In Western society, women are to assume their husband’s last name after marriage, but why? In 1921, early feminist Lucy Stone won an appeal to keep her maiden name post-marriage, stating that her name was her identity “and must not be lost.” Since her attempt, many modern-day feminists have made it their mission to preserve their maiden names, post nuptials.
Why is a woman to assume a man’s name, just because they are now legally bound to one another? If it is to be a show of respect, then why doesn’t the couple each assume a hyphenated last name? The questions only grow more frustrating as time goes on.
I personally would not consider myself a feminist as many in modern society see feminism, and had agreed to take my husband’s surname. However, many months after we had tied the knot and changed address, I still couldn’t bring myself to assume his name, which led to a long and painful list of pros and cons of making the switch.
What woman think
As a woman, you have carried on with your surname for a certain amount of years. It is how you identify yourself, both personal and professionally. Women usually have a number of thoughts when considering a name change, such as:
#1 It’s her working name. Those who perhaps write books or articles for a living and depend on bylines as references may scowl at the thought of losing their last name, and their work attribution. This can be a real pain for working women.
#2 It can be painful to let go. If you are very close to your father, or are the only one left, regardless of gender, to carry on your family name, then this decision can be a nail-biter. It’s emotionally difficult to let go, or give up this piece of yourself. Unless, as it happens, you have a very unfortunate last name!
#3 Why doesn’t he have to do it? If changing her surname is what officially makes you a “family,” then what was the wedding ceremony all about? If she has to change her name to become part of the man’s family, then why doesn’t he have to change his?
#4 Changing your ID is a pain in the rear. Paying for your license, health ID, social insurance number, passport, and other forms of identification is, putting it gently, quite the aggravating process. If she can legally assume the man’s surname without having to physically change hers, why not do it the easy way?
What men hear
Your man is likely going to be hurt, at least a little, when you say you don’t want his last name. When floating the idea to my husband of keeping my name, or hyphenating both surnames, he became deeply offended. Some men, regardless of their love for equality and women’s rights, may just be traditional at heart.
Men look forward to seeing you with their last name, not because they want to “own” you, but because to him you’ve now become a family. Men usually have little interest in planning a wedding, nor do they really care what you or your bridesmaids wear or what colors you are having for your theme. Instead, he looks forward to seeing you become part of his family. In reality, this is one of the only things he gets from being married, aside from your terrific company.
For men, not taking his name is the same strange offence he gets when you don’t want to swallow or be around his semen. Your man might not be able to put into words why he is offended by your actions, but he is. Men’s egos bruise easily, and to him this feels like a rejection of sorts.
What you can do about it
So what do you do when you’re at a relationship stalemate regarding your surnames? My husband and I talked about it, fought, put off talking about it for weeks, talked about it again, fought, and the cycle repeated itself. Since both parties want to show respect, and neither wants to offend or force their decision on the other, examples of compromise are as follows:
#1 Hyphenate your last names. Agree to hyphenate your last name with his. Sure, it looks a bit long and dramatic on your driver’s license, but this way appeals to both sides, since technically you’re taking his last name. You just get to keep yours this way, too.
#2 Both change surnames. Some women don’t want to change their names, because they’ll feel like in some way they’ve lost a part of themselves, or lost an invisible battle of the * , or lost their future children’s views on gender equality.
If you have a fairly open-minded man who agrees that sharing the last name is about being a family, ask him if he would mind sharing your hyphenated names, or simply create your own last name as some couples have done. This way you’ve both made the sacrifice, and have started your own family name.
#3 Assume a professional name. In some Western countries, you can assume your husband’s surname without legally changing yours. In the case of changing your name becoming a professional blunder, why not use one surname legally, and the other professionally?
#4 Change it if you have children. Growing up with parents assuming different last names can be confusing, and at the very least, a little annoying when dealing with schools and officials. For these reasons, and for the sake of keeping your family name the same as your child’s, you may choose to assume your hubby’s surname once you have children.
It’s your choice
Nobody can tell you which answer is right or wrong. For a while, you may like keeping your identity the same, and with time you may decide to change it. Whatever makes you happy is the choice that should be made.