Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Marriage and Giving Up Your Name

I honestly had no idea that this was still an issue.

I can't think of any married couple I know such that the female gave up her last name and took the male's name. I know some people who made up a new name composed of both names... But other than that, everybody just keeps his or her own name.

I'm sure it's true that having one name makes a bunch of things easier. And to each his own, of course, in such a matter. But, other things being equal, it does seem like there are some reasons for women not to take their husband's name. As a free choice among all the different options, it's fine. When imposed heteronomously on everybody, it's way messed up. It also seems to suggest some kind of transfer of women from their fathers to their husbands, and/or to suggest that females are supposed to give up some part of their identity in marriage...or some such thing. These things are rather vaporous and hard to pin down with much precision. But, whatever the details, it seems obviously not good. Since it doesn't seem to have died out, it seems like there are at least some (perhaps weak) reasons to avoid it, lest we be seen as supporting a bad practice. Those reasons are legitimately overridden by any number of other reasons. Like, say, if your name is Maxine Sticklethorpenstein, but you're marrying John Power, so you can ditch your crappy last name and become Max Power. That would be a good reason.

I guess this same kind of question comes up when people have kids. One solution--very bad by my lights--is that girls get the mom's name, and boy's get the dad's. I don't see why names should be attached to sex in that way. Seems to reinforce bad views to me--though, again, such considerations are easily overridden by facts about particular cases. Sadly, there seems to be no good solution to this. We can't keep adding hyphens to people's names forever...

Is this bloody well going anywhere?

Apparently not...


Blogger Random Michelle K said...

I kept my name when I got married, and my husband briefly considered changing *his* name, however, he has the same first name as my father, and because my name is so rare, as it is we've had issues with my parent's mail getting forwarded when my brother or I moved. (As in, the bank started sending me my parent's mail.)

I have several friends who changed their names, and several who didn't.

One who did NOT change her name, still considers doing so, because her young daughter asks why Mommy doesn't have the same last name as her.

From a last name dying out point-of-view, in the US, everyone with my last name who has kids, has a daughter. So there is a very real possibility my last name will die out with the next generation.

Which makes me a little sad.

8:18 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

You can't think of a couple you know wherein the woman took the last name of the husband, eh?


For whatever it's worth, neither of us consider it a big deal (though I consider it a flattering honor), but she did take my last name. If she didn't want to, she certainly was in no way obligated to do so.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Did Mrs. M take your last name? Despite having been at the wedding, I somehow didn't realize that. Of course I was drunk and all, but still...

You retrograde sexist pig.

I suppose you're going to give that offspring of yours your last name as well.

You make me sick.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous computer phil said...

You've stirred up your own fevered swaps here. :-) As with Mystic, you were at *my* wedding too, although that was before the first Clinton presidency. Anyway my wife gladly surrendered her run-of-the-mill, pronounceable-in-English name for mine.

I happen to know a couple where he took her family's name. I don't know what his "maiden" name was, so I have no idea who's legacy is being truncated.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

et tu, CP?

Feck. Right you are. Wrong am I.

Ok, you're a sexist pig, too.


12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's still fairly common in my experience (though I'm mid 40s...), and about 60% of the people I know have the same last name in marriage (no idea who took whose, so to speak).

In the two instances where I know the names of the children, and where both partners kept their last name, the couples used the following formula regardless of gender (and the couples, to my knowledge, do not know one another):

First name, Mother's Last name, Father's last name.

e.g., Jennifer Smith Thompkins.

In the interest of full disclosure I'm also a sexist pig also I guess...my wife did take my last name also, though I told her it was completely up to her and didn't matter to me.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Yeah, I think the name-dying-out issue is actually one of the more important considerations here. I've certainly never heard of another K******. What is that, anyway, like, Martian or something?

1:18 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Look, if clearly labeling one's property is chauvinistic, I want no part in your femmunism.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


That joke, my friend, while hilarious, would not fly in certain circles, just so you know.

Though to get the full effect, you probably have to know you guys.

8:05 AM  

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