name changing

“Keeper” and “changer” sound so dirty…

Posted in Feminism, marriage, name changing on August 22nd, 2010 by steph – Comments Off on “Keeper” and “changer” sound so dirty…

Apparently 77-95% of women (a large range in estimates there depending on the study, almost 20%!) change their names when they get married. This surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have. I suppose I assumed that because I personally wouldn’t change my name, that quite a lot of people I know (who are quite similar-minded) wouldn’t either. But I suppose it is seen as the norm for many people, and not something that there would even be a question about. The only married friend I know is a “changer”. Growing up, I always thought I would be because I hated my last name (and being teased by a boy with the last name McDonald-Bates; a name ripe for the mocking itself). It never crossed my mind to just get a legal name change; probably the idea that one grows up and gets married was such a ingrained concept to me (and many others…) that  I never considered any other method of name change. But at some point I got used to my name as it is, and I like the sound of it. Also, doing what I do, job-wise, means I am carving out a name for myself, and, as is brought up in the article, this can bring up the issue of “brand protection”.

It can be a surprisingly touchy issue; some people view a woman who chooses not to change her name as not being loyal or devoted enough to her husband. (A man isn’t expected to change his name to prove his loyalty or anything like that. Surely the whole process of getting married is kinda sorta meant to be symbolic of loyalty anyway, but whatevs. People also get all ‘think of the children!’ and collapse on their fainting couch worrying about what last name any children of the couple would have.

One of the things I noticed in this article is that not changing your last name is framed as the feminist choice, and something one would only be motivated to choose because of feminism (we feminists are always bucking tradition and norms!). But that’s misleading, because not only does it paint “keepers” as feminists (and we all know what that means: deviants, stirrers, all kinds of naughty bad things), but it paints “changers” as being women who are brainless, tradition-following sheep (but in a good way!). And I think either keeping or changing can be the feminist option here, because the feminist choice is actually having a choice and exercising it.