November 28th, 2010

Pic 14

Name Change Debate

You get engaged, and after the congratulations, gifts and champagne toasts someone will ask, “Are you going to change your name?”

Over the past couple of years my response to something like the above, when the rare and premature topic of marriage is ever broached, has changed from "Yeah, probably" to "Oh, I don't know" and finally to "No, I won't.”

Majority of people you'll meet will feel that women should change their names. Maybe it has something to do with family unity or an overwhelming case of fuck-my-life surnames ( Tinkle, Schwartzmanberg, Cox, Focker), but I’m pretty sure it boils down to deeply established rituals—like potty training. It’s just something people do. People will expect it and will already start addressing you as Mrs. Sharma, whether you like it or not.

Unfortunately the name-change debate has become a ritual as well. Wedding season rolls around and people spill ink on the subject, swirling the options about like finger paint: hyphenate, hybrid, make your old last name your middle, etc. What a mess!

As for me, I will not go with the flow because it's just easier to take your husbands name. My name is one of the more basic principles of feminism that I believe in. The origins of taking your husbands name were based on property laws and treating women like property, so why would I want to be treated as a piece of property. No thanks, that's not for me.

Lots of guys I know are boggled by how this angers me. When asked if they'd take their wife's surname, the idea is usually scoffed at. "No way", they say. "That's not how it's done" or  "My name is what makes me who I am. I can't do that".

Well gee, now you know how I feel.

I was reading up on this and here was one of the top reasons for changing your name:
If you're planning on having children, you'll find life is much easier when going on trips (especially when traveling internationally), dealing with schools, and even just dealing with other parents, if you're easily recognizable as being one family. Many brides find that having the same last name as their husband helps them feel more like a family, and a new name is an important symbol of the journey they are embarking on together

Easier you say? Nothing productive comes from taking the easy road children.
Having the same last name is an important symbol of your journey together? Ok, I can see that but why can't we apply this "important symbolic logic" to men taking the last name of their partners? Yeah, you know why.

My question is: what about us? Why are we the one's who always have to accommodate? This even applies to women getting married to men of a different faith. I don't know anyone in my family who is male and converted to the religion of their wife. That just never happens (not like it should in either case anyway). It's so extreme sometimes too; I've heard of women converting to the denomination their husbands are under even if it's the same faith. Why? Because it's easier.

Anyway, I digress. To me, changing my last name would be taking apart what encompasses me. My identity is dissolved, and just like that, I'm betrothed to a name I may not even like. Choosing not to take my husband's last name does not mean I'm being difficult. It does not make me an 'angry feminist'. It means standing up for what I believe in, asking to be equal and choosing to step away from traditional roles that just tie us down, suffocating us with old fashioned do's and don'ts that don't even apply anymore.

Wake up people. It's time for change.