The most common name-change question

This post was inspired by recent questions from Katie Mills and Stinky. The topic was women not changing their names when they get married, and Katie said, "I'm curious, what do you say to the the multiple hyphen after multiple generations argument? Like your daughter will be Biffle-Piepmeier-Smith and her daughter will be Biffle-Piepmeier-Smith-Johnson?" Similarly, Stinky asked, "What do you recommend the children's last name be if the parents have different last names? If it were the cultural norm to hyphenate childrens' names, then before too many generations, we'd end up with a horrible mess of huge last names."

This, as you might suspect from the title of this post, is the most common question I get when I make an argument against women changing their names when they get married, or when I share that Walter and I decided that either both of us would change our names or neither of us would. (And you all know that Biffle-Piepmeier is just an unimaginably bad last name, which is why we haven't yet hyphenated.) I dealt with this a tiny bit on January 3, but I wanted to give it a little more attention here.

Before I give my answer to the question, let me lapse into a Biffle-esque backstory and explain why this name change thing matters to me at all. Women changing their names when they get married is a direct hold-over from the days when a woman's legal identity became her husband's when she got married. When she was born, she was her father's property, and she remained his property until she got married, at which point she became the same legal person as her husband. This concept was known in the U.S. as feme covert --it meant that the husband and wife had one identity, and that identity was the husband's. She couldn't own property, she had no right to their children, she had no right to determine what happened to her body, and she essentially had no citizenship. That started changing with the Married Women's Property Act of 1848, but many parts of the feme covert ideology lingered well into the 1960s and '70s. In fact, many feminist theorists argue--pretty convincingly, if you ask me--that our legal system still acts as though the woman is her husband's property even today. Witness the incredibly low prosecution rates for domestic violence, and the fact that marital rape is not against the law in states like Tennessee and South Carolina. Married women reading this, beware: in these states, once you get married, you've given permission to have sex anytime he wants. Forced sex doesn't count as rape unless he uses a weapon or causes serious bodily injury.

So. The name change is a hold-over from all that. When a woman in 1840 got married, she was literally Mrs. John Smith. Her identity was gone. That wasn't baggage that Walter or I wanted to bring into this partnership. Plus, I'm attached to my name. It's who I am. As Lucy Stone said in the 1850s, "My name is my identity and must not be lost." Why should I be expected to abandon that because I'm female? Why doesn't anyone ask guys who are getting married, "Well, are you going to take her name? Do you think she'll be upset if you don't?"

So, what do non-single-name families do if they have kids? My answer is, we--as a culture--haven't figured that out yet. We may have to wallow around in some confusion for a while, trying different things. Some people may hyphenate. Some may choose a new last name altogether (Bifflemeier, for instance). Maybe some men will take their wives' last names. At any rate, I don't think easiness is a compelling enough argument for keeping any tradition--we need to examine the tradition and decide if it's worth keeping. (Plus, as Walter points out, what's easy about going to the DMV and insurance companies and your employer and saying, "No, my name is this now"?)

Walter and I have decided that if we have kids we'll alternate last names--I have a couple of friends who've done that. But the first kid will definitely have to be a Piepmeier, because otherwise everyone will think we've copped out and opted for the kids to have his last name. Everything's a political statement to me, I know. But everything is a political statement to me.

Other common name change questions and my answers:

Q: Why don't you support a woman's right to change her name if she wants to?
A: She certainly has this right, and I'm not arguing that it should be taken away. But for something to be a real choice, there has to be more than one option that's acceptable. Currently, a surprisingly high percentage of women in heterosexual marriages change their names--I don't know the percentage, but anytime I see it, it surprises me because it's so high. Let's say 90%. If 90% of women are choosing this, then that says to me that there are cultural pressures affecting women's ability to make a free choice. Not to mention the fact that probably 0.1% of men who get married change their names, so there's a severe double standard here, and those always trouble me.

Q: But it's so romantic to take your husband's name! What about that?
A: Oppressive cultures always romanticize the tools of their oppression. The slave South was loaded with tools for making slavery seem charming. Colonial powers create and perpetuate images of the colonized people that make the colonization seem natural, healthy, desirable. I'm not suggesting that a woman changing her name is on par with slavery, of course, but I'm saying that just because something feels good doesn't mean that it's defensible. Cultures train us to feel certain things because those feelings perpetuate power hierarchies within the culture. Naomi Wolf refers to these as a culture's "necessary fictions."

Q: Well, if I keep my name when I get married, I'm just carrying on my father's name, which is just as patriarchal.
A: Yeah, it's true, but we've got to start somewhere.


Anonymous said...

That last question reminds me of how I really want to change my last name to my yia-yia's (grandmother's) maiden name. She had a beautiful Greek last name, Tricoles, that I feel is important to my family history and I don't want it to be lost over generations. In the event that I change my last name to Tricoles, and in the event that I ever adopt, I would probably want my child to have that name. I could probably get away with arguing that it's just prettier. While it is true that yia-yia received that last name from her father, I've never known any other family members who have it so I think it would be less patriachally-influenced to change my name in honor of her.

Jamie H.

Anonymous said...

If I am correct, women actually legally change their names at marriage to a husbands last name. Going to the post office and filling out a change-of-name form is definately an action. The inaction would be to *not* change one's last name at marriage?

Stressing that the act of taking a husband's last name *is* a choice and act is important. The marriage license and change of name applications are separate processes, tied by tradition and not law. The "feminist" act of not changing a name is actually cheaper, since it doesn't require a processing fee :)

J.E.B. Stuart, IV said...

There is a GOOD reason for keeping your husband's last name:

1. As the Bible says, "Wives shall submit to your husbands." It is the will of the Lord that you change your name if your husband wishes it so.

2. The hyphenating of hyphenating just plain scews up children. Why would you want to screw kids up more than they are. It just don't make sense.

3. Relationships are important to a woman's identity. Don't screw that identity up!

4. Having women keep their own last names encourages divorce. Why do you want to do things that hurt families and society? Marriage is healthy--our federal govt. just spent $1 billion on promoting marriage last year.

5. The DNA of men is the dominant gene and what is passed from generation to generation. The last name is shorthand for the male genetic code that creates every person's identity.

6. These name changes just plain screw with geneology. Why make it harder for people to trace their heritage? Don't you want people to remember their history, to acknowledge their past? Its just plain wrong to ignore history.

These are just a few of the reasons why this practice is not good. Legislation should be passed to make women uniformly adopt their husbands names and children their father's names. The latter also helps to crack down on deadbeat dads, who might otherwise only be traced by genetic testing if what you do becomes commonplace.


Anonymous said...

Your post reminds me of a conversation I had with a cousin who asked "But how did you do that?" after she realized that I hadn't changed my name after marriage. The answer, "It was easy; I didn't do anything; I did much less than any woman who changes her name" (i.e., no forms, no paperwork, no standing in line at the DMV) seemed to flummox her.

Even now, I have to reassert my unchanged last name to some old friends and family. For some of them, it's so out of the norm for them/my hometown community that they can't seem to keep the information in their working memory, even though it should be easier to remember. Each time it happens, it forces me to reexamine how much this matters to me and how best to address it. In calling me by Jeremy's last name, they are addressing someone who doesn't exist.

But, the other thing is that reportedly, in some states (Alabama for instance) a woman's last name is automatically changed at marriage, so that a woman who doesn't wish to change her name has to fill out paperwork in order not to. I'm not sure how true this information is currently, but I have at least one friend from college who went through the process to keep HER OWN name. I've ignored it since we no longer live in the state, but I'm not sure if this is wise or not. All that to say, the concept of femme covert though it seems outdated, is not so far from us as we'd hope.


Heather Bailey said...

back when i was going to get married, i know that this was a point of contention. i also got into a huge tiff with my father over him giving me away at my wedding. i was steadfastly opposed to it. to me it represented one man making a business exchange of property to another man. i told him that if he insisted, that i would wear a cowbell and fully conform to my status as chattel property. :). that didn't go over real well. but as it turned out, none of those issues had to be dealt with.

i like the idea of girls getting their mother's last name and boys getting their father's last name. yes, there is the past patriarchy problem, but i agree with starting somewhere. however, if i end up being in a situation where i can make this happen, i will have to move out of the state of tennessee. to my knowledge, it is currently the only state where a child is mandated to have the father's last name.

Christy Payne said...

In response to Jeb IV, you can't possibly be serious. I take special offense to "reason" 5 regarding dominant male DNA. Certain traits/genetics are dominant regardless of the carrier. Neither X nor Y chromosomes are dominant, but if you want to get into a pissing match, X (re: female) chromosomes are larger. See this reference page for a quick biology lesson (http://www.biology-online.org/2/6_sex_chromosomes.htm)

Charlie said...

a) Is J.E.B. Stuart IV the non-anonymous version of our anonymous friend? If so, welcome to existence! Otherwise, at least there are social conservatives using actual names or aliases now! So that's good too. I'm not kidding. It is good.

b) I really don't have anything to say about your post, Alison, other than "I liked it" and "How do you feel about the gays hyphenating?"

Kevin O'Mara said...

I love trolls. I can't help it.


1. As the Bible says, "Wives shall submit to your husbands." It is the will of the Lord that you change your name if your husband wishes it so.

And for those that don't believe in the bible? They should change their names why? A Hindu or athiest or Buddhist or mixed-religion couple should do what? Oh, nevermind. I'm sure that you'll tell me that Christianity is the one true religion and that everyone else is going to hell regardless of their last name.

2. The hyphenating of hyphenating just plain scews up children. Why would you want to screw kids up more than they are. It just don't make sense.

Explain to me, please, in detail, how a string of letters representing a concept ("name") is going to screw up a kid. If anything I would think it would make it easier for the child. "Daddy is a Smith and Mommy is a Jones and so because you are part of both of us you're a Smith-Jones." I like it! I may explain it to my kids this way! Well, except it'll be Mills-O'Mara with the wife's last name first 'cause that has a better ring to it. And extending this to multiple hyphenations will only enhance a child's attachment to their grandparents and their past.

3. Relationships are important to a woman's identity. Don't screw that identity up!

I can't have anything to say to this. Next time try saying "The sky is green" for a more rational and founded statement.

4. Having women keep their own last names encourages divorce. Why do you want to do things that hurt families and society? Marriage is healthy--our federal govt. just spent $1 billion on promoting marriage last year.

I would love - LOVE! - to see some solid statistics on this. Multiple reporting parties, please, and none funded by your church or right-wing conspiracy unit.

5. The DNA of men is the dominant gene and what is passed from generation to generation. The last name is shorthand for the male genetic code that creates every person's identity.

I think Christy covered this one pretty well. Beware! We have scientists in our midst! SPOOOOOKY!

6. These name changes just plain screw with geneology. Why make it harder for people to trace their heritage? Don't you want people to remember their history, to acknowledge their past? Its just plain wrong to ignore history.

You know what? We really should be passing the mother's name down the line, especially if you're worried about genetics and geneology. You can say that you're the father but you can't fake being the mother. The Orthodox Jews have it right by saying the child of a Jewish mother is a Jew. Who knows who the father was? More important as a father figure should be the uncle, brother of the mother. Then families are complete and solid and you always know who is who and you can trace your whole family back forever.

Or ... you could, if we'd been doing it the right way all along.

J.E.B., I'm sorry my comments are so short and not more well-written. I haven't finished my first cup of coffee yet. I'll come back later and see if I have anything else to add.

Anonymous said...

Oy, my name change story takes pages and pages to tell because the TN DMV wouldn't let me hyphenate and didn't want to let Arthur change his at all without a court order (even though the Social Security office had already processed the hyphenation change). But, as I said, that's a really long story.

Here's a short story: TTU for a long time sent all their money-begging mail to "Mrs. and Mrs. Arthur Goldsipe." I wrote to them a bunch of times asking them to change it to "Arthur and Mel Goldsipe" or "Mel and Arthur Goldsipe" (along with a longwinded explanation of why), but they didn't until I told them I'd stop donating money until they fixed it. They wrote back saying that there were some computer database issues that were making it hard to make the change, but they did eventually get it right. Wow, that ended up being pretty long, too.

--Mel Goldsipe nee Mel Gold-Sipe nee Melissa Gold

Jason C said...

I hope you and Walter also continue to link to any other media that prints stories by or containing quotes from you both. They're such great reading. Frankly, I kind of liked Bifflemeir as well, but to each their own.

One of the coolest parts of Angela just keeping her own name is that so many of her acquaintances call me Jason Dyer. Her family all even call me a Dyer. My family do the same to her, not out of some sort of misunderstanding anymore, but out of affection. Our families have truly adopted the other person. Now, if we could just stop getting mail to Mr. and Ms. Jason Dyer/Angela Coleman/Snuffaluffagus/Loch Ness Monster/other thing that doesn't exist in reality.

Kevin and Katie: I am concerned for your children. Not for the hyphen, but for the apostrophe. Seriously, you should consider Mills-O-Mara, or better yet: Mill-O-Rama.

Oh, and to Mellisa: You and your husband have both Angela's and my vote for all-time coolest name change. We're actually jealous your name combined to be something so cool. You guys have been (unwittingly) shining examples of cool to both our families. However, if it's now Gold; well that's cool, too.

Walter said...

hey! kevin--play nice, now. although i don't agree with jeb at all, he did write what i think seems to be a thoughtful comment on here. and not even anonymously.

alls i'm sayin' is i don't want to get flamed by jeb or anybody else--and so let's not flame them back.

(alison has now told me that you did not "flame" jeb, but you know what i mean...)

now. that said, i have at least one funny question for jeb myself:

how come hyphens are anymore confusing that four names and a roman numeral?

Walter said...

damn. i typed "that" instead of "than." i've ruined the internet.

Katie Mills said...

Ha ha, obviously I have been out of the loop because I thought your name WAS Biffle-Piepmeier! And all I could think about was how hard it would be for your poor children to learn how to spell that (I still remember how hard it was learning how to spell Katherine, that was rough!)

Fun factoid: My brother and I have the same middle name, Tran, my mother's maiden name. I don’t know why nobody else ever thought to do that. My parents are dang smart!

Anonymous said...

2 of my Iowa friends added "Charis-" to the front of their former last names when they wed. Their child's last name is simply "Charis." It's an interesting idea. They still get aphabetized together.

In British Victorian culture, a woman's loss of legal status upon marriage was called coverture. Did they use this term in America too, or just femme covert? British Married Women's Property Acts didn't start to show up until the 1870s.

--Robin (who tonight was put in her place by a waiter who only noticed the muchacho, even though she was paying)

Alison said...

Whoa, the blog is hopping!

Jason: I LOVE Mills-O-Rama--best last name ever.

Katie: Learning to spell difficult last names (like Piepmeier) isn't that bad as long as you invent a song for it.

Robin: Yes, it was called coverture in the US, too--probably more than femme covert, come to think of it.

Kevin O'Mara said...

Walter - didn't mean to be rude, just ... couldn't ... hold ... back ...

also, he may have put a name on there but that doesn't mean he's not anonymous, if you catch my drift. I could sign this as Alfred Honeysuckle, I reckon.


Kevin O'Mara said...

Oh, and Alison? Can you please record the Piepmeier song? Trey never sang it for me.

christiemckaskle said...

I took my husband's last name because it's so difficult for telemarketers to pronounce. My former last name was Bates, so anybody could use that and pretend they should be calling me. (Okay, that's not why, but it has been a nice side effect).

We have one daughter who plans to just use her first and middle name when she grows up - though I guess there's no reason for her to wait until them. In fact, she already signs her artwork that way. Is there really any reason not to just do that (ie, plan on letting them name themselves when they grow up)?
And don't try to tell me social fabric will unravel. I can't tell you how often schools and other people are surprised that everyone in our house shares a last name.

Maig said...

Alison and Walter,
Thanks for sharing all the history on the subject. I knew most of it but I didn't know the dates and stuff. I agree that that tradition isn't for me. I, too, feel that it is a symbol of an archaic way of doing things and I want to make my mark in history with MY OWN NAME and have always felt that way. I have identified with it all my life...Megan Elizabeth Hall!
But that's just me- and I love having the ability to be just me- no matter how difficult it seems sometimes.

Plus- once I know a person...call them their name, become friends with them - I become attatched to their name as a part of them. I can't let go of that...I still call both of my sisters Rebecca and Valerie Hall even though both of their names are changed. And my close friends who have married...will always be referred to as the name I have grown up calling them ...I just can't help it. If that bothers them I hope they can forgive me. And whatever their choice may be my hope is that it's accepted and supported. Luckily I don't think many of my friends will of have changed their names... so that makes it easier.

You know what else is cool- my name is sort of matriarchal. After doing some research I found that Hall came from a woman who had a child out of wedlock and gave her son her name. Her son moved from Welby, England to Richmond, VA. His son moved to Jackson County. Eventually the name reached to my Dad and then me! And that woman... who I think of as brave (not knowing all the details)- is the woman who gave me my name. So I am keeping it...I like it. It's easy to spell. It's written on most things of mine.
The most important thing about taking someone's name or not is -CHOice. The point is having options and to think through why things are the way they, what they mean to you and if it's how you want to do it. There's my babble on the subject. Thanks for sharing yours! Love ya'll!

Scout said...

Had I to do it all over again, I would be Sara Bifflemeier...with Mills-O-Rama a close second.

Warning--long babbling ahead. I know, I know, I should get my own blog.

I remember not even thinking about changing my name. I always knew I would be Sara Walker. As I explained it to folks at the time, I had just started to figure out who I was and didn't want to give that up. I still don't understand why it needs explanation. Come to think of it, none of my immediate family or my husband's family even asked. Maybe they were just surprised when I kept it or maybe they realized it wasn't any of their business.

What I couldn't understand and still don't today is how many people view my choice as impacting them. Unlike Alison, not everything I do is political. I'm just an ordinary person. I can't tell you how many people (mostly strangers and remote acquaintenances) were offended/hurt/angry/upset by the fact I kept my name. They viewed it as an affront to their choice. On more than one occasion, I tried to explain that I hadn't been thinking of them at all at the time of my wedding. One person told me that my keeping my name was a slap in her face. I was shocked. Has anyone else experienced these vibrant reactions? Or was it just getting married in Oklahoma that brought them on?

My con

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel bad that my wife chose to change her name. Should I have tried to talk her out of it? Sometimes I am overwhelmed she gave up her name, like I've brought less to the table. She says she feels no connection to her maiden name, because it's her fathers name, who divorced her mother when she was young.

Isn't there a tradition in latin countries where you have two last names, one from each parent? I tried to figure out a version of that that wasn't male biased, but got confused.


Eliza McGraw said...

As someone who changed her name, I have to agree with it all getting more complicated--but that includes choosing to change a name. I grew up with divorced parents--my mom had changed her name to my stepfather's, and my stepmother never took my dad's name. All the separate names made things feel less familyish, and everyone in my various families worked very hard to make the more important thing familyish, so it worked out. Still, I always knew I wanted a family someday where we were just the Surnames.

And I have to say it has been nice now that we have two kids and we are the McGraws. On the other hand I didn't want to drop any of my patriarchal markers and thus ended up with two middle names.

I wonder how many of the families who give their kids alternating last names grew up in divorced households. In my own family, it's been a real mix--my little sister changed her name, one of my stepsisters hyphenated (and she and her husband changed the spelling of his, which is a whole nother store, because it was Heiman and everyone prounced it Hymen and so now it's Heyman, like hey, man) and the other kept hers.

christiemckaskle said...

And then there's the former Karin Robertson of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who in March 2003 changed her name to GoVeg.com to give her constant opportunities to share why she's a vegetarian. This takes it completely out of the realm of "who are you related to" and places it squarely about "what you stand for!"

mary said...

As another who chose to change her name...
I actually liked my middle name more than my last name. So, I could have just changed my name from Mary Kathleen Hutchison to Mary Kathleen. Now it's Mary Kathleen Piepmeier.
I don't feel like I have changed WHO I AM (seems like everyone is writing that in all caps). I am still the same person I have been for the past 21 and a half years. If changing your last name changes who you are then I am 2/3 me and 1/3 some other me. And to be honest, I think Piepmeier is more fun to say than Hutchison.
It seemed to me that people were upset that I had decided to change my name. That kind of made me feel like they thought Aaron's last name was too good for me or something.


Cate Bush said...

Two cultural thoughts:

1) I work with several Latino families. The husband and wife almost always have different names. It's quite the norm. Their children typically hyphenate (I think), or take the mother's last name as the middle name. I think it's interesting that culturally the attachment to names, or at least the tradition, is different. Tradition and attachment may be synonymous here.

2) James told me that in Arabic nations - as male dominated as they can be - the woman always keeps her last name. The children of course take the father's name.


The Mom said...

Wow, Mary, that was an eye-opener! I never would have thought of your thinking anyone thought you weren't good enough for the Piepmeier name! I can't speak for whomever you thought that idea was coming from (was it Alison??) but I'm pretty sure that didn't enter into their reasoning. Maybe they'll respond to you. As another Piepmeier who was something else before, I kinda like the name, too! I find that I'm still attached to the Hall name, as I'm ALWAYS interested to meet other Halls, but I'm glad to be a Piepmeier. I did keep the H. as my middle initial, but hadn't thought of keeping my whole name before the Piepmeier until reading some of the responses here. Of course, I don't even use my "real" first name unless I have to sign something "official", so I pretty much changed everything. And Carolyn Rae Hall Piepmeier wouldn't fit on any line!

Jenelle said...

This has been an fascinating discussion. My husband, Jeff, is distantly related to Allison. I changed my name to Piepmeier when I got married, but when I publish papers, I always use my maiden name as a middle name. I've done it consistently ... it's my one little way of hanging on to my original identity. That and my son's middle name is my maiden name.

I really identified with Eliza McGraw's concept of familyness ... even though I didn't grow up in a divorced home. I had no qualms about changing my name, but Piepmeier sure is a pain to spell every time. Why couldn't we have just been the Meiers when old Bion Harmon Piepmeier(I think that was his name)came over from Germany?

Hope you don't mind an outsider joining in the conversation. :)

Jenelle Piepmeier

mary said...

In response to the mom...
I was really just trying to point out that while people get a lot of grief for NOT changing their name... there is plenty of criticism that comes from deciding TO change. In the end all that matters is that you are happy with your decision.


Maig said...

Hello Jenelle and all!
Aren't you a part of this family?...This isn't my blog and I don't think I've ever met you but I welcome you to the comments of Alison and Walter's blog world!
I'm Megan (Trey's girlfriend).
It's been nice to hear everyone's opinions! Helps examine the truth in mine and confirm my ideas and/or think in new way. (which can be sometimes hard to do.)
I agree...this is a great conversation going on...I haven't read the most recent post but I say onward with more feminist rant! WOOOO!

Maig said...

Thanks for the update. That's cool you rode the train. I rode a train to Chicago once but I wasn't so lucky as to have a roomette and complementary coffee. I also cried the whole back...but that's another story and I have my own blog. Good luck with your work!!! I hope I can make it in April!
Alison...how's the bike situation?

WebSurfer said...

I just stumbled upon this blog, hope y'all don't mind if I add my 2 cents to the discussion :) I cannot leave Mr. Stuart's comments unanswered (though others have already answered them b4 me, but anyway...)

"As the Bible says, "Wives shall submit to your husbands." It is the will of the Lord that you change your name if your husband wishes it so."

Excuse me, but my favourite book is not the Bible but the Lord of the Rings, and it doesn't say anything like this. :) Furthermore, I don't understand why should anyone follow what's written in a book.

"The hyphenating of hyphenating just plain scews up children. Why would you want to screw kids up more than they are."

Excuse me (again), but MY children aren't screwed up. They understand why they have hyphenated names and find it odd that other children don't -- it seems to them as if those children had only one parent.

Which reminds me of what one of my colleagues said after coming back from a Spanish-speaking country where he lived for a year: because he has only one last name, people there thought he was born out of wedlock and has only his mother's name.

"Relationships are important to a woman's identity. Don't screw that identity up!"

My husband would be offended if he knew that our relationship is more important to my identity than to his. (I mean, he would be offended, if he cared about yr opinion -- sorry.) Actually, my mother is as much important to me as my father, still I don't share my mother's name, and I share only one of my grandparent's name, even though I'm close to all four of them.

"Having women keep their own last names encourages divorce. Why do you want to do things that hurt families and society? Marriage is healthy--our federal govt. just spent $1 billion on promoting marriage last year."

Don't you think that money should have been spent on other things, like fighting against poverty? BTW why should the government decide whether I should be married or not?

Lots of people divorce (and they don't do it because divorcing feels so wonderful...) and a last name ain't going to change that. It just makes things more difficult for the woman.

"The DNA of men is the dominant gene and what is passed from generation to generation. The last name is shorthand for the male genetic code that creates every person's identity."

Let me guess, you attended one of those schools where biology classes teach only creation instead of evolution. Find an encyclopaedia and look up "mitochondrial DNA". Please.

"These name changes just plain screw with geneology. Why make it harder for people to trace their heritage? Don't you want people to remember their history, to acknowledge their past? Its just plain wrong to ignore history."

These days, when pretty much everything is recorded about everyone in gazillions of different databases, I doubt it would be that hard for my future great-great-great-grandchildren to find out everything about me (including things like when have I got my driving license and what was the title of my college thesis). BTW here in Europe people aren't that crazy about genealogy, it's more like an American thing, so I don't know how important it is to others, but if I thought it to be important, I would sure want my children to know about MY ancestors as well, not only about their father's.

"Legislation should be passed to make women uniformly adopt their husbands names and children their father's names."

Like politicians didn't have more important things to do. BTW, is this your definition of democracy?

"The latter also helps to crack down on deadbeat dads, who might otherwise only be traced by genetic testing if what you do becomes commonplace."

I can't imagine how. If I give the last name "Clinton" to my next child, will Bill Clinton be obliged to pay child support?

J.E.B. Stuart IV, please don't take it as an offense but what part of your name is your OWN? The "IV"? At least I have an own name and don't want to be reduced to a simple "s" in "Mrs. John Doe". :)

cocoa said...

I totally agree with your thoughts and thank you for not changing your name. I have often thought of changing my last name to my grandmother's maiden. But, as others mentioned, it was at some point a woman's name changed to a man's. I think I will make up a last name one day. I think that all married couples should make up a name together. I disagree with hyphenated names (for the most part) because it's almost always her last- his last, so his last name is still last.

It looks like you did not do that, so you rock even more.

I have started writing to cc companies asking them to change their security question when it's "mother's maiden name". My reasons are that it assumes that my mother was married AND that she changed her name. My response to this question (with new accounts) will be that I was a test tube baby and see how they handle that.

Bookninja said...

The ACLU is currently fighting a case in California because men are charged a fee if they want to change their name on a marriage certificate while women are not. There are only six states that allow statutory male name change at marriage. With name change let's start with eliminating the bureaucratic and administrative paperwork excuses to grease the skids for demolition of the social excuses.

That said, my wife decided to change her name. She gave the "it's not like my dad's name isn't patriarchal" line, but frankly I don't think she really liked her last name. Also, she said she really liked mine. Our premarital discussion from my end was, "I like my name and I'm not changing it. I don't care at all if you change yours."

Last, I will generally disagree with any statement that begins, "I think that all..." With something as personal as marriage and name change, there is no answer for everyone. I'm sympathetic to couples choosing a new name together, it's romantic. In my case, however, my parents specifically chose my name because the three words sound nice when said out loud. They were right, my full name has a rhythm which I like and don't want to give up. Nor should any person be expected, exhorted or pressured into changing a name which has served them perfectly well for years.

So my wife, who wrote her undergraduate thesis on feminist studies under the umbrella of political science, and ran the feminist studies section of the bookstore we worked at, marries little old communist me. And we end up with not only the same last name, but also my grandpa's first name. From the outside, everything is middle America norm. But the black box of the decision making process was a bit more convoluted than is perhaps typical. So we end up, in our circle, with the opposite question, "So, your wife changed her name, huh?" Usually said with a hint of confusion, disappointment or even betrayal. I'm not going to say what I think a good feminist response is, because this is a totally losing statement from any man at any time. (Here's an exception to my above rule, "I think all men should not attempt to define feminism.") But I am hoping for a time when the gender expectations forced on women diminish to the extent that those who chose to take a traditional route are not considered unenlightened.

Anonymous said...

what i think is why the law sometimes need a certificate from a married woman to take maternity leave from work when she has decided not to change her paternal surname anywhere with the consent of the spouse? still i find the dominant culture vultures not helping women to be as they wish.