Last week @huffpostwedding asked readers to submit a paragraph explaining why they chose to keep their last names after marriage. At the suggestion of a friend, I wrote in. They didn't end up publishing what I wrote (oh well), but here are the paragraphs they compiled. Take a second to look over them. Thoughts?
The changing names issue was also mentioned a few times in Jessica Valenti's book Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters . I picked up that book while looking for Intro to Women's Studies course texts, and, although I didn't end up assigning it, I do think it is a fun read. Anyway, Valenti ends her book with a chapter called "Get To It" where she lays out several pages of bullet points on what young women can do to work toward feminist goals. Under the "Dating and Beyond" category, she writes, "For the love of god, don't change your last name. At least do me a favor and hyphenate." This is sticking with Valenti's in-your-face tone (so the attitude is stylistic), but it demonstrates how important she thinks this topic is.
And, well, I kept my last name after marriage, so I obviously think it's important too. In fact, I thought I'd go ahead and share what I submitted to huffpost. Here it is:
I kept my name when I got married for several reasons. First, many families do not have the ability to have the same last name, so, in solidarity with those families, I want to challenge society to learn to accept people with different last names as a family. Second, I think changing your name is a burden—practically and psychologically—and I don’t think that anyone should be pressured into accepting that burden unwillingly, particularly not an entire gender. Third, historically when a woman changed her last name it meant that she was now owned by a new man (or family). I am not property to be owned, and I retain the right to control myself, including my name. Lastly, naming is powerful, and I want to break the cycle of nameless women. Women in western culture have almost never had their own names. My name is not my own; it’s my father’s. And when my relationship with him ended, I searched for a new last name, a name that was empowering, a name that came from women, but there were none. We’ve always had the names of our fathers and our husbands. But that stops with me. If I ever have a daughter, she will have her own last name, a name chosen especially for her, a name that she did not inherit from a long line of men (even though I have nothing against the line of men from whence my husband came). My daughter’s name will be the name of a woman. And I hope that she will not feel forced to change that name, ever. (Although if she wants to, I guess that will be fine too.) In the end, I want my daughter to know that her name is hers, truly hers, as is her body and her life.
So, have you given this issue much thought before? Do you think it's worthy of analysis? Do you think the issue of changing last names is a feminist issue or merely a cultural one? Do you support changing names, hyphenating, keeping original last name, another creative option? Why? I'd love to hear from you!