My name, loud and clear
I know the issue of changing your name after marriage is contentious, but I didn’t quite realize the magnitude of this until yesterday’s comment explosion at A Practical Wedding. Now I know the magnitude is 570 (and counting).
I also didn’t realize quite how much baggage we all carry around about the choice we made (or are about to make) regarding our name. And how when we flail that weighty baggage around we might whack someone in the face with it. And hurt them.
Or more likely, piss them off.
We’re all guilty of it, myself included.
The comment I read yesterday (and I’ll admit I couldn’t get through all of them, I have a day job) that irked me the most stated (in not exactly these words as I don’t want to pick on anyone outright) that “I am a feminist therefore I kept my name” (emphasis mine).
I don’t think it was meant to be provocative – it was buried within a very reasonable comment – but I felt this sentiment floating between the lines of many commenters and this was the closest I saw to it being said out loud: if you’re a feminist, you should keep your name.
I took my husband’s name. I didn’t suffer a lot of angst over it, though of course I felt a bit of sadness. My reasoning: a common family name means a lot to me. And I first made that decision as a child, well before I was aware of the mission for women to exert their independence through their name. When my mother re-married, she took my step-father’s name and I insisted on changing my name too. Granted that was also partly due to moving to Canada – my Finnish last name would have been a challenge to say the least – but I knew I really wanted to have the same last name as the rest of the family. And so it was.
Frankly, it was easy for me to make the same choice for the family I am now creating myself. That doesn’t make me any less independent, in fact I think it speaks to my independence that I went with my gut rather than where the tide was pushing me. As someone in an academic field with very liberal friends, there was more pressure for me to keep my name than to change it.
Nearly all of my close friends have gotten married in the last couple of years and not a single one (besides me) has changed their name. I’ll admit that sometimes it bothers me to be the only one to have made the ‘traditional’ choice because it makes me feel like I am viewed as less independent and feminist. I know those things to be untrue about myself, but when I read things like “I’m a feminist therefore I kept my name” I realize where those insecurities come from; that belief is out there.
So let me say it loud and clear – I am a feminist and I took my husband’s name with pride.
P.S. I was motivated to write this post after reading Sarah’s smart and pointed comments on the topic at Little Pieces Everywhere.