In today’s developed world, women can climb the corporate ladder as fast and as high as men can. We earn our own money, pay our own bills, and can control our destinies as much as the next person. We aren’t afraid to speak up when we see injustices, and we won’t put up with being treated any less than equal with our male peers. In our current feminist world, women mostly have the freedom to make the choice to work, study, be a stay at home mum, travel, or have sex with whomever we choose. These are great times to be a woman compared with the past.
So when I take a survey of my married girlfriends, a surprising number of them have taken their husband’s surname. I say “surprising” because they are all highly educated, well-travelled, and career-focused women (well, maybe less so after they had children) and I had assumed that they were relatively progressive. I would have expected some to change their names, but not almost all of them.
If this sounds judgmental, it probably is. I can’t help but compare my girlfriends’ actions against my beliefs, but then again, the point of feminism is that we have the choice to take whichever path we wish.
For me, I don’t really see the point of a woman changing her name after marriage. The only practical benefit I can ascertain is the sheer convenience for other people to address you and your partner as Mr & Mrs Jones.
However, I can see a several key reasons why I personally wouldn’t bother:
1. First and foremost, it’s a nightmare. Bank accounts, drivers license, passport, work email, electoral rolls, insurances, utilities – it’s bad enough moving house and having to change your address, but changing your name is another level of administrative hell. You often have to send proof of your name change and almost always can’t be done in a straight-forward way online like an address change. And that’s before you have to change your signature. Call me lazy, but I would rather suffer through weekly dental visits than go through this amount of paperwork.
2. People have spent the last twenty to thirty years of your life identifying you as Jessica Jones. They associate your achievements at work, at school or university with your name. Memories of you and their interactions and experiences with you are also associated with your name. Your name is also just as strong an identity to yourself as it is to others. Creating a whole new identity might be an appealing exercise if you want to dissociate yourself, but it also severs you from that person that everyone knew as you.
3. Taking the man’s name is an old tradition based on a woman becoming his property after marriage. Is it necessary to state the obvious, that this seems to be a supremely outdated tradition? Some men are choosing to take their wife’s name, and some families are choosing different surnames for their children, which is unconventional but there is no reason that these are any less valid than the sexist tradition.
(As an aside, I am slightly mystified at reading about women wanting to change their name so that they feel “more like a family” with their children. One would hope that a name change wouldn’t have such a profound effect, and that love, affection and respect for each other would be much more important.)
So the long and the short of it is that I am essentially a lazy woman who has quite an attachment to her name (even though my first name causes me more grief than discovering that I’ve run out of Tim Tams) and smirks at stupid conventions. Perhaps the decision to change your name is not a logical or rational one (no wonder I’m struggling to wrap my brain around it!), but an emotional one. In the end, however, feminism is all about choice and the freedom to do what you think is the best for yourself and your loved ones.
* Image courtesy of stock.xchng