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I am very curious about opinions on this issue. I am not trying to judge anyone whatsoever. I will share my own story because I want to explain where I am coming from. Also, I'm referring to heterosexual marriage in this post because for me this is about the power dynamic between men and women.

I grew up in a household with a mother who had kept her own last name when she got married (in the 70s when it wasn't common to do that). I was the only kid I knew who had married parents with two different last names, though much later I met others.

I was given my father's last name. I remember my mother saying to me that while she wanted to keep her own name at marriage because it was her identity, she didn't see why my sister and I shouldn't just have our dad's last name. There was never any explanation given as to why she felt this way, and I guess I never asked her to go into detail.

I thought my mother was "ahead of her time," and that by the time I grew up women would no longer change their names when they got married. But as I became an adult and some women I knew started getting married, they all changed their last names. I remember being surprised and thinking they must all be extremely conservative. To me in my 20s, it seemed like they were giving up their own identity, their selves, to be subsumed into their husband's identity. I couldn't help but feel that it made women seem like property, that it seemed as if it were a link to a time when women basically only had rights through their husband, which was why they took his name, to show their connection to him and thus their validity as a person. I think it was for this reason that I refused to get married for a long time. (I eventually changed my mind and did marry my long-term partner. I didn't change my name.)

After a while, I started to feel like maybe I was making unfair judgments of women who changed their names. After all, some women I really respected had done so. But I always felt awkward asking women why they'd changed their names, because the one time I did, the woman got very offended (maybe I didn't say it the right way and it sounded accusatory--though I didn't mean it to).

I finally came to the idea that women still taking men's names and giving their kids their husbands' last names is a way for men to have a purpose in the realm of the family. If women's purpose in that realm is giving birth and/or having that particularly special mother's bond with their children, then men, I suppose, must feel they need something to make them relevant, and so it becomes about passing on the name.

I would like to hear from people who have changed their names, and would love to hear the reasoning behind it so I can understand better. It doesn't mean I am going to change how I feel for myself personally, but I just want to know how other feminist minds work on this issue. Do all feminists keep their name, or no? If no, why?

I would also love to hear from people on the other side of the issue--those who believe in keeping one's name, and why you believe this.

Basically, I am just curious for other women's opinions on this. Would love to have a respectful and mind-expanding discussion; not trying to judge anyone whatsoever.

Thank you all :) <3

Edit/update: I should make it clear that I understand that it isn’t customary in every culture for the woman to take the man’s name. My reasoning about “giving the man purpose” is admittedly only culturally specific. It was just because I was trying to seek out a less creepy reasoning that this tradition has persisted so long in our culture. I have long had this suspicion that many men (in our culture) are scared of feminism because it makes them feel irrelevant.

I am very curious about opinions on this issue. I am not trying to judge anyone whatsoever. I will share my own story because I want to explain where I am coming from. Also, I'm referring to heterosexual marriage in this post because for me this is about the power dynamic between men and women. I grew up in a household with a mother who had kept her own last name when she got married (in the 70s when it wasn't common to do that). I was the only kid I knew who had married parents with two different last names, though much later I met others. I was given my father's last name. I remember my mother saying to me that while she wanted to keep her own name at marriage because it was her identity, she didn't see why my sister and I shouldn't just have our dad's last name. There was never any explanation given as to why she felt this way, and I guess I never asked her to go into detail. I thought my mother was "ahead of her time," and that by the time I grew up women would no longer change their names when they got married. But as I became an adult and some women I knew started getting married, they all changed their last names. I remember being surprised and thinking they must all be extremely conservative. To me in my 20s, it seemed like they were giving up their own identity, their selves, to be subsumed into their husband's identity. I couldn't help but feel that it made women seem like property, that it seemed as if it were a link to a time when women basically only had rights through their husband, which was why they took his name, to show their connection to him and thus their validity as a person. I think it was for this reason that I refused to get married for a long time. (I eventually changed my mind and did marry my long-term partner. I didn't change my name.) After a while, I started to feel like maybe I was making unfair judgments of women who changed their names. After all, some women I really respected had done so. But I always felt awkward asking women why they'd changed their names, because the one time I did, the woman got very offended (maybe I didn't say it the right way and it sounded accusatory--though I didn't mean it to). I finally came to the idea that women still taking men's names and giving their kids their husbands' last names is a way for men to have a purpose in the realm of the family. If women's purpose in that realm is giving birth and/or having that particularly special mother's bond with their children, then men, I suppose, must feel they need something to make them relevant, and so it becomes about passing on the name. I would like to hear from people who have changed their names, and would love to hear the reasoning behind it so I can understand better. It doesn't mean I am going to change how I feel for myself personally, but I just want to know how other feminist minds work on this issue. Do all feminists keep their name, or no? If no, why? I would also love to hear from people on the other side of the issue--those who believe in keeping one's name, and why you believe this. Basically, I am just curious for other women's opinions on this. Would love to have a respectful and mind-expanding discussion; not trying to judge anyone whatsoever. Thank you all :) <3 Edit/update: I should make it clear that I understand that it isn’t customary in every culture for the woman to take the man’s name. My reasoning about “giving the man purpose” is admittedly only culturally specific. It was just because I was trying to seek out a less creepy reasoning that this tradition has persisted so long in our culture. I have long had this suspicion that many men (in our culture) are scared of feminism because it makes them feel irrelevant.

182 comments

My parents kept their own surnames, and I was given both names at birth.

I kept my own names, of course, and I also decided that if I were to have children they would get my surnames.

I was up front with my partner about this from long before we were actively considering having kids, so he knew the score and had plenty of time to choose to have kids with someone else instead. (He opted to stick with me and give the kids his surname as a middle name.)

For me it's simple: I sign my work. My body made these children, and my culture made it so that I, as the woman, must bear most of the costs and disadvantages of parenthood while my spouse enjoys the benefits. Why would I put someone else's name on my efforts?

I'd happily live in a world where my spouse made our children with his body and was the person expected to give up everything from free time to earning potential for the sake of the children, and in that world I'd let him give the children his surname. In this world, I consider anything less than matrilineal naming to be silly and regressive.

I sign my work. My body made these children, and my culture made it so that I, as the woman, must bear most of the costs and disadvantages of parenthood while my spouse enjoys the benefits. Why would I put someone else's name on my efforts?

I love this.

I love the way you put it: “I sign my work!” Dunno why but that brought a tear to my eye. I think it is a beautiful sentiment.

My parents kept their own surnames, and I was given both names at birth.

Are you Latina by any chance? This is the default throughout Mexico and most of Spanish-speaking South America (idk about Central America).

Central American here- on my birth certificate it has both my mother’s and father’s last names as my legal last name.

I am not, but actually I get asked that a lot...in my professional life, most people from outside the USA tend to assume based on my email signature that I'm both Latino and a man. Americans, in contrast, assume I'm a woman and that one of my surnames is that of my husband. Leads to an interesting inbox.

Wouldn't the Americans' questions all be answered by a simple hyphen tho? What you're describing certainly isn't new smh

And even without a hyphen... doesn't your name work just like those of Hillary Rodham Clinton and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg? neither of whom were exactly born the day before yesterday baha

[–] Fluffy_gender 3 points Edited

It is the default but in the end the father's surname is considered the more important one and is the one getting passed on

True but not until two generations later, right? Kids usually get First Middle Dadslast Momslast... where "the surname", as you said, is the third name out of four.

It took me a minute to get used to seeing the mom's last name as an initial, as is standard in e.g. Colombia... e.g., José María Ochoa Restrepo would be "José M. Ochoa R." But now I think it's kinda cool ahah

(it's also not uncommon in Colombia for boys to have Female middle names—especially in this exact combination, "José María", which is common enough that it even calls up stereotyped images in some regions.
in kinda the same way "Billy Bob" or "Mary Sue" might in the States, but the typecasts associated with José María are more refined than those)

[–] sealwomyn 30 points Edited

It's a disgusting and dehumanizing patriarchal tradition to take away a woman's name and her own family history. I can trace my paternal lines so easily but the women of my family? Traded around like chattel, no idea who her mother was or who her family was and have to do so much digging. It's enough to make me despise every one of my male ancestors who cut me off from the history of my maternal line with their shameful misogynistic "tradition."

It's also uniquely irritating when my family members and friends my age do it who aren't legally obligated and who should fucking know better. I get on FB and see notifications from some stranger and go to delete it before I realize yet another of my relatives or old classmates surrendered her identity to some scrotoid.

When I'm able to do the research in my mother tongue I'm hoping to trace my direct maternal line as far back as I can and then my sister and I want to take that name. Men don't own us, they're glorified gene-mixing devices who didn't create and give birth to any of our ancestors, and none of those ancestral crimes against our mothers are acceptable to us. Matrilineal naming is the only way that isn't a crime and insult against nature and mothers.

[–] Fluffy_gender 15 points Edited

It's also uniquely irritating when my family members and friends my age do it who aren't legally obligated and who should fucking know better.

Yep, so frustrating seeing "feminists" change identity to signal they're not their own persons anymore

[–] bluff 41 points Edited

It is never feminist. It is a hassle to do and with how often people divorce, you are shooting your future self in the foot.

It blows my mind that women will take over 90% of domestic labor, gestate and birth children, do 90% of the raising, and still agree that themselves and their children should have the sperm donor's last name.

Women, even feminist women, will use any excuse in the book.

"I want our family to have the same name." - okay he does too usually. Why can't he change it?

"It's my dad's name anyway and I hate my dad." - men who hate their dad NEVER use this as a reason to change their name. They take ownership of the name and make it theirs because it is in fact their name.

"His name just sounds better." - again, never seen men change their name to their wives' because hers sounds better. And I've seen some women with pretty slick last names change theirs to literal Weiner just because that's the name of their scrote.

There's so many more but it's all excuses. The real reason is social pressure and not wanting to make waves. A lot of men would be extremely upset if their property didn't take their last name. Women understand that and decide to buckle under instead of standing up.

I swear this stuff was better 40 years ago. I only know 1 woman in my peer group who kept her name out of dozens who were recently married. It honestly depresses me we can't even rebel against this sexist, antiquated practice.

I do remember reading that post 2000 the number of women changing their name exploded again. But I then saw a relatively recent article (from 2015 or something) that said that “maiden names” were making a comeback.

I have always hated the term “maiden names.” I just think of it as my actual name. Maiden implies it was always only temporary, till I was deflowered by my husband or whatever, haha. Argh.

[–] VesperHolic 19 points Edited

Agreed. I believe we should be free to make our own choice on that matter, legally speaking, but that doesn't make it feminist, we have to at least be honest about that. When I told a friend my mother never changed her name I was told that it doesn't change anything because she still had her father's name. I answered that it actually isn't the case, because on my mother's side of the family last names aren't patrilineal (they're usually either matrilineal, or something else entirely). Said friend couldn't even picture this being an option.

They take ownership of the name and make it theirs because it is in fact their name.

I can think of the Madden twins from the band Good Charlotte who took their mother's name when their dad left. It actually made a huge impression on me at the time (I was 11 and I've wanted to change my last name legally since about that age), because even now I want to avoid being associated with my father and my family in general (and my name being rare, I don't want them to be able to trace me should they want to). If I got married I think I still wouldn't change my name, regardless of whether I change it legally for my own personal reasons before that. I think the only thing keeping me away from changing it presently is that I like sharing my last name with my sister, so. She actually was born with our mother's name, but my father showed up a few days later and it was changed to his. This still infuriates me when I think about it.

I think it's interesting to read some answers from men who were asked what they'd think if their partner didn't want to take their name.

63.3 percent of Men’s Health followers said they would be upset if their wives kept their maiden names.

“It sounds like she's trying to hang onto her "single person" identity and not identify with the fact that she's married now.”

Meaning surely he too needs to change his name to, at the very least, a hyphenated name.

96.3 percent of Men’s Health followers said they wouldn’t take a woman’s last name if she asked them to.

“My name is part of who I am.”

Is it not a part of who she is? Names are the first element of our identities.

At the end of the day, I think the situation is very similar to, say, having two groups of kids. To group A, you ask them everyday at 5pm 'Are you headed home? You don't have to though.'. To group B, you never say anything. Kids in group A will eventually perceive that there is an expectation for them to, in fact, head home at 5pm. Meanwhile the kids in group B will never even realise such expectation can exist, and will never feel any social pressure regarding it. One has to ask themselves if it's truly a choice when, systematically, only your group is put in a situation where they have to make that decision.

Oh my god those responses from Men’s Health make me sick. How do they not realize the hypocrisy? I guess I look at our society and think, okay, men accept women having jobs now, and they have accepted certain other changes brought by the feminist movement (not saying that they all do so with celebration), but this one weird tradition has just been so stubborn to budge. I can’t help but feel that any man who actually would disapprove of his wife keeping her name, but would never consider changing his name, must think of women as an inferior class.

[–] Fluffy_gender 8 points Edited

men accept women having jobs now

Womens having jobs benefits men because the woman brings in money. Some men don't want a working wife for control reasons but a man accepting a woman that works doesn't have to mean he accepts that for women's rights reasons. Especially since most men that are OK with their woman having a job also expect that the wife does most or all housework.

I can’t help but feel that any man who actually would disapprove of his wife keeping her name, but would never consider changing his name, must think of women as an inferior class.

Because they do. And women also think of themselves as an inferior class, that's why they change their surnames willingly

One of the guys cited in the 96.3% does realise it's hypocritical, but apparently he doesn't care enough to rethink his stance. There's one Greg who gets it ("The only reason for a man to demand a woman take his surname is so that he can demonstrate ownership."), but you also have hot takes like "Their sex life is probably terrible."

Welp.

I believe we should be free to make our own choice on that matter, legally speaking

It shouldn't be this easy and autonomatic. I like the way Quebec handles it. Just make changing your name after marriage the same as changing your name for any other reason instead of making it extremely easy. Also, make the mother's last name the default for babies and have the parents go to court to change it

Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by how Quebec handles it! I wonder what led to that.

[–] Fluffy_gender 12 points Edited

"It's my dad's name anyway and I hate my dad." - men who hate their dad NEVER use this as a reason to change their name. They take ownership of the name and make it theirs because it is in fact their name.

I know a few men that hate their dads and changing their name to their wife's name wasn't even a consideration. They changed it to their step-dad's name instead. Not even their mother's maiden name

[–] funfetti 8 points Edited

Men lead and take control (ownership) and defend their dignity and women submit with inane excuses and then run around like chickens without heads utterly baffled why men think we’re pliable, childlike and less intelligent than them. Gee I wonder.

I’m not sorry for saying it because someone needed to finally have the guts to see reality. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it’s on us that it is and until we grow a collective backbone shit is not going to change. Men certainly never will. They have only ever sucked it up in response to change that is out of their control or a side effect of something else they wanted more.

And I've seen some women with pretty slick last names change theirs to literal Weiner just because that's the name of their scrote.

Yes. I knew a woman whose last name was Englander and when she got married changed her name to his, which was Katz.

Not true always; my father in law is a very bad man, and my husband seriously considered asking if we could use my surname instead of his before we got married, but never asked because he thought I thought it would be weird and a reminder of the baggage he was bringing with him.

My husband took my last name when we got married. I liked my last name better than his and he didn't really care one way or the other. Everything was fine until we told our parents. They just couldn't wrap their heads around it. Women taking their husband's name is a tradition and people don't have to really think about it. A husband taking his wife's name is a choice. So many people we told asked us how his dad felt about it. Didn't it hurt his feelings that my husband was just going to throw his name in the trash? I was like "who cares?" Why did no one care how I felt growing up being expected to give up my last name if I got married?

In the end, I talked him into it, but I think his relatives have purged that information from their brains because I still get cards and invites from them with "Mr and Mrs Husbands Original Full Name."

Oh man! It always amazes me how people can say that stuff (like, “wasn’t your husband’s dad disappointed?”) without any sense of reflection on what they are saying. I have never understood why it is supposed to be a positive thing for me to give up my name.

My friend's dad took her mom's last name when they got married. I don't totally remember the whole reasoning, but her mom's parents were immigrants from a Nordic country and her last name was short but not one that existed in the US, where as his name was very common, so it made sense to continue the more uncommon name that would have otherwise died out with her mom.

The fact that MRAs and tradwives literally say women who don’t take their husband’s surname are trash is enough to tell me that this is all about male dominance and power. My name is my name. I don’t need someone else’s.

I have never and would never change my name unless he does too and it’s hyphenated. If not, then any children will have my surname, as I will have borne them and I will not cajole a man into investing to soothe his paternity uncertainty. A woman raises the children and gives birth — they should have her surname with all fairness.

[–] funfetti 8 points Edited

It’s extremely insulting how many so called feminists believe my last name is not really mine just because I got it from my father. It also doesn’t bode well for feminist goals or the perception of women’s intelligence in general if you all can’t understand the difference between how I got my name and that it and all that I’ve accomplished with it are mine now completely distinct from its origins. Men seem to understand this nuance just fine. They get that they’re autonomous beings with dignity and they fiercely defend this with regard to their names, shaving, and everything else women are weak-willed on.

And no, I’m not saying that it’s fine and dandy to give your children a man’s name. The opposite in fact.

Yes, I understand this, and I have also had female friends with surnames that appear patronymic at first glance but actually are not etymologically. They have expressed frustration with this.

No way am I changing my name. And my partner and I have decided that if we have a girl she'll take my surname and if we have a boy he'll take his. If we have one of each, then they'll have different surnames. Seems fair. I don't really believe in marriage, but it still has benefits where I live and it's important to our families culturally, so it seems likely that I'll do it, but damned if I'll go along with shit like name changing and exchanging rings or throwing bouquets or any of that shite.

I always thought the "girl takes mother's name, boy takes father's name" was a pretty fair approach.

It gives me the CREEPS for all the reasons you said. I didn’t even consider it for a second, cannot fathom why it seems to be the default or even a remote possibility for women, and if I had children they would get my last name and Nigel can change his if he has a problem with it. End of.

It is creepy. It's possessive. It's gross how much men insist on it too. They won't marry certain women if she commits the uppity crime of retaining her name.

Going into my 20s, I’m pretty shocked seeing how many women change their last names upon marriage. At least on Facebook with their name changed to FirstName MaidenName NewLastName. There’s no correlation with their political alignments. I think they like the signifier of being married.

I’ve only come across one influencer on tiktok that isn’t changing her last name. Her husband isn’t either. But their children will have her last name since they will be raised more in the woman’s culture (the couple is multiracial).

While women may have many (valid) reasons for doing so, changing your last name is inherently non feminist.

Haa, taking husband's name... I judge that very very much. All female in my husband's family (from a conservative European country) took their husband name, and I am the weirdo who didn't. Except exceptions, the deep reason is always being traditional and patriarchist, but they pretend it is "more convenient like that". Even divorcee keep the ex's name 😰 Changing name don't make sense to me at all.

Well, I'm in the US so I can't pretend to know how it is in your country, but I struggle to believe it's more convenient to change your name. You have to change your name, change your legal documents, bring in numerous forms of documents every time you need to get ID, etc. When you don't change your name, you don't do anything -- you just keep existing as you.

Very good point. My in-laws think having the same family name as their children is important, but they don't think a second that they can give them both names. Also, I am sure there are some countries (not sure it is the case in Austria but well) where you need to fill forms NOT to change name. At least banks archaically behave like it is still like this.

Yep, I judge all women that do that. There's always that one story that claims to be super extra special but come on, you never hear the same from men...

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