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Crazy Shit Men Put Out There About Women Taking Their Last Names

October 23, 2014

That whole taking a man’s name bit has come under media scrutiny. I, personally, see it as a personal character flaw for a woman to mindlessly change her name while giving up on her dreams of sleeping with multiple male models through her thirties; however, there is some crazy shit out there that men say about a woman’s commitment and name changing.

Jezebel has published a piece on taking names, as has Huffington Post, it’s the comments regarding the concept of name changing that are galling. Jezebel published these reasons men gave for wanting women to take their names when married:

“I’d like her to want to be a part of my family and be proud of our name.” —Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

“One family, one name. If she didn’t take my name, I’d seriously question her faith in us lasting as a couple. And I don’t want hyphenated kids.” —Brandon Robert Joseph Peyton, via Facebook

“I believe the purpose of marriage is raising children, and children take their father’s name (as a way of identifying paternity). Mothers always have a special bond, carrying their young. Fathers don’t, so [passing on our name] is our compensation.” —Matthew Bratcher, via Facebook

What about a woman liking or disliking a name? Why couldn’t she love the guy but hate the name? Apparently for some men, loving the name is the same as loving the man. Of course, what I love about the Jezebel’s article is that the author just calls out the ownership aspect of name change for what it is:

See? It’s just about family. It’s just about togetherness. It can’t be sexist, it’s tradition! And lighten up—traditions are just rituals through which we fetishize and deify the past, confining our modern social mores to shapes that our great great grandparents would be comfortable with if they happened to time travel here for a drop-in status quo inspection. NBD. THAT’S ALL. How could anyone complain about a tradition? Ugh, historically marginalized groups are such killjoys. (PS Happy Columbus Day!)

Whatever your opinion on 21st-century women taking their husbands’ names (more on that in a second), can we all just agree up top that it is a historically proprietary maneuver with shitty roots? It may mean something different to you now, but it was designed to signify ownership. It’s the equivalent of getting your Dockers home and cutting the tags off and writing your name in the waistband. (STEVE’S DOCKERS! DON’T TOUCH!)

I am not sure women are Docker’s but maybe for some men, they are. Go Lindy West! (Author of the above great comment.)

Here is the thing: American traditions are antiquated when it comes to changing names:

In France, many women keep their maiden name legally but go by their husband’s name socially. According to the Quebec Charter of Rights,women can’t change their last names after marriage without the authorization of the registrar of civil status or the authorization of the court, an effort intended to promote gender parity. In Italy, Chile and the Netherlands, women also, for the most part, keep their maiden names after marriage. Stateside, it’s even becoming (slightly) more typical for husbands to take on their wives’ names.

“I took my wife’s name, because mine was common and I was sick of getting mail, phone calls and other inconveniences from people with the same name,” Rob Wheelock wrote.

Yes, time for the collective gasp of surprise, American traditions (albeit short ones as is the nature of our cultural history) are antiquated and are below international standards. Don’t you just love it that the land of the free apparently still espouses ownership of women once they have sex or agree to have sex with just one man? Are we all more free if we give up the monogamy bit?

Women who decided to keep their names often gave reasons that I am not sure I believe:

I kept my maiden name because I like how it sounds. It takes parents a long time to choose a name for their child (my parents named me Jessica Woods and later had it legally changed to Aubrey Woods). After all that, how could I change to my husband’s last name?” – Aubrey Woods, 34, of Milwaukee

Parental respect? Okay, I guess I believe it could happen, but probably not at 34. Besides, it sounds a bit like the father hand off to the husband as if granting her permission to have a sexuality. I think the first answer is more accurate.
I like the response below best, but she is older and a bit more mature:
“When I got married, I kept my name for several reasons: 1) I had just received my master’s degree with my name, and thought it silly to change my name after achieving that milestone; 2) Whenever you try to look up friends from high school, you can never locate the women because of the name change. It’s an identity eraser, and I didn’t want to erase who I was; 3) I felt it was an antiquated custom that I didn’t need to follow. My husband was fine with it, so why bother? You aren’t fusing yourself with another person, you are joining him in equality. I don’t know why women feel the need to change their last names, to be honest.” – Julien Fielding, 43, of Omaha, Neb.
 I like the idea of not fusing. Fusing in marriage sounds suffocating, something which only a codependent would love. Maybe that’s why some people do get married. Another woman’s father drilled into her the idea of self identity:
“When I was a little girl, I remember very clearly my father saying, ‘Don’t ever change your name…it’s just too good.’ He was a very Italian man with strong roots and our last name is classic in so many ways. His advice has stayed with me even with his passing and although I am getting married in eight months to a man with an equally awesome last name, he understands that my name is important to me and has helped define a lot of who I am. If we have children, they will hyphenate and their last name will be 18 letters long and they will be taught the pride behind each.” – Samantha Contarino, 31, of Philadelphia
Thankfully someone’s father didn’t feel he needed to do a hand off in ownership! It could just be that the woman has worked hard to elevate her name professionally and taking her husband’s name would offer her no bonus, could hurt her career:
“There were two reasons — one personal, one professional — why I kept my birth last name. My parents had two daughters, and my dad’s only sibling — a brother — also had a girl. I wanted to keep my birth name as a way to show respect to my dad and his side of the family. Also, I was a successful pharmaceutical salesperson and had worked really hard to establish respect and credibility. I was not willing to start over with a new last name. And an added bonus: My spouse said he could not imagine marrying someone who would change their last name!” – Tracy McCreery, 46, of St. Louis

You can find the quotes at the Huffpost link here, but in all reality, the name-changing bit is all over the news because of George Clooney’s marriage. Why an old guy getting married is suddenly news fodder, I will never know, but there it is.

Amal Now-Clooney’s name change was rightfully called oppressive, by a CNN writer:

Amal Clooney, a human rights attorney, was quick to take on her husband’s surname, even reflecting the change on her professional webpage.

But one writer for CNN calls the move “oppressive”, calling Amal a “strong, career-driven woman” who was not in need of a man for 36 years.

It could also be seen as just plain power-hungry, that the woman wants the Clooney recognition factor for her career.

I think you can guess where my loyalties lie, in keeping a woman’s name to herself because she isn’t owned by any man. And besides, American traditions, if we can even call them that, are only 200 years old and started by religious fanatics that Europe couldn’t tolerate. Who wants to carry on those “traditions”?

Back to the Jezebel writer, whom I have now turned to as a woovy (comfort blanket for the uninitiated), who speaks rationally about this emotional issue:

“My name is part of who I am.” —Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

“Call it pride or ego, whatever. It’s not happening.” —Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

“It sounds like she’s trying to hang onto her “single person” identity and not identify with the fact that she’s married now.” —Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

Translation: My name is part of who I am. To change it would be unthinkable. It would be like giving up my identity. My identity is too important to give up. It would be a sort of death. So here, women, YOU DO IT. His identity supersedes yours. And any desire to maintain your “‘single person’ identity”—your you-ness—is an insulting affront to the institution of marriage itself.

This is not esoteric academic feminist theory. This is in goddamn MEN’S HEALTH. This is shit you hear from your mom. This is normal.

Depressingly normal. I did hear it from my mom. My mother still believes that feminism killed the American family. Actually, what was killed in her family to disrupt its stable nucleus was the death of my grandfather from cancer, but the devil is in the details for her. Father gone, family shredded, in her opinion, ergo, do anything to keep the father/husband/male in the picture.  So, it’s entirely refreshing to hear someone else just own up to the fact that most people don’t consider women equal to men. More Jezebel genius:

Case in point, here’s what the Men’s Health respondents have to say about disobedient sluts who keep their maiden names:

“It’s not a close relationship.” —Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

She puts herself ahead of her marriage.” —Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

“Their sex life is probably terrible.” —Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

When I read that, I don’t hear anything but pee-pants fear

“Pee-pants fear” just can’t stop laughing. Yes, fear. Maybe these men need to read the post that I wrote about why women don’t want to choose marriage:

Written five years ago and still a top post, so must resonate. Religious zealots = so-called traditions or just plain equality that is recognized worldwide–you decide.


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