I don't get it: Where did your name go?

I don't get it why women still change their names when they get married.  Saying this is "tradition" sounds an awful lot like one of those desperate arguments against gay marriage.  In other words, "that's the way we've always done it."  Translation: it's something you didn't bother to question, but now you're desperately going to hang onto it in spite of the fact that the patriarchal/misogynistic basis of this "tradition" is something you ought to be distancing yourself from.

What does it say to take the husband's name?  You're part of his family.  How sweet.  Now they own you; isn't that romantic?  Remember when your dad "gave you away" at the wedding.  Yeah, you're property.  Oh, really?  Don't think that's what it's saying?  Why not have him change his name?  See how that goes over.  Okay, if this is an equitable arrangement, why not just swap last names if you're going to be equal?  I didn't think so.  And why are you changing your name anyway?  You didn't change.  You're still the same person and you don't belong to anyone, but good luck trying to look up old friends after they got married and cast off their names.

I can understand the motivation of aesthetics for a name change.  Maybe his name sounds better.  Still, do you need to wait for a husband to have an excuse to change it?

I guess this speaks volumes to the Freudians out there, but I hadn't even thought about the issue of what to name the kids when I first posted this.  I knew about the (primarily Latin-American) tradition of accumulating maternal surnames, but that seems as cumbersome as hyphenating.  I'm not a fan of hyphenating in general, although I guess it makes the most sense where the kids are concerned (and each parent retains his/her respective name).  If you had to press me for a solution, I would say the kids get the mother's last name since she's going to get custody of them.

In a bizarre twist on feminism, I actually had to force my ex to keep her name.  She wanted to change it, and I thought that was just a silly and backward thing to do in this day and age.  I won, of course.  Not so much because she saw reason (she had absolutely no ability in that department) but rather because I just wouldn't go forward with the marriage otherwise.  And guess what?  I ended up saving her a couple hundred bucks she would have had to put toward a name change when it came time for the divorce.

Ultimately, what it means in practical terms is that, beyond the philosophical issues, when you change your name, the paper trail ends.  I've tried to look up friends from high school and college only to come up empty-handed.  Yeah, sure, I could hire a private investigator or look through marriage licenses, but I don't have to do that if I'm looking for a guy.  The only difference here is gender, and this isn't an issue related to biology, just culture.  The effect is that this "tradition" manages to isolate a woman from her past.  No ex-boyfriends are going to track her down, no former college roommates are going to find her and say, "You married *him*?  I thought you could have done better than that!".

Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.

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