Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: On Women Changing Their Names After Marriage

I read this, and found myself nodding along.
Your name is your identity. The term for you is what situates you in the world. The cultural assumption that women will change their names upon marriage – the assumption that we'll even think about it, and be in a position where we make a "choice" of whether to keep our names or take our husbands' – cannot be without consequence. Part of how our brains function and make sense of a vast and confusing universe is by naming and categorizing. When women see our names as temporary or not really ours, and when we understand that part of being a woman is subsuming your own identity into our husband's, that impacts our perception of ourselves and our role in the world. It lessens the belief that our existence is valuable unto itself, and that as individuals we are already whole. It disassociates us from ourselves, and feeds into a female understanding of self as relational – we are not simply who we are, we are defined by our role as someone's wife or mother or daughter or sister.

Allow me to suggest an even stronger push: If it's important to you that your family all share a last name, make it the wife's. Yes, men, that means taking your wife's name. Or do what this guy did and invent a new name with your wife. And women, if the man you're set to marry extols the virtues of sharing a family name but won't consider taking yours? Perhaps ask yourself if you should be marrying someone who thinks your identity is fundamentally inferior to his own.
And then I read this. And this. And it made me question my privilege, and made me feel ashamed for questioning others' personal decisions, for presuming to think I know what other women should do with something so personal.
While I absolutely believe it is important to do awareness-raising around the option to keep one's name, I also believe it is possible to have those conversations without judging women for whatever choices they ultimate make.
Which, I agree, is a much more respectful and feminist thing to do. To respect women for their choices while simultaneously trying to expand the range of choices they have.

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