Because Duh, Only Men Can ‘Own’ Their Names!

Look, I know that as a woman who is choosing not to relinquish her name when she gets married (I’m hyphenating, if you’re interested), I am in the minority. Something like 80 – 90% of women change their names to their husband’s. I know that a lot of women don’t even consider this an issue (oh, but it is! It’s really important. Your name and identity is important!), if they even consider it at all. And though that makes me really rather sad, I think what’s even worse — in fact, *the* worst — is women trotting out this stupid bloody argument, paraphrased thusly:

What difference does it make if a woman keeps her name or changes it to her husband’s, since her name most likely came from her father, and he’s a man? Joke’s on you, feminists!

Can we get rid of this ridiculous straw-man argument already?

Never mind the idiotic ‘feminism = anything male is evil’ assumption inherent in the logic. The important thing to understand is that men aren’t the only ones whose names belong to them. I know that’s hard for a lot of people to grasp, so I will reiterate: Yes, my surname came from my father, but it’s not his name — it’s mine. I was born with it, I’ve had it for 34 years, I’ve stumbled through life with it, accomplishing things (some more dubious than others) and leaving a mark with it. It’s who I am. It belongs to me and I’m fucking keeping it. I’d never ask my fiance to just ditch his identity, which I assume is just as important to him as mine is to me, so why should I ditch mine?

That’s not a rhetorical question. Can anyone give a good reason why?

My decidedly non-straw-man argument is that there isn’t one.

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6 thoughts on “Because Duh, Only Men Can ‘Own’ Their Names!

  1. Wil MacKenzie

    A very valid position. Can’t find flaw with it. And it’s your marriage, not anybody else’s marriage, so what anyone else thinks about it amounts to the stuff I cleaned off the sole of my boots today. Guess what that stuff was!

    A thought about hyphenated names as a common practice in the long term: Our great great great great grandchildren may suffer from horrible carpel tunnel syndrome from simply signing their names.

    Incidentally, I went to the future, your great-great-grandchild and my great-great-great-grandchild are, er, will be sharing the same recovery room at Neil Armstrong Memorial hostpital in the lunar colony… I couldn’t talk with them long, they were very busy filling out medical history release forms that required their signatures no less than 50 times each, and included extensive family backgrounds, and they wanted to be out of there before next Thursday, er their next Thursday, not ours. It’s Friday where they are, er, will be… Argh! I hate time travelling!).

    Humor aside… The tradition may have one given reason or set of reasons in the past, but the practice still has logistical benefits as a whole. Mind you this requires the assumption of children within a marriage and I’m not saying every marriage must produce offspring. I’m just considering long term pragmatic problems of hyphenated surnames as a common practice.

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    1. Amethyst Post author

      While I do understand that things get more complicated when you’ve got lots of hyphenated kids running around, trying to marry other hyphenated kids, I also believe they’ll be smart enough to figure something out. I think the important thing to realise about the whole name issue is that there are options that don’t require the woman to just subsume her identity into her husband’s, and that don’t assume the woman’s name and family history, etc, aren’t as important as the man’s.

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      1. Wil MacKenzie

        I would say that isn’t the assumption though.

        Example: My sister who recently got married, and changed her last name to that of her husband. It was her choice, as the default action being no name change at all. The name change was a whole non-required process she had to initiate on her own.

        Had her name change been a requirement, your argument would hold. Had the name change been required, and the option to retain her original surname been an available avenue, your argument would still hold.

        But as the process actually makes taking the last name of one’s spouse the optional path with more hoops to jump through, I would say society does not assume either the man or woman’s last name of any greater importance (the process is identical for legal name changes regardless of gender). Even after the fact, my sister’s “maiden name” will still be of great importance, both from a cultural standpoint as well as legal standpoint.

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  2. Amethyst Post author

    Do you really and truly believe that society places equal importance on both men’s and women’s names? Because I think if that were true, then there wouldn’t be so much societal pressure and expectation that the woman will take her husband’s name, and the idea of a man taking his wife’s name wouldn’t be totally out of the ordinary. Would you seriously consider changing your name to your wife’s if you got married? Most men are like, ‘fuck that’ and no one really bats an eye. Whereas when women go, ‘fuck that’ people tend to react a lot differently.

    Also, apparently half of Americans think women should be legally required to change their name to their husband’s: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/07/women-stop-changing-your-name-when-married

    Yeah, the name-changing process is a pain in the ass, but women are expected to do it, because that’s just what you do when you get married. I very seriously doubt 90% of women just have a higher tolerance for bureaucracy than men.

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    1. Wil MacKenzie

      Yes, I do think that one’s name is important no matter the gender. I rather believe that the “societal pressure” is manufactured, or at best hyped up ideals of a small but vocal grouping. I would question the accuracy of that poll as well in regards to legalizing mandatory name changing. That poll, as with any regardless of the topic, are always inaccurate, especially when they claim to have weighed the opinion of all US citizens (which is a big damn country, with very particular differences from one region to the next, never mind multicultural centers such as NYC or LA or Miami).

      Rather, the real, raw, litmus test of what to judge a society by is not opinions which can change very frequently (generation to generation, decade by decade, or even year by year or less), but rather what actual laws are in place and enforced. My sister changed her last name, her choice, and it was a pain in the ass to do. Several other friends of mine married over the last 5 years though, only one of the seven opted for a name change, and I would say hers was more due to her religious upbringing than “society”, unless one would try to make the argument that the US is an orthodox Hassidic nation.

      And who is making the expectations? How much influence are those expectations imposing over the whole marriage process? Part and parcel of a free society is that it will never be a homogenous society. Nor should it be. Your family might push for a name change, they might also push for you to get that little starter home with the white picket fence and whatever. The neighbors may think you should do that. But unless that is an actual law that you have to do those things… It’s irrelevant, an opinion, not facts. Facts are you and I are free to marry and change or not change our last names as we see fit. Now SAMEsex marriages… that’s a related issue with actual relevance that needs to be addressed. But changing one’s last name? Not really an issue.

      Now would I change my own last name? Nope. Nor would I expect my wife to change hers. Even if I did… the question is irrelevant. You cannot base the judgment of an entire culture or society on the choices or desires of a single couple within that culture or society.

      With that article link, I found the author somewhat… ignorant for lack of a better word. For instance, she listed reasons she was given for a name change… and ok they may make no sense to *her*, but to the woman given the reason, it may make complete sense, as is the right of any free person to have. The author imposing her morals and ethics on others, calling their reasons for doing something that they are free to do not do “excuses” because she doesn’t agree with the decision doesn’t show a true desire for gender equality

      For true equality to exist, it has to be from the basis of a free society, where people can and will make decisions both contrary and congruent to the majority or popular opinions whatever they may be, and a respect for those who make those choices. Ok, the author doesn’t like opening her facebook and seeing people change their names. So what? It’s not her choice, it’s not her life, it’s not her decision, and belittling someone else’s valid choices is…. well, ignorant. She assumes that ONLY she or likeminded people have the ability to think and make valid choices, and anyone who doesn’t is well…. just ‘making unconvincing excuses’, as if anyone has to explain themselves to her about their personal lives.

      To highlight even further how the author demonstrates not a goal of equality by suggesting “pushback” with the naming of the children. Pushback, sounds similar to “pay back”, which isn’t exactly conductive towards promoting “equality”. As for her “stronger push” suggestion…. she’s rather clueless as that’s already an option anyone is free to choose, and even provides an example of how it’s already a valid option.

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  3. Amethyst Post author

    Why do you think so many women – the vast majority in fact – change their names, and so many men – again, the vast majority – don’t?

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