Why I Didn’t Keep My Maiden Name

Marriage.JPGForget the foreplay; I’m going to go straight in for the kill:

Contrary to almost everything else I’ve read everywhere on the whole internet, I genuinely believe that you can take your partners’ name when you marry AND still be a feminist.

I know, I know, I am WILD.

Call me a little naïve (in addition to the wild) but the patriarchy and its unstoppable quest to control all women didn’t factor into my decision to take my husbands’ name. At all.  I’m not blinkered enough to genuinely believe that Western society has moved on enough that that isn’t an issue – let alone the rest of the world – or that a decision to keep my maiden name wouldn’t have been met with ‘The Weirdness’.

But that particular reasoning just didn’t come into it for me.

If I had been very attached to my maiden name, I wouldn’t have thought twice about keeping it: my name, my life, my choice. But as it turned out, I wasn’t remotely committed to it. Them in fact, I had a complicated beginning.

I didn’t and still don’t believe that a name is representative of my identity, I am what I am (what I aaaaaammmmm)  whether my name is what it is or I choose to be known as Princess Consuela Bananahammock. I certainly don’t think, as I saw a columnist suggest last year, that it’s ‘the most basic marker of my identity.’ I also don’t believe that your name is representative of your identity either but you might and it’s fine and dandy if you do, we’re all adults here.

I chose to share my husbands’ name because I wanted to be part of a team. Insert puking emoji here. But it’s true. It’s not about ownership, it’s about partnership. It’s not about dominance but about equality and shared experience, which I think makes us a stronger, more bad ass couple.

That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be as good a team (in just a minute I’m going to stop channeling Oprah and referring to my marriage as a ‘team’. I can’t promise I won’t do it once more before I’m done though, I’ve seen the future) if we had different surnames, it was just a very personal choice for me rooted in all of my life experience and what I wanted from my marriage and our married life.  The ability to choose either way is, in my humble opinion, what feminism is.

For me, always, every single time you ask me, feminism is about equality, choice and freedom. About women being able to do as they please without murdering, maiming or being a bit of an arse. And without calling other women ‘bitches’, that pisses me off the most.

The fact that I chose to take my husband’s name, to be part of Team Our Marriage (oh Christ), doesn’t change what I believe or the fact that I will fight tooth and nail for me/you/us to have the same rights as any man, to be paid the same for the same work, to not be persecuted, belittled or physically violated for not having a y chromosome.

Somewhere this week, more than likely in that black hole of you-may-also-like on Facebook (I lose hours in that place) I read that Zoe Saldana’s husband changed his name when they married. A successful artist whose livelihood probably relies on the name he’s built, changed his name to that of his (probably more) successful wife. Anybody telling him he can’t? Nope.

So, should a feminist take her husband’s name? You know what – she can do whatever the hell she wants. As long as she owns that decision, the world will adjust.

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  • Aisling

    I’m definitely a feminist and I think it’s cute and nice to take your partner’s last name! I probably won’t, myself, but then again… who knows. I also like the idea of coming up with a completely new last name. I mean, it’s a bit weird, and maybe not great in terms of genealogy when our great-great-grandkids try to find information on us, but I still like the idea nonetheless.

    Aisling | aisybee.

  • I agree with this, feminism is about choice and equality and you should be able to do whatever you want to do, whatever makes you happy.

    I’m slightly conflicted personally about what I’d do if I ever married my boyfriend. I’d want to keep my name for work (it’s an industry where you build up a reputation and recognition so I’d be loathe to lose my name which is part of that). I like the idea of us being a unit in our personal lives and in an ideal world would love for us to both change our names to a kind of hybrid of our last names that is just ours but apart from the fact that it doesn’t really work with our last names, he’s adamant he wouldn’t change his name at all (although he wouldn’t necessarily expect me to change mine). It’s a tough one and one that’s so personal.

    Lisa | Not Quite Enough

  • Rachael

    I took the fella’s name, I never really had any thoughts about never not doing that. But I also think there should be less weirdness (for want of a better word) about a guy wanting to take the woman’s surname, people seem to still double take about that for whatever reason.

  • Man, you’re good at this ‘writing exactly how I’m feeling’ lark, anyone would you had some weird telekinetic link to my brain. I took Joe’s surname and I’ll flick anyone on the nose who thinks it makes me any less of a feminist. Like you said, your name doesn’t just decide who you *are*, it’s your actions, your thoughts and potentially your downright awesomeness that gives people the indication of your “true” self. PREACH ON SISTA!

  • TheRedandGoldFinch

    We both had one syllable surnames so we just shunted them together and created a new name and both changed to it. Understand the need for a combined name to reflect your team-ness, and very much agree it would be great if everyone stopped telling women what to do/that one act destroys their entire feminist credentials. I do think there was quite a bit of backlash to Zoe Saldana’s husband taking her last name though and quite a bit of sexism towards her – lots of support too.

  • Nadine Heather

    So many clapping emojis, so many. Yes, yes, yes! I’m a damn fine feminist and ain’t nobody telling me I’m not just because I want to take my husband’s name if and when I ever decide to keep a man for my entire life.

  • Charlotte Hayter

    Well said!

  • I bloody love your feminist posts. YOU’RE SUCH A LEGEND MICHELLE.

    I’m not sure what I’d do if/when I ever get married. I love the idea of Team Marriage (lolz) but I also really like my surname. Both the secret real one and the fake one you all think is my surname. So who knows? I think it’d just come down to how much I actually like my partner’s name!!!

    Little Miss Katy | UK Lifestyle Blog

  • For me I can’t say if I would change my name until the time comes. For me, my last name connects me with my ancestors and my childhood- a name that grew with me as I grew too. It would seem strange to change it and many would say “Why doesn’t the husband change his name to the woman’s name if we live in such an equal society then?”. Who knows xx

  • Kerri

    Yeah, what you said! I like the way you say things, it saves me the effort.

    If Kris and I got married, I don’t mind whose name we take (secretly mine, because it’s more exotic than his), I just like the idea of having matching initials 🙂

  • Jen

    I took my husbands last name when we got married. As you say marriage is about being part of a ‘team’ and when we have children I want them to have the same last name as both their parents (as I did growing up). I don’t think it makes me any less of a feminist as someone who didn’t change their name. However I hate being called Mrs (his name), think that is very old fashioned and is about ownership. I have my own first name please use it.

    Jen x http://www.tartanbrunette.co.uk

  • Yes! All of this. I don’t think that taking someone else’s last name means you aren’t a feminist. Do whatever you want to do.

    I like my last name. Over the past year, I’ve realised that I’m more attached to it than I thought, so when my fiancé and I marry I will either keep my name, or be one of those awkward people with a double barrel name.

  • I completely agree with you, it’s all about having the choice! I’ve always been set on keeping my maiden name professionally, but if I ever get married then I’d be happy either way. (Although if I didn’t like my husband’s surname I probably wouldn’t take it – does that make me a terrible human being?) xx

    Toasty

  • I so agree with this! I think it is a very personal choice to take your partners name or not when you marry and one that I think is individual to each woman or for that matter man! I know a friend of mine who absolutely refused to take her ex husbands name and has now not taken her current husbands name purely for her own apparently feminist reasons. Whether her choice is because she thinks it is the feminist way of things, or for any other reason is it for me to judge her? No! The same as I am sure that if I ever managed to wrangle a man mad enough to marry me down the aisle and I chose to take his name it wouldn’t be for her to judge me.
    Haha at Beth’s comment below though I always thought the same my ex had an awful surname and I am glad that didn’t lead to marriage I could not have lived with that 😉
    x

  • Here here, I think its up to you what you want to do. It’s both your choice, and your choice as a couple, because by marrying someone you’re declaring to the world that you’re choosing to involve that other person in your decisions. That doesn’t mean they will make the decisions for you, nor will you make all the decisions yourself, but sometimes you make them together. If you fancy a change, go for it. I’m looking forward to changing my name as its just another sign of unity and then our children will have the same surname that we do! 🙂 Alice xx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

  • oh yes to this. also having had a complicated beginning, I was already pretty clear that my sense of self was not inextricably linked to a surname, and there was definitely something about sharing a name with my husband, along with sharing a home, and a life. For others it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t hold any significance, or keeping their own name holds more, but I didn’t ever feel that I was compromising myself or giving in to patriarchal views by choosing to share my husband’s name, more that it was just something else in our lives that now joined us.

  • Katie

    Abso-friggin-lutely. It probably helps that I have no fondness for my own name (it basically sounds like incoherent mumbling through a mouthful of cheese sandwich) but I’d have no qualms taking my future husbands name so we can be a team too. Team Cumberbatch has a certain ring to it, right? xxx

  • I too quite like the idea of a new name created together, genealogy schmenealogy. I don’t mean that, I was being pithy. I guess if the knowledge is there and passed down through the family, they can always find that stuff out – and they’d be part of your awesome new tradition.

  • YEP!!! I am a feminist and I hate when women are like ‘no you can’t take his name, you can’t do this, you can’t do that’ I’m like but… but… THAT ISN’T FEMINISM!! It depends on what their surname was, if it was crappy and didn’t sound good I’d be like nah. My current boyfriend (not that I am ever considering marrying, anyone! Just not for me!) his surname is Fox and goddammit that’s a cool and sexy surname.

  • I definitely think I would have felt differently and had to think harder about it if my name was linked to my career or reputation. I guess that’s the beauty of being in a modern, equal relationship – that you can discuss and agree these things depending on what’s important to you both rather than automatically bowing down to external pressure (whatever the reason for it) to follow a certain path.

  • They really do and it’s such a shame because all is shows is a desire to be part of a unit, in something together. Do you think anyone would say to a guy that he couldn’t do it because it denotes ownership and control? It’s just not the case in our society at least and it makes me sad that that argument gets chucked around to women who choose to take their husband’s name for any number of reasons.

  • Those people would deserve a flick on the nose and perhaps a light Chinese burn. It’s just not ok to vilify anyone’s decisions based on your own ill conceived notions about domination, not equality. Because really, anyone who has a problem with it isn’t interested in gender equality.

  • I’ll have to go back and do a bit more web hunting about Zoe Saldana’s husband, I was so stoked someone so high profile had done it that I got a bit over excited!
    I like the idea of cobbling together a new name based on both, a nice way forward if you’re both quite attached to your names.

  • Thanks Nadine, I curtsey to your clapping emojis!

  • Thanks Charlotte, it drives me NUTS!

  • And actually, that’s ALL it should come down to!! What you want to do for you and your Team *vom* Marraige not what anyone else says you should be doing. Because that is not feminism my friend, that’s crap!