What’s in a name?

I read an article on Shine asking women if they changed their last names when they got married.  I was surprised by the number of commenters who said they didn’t or absolutely never would–many of them even said it was a deal breaker.  Some had legitimate arguments: they were writers, doctors, entrepreneurs, etc who had built their names into powerful brands.  To change would mean having to start building their reputations practically from scratch again.  But most of the women were simply “feminists” who loudly proclaimed that it was their right to keep their name, their name was their identity, and changing it was an outdated chauvinistic practice.  And then there were the people who said the paperwork just wasn’t worth the trouble…..

For one thing, I’d never realized people had such strong feelings about this.  It’s a no-brainer for me:  when you get married, you change your name.  Really, the only situation in which I wouldn’t change my name would be if his last name was completely ridiculous and would be cruel to wish on anyone.  If that was the case, I would hope he would change his name to mine.

Personally, I don’t see changing my name as “giving up my identity.”  And I’m not “giving in” to him or “giving him control.”  It’s just a name for crying out loud.  It’s never defined who I am, and it never will, but if I’m marrying someone I’m presumably planning to spend the rest of my life with them, so doing the paperwork would be well worth not having to explain for the next 60 years that ‘yes, we’re actually married’ and ‘yes, I’m the birth mother of the children even though they have a different last name,’ etc….

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One Response to “What’s in a name?”

  1. wittywife Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I get the authors, doctors, etc., to a point. You can still change your name legally but keep your professional name for business purposes.

    As far as feminists go….whatever is what I have to say to that. Their ideals and goals are a moving target. I think in so many ways, the things holding (feminist) women back are themselves, not some evil men.

    Sure, it might be an outdated practice, but so what? It’s not chauvinistic by today’s standards; it’s ritualistic, it’s traditional. Sure, your last name is called the ‘family name’ because originally it was essentially to show which family you were becoming a part of. Maybe it WAS chauvinistic back in the day because your father was giving you to a new family, but I can’t think of a man today who thinks “boy, my fiancee better take my last name so I can show people I ‘own’ her.”

    If it’s so terrible, why do so many married women in the US still change their names?

    What’s so wrong with wanting to identify with your family? What’s so wrong with wanting to share your husband’s last name and become part of his family?

    Nice post!


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