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Women taking the man's last name.

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Women taking the man's last name.

Postby Mars » Mon Mar 5, 7:41 2012

Is it sexist?

I believe so. I'm a supporter of hyphenating/combining surnames, yet it seems (from the people I know) that even when married couples do this, the wife hyphenates the last names, while the man keeps his. A friend of mine says she's a feminist, yet she says she'd take her husband's last name when she got married. It definatley seems like a male privilege to me, what gives men the right to make someone take their last name? What are your opinions on this subject?
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby lillerina » Mon Mar 5, 7:52 2012

I think that the option should be available for every party in a marriage to choose which last name to take, whether that be that one party takes the last name of another (regardless of sex), everyone keeps hir own last name, or everyone changes to a completely different last name. This is a situation where I really wish that there wasn't a social protocol for it.

I think that in heterosexual marriage the wife taking the last name of the husband has its roots in sexism, as it's a leftover from when marriage was the passage of a woman as property from her father to her husband. Her changed surname reflected the change in ownership. In modern western society, I think it may be indicative of an expectation for a wife to subsume her identity into that of her partner, but I'd like to think that in more cases it's just wanting to share a last name and going with tradition. It's also significantly easier in most states for a woman to take her husband's last name than for a man to take his wife's last name, which I think is sexist.

I haven't been made aware of any trends regarding last names in same-sex marriages, but I'd be interested to know what most same sex married couples do. For every couple (or group, in a consensual group marriage situation) it should be a decision made together that everybody agrees on. Certainly nobody should be able to force hir spouse to take hir last name.

On the other hand, I'm deeply suspicious of marriage as an institution. If I ever decide to get married, our surnames will be something we'll discuss and come to a consensus on; everybody should be able to choose for hirself, regardless of sex.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby Axiomatic » Mon Mar 5, 8:39 2012

I like the idea of the married couple creating a new last name for themselves.
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(I'm bad at coming up with names)
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby ladyhawk » Mon Mar 5, 10:01 2012

I'm a married feminist who took my husband's last name. Just for the record, he didn't make me do anything. I chose to do it.

My maiden name is my biological family's last name, not my adopted family, and my biological family (especially my father) was grossly abusive. I prefer to have a last name that I associate with a relationship that is based on mutual love and respect rather than a last name I was stuck with by my abusive, drunken, shit-for-brains father. So I chose to change it.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby 08lightning » Mon Mar 5, 10:21 2012

You might find this old thread interesting..

http://www.spacefem.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=42692

if i linked it right
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby Sonic# » Mon Mar 5, 10:30 2012

ladyhawk, I don't think that you are sexist for having chosen it. I think it's sexist for being the default choice. I have never felt any compunction about staying with the name I was born with. No one will interpret my keeping my name as an activist thing to do or as a novelty. That is a privilege that I do enjoy, one that also discourages stepping outside of its bounds, since I would be relentlessly judged by my family if I did want to change my name. That's where the sexism comes in - the judgments and the reinforcement of a narrow set of gender-defined decisions, not the choices that we as individuals make.

I've always dated feminists, and they've always wanted to take my name. I usually ask them why. Their reasons have never lacked reflection on what society unfairly expects them to do and what, despite that, they still want to do.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby rowan » Mon Mar 5, 10:31 2012

Historically as lillerina points out there were reasons for it; there can still be reasons to have the same name today, which are based still in poor misconceptions of today's family. I know my mom was happy to take my dad's last name because it shortened it significantly; I kept mine and my husband kept his for professional reasons; some people choose to take one name or choose to hyphenate or choose to make a new one.

I do think that more people "default" to taking the husband's name, but I also think that it's really not that big of a deal and if you want to choose one then people will tend to choose what historically has been done, even in an equal partnership.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby ladyhawk » Mon Mar 5, 10:42 2012

Sonic# wrote:ladyhawk, I don't think that you are sexist for having chosen it. I think it's sexist for being the default choice. I have never felt any compunction about staying with the name I was born with. No one will interpret my keeping my name as an activist thing to do or as a novelty. That is a privilege that I do enjoy, one that also discourages stepping outside of its bounds, since I would be relentlessly judged by my family if I did want to change my name. That's where the sexism comes in - the judgments and the reinforcement of a narrow set of gender-defined decisions, not the choices that we as individuals make.


^That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for explaining it like that. I guess I sort of missed looking at it that way.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby Tookie » Mon Mar 5, 10:58 2012

Ladyhawk, your post reminds me of this: a list of reasons why a straight, married feminist/womanist woman might have taken her husband's name. There are lots of perfectly valid reasons why a person might choose to change their name as a result of marriage.

Lilly - we have several same sex families that come to my church, and to my knowledge, all of them have kept their own names and hyphenated their children's names. I think that's my favourite approach, when it is a feasible option.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby lillerina » Mon Mar 5, 11:15 2012

^I know couples who have done that, who have hyphenated, and who have had one party take the last name of the other. There don't seem to be clear norms for it, which I like.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby anonymousrabbit » Mon Mar 5, 11:32 2012

I agree with all the people who are saying it should be a personal choice. My parents tried hyphenation, but had such trouble with it that they did NOT hyphenate mine or my siblings last names. (That didn't stop them from hyphenating my FIRST name, however. . . but that's a different story!) It will be interesting if/when I ever get married as my parents will be against any arrangement other than both partners keeping their own names. I personally don't have any opinion on the matter, so the decision will probably be mostly decided by my spouse's preferences.

I had a male friend who changed his last name when he married his wife and a MAJOR shitstorm ensued. People who had no business telling him and his wife what's what had to butt in (which in my opinion is everyone other than them). Even the legal people in charge of changing his name gave him crap. It was pathetic!
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby rowan » Mon Mar 5, 11:37 2012

^and it also often costs $$ for the man to change his name, but not for the woman to change hers when they get married. Now THAT is institutionalized sexism.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby lizpoona » Mon Mar 5, 11:48 2012

If/When I come to that decision, the factors will be:

1. Have I developed a professional career with my maiden name? If so, do I really want to complicate or confuse my professional identity with a new name?
2. Do I prefer my maiden name over my spouse's, in terms of how it fits with my first name? Vice verse?
3. Do I like my spouse's family better than my family? (If you know my life history, that's a total possibility). If so, I might take his name in order show solidarity with that family.
4. Would my last name sound weird if hyphenated with my spouse's last name? Or would it sound better?

That's all I can think of, but so far those are the questions I plan on asking myself. There's also the equal possibility that I'll never get married, but rather will just have a very long-term relationship. Who knows?
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby lillerina » Mon Mar 5, 12:21 2012

As an aside, I hate the phrase "maiden name". Given that maiden is a synonym for virgin, it reflects the view that a woman will remain a virgin until she gets married. Virginity is such bullshit, it's a concept used to control women's sexuality. Language matters, yo.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby Mars » Mon Mar 5, 12:34 2012

lillerina wrote:As an aside, I hate the phrase "maiden name". Given that maiden is a synonym for virgin, it reflects the view that a woman will remain a virgin until she gets married. Virginity is such bullshit, it's a concept used to control women's sexuality. Language matters, yo.


Yeah, that's why I say "last name" or "surname".

I didn't mean it to sound like I was generalizing the issue, it's true that it's a personal decision and people may have their own reasons for keeping/changing/hyphenating their last name (whatever is best for them), I'm just stating that the fact that the fact that it's expected that the wife take's the husband's last name seems patriarchal.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby anonymousrabbit » Mon Mar 5, 14:02 2012

rowan wrote:^and it also often costs $$ for the man to change his name, but not for the woman to change hers when they get married. Now THAT is institutionalized sexism.


Which reminds me, in my friends' case again, she wasn't a US citizen, so when she went to the Colombian embassy to change her marital status, they wouldn't let her because they didn't believe she was married because she hadn't changed last names. They then made her see a counselor (from Colombia) before they would get the info changed who told her how she "wasn't really married" and would never "be a good wife" because of her "refusal to take her husband's name". Fun stuff. . .
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby lykin005 » Mon Mar 5, 15:14 2012

My two favored options are either coming up with our own unique last name we both would then share. Or coming up with two totally new and unique names for ourselves.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby lillerina » Mon Mar 5, 17:20 2012

Oh, and something I just remembered - according to a Belgian friend of mine, in Belgium, it's normal for each party to keep their own last names, to the point where it's difficult for anybody to change hir last name after marriage.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby Aum » Mon Mar 5, 18:15 2012

I wonder if you can combine two names to create a whole new last name for both people. Is that allowed?
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby anonymousrabbit » Mon Mar 5, 18:41 2012

Aum wrote:I wonder if you can combine two names to create a whole new last name for both people. Is that allowed?


Yep. I know two couples who did that when they got married. It was a pretty cool!
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby drunken dragon » Mon Mar 5, 18:46 2012

^ Anything's possible with enough cash.

Like it's already been stated, the original reasons for a woman taking a man's last name were based upon ownership. Now it's the accepted social convention, and is pretty sexist, yadda-yadda.
I still don't know if I'll take my husband's last name, especially since I'm technically the last in the line of my immediate family. My father had three girls. My older sister Kristi had her name changed twice (divorced once), and I'm not really sure what Leigh-Anne did because I haven't heard from her in years, but the situation was pretty similar I believe.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby hulknotcare » Mon Mar 5, 19:32 2012

When I married, I chose to keep my last name. This was firstly because I saw no particular reason to change it. Secondly, the idea of changing my name when I had not in fact changed as an individual made me uncomfortable.

Then there's this can of worms: Which last name would be assumed by the children of a married couple of different last names? It's not as if the children can decide themselves at the time that a name is legally required.

I told my husband that IF we have kids, they should take his last name because he's the one that wants them so badly.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby spacefem » Mon Mar 5, 20:53 2012

It's sexist, but it's so ingrained in tradition I'm not going to call anyone a "bad feminist" for taking her husband's last name. I kept my last name but it meant dealing with my inlaws who did NOT understand ("is she ashamed of us?") and people constantly just not getting my reasons.

I'd say the biggest reason I kept my last name was that a girl in our office got married and it lasted eight months. yeah. and she changed her name. and she changed her name back. and EVERYBODY knew about it, because you change your email, the sign on your desk, everything. If a man's marriage doesn't work out, he can go through life and nobody knows! but a woman? it's everybody's business! Anyway this incident in the office happened like right when I got married, and I'd been considering keeping my name anyway but this sealed the deal. Yes, I was totally sure I was getting married for life and we'd be together forever yadda yadda yadda... but I was marrying a human, you can't control humans, you never know what someone might do that's not your fault at all. five years later I have no regrets. my daughter has my husband's last name, and we use his name causally in social settings. I even changed my name on facebook when I had my daughter. But at work, and professionally, I am only comfortable with a name I can control, and was born with. you know?
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby Amuro » Mon Mar 5, 22:06 2012

How about people just do what ever they want with their last name when they get married. That sounds like the best solution to me.
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Re: Women taking the man's last name.

Postby Rainbow Dolphins » Mon Mar 5, 22:11 2012

I think it's sexist that when a woman marries a man, everyone expects her to change her name to his. However, it is of course the expectation that's sexist, not the act... so I don't think it says anything about you if you chose to go that route.

Personally, my name is too tied up in my self-identity to ever change it, I think. If storage and I ever get married, I want him to change his name to mine (because I would like us to have the same last name) but he doesn't want to, so we would likely both keep our names. I don't want to have children so I don't forsee naming the kids being an issue, but if we did, his middle name is also a family name so maybe there is a good compromise there.
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