Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finally Someone Asks Why Women Usually Change Their Names in Marriage

Jill Filipovic takes on name changes with marriage in a recent Guardian article - and it's about freaking time.

This is one of those issues I find extremely irritating, and I'm frequently reminded of it while reading Facebook updates like Filipovic writes. I've even had the thought, "But I thought you were a feminist!" when I see a name change following a marriage.

I know, I know. I bought into the whole White Dress (although, *cough," mine was ivory, take that as you will). We did the Wedding with the Flowers and the Music and the First Dance (for which we took dancing lessons, yes dancing lessons) and the Cake.

But we also did things our own way. We wrote our own vows (and there was no "promise to obey"). Ian's Buddhist sister got licensed at our behest and married us. We chose to both hyphenate our names, deciding that the order of McCready-Flora sounded better than Flora-McCready. So we became Rachel and Ian McCready-Flora, and just in time for Ian to finish his dissertation and receive his PhD under his new name.

Changing our names together meant that we both went the DMV to get new licenses. We both went through the hassle of dealing with our bank and credit card companies to change out names. We both had fill out mounds of paperwork and wait in long lines to get updated social security cards.

We chose to both hyphenate because neither of us thought it was fair to give up our own last name, and we wanted to have one family name, especially if we decided to have children (we did). We wanted to symbolize our partnership to each other and the equality of our union.

I know I'm going to offend almost everyone on my reading list with this post, but ladies, stand up for your names! Why should a woman be the one to change her identity when she gets married? Actually change her identity if her spouse is not willing to do the same thing? Why, because a man taking his partner's name isn't "manly?"

And if you want to have one family name, find a compromise. Hyphenate. Flip for what name sounds best. Create a new one.

Filipovic draws the connection between a wife taking her husbands name in marriage and the long tradition of women becoming the property of their husbands in marriage:
"Marriage has long meant a woman giving up her identity, and along with it, her basic rights. Under coverture laws, a woman's legal existence was merged with her husband's: "husband and wife are one," and the one was the husband. Married women had no right to own property or enter into legal contracts. It's only very recently that married women could get their own credit cards. Marital rape remained legal in many states through the 1980s. The idea that a woman retains her own separate identity from her husband, and that a husband doesn't have virtually unlimited power over a woman he marries, is a very new one.