Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's in a name?

The other day Chris and I were discussing the ramifications of women changing their names when they get married. There can be sexism involved, with the assumption that women should take their husband's name. Do a Google search and you will find lots of articles discussing the topic.

There are more and more women choosing either to hyphenate or to keep their 'maiden' name. There are coupes who both hyphenate. Some create an entirely new last name. And I suppose there are some men who take their wife's last name. Lots of solutions for lots of people.

I can only speak personally, so here's my answer to the question of to change or not to change.

When we got married, I wanted us to share a last name, to create a family unit. Last name may not matter to some, but to me, it was important that we be a unit, especially once we had kids.

Hyphenating didn't appeal to me.

So his, mine or ours? I admit I hadn't thought of 'ours'. And here's some brutal honesty. I wasn't attached to my last name. Really, the only connection I wanted to keep to it was my parents - and they weren't going anywhere. Here's more brutal honesty. It is free and easy for a woman to change her last name when she gets married. And free fit our budget. Is it right that a woman can walk in with a marriage certificate and change her name but a man can't? No. But that's the blunt truth in our society.

So, there was my answer. To me, it wasn't about patriarchy. It was a practical decision based on goals that I had. Chris has always been supportive of that, even insisting that we be introduced with both our first names at our wedding reception because we were both individuals.

So what did you choose and why?


  1. The keeping of my Maiden name in some form of fashion (legally Hyphenating it professionally and part time personally keeping the maiden name) Was due for me in large part to my first Son N. He was born of circumstances that meant that he would never know his father. The circumstances of his birth are not ones I write about because they are particularly painful for me however because he has my maiden name I wanted him to always have a family member with the same last name. I think many moms keep hyphenate or change their last names for purely practical reasons.

  2. That is a very practical reason for keeping your maiden name. Goes along with my reason for wanting to change mine. I'm guessing more and more women/couples make their choices rationally rather than just because of tradition.

  3. Interesting post :)
    Personally, I don't see why marriage should change anything... We are all born with one name and that is the one we should use, no matter what happens in our life. I really like the icelandic tradition for that matter.
    I am already enough defined as "the wife of" or "the mom of"..., so I think the least is keeping my birth name. Yes, it might be less "practical". Yes, it means more explanations and discussions sometimes: "ooh, you are not married?", "can I talk to Mrs.B?", "but what about your kids?" and so on. It is worth it nonetheless :)

  4. I have an even simpler explanation to my decision:
    I took my husband's last name because I think it's a cooler last name. Comparing the way his last name sounds to the way mine sounds, I like his better.

  5. Both valid points. I think that's what I like about the current choices - we have them and can choose for whatever reasons we want. Lots of professional women keep their names because of reputation. Some people like being able to change and choose a name rather than the one they were stuck with. There's no one right or wrong answer.

    I think making it a feminist issue is sometimes valid, but not the whole story. I'm glad you all shared your reasons. It's an interesting topic.


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