surname.” I just tell them I’m happy to have a surname that doesn’t imply I’m my father’s “property.”

    1. LR of The {No Longer) Frozen Midwest
      LR of The {No Longer) Frozen Midwest March 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

      Family members in Europe I keep in touch with are puzzled why I have a “man’s surname.

      To clarify, in Czech and Polish naming tradition all women’s surnames carry the possessive patronymic: until marriage, a woman’s surname is father’s name+”ova,” after marriage, husband’s name+”ova.”

      1. Donna L
        Donna L March 12, 2013 at 12:55 am |

        until marriage, a woman’s surname is father’s name+”ova,” after marriage, husband’s name+”ova.”

        As far as I know from the example of all my Jewish ancestors and relatives who lived in Poland in the 19th and early 20th century (after Jews were required to adopt hereditary surnames ca. 1820), that wouldn’t be their surname but their middle name. As in, say, a hypothetical child named Rochla Jankielowna Rubinsztejn would = Rachel Rubinstein, daughter of Jacob. Her brother Isaiah Rubinstein, son of Jacob, would have been known as Szaia Jankielowicz Rubinsztejn. After marriage, Rochla would take her husband’s surname, but there would never be an “owna” attached to that surname.

        As has been pointed out above, though, there were quite a few Jewish surnames that actually were derived from women’s first names; in fact, I doubt there are many, if any, Jewish women’s first names that don’t have a surname based upon them. As an example from my own family, my great-great-great-grandfather Moszk Leyzorowicz (Moses son of Lazarus) of Szczuczyn (ca. 1770-1844) married Szprynca (= Shprintze in Yiddish, derived indirectly from the Italian name “Speranza”) Giersonowna [daughter of Gerson] (ca. 1780-1852); when they had to pick a hereditary surname in the early 1820’s, they chose “Pryncsztejn” — based on Sprynca + stone, meaning Hope-stone, not, as one would think, Prince + stone.

        1. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date March 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm |

          As far as I know from the example of all my Jewish ancestors and relatives who lived in Poland in the 19th and early 20th century (after Jews were required to adopt hereditary surnames ca. 1820), that wouldn’t be their surname but their middle name.

          My grandmother, born in then-Russian Poland as [first name] [something]sztajn, married a Russian (Soviet) Jew whose last name was [something]ovski, and became [first name] [something]ovska.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L March 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm |

          I know that’s how it’s done in Russian (Anna Karenina, etc.) and Czech (Martina Navritilova); I’m just not sure about Polish; for all I know it only applies when a surname has a specifically masculine vowel ending, like “ski” (which, as a suffix, means “from,” and usually signifies the family’s town of origin, back when the name was first adopted — as in Warshovski = from Warsaw).

          Added: this is what the Wikipedia article on Polish names says:

          Adjectival surnames, like all Polish adjectives, have masculine and feminine forms. If a masculine surname ends in -i or -y; its feminine equivalent ends in -a. Surnames ending with consonants have no specific feminine form. . . .

  75. NameKeeper
    NameKeeper March 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm |

    I’m starting to feel like and old and cranky feminist. I’ve been married 20 years now (got married at the ancient age of 35) and kept my name. It helped that I married in Quebec, where by law, a woman keeps her birth name (unless she wants to go through the rigamarole of a formal name change from, let’s say, Knoiaurptu[pitr to Smith).

    I would never, ever consider changing my name. As far as I’m concerned, you can dress it up as much as you want and it still comes down to giving up a symbolically important part of who you are and in essence, becoming someone else’s property.

    When we had children, we decided that the surname would go with the sex. We had two boys. Their last name is my husband’s, although my last name is one of their two middle names. Had we had girls, they would have carried my last name. Simple.

    1. roro80
      roro80 March 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm |

      That’s great for you NameKeeper. Glad things worked out well. However, it’s pretty presumtuous to assume you know the reasons other women may have chosen differently, and to dismiss them out of hand. I’m used to the patriarchy telling me that choices I’ve made make me someone else’s property. It’s kind of a slap in the face to have a bunch of feminists do so. I changed my name. Guess what? Still not anyone’s property.

      Don’t tell, but I also shave my legs where make-up — ooh my! Someone take my feminist card!

      1. NameKeeper
        NameKeeper March 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm |

        Issues can be looked at on two levels: the so-called personal and the societal.

        On a personal level, we feel we make our decisions solely based upon our own analysis, feelings, situation, etc. We believe (at least in the West) in free will. And to a certain extent, this free will does exist. But not entirely. To take your example: leg shaving and make-up–both of which I indulge in myself (though not on a regular basis). I know that the make-up I do or do not put on, or the hair that remains or gets shaved off my legs may make me more pleasing to myself (though of course this is cultural), but I also know that I will command more respect, or at very least be judged less harshly, if I present a made-up face to my clients (I am self-employed) or suitably “naked” legs. As an older woman, I know full well that I am less valuable than a younger, fresher looking woman and that I must “fight” to keep my place in society. Ergo, make-up and shaving.

        So make-up–fun as it is–is also a symbol of my oppression, both as a woman and as an older woman. My choice to wear make-up is only partly personal. It is also something I need and use to maintain some standing in a world that judges women–much more so than men–on their appearance and their age.

        You chose to change your name. But society has also given you lots of “encouragement” to do so.

        1. roro80
          roro80 March 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm |

          No matter how you dress it up, wearing make-up means you are a tool of the patriarchy and have lost part of the essence of yourself. You have consciously become the property of the system that oppresses you. You cover your face with make-up because of a desire for male acceptance which translates to more capitalistic gain for you, at the expense of women who choose to show their true selves yet have every bit as much skill.

          Kind of makes me an asshole, doesn’t it?

          My suggestion is that maybe we try out a slightly different tahk: we can all acknowledge the facts and history of the world we live in and the sexist society we are part of without getting judgemental and snotty and superior about individual women’s personal and intimate choices the reasons for which we know nothing about. We can do this even while fighting the patriarcal systems that make some choices more “encouraged” than others.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 12, 2013 at 6:00 pm |

          As an older woman, I know full well that I am less valuable than a younger, fresher looking woman and that I must “fight” to keep my place in society. Ergo, make-up and shaving.

          Well, lots of older women in my family don’t wear makeup or shave their legs and they’re respected and financially secure. Please don’t make excuses about your compliance with the patriarchy!

          I would never, ever consider changing my name putting on makeup. As far as I’m concerned, you can dress it up as much as you want and it still comes down to giving up a symbolically important part of who you are symbolically taking on a role and appearance that doesn’t belong to you and in essence, becoming advertising yourself as sexually available potential-property to all males who might see you. Unlike people without makeup, who come off as confident and secure in their own identity and not interested in pleasing any man who might lay eyes on them.

          (Or, you know, we could all lay off waggling fingers at women, but no chance of that, I suppose.)

          ~Cranky young feminist.

        3. EG
          EG March 12, 2013 at 6:31 pm |

          I dunno, Mac, I wear make-up and I think that a lot of what you wrote up there is true. It does advertise a certain level of compliance with patriarchal models of femininity and attractiveness, and while men who want that may not articulate it that way, that does mean that I am advertising my potential availability to them. It is giving up a part of who I am in the sense that my appearance is part of the way I construct myself, and I am, when I put on make-up, choosing to change the self that I am presenting to the world, however slightly (I don’t wear a whole lot of make-up).

          So while I see what you’re doing…I actually buy the joke. Doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on wearing make-up, in part because Patriarchy.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune March 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm |

          @EG,

          Well, my point wasn’t in the analysis of make-up, but the fact that I don’t actually efel a need to finger-waggle. (Not that I don’t believe it. Hell, I have the ultimate anti-make-up feminist cred – I got married without any!) I just don’t really care to judge others for their decisions when those decisions are, well, frankly not that fucking oppressive (does X changing her name prevent Y from doing different? No? Then STFU maybe?). It smacks too much of lazy judgeypantsness, rather like the childfreers I see routinely acting as if every child’s existence is a personal affront to their own netherbits.

        5. Donna L
          Donna L March 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm |

          It does advertise a certain level of compliance with patriarchal models of femininity and attractiveness, and while men who want that may not articulate it that way, that does mean that I am advertising my potential availability to them.

          Or, wearing makeup could mean, for some women, that they’re trans women who do so because they need it (or believe they need it) to convey certain visual signals that allow them to be perceived as women — not necessarily having anything to do with being perceived as “attractive.” And for older women, of whatever history, I don’t believe it necessarily has very much to do with potential availability either. It has to do with trying to look somewhat younger in an extremely ageist world.

          Even after all these years, I don’t like to be seen in public without wearing lipstick. I still have something of a superstitious belief that it makes a magical difference in how I’m perceived — based upon the fact that nearly a decade ago, prior to my transition, all I had to do sometimes to be addressed as “ma’am” instead of “sir” was to put on some lipstick, even when I was wearing male-coded clothing.

        6. EG
          EG March 12, 2013 at 8:38 pm |

          Absolutely understood, Donna. I was limiting my analysis to my own use of make-up.

        7. SophiaBlue
          SophiaBlue March 12, 2013 at 9:09 pm |

          Cosigning everything Donna said. Honestly, I feel like a lot of criticism of things like makeup and changing your name seems to assume that the patriarchy treats all women’s choices the same.

        8. igglanova
          igglanova March 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm |

          No matter how you dress it up, wearing make-up means you are a tool of the patriarchy and have lost part of the essence of yourself. You have consciously become the property of the system that oppresses you. You cover your face with make-up because of a desire for male acceptance which translates to more capitalistic gain for you, at the expense of women who choose to show their true selves yet have every bit as much skill.

          Kind of makes me an asshole, doesn’t it?

          Well, maybe. But one shouldn’t dismiss the discrimination faced by butch women and female-bodied* genderqueers for not wearing makeup. I know that I am not alone in feeling viscerally uncomfortable when forced to wear a gender ‘costume’ that is incongruent with my sense of self. (And I would have to do this daily in order to even stand a chance of getting a job in this economy.) So…I think some people are justified, honestly, in resenting the capitulation to patriarchy that makeup signifies. It plays a small role in making difficult lives even harder.

          This doesn’t mean that every person who wears makeup is therefore Bad. But, if you can feasibly get away with not wearing makeup, going bare-faced is a small thing you can do to advance feminist / pro-LGBT goals in your daily life. Anything that weakens the social norm of makeup as female necessity is worth the effort.


          *I apologize; this is probably crappy terminology, but I couldn’t think of a better alternative that would suffice.

        9. Donna L
          Donna L March 12, 2013 at 9:58 pm |

          This doesn’t mean that every person who wears makeup is therefore Bad. But, if you can feasibly get away with not wearing makeup, going bare-faced is a small thing you can do to advance feminist / pro-LGBT goals in your daily life. Anything that weakens the social norm of makeup as female necessity is worth the effort.

          Unlike EG, you are definitely generalizing. And despite what I pointed out, you’re certainly erasing trans women (and I don’t only mean “visibly” trans women) — “female-bodied” and otherwise. I think you should be a little more careful about characterizing as “pro-LGBT” something that clearly isn’t necessarily so. I have little doubt that in reality, I could quite feasibly “get away without wearing makeup,” without being perceived as a man. I think it’s entirely inappropriate to suggest that it’s something I should do. I can assure you that I’m very familiar with being forced to wear a “gender costume” incongruent with my sense of self; I did so for decades, and the fact that it involved no makeup whatsoever made it no less a costume. I don’t need to hear that going back to anything resembling that is necessarily a positive thing.

        10. Donna L
          Donna L March 12, 2013 at 10:06 pm |

          PS re “female-bodied”: I’m not sure what you were trying to convey. If what you meant was “assigned female at birth,” that certainly doesn’t correspond with being “female-bodied”; it’s both over- and under-inclusive. But I don’t know what else you could have meant.

  76. Hannah
    Hannah March 12, 2013 at 8:46 am |

    Jill, you may not see this given the amount of comments this post has attracted, but since you commented that you hadn’t seen a study on the effects of name changing on women’s identities I thought I’d draw your attention (and that of anyone else who’s interested) to a colleague of mine who is working on this very topic at the University of York. She might have work of relevance or be able to recommend reading if this was a topic you wanted to research further. Her name is Rachel Thwaites and here’s her page:

    I liked your post here and on the Guardian, but at the same time am mystified as to why women not taking men’s names continues to be such a divisive issue (well, the obvious answer is patriarchy…). It’s a no-brainer for me that my name is my name, my identity – both personally and professionally – and even though I’m not a great fan of it, I’m not giving it away for anyone. It’s bizarre to me that society in the country I’m from (although not in all, as people have pointed out) continues to expect women but not men to change their names on getting married, or risk people speculating on their ‘dedication’ to their partner.

  77. Joseph
    Joseph March 12, 2013 at 11:38 am |

    I saw this posted on the Guardian first, but their comments are closed.

    I’m male and egalitarian. I am married to an outstanding woman who chose to take my name. I did not ask her to, was surprised she wanted to, and felt rather uncomfortable about the whole thing.

    My spouse is a committed egalitarian who dismisses the concepts of patriarchy almost effortlessly. The idea that she chose to change her name because of peer pressure or coercion or fear of pushback is laughable. It was *more* work for her to change her name than not.

    My understanding is that she chose to do so for several reasons – her father left their family when she was a teen; his name had been truncated after her grandparents moved to the US from abroad, so it lacked historic weight; and I think she, as someone who supported herself (scholarship and loans to get through school, worked part-time jobs her whole life), wanted to indicate that she was the product of her own choices (including choosing to be with me) as an adult rather than the product of her family. Furthermore, her own mother kept (or reverted to?) her name and some of her siblings did not share her father’s name, so even within her birth family names were fraught.

    In any event, I share this because I think that the degree of personal circumstance involved in this decision is such that your blanket statement is completely uncalled for. The 50% of Americans you say think women should have to take their spouse’s name are obviously wrong, but to argue the other way is also mistaken.

  78. Joseph
    Joseph March 12, 2013 at 11:43 am |

    also, I failed to note an interesting example – your colleague at the Guardian, football writer Gregg Bakowski took his wife’s name and is now known on his Guardian contributor’s page as “Gregg Bakowski (né Roughley)”.

    See http://www.tunbridgewellspeople.co.uk/Great-story-Anna-marries-journalist/story-13884184-detail/story.html

  79. Cycleboy1957
    Cycleboy1957 March 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm |

    I have read dozens of articles on the subject of women and surnames and literally thousands of comments. There are a number of very good reasons why a person might want to change their surname: an abusive father, an unloved surname, marking the start of a new life chapter, to name but a few. However, none of these reasons can be deemed to be ‘sexed’. I have never yet seen any reason that cannot be applied with equal validity to men as well as women. Yet, they are all reasons women give. (The number of men who adopt their wife’s surname is so few as to be statistically insignificant.)

    Given that the reasons given are not sex specific, if the world were based purely on logic, there ought to be as many men changing their surnames as women, as absent or abusive fathers cannot be the sole preserve of daughters. Yet, Jill’s article states that 90% of American women still change their name on marriage (and it’s probably similar here in ther UK). Therefore, something else is going on. (Patriarchy and social pressure are the obvious candidates.)

    Given the fact that this is a feminist web site it is a reasonable assumption that all the readers of the site have thought about the whole business of feminism quite deeply, including the subject of surnames. So, any decisions those readers have made, male and female alike, are, in all probability, genuine and thought out ones. As I said above, logic would dictate that some women will choose to adopt their husband’s surname for very sound reasons. Therefore, the readers of this article will fall into this latter category.

    If 90% of American women do change their surname, then one must conclude that SOME of them actually didn’t think about it much or felt pressurised to conform. Note, I said ‘some’. By extension, some of them, like the readers of this web site, will have genuine and thought through reasons.

    The problem of discussion this issue is that most of the commentators are self selecting and are therefore already interested in the subject. So, anyone offering an opinionon the matter here will have thought about the issue carefully. Consequently, any critisism of a particular reason for changing a surname will be felt as a personal critisism of their particular choice. This is unfortunate, and I do not see an easy way around it.

    To those of you I have offended, I apologise and hope this goes some way to explain my problem.

  80. Tara Evans
    Tara Evans March 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

    I did change my name when I got married. I did it because I associated my surname with my grandfather, who was hooked on the idea of being a patriarch and controlling his whole ‘clan’. But he was abusive and obnoxious and so I never wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t think my father would be too bothered about it, since my nuclear family all joined a cult in the 1980s where you could choose a new name, and from then on, none of us have been called by the names on our birth certificates.
    However, I now kind of regret it. It makes me appear more traditional than I am, I tend to always get addressed as ‘Mrs’, when I’m ‘Ms’, and my mother-in-law delights in it in her Daily Mail-reader way. Now I’m thinking that the next time my passport comes up for renewal, I will choose my own surname, and therefore ‘belong’ to no-one but myself.

  81. Emolee
    Emolee March 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm |

    See, I don’t really see my last name as my identity at all. I see it as something I was assigned at birth as an identifi*er*, meaning a way for the outside world to identify me, but that said nothing about me at all. I don’t feel attachment to it. Maybe that is unusual, and of course, I don’t expect anyone else to necessarily feel this way, but I really do. Which is why I don’t think that changing a

    1. Emolee
      Emolee March 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm |

      (sorry posted too soon)

      Which is why I don’t think that changing a name is necessarily changing an identity.

      This does not mean that the cultural norm of women changing their names and men not changing theirs isn’t rooted in patriarchy. Just that my ideal world would not be people never changing their names upon marriage. In my ideal world, people will be free, legally and culturally, to either change their name or not, and name changes would happen at about the same rate for all genders.

  82. tigtog
    tigtog March 12, 2013 at 10:23 pm | *

    At 500 comments, the time has come to close this thread. Thank you all for your contributions.

    P.S. all are welcome to take side-discussions raised in the last day to #spillover, but the main topic has been exhausted for the time being.

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