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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Big Name Change

Cary Tennis fields a question from a woman who's husband-to-be is pressuring her to change her name to his once they get married. His answer is cute and funny, and I don't really have a quarrel with it. But the very fact of the question makes me sad. She is obviously insulted that he is asking her to give up her name, but she has also sucked up all the nonsense that passes for reason that is getting shoved down women's throats regarding this issue and she's confused.
For some reason, the issue of the married name change has become a major player in the backlash. There's a huge effort to recast the decision to change one's name at one's husband's insistence as a feminist choice. The reasons to do it are laughably transparent:

-It's just a name, after all. Really? Why should you put out the effort to change it on your Social Security card, driver's license, credit cards, library cards, address, bills, phone, and email account to name a few if it's not a big deal? Why spend the next few years retraining everyone to learn your name? If it's not important, it's not worth busting your ass for.
-It's my choice. Technically, it is your choice to let others make your choices for you, but it's a little misleading to call it "your" choice in that sense. If you were nagged and guilt-tripped into doing it when you'd rather not, as this woman in this letter would clearly rather not, then it's not your choice in the Platonic ideal sense of a choice at all.
-It shows that we are bonded/that we are family now. This argument has alot of weight with the letter-writer. However, she makes it clear that she doesn't really see the need and her husband is the one who thinks that it's about bonding. Well, it's important to him and not to her, so the solution is obvious--he needs to put out the effort and change his name to hers. Simple. What? Men won't do this? But I thought it was about bonding, not about ownership.....
-The children should have the same last name as their mother. Well, no one's stopping you from naming your children after yourself, and since your husband has changed his name to yours there should be no problem. Anyway, my mom and I didn't have the same last name and I promise you, no one ever got confused and tried to take me away from her.

You can change your name or not, whichever you like. I don't care. But this nonsense has got to stop. These are excuses, not reasons. All the smoke and mirrors in the world cannot change the fact that women taking on their husbands' names is a retrograde and sexist institution.


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