do you take this man (and his name)?

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.”

Distressing indeed. Beyond that, I really just don’t see the point.I like my last name. It’s mine and it has always been mine. I like the way it sounds with my first and middle names. I like where it falls in the alphabet (never coming in too soon or too late when alphabetical order is the standard). Does changing my name make me a better wife? A better mother? Will it bring my husband and I closer together? Will it promise us a supportive partnership, amazing sex and companionship til death do us part? I don’t think so. Children can take their father’s last name but I’m not my husband’s child so miss me with that. Along the same lines, I plan to be his equal, not his subordinate and not his property.

There was a time (and it’s still that time in some places) where a woman was marrying into her husband’s family for support and security. She was indeed becoming a part of his family, even moving under his family’s roof. In my conceptualization of marriage, not only do I become part of my spouse’s family but he marries into mine as well (God help him!). We become accountable to one another, not just I to him. Therefore, I don’t see why anyone would even consider making it a law that I take his name. Again, I don’t see the point.

I want to be sure to mention that while I speak of husband’s and wives from a hetero-normative perspective, this is not a gender-specific issue. In high school, my 10th grade social studies teacher’s wife decided to hyphenate her name. He did as well. So they were both Mr. and Mrs. Keller-Coffey. He felt that made them more of a family and was illustrative of how they were coming together as individuals to make a whole new entity. He was always one of my most favorite teachers. It’s not as easy, however, for a man to take on his wife’s name. Don’t believe there’s some ancient, sexist, tunnel vision at work here? See the story of Michael Buday who spent two years, court costs, showed up for court appearances, filed paperwork and made a public announcement just to get his wife’s last name. Sheesh!

I am curious to know what you all think on the issue.


Filed under Legal Pad, relationships, Routine Ramblings

11 responses to “do you take this man (and his name)?

  1. “Women should lose their own identity when they marry.”

    Wow! I have absolutely no issue/problem/whatever with my future wife not taking my name if she so chooses. I would never ask her to give up who she is just to be with me because I would not want her to ask that of me if the roles were reversed.

  2. daniele

    I have always been dead set against taking my husband’s name if I ever get married. However, as I’ve gotten older I am no longer close to my dad (or I realized that I never was), and I cannot stand him. I really don’t want my dad’s name, so I may as well take my husband’s name.

  3. I think more men should take their wives’ names… even things out a bit.

  4. jessj

    this is hella interesting legal requirement? pfft… I don’t want my husband’s last name, unless its mine LOL which is probable-its a common one. Anyway if it weren’t for kids I really wouldn’t take it but I think I will end up being Mrs. Whoever. Sucks…
    I’ve found that a lot of guys get personally offended when I mention that, and not thinking well perhaps there are reasons that I want my name? Would you take my name? If not, STFU. I guess thats harsh…but its fighting *tradition*

  5. Ken Drizzle

    Don’t give a shit about my wife having my name.

    My KIDS gonna have my name tho nigga. I dropped a wife-on-ice for trying that hyphenated bullshit on our hypothetical kids. No.

  6. I do want my wife to take my name. I do not believe it should be a legal requirement, but it is something I want. If she wishes to attach my last name to her last name (no hyphen), that is also fine. If she does not want to take my name, I feel in a way she does not want me.
    If a woman does not want my name, that is fine also, because I do not have to marry that woman.


    • Bourgie, JD

      Everyone has their own preference, especially when it’s about who to marry.
      I wonder though, what makes you feel as though if she doesn’t want your name she doesn’t want you?

  7. The proposal is based on the premise of my love for her: she does not have to accept.
    If she accepts, it means that she is accepting all things that I am, including my name.
    I am proposing to her to be MY wife, not to be her husband, though her acceptance will solidify the latter. I suppose if men proposed “____will you allow me to be your husband” then based on the diction, it can be inferred that the person being proposed to is defining the terms, not the person providing the proposition.
    If the woman does not take my last name, it is (in my view) an insult. The woman is transitioning from a ‘Miss’ to “Mrs”. My Mrs. You see this in religion (Cardinals to Popes), among professionals (Doctors, Lawyers), and maturity (titles: Mr.). How I feel about it is largely related to how I was raised and my own perception of marriage, so I understand if you disagree. I have no qualms with women who do not want to accept their husbands last name, because I do not have to marry those women. It is a choice and preference by and large based on culture. For example, Black people where I am from ‘jump the broom’, however, many do not. Preference. I will elaborate as you like Nakia.

    Bond. BlkBond.

  8. Ken Drizzle

    wtf is BlkBond talking about?

  9. I was answering Bourgie before I broke for the weekend Ken. If my message was not clear, identify what you don’t understand and I will enlighten you.


  10. If a woman does not want my name, that is fine also, because I do not have to marry that woman.

    I guess I won’t be marrying BlkBond, then. :)

    What a disappointing study with craptastic results. The brainwashing of women in the US starts early and stays late. :(

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