Monday, October 26, 2009

Changing Last Names

I just read an interesting post by Jill over at feministe about women changing their last names when they get married.

The post centered on a poll that found 70 percent of Americans believe that a woman should change her name when she marries, and 50 percent believe it should be required by law.

Shocking isn’t it?

I mean, I know most people don’t even think to question when a woman changes her name to her husbands, but 50 percent is a pretty high number. I was also really struck by the reason many participants thought a woman should change her name:
When the respondents were asked why they felt women should change their name after the wedding, Hamilton says, “They told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family. This was a reason given by many.”
This quote really highlights my problem with this sort of thing. It’s not the name change in and of itself that I have a problem with – it’s the fact some people look at the name change as proof that women are giving up part of their identity. And that’s just not cool to me.

The poll also found that only "5 to 10 percent of women keep the name they were born with when they marry." It just seems like that number should be higher for some reason. I have no intentions of getting married, but I also have no intentions of changing my name. I like my last name and its part of who I am. It just seems wrong to me that I have to let that go while no one expects Ryan to.

I know there are many reasons why a woman would change her name, but I think it’s strange when people use the excuse that their last name is their father’s anyways. I don’t understand this. When I think of my name I don’t think of my father. It is part of who I am and I think this is a flat excuse.

Jill said it best:
What confuses me (and gets under my skin) is the justification — or at least, the justification based on things other than the very real, tangible sexist reactions that married women face when they keep their own names. Things like, “Well, it was my father’s name.” Well, sure, but what does that mean? That no woman ever has her own name, unless she was born into a culture where naming is matrilineal? Or, “I like his name better.” Ok, but do men regularly change their names just because their partner as a “better” name? I’ve come across maybe one man in my whole life who has done that — I somehow doubt that it just so happens that 99 percent of people with the “better” name are male. Or, “I want our whole family to have the same name.” Again, understandable, but how come he didn’t change his name? Or you can both change your names.
Jill’s post made me think it might be cool if both partners changed their names. In fact, I’m really digging this idea. (Alana and Ryan Jingleheimer Schmidt has a certain ring to it no?)

I do have to admit that I gave Holden Ryan’s last name. I didn’t even really think about it to be honest and now I’m thinking that was kind of weird. I pushed that giant headed baby out of my vagina and he doesn’t even have my last name. How weird is that? (I did pick his whole name though to be fair.)

It's also worth pointing out that the study also found that when, "Asked if they thought of a lesbian couple as a family, those who believe that women should take their husband’s name are less likely to say yes."

-You can find more information regarding the poll here.


  1. fascinating.

    i had a muslim boss once, recently married, and when i asked her her new last name she informed me that her name was still the same. i was curious, but not shocked, 'cause to me it's REALLY not that big of a deal. anyway, she told me that if she'd changed her name she would be losing her identity. she keeps her father's name.

    very cool to know.

  2. I haven't decided what I will do if/when I get married. I love my last name, too. And if I married someone with the last name Regan, obviously I don't want to be Megan Regan!

    More and more I start to think I'll keep my own name, but who knows?

    That said, it makes me sick, that comment about women needing to assume their husband's identity. Yuck.

  3. If I end up with someone in a vanilla relationship, I don't think I'll change my name. However, if I marry someone with whom I have a D/s relationship, I will, as our relationship is based on ownership, and changing my name for that person would signify ownership in a way that not much else can.


What's on your mind?