Last fall, I wrote an angry blog about women taking their husband’s names. If you don’t believe me, I will provide the link at the very end.
I was mad-mad-mad and itching for a fight.
But, as any good shrink’ll tell you, anger is just the other side of hurt. So I didn’t post it.
Why was I so mad? And who was I feeling hurt by?
I thought about it for a while. And I realized I was really, really angry, at the women I love for changing their names to their husbands’. My friends were violating a principle I value deeply. Because they were my friends, I was also hurt.
I was most angry at the strong, independent, progressive and feminist ones. If you’re socially conservative, I kind of expect you to change your name. But my liberal girlfriends? I just couldn’t stand it. (I’ll get to one conservative gal who was an exception to this rule later.)
Still, I realized my angry blog was passive aggressive. Kind of like writing an outraged email to a colleague instead of confronting him in person. I put the blog down and decided to take another approach.
My girl-friends are eclectic. At college, I was close friends with both the leading political liberal woman on campus and the leading political conservative woman on campus. I have 65 first cousins; I went to Catholic girls’ high school, Yale for undergrad and Columbia for grad school. I’ve lived in many places around the country (6 different schools before college), and I’m married to a man from Greece.
I Facebook-messaged dozens of women from many different walks of life, countries, and backgrounds.
(Note: Even though many of my wonderful girlfriends said I could use their full names, I decided not to. Women blogging about feminist topics are the target of some pretty hateful shit.)
As I sent messages out, I was afraid of what they would say, afraid it would leave me mad at them, or even madder.
Here’s what they said:
Anna… Hope this works. Use it if you like. U can id me anyway you would like.
When I started dating my husband 30 years ago, I would write my name on a piece of paper replacing my maiden name with his. I was young and in love. When we got engaged I couldn’t wait to change my name once we got married. I don’t know why I changed my name at the time. I just thought that is what you do. It was tradition. It was what you were supposed to do. Now that I am older and a bit wiser and so much more secure with who I am I wish I kept my own last name.
Now that’s what I’m talking about! Pure unadulterated self-reproach! Off to a good start.
Reformed Husband’s Namer
I changed so I would have the same name as my children. Now that I am divorced…the thought of going back to Michelle H____ seems overwhelming…all my students know me as Ms. R______. But my <maiden name> reminds me of my zeal and fight and independence so I am DEFINITELY changing back soon!!
My kids are like Mom..its time!!
Support from the kids! Awesome!
Anna – when it came time for marriage…I took issue with the concept of changing my maiden name …I had read enough history to know that the logic behind the woman taking the man’s name was based on the ancient belief that a woman was a man’s property, no different than his land or oxen.
Sing it, sister!
It took me decades to define myself—what I wanted in life, who I was capable of being, who I could become and continue to be. The unusualness of my name—first and last—the heritage it reflects, the image I conjure in my own head when I hear it, all of those things have been part of my struggle to become a strong, independent person, someone who could experience the unity of marriage while maintaining a separate self.
A Parade of Support
There’s hardly anything I like better than people agreeing with me.
I was already publishing under my name. That’s a practical reason, but I never considered changing, nor did my husband expect me to.
Did not. I’ve been Heidi W_____ my whole life. That’s who I AM. Why would I want to be anyone else?
I didn’t change. Used to joke that I asked my husband to change his, and he wasn’t interested.
My name is my name! Why should I change it? I like my name. Friends, Family, Colleagues know my name….I know my name. And that’s that!
I am a proud S___. I …don’t think the archaic reasons people do it apply now. Our kids have both our surnames (without a hyphen) because I can’t fathom letting the fact that they too are S___’s be lost.
I am the last in my family with the M____ name and I like being known as me.
I didn’t change mine because I got married in Ethiopia and people don’t do that there. But I wouldn’t have anyway, because I had my own identity established, and I consider it a holdover from more patriarchal times for women to take their husband’s name (though it’s debatable how much society has changed).
I thought, “We’re behind Ethiopia?”
Then I thought, “What an obnoxious ‘American Exceptionalism’ thing to think.”
And then I thought, “They’re probably ahead of us in math too.”
I really hoped all the responses I received would be this way.
Spoiler alert. They weren’t.