After a heads up from Feministing, I learned that the American Sociological Association put out the results of a recent study showing that about 70% of Americans believe that women should take their husband’s last names when they get married and 50% think it should be a legal requirement. Wow. Although I am not one to put too much stock into polls (I, nor anyone close to me has ever been polled about anything remotely significant so I have no idea where they get these people and their opinions), that’s a large percentage for something so traditional and antiquated. And BY LAW? Why?
I am at that age where more and more of my friends are getting married. I’ve noticed a trend among the women to keep their own last names to the complete exclusion of their husband’s or to take their spouse’s name name in addition to theirs (with and without hyphens). That’s not to say that the majority of women in America don’t take their husband’s names, but maybe it’s a generational thing that not too many of my peers feel obligated to take their husband’s name.
One common characteristic of the women who haven’t totally forsaken their own names is that they are extremely ambitious. Maybe they’ve already accomplished a significant amount in their lives and certainly plan to continue doing so. In my opinion, it’s just not fair to assume (or in the case of any legislation, mandate) I will change my name and erase this identity that has existed for 27 or more years. An identity that has been through a lot and accomplished much more. I agree with Jessica at Feministing when she says
What’s really distressing about this news – Laura Hamilton, the study’s lead author says that when respondents were asked why they thought women should change their last names, “they told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family.” Continue reading