As women, we grow up with the idea that we will eventually one day possibly change our last name after marriage. I know not everyone is raised with this idea or standard but this was not the case for me. Being raised in a pretty traditional catholic household meant I would take my husband’s name without question. It wasn’t until my adulthood that I started to think differently on this subject.
The age-old tradition of taking your husband’s name is directly connected to the idea that you, as a woman, are a man’s property. When you leave father’s household, you leave his surname and take on your husband’s surname as a show of transference of ownership. Now I know this idea doesn’t apply anymore in this day in age but most women still change their name because it’s what’s expected of us. I still struggled with the concept of changing my name because it’s considered the norm. Even though I was raised with “traditional” values, my parents encouraged me to be independant and never reliant on a man for anything. For example, I knew how to change a tire and throw a pretty good right hook by the age of 17. My father refused to let me rely on him for “manly” tasks. Honestly, he raised me and treated me more like a son than most girls I knew. We went to Home Depot together, he would bring me to car shows, and taught me how to ride a dirt bike. When it snowed, I and all the other neighborhood sons would be out shoveling our driveways. Never once did I see a daughter shoveling. This could also be because I was an only child so I was treated equally male and female out of necessity.
My parents raised me to be a feminist without ever using the word feminism. The concept of feminism was something I didn’t really think about until college. They wouldn’t consider themselves feminists and if I said to them I thought they were; they would probably laugh at me. They probably do expect me to change my name because “that’s just want you do.” Feminism is still such a taboo word in my family and even amongst some of my friends.The idea of being a feminist isn’t something that I’m striving to be it just is what it is. Feminism, by definition, is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men and I feel like that is always what my parents wanted for me. I remember a conversation I had with one of my friends a few years back. He said, “Oh no, you’re not a feminist! Are you?!” It shocked me because I didn’t think it was something progressive of me to be. Honestly I thought of all of my friends, female and male alike, as equals. I replied, “You aren’t!” He laughed, “Oh you,” as if verbally patting me on the head. It definitely opened up my eyes that at least in a certain circle of my friends, I was the minority in this mindset.
Ever since I got engaged my biggest conflict that I’ve had to face is the name change. Well, shopping for a dress hasn’t been easy either. My fiance has said he doesn’t care if I change my name. I appreciate his views on this subject matter because if they were different we probably wouldn’t be getting married.
- Part of me wants to take on his name out of a sign of respect, I guess?
- Part of me doesn’t want to be that person who takes a stand and keeps her maiden name in an act of feminism.
- Part of me thinks its fun to have a different last name.
- Part of me wants to hyphenate but then I would have this ridiculously long name and I already struggle with people spelling my first name correctly.
- Part of me wants to be REALLY progressive and make up our own name and both of us change our name.
He said a firm NO to the last one and reminded me again, “I didn’t need to change my name at all.”
Here’s what I’ve decided, I’m going to keep my last name and take on his last name. I’ve never been a fan of my generic middle name of Ann so I’m basically pulling a ‘Hillary Rodham Clinton’ which I got the idea from this article. As an only child, I feel like changing my last name would be in some way betraying my family. I also feel like if I changed my name completely I would be kind of a hypocrite to my future daughters/sons. How can I teach feminist values when I don’t act like a feminist myself. I made a compromise. Am I overthinking this? Probably.
Thoughts, comments, concerns? I’d love to know everyone else’s thoughts on the subject matter!