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.