Marriage. As a 21-year-old college senior, that’s something that feels incredibly far away. But realistically, if I end up getting married (which is something that I want to do), it will probably be sometime in the next ten years, especially if I want to start having kids in my early thirties. Of course, many people my age are already married or engaged, which is not in my immediate plans, but to each their own. Whenever I see someone new who gets engaged or married on social media, I see dozens of posts that say “Proud Mrs. [insert his full name here]!”, “Can’t wait to be a [insert his last name here]!”, or other exclamations. This got me thinking, when I get presented with that pink morganite engagement ring: Will I change my last name when I get married?
Quick note: I’m going to be speaking in a heterosexual context because I am heterosexual so that’s what I’m most familiar with and because I don’t see the name changing trend as much in homosexual couples. If you know more than I do about name-changing in homosexual couples, please enlighten me!
Jill Filivopic wrote an awesome piece for The Guardian a couple years ago that questioned the same thing:
You got married, congratulations! But why, in 2013, does getting married mean giving up the most basic marker of your identity? And if family unity is so important, why don’t men ever change their names?
So, yeah. Why is that still a thing? Answer: because that’s the way it’s always been. Historically, a woman in England would assume her new husband’s family name after marriage, and this remains common practice in the United Kingdom today as well as in common law countries and countries where English is spoken. Of course, this originated in the days when women were basically property– She was born with their Father’s last name because they are his property until she is married to someone and she becomes his property. Of course, family names were not even adopted in England until the 13th or 14th century, so we have not had this custom forever.
I just think that, in the modern era, there is reason for a women to change their name other than tradition, but the fact is that some traditions are outdated. Isn’t that the purpose of feminism? To gain equality, to challenge traditions, and to ultimately change our patriarchal society? A great satirical blog post titled My Husband Didn’t Take My Last Name explores all of the different concerns people have related to changing or not changing their last names. It’s definitely worth the read!
For me, my name is my identity. I’ve always had my name, and as a young professional it makes sense for me to keep my name. I want to be google-able (if that’s even a word), I want to be given credit for all of my work, I don’t want to have to change my professional email address. These are little things that people may not think about when they get married, but they make a difference.
I’m not trying to insult anyone who wants to change their last name when they get married, I just think that everyone should think critically about why they’re doing it before they do. For example, if you want to have the same last name as your husband, ask him to change his last name match yours! Or hyphenate! Or make a new last name! If you want to be more connected to your children, why can’t they share your last name? The children argument is the only argument that makes me a little hesitant about not changing my last name, but I’ll be connected to them no matter what, I don’t need to share their last name. And a family that all has the same last name is very unifying, but can’t you create the same unity with love? Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind in ten years, but as of right now, I am who I am because of my name, and I want to keep it.
In the new series #AskWhy, some ShoutOut! bloggers (and anyone else who’s interested) will explore traditions and customs in our culture and ask why things are the way they are. If you’re interested and want to read more pieces that question our cultural norms, customs, and traditions, check out talkinboutmygenderation’s post about engagement rings!