Hey Young Women – Think Twice about Changing Your Name

egalitarian-partnershipImagine a female presidential candidate whose name reminds people of her independent existence rather than her marital status.

Much of America appears to think that Bill Clinton is up for a third term—that Hillary in the Oval Office is really a back door to Bill, aka “The Clintons,” in the Oval office.

The radical notion that Hillary, despite being married to a powerful man, might have her own ideas and might plan to serve as president on her own terms—is apparently inconceivable to many. In the words of blogger Neil Carter, “Conservatives have so little regard for women as autonomous persons they think critiquing Hillary Clinton’s husband *IS* critiquing her.”

If women ever needed proof that many men still think of us as appendages and that many women—conditioned by culture and religion–think that way too, the media’s incessant talk about Bill during Hillary’s campaign is it.

Her last name doesn’t help.If it wasn’t for an archaic tradition that pressures a woman to take her husband’s last name so that everyone knows who owns her pussy (yes that’s where is comes from), our current presidential contest would be Hillary Rodham against Donald Trump.

Proud to be Mrs.

Twenty-five years ago, when my husband, Brian, and I got engaged, his parents were dismayed to find that I was keeping my own last name. Tarico. Brian’s mother, Grace, responded with dismayed puzzlement. “I’ve always been proud to be Mrs. Robert Arbogast,” she protested mildly.

“Well,” said his father, Bob, “I guess I can see it in your case. You probably have a professional reputation at this point, and people know you as Dr. Tarico.” We accepted Bob’s logic, but really, Grace’s comment was more to the point. I didn’t want to be Mrs. Brian Arbogast. I had every intention of being me. Also, I liked my Italian heritage. I liked the ring of Tarico. I liked the fact that the only people I knew who shared my last name were my own relatives, who I had known and loved since birth.

Most Americans think of a woman’s name change as one of the sweet-if-archaic rituals that bind husband and wife, a way of saying to the world that a couple has made a real, long-term commitment to each other. It’s just part and parcel of the wedding tradition. A white dress to symbolize virginity. Something borrowed, something blue. Till death do us part. Sugary cake. And a new name for the lovely bride.

Since keeping your own name violates tradition, it can seem selfish or excessively clear headed—like writing a pre-nup or maintaining separate bank accounts, or acknowledging the possibility that this marriage, like all others, comes with no guarantees. If you don’t want to change you name, Girl, maybe you’re not all in. Besides, sharing a name is practical. You know what to call the kids.

Except that nobody says this to men. Nobody questions their depth of commitment or practical good sense when they keep their own name rather than adopting the name of their partner.

Occasionally a thoroughly modern man does change his name when he gets married. I know a couple, the Marklyns, who created a last name together that they then gave to their children. Brian and I talked about doing the same—taking the Arbo (widely used as a nickname in his family), and the rico (my familiar Italian ending) to create a name that represented both of us and our partnership. But he thought about it and decided he didn’t want to—even though we did go on to give the hybrid to our two daughters and took considerable flack for it from the older man who issued their passports. Do you know how much trouble this is going to cause?

Women as appendages and possessions in the Bible.

The tradition of a woman changing her name may be something people associate with wedding roses, but those roses have thorns—as Hillary Rodham Clinton is now experiencing—and they are rooted in rot. In the Iron Age worldview of the Bible writers, a woman was literally property of her father and could be sold as a slave, traded for goats, or used as a human sacrifice. Jephthah, who turns his daughter into a burnt offering, is listed in the New Testament as a great man of faith. Until a man handed off his daughter to another man, the prerogatives were his alone.

Nowhere does the Bible say that a woman’s consent is needed before marriage or sexual contact. In fact, Yahweh condones all manner of sexual unions that lack female consent, often blessing them with the birth of baby boys. A woman could be taken (sexually) as booty of war—along with livestock and other tangible assets—as long as her new owner completed purification rituals. If a man raped a Hebrew woman, he could be forced to buy and keep the damaged goods. If a woman consented to premarital sex, she could be killed for degrading her value as an economic asset—her ability to produce offspring of known origin. If a man suspected his wife of an extramarital liaison, he could force her to drink an abortion potion.

According to the Bible, these edicts and more come from God himself. Passages making it clear that women are chattel can be found throughout the Old Testament, and they are never recanted in the New Testament, where women continue to be valued primarily for their childbearing potential, identified primarily as wives and mothers, and forbidden to hold positions of authority over men. Scriptures—New and Old Testament alike—gave license to European Church Fathers and American religious leaders to say truly horrible things about women.

Modern ripples of biblical misogyny.

This is not simply old history; to a greater or lesser degree Iron Age gender rules shape the worldview of anyone who thinks the Bible is a good source of moral values. When defending Donald Trump’s boasting comments about sexual assault, conservative commentator Sean Hannity said, “King David had 500 concubines for crying out loud.”

Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who think that the Bible is the literally perfect word of God, comprise almost a third of the American population. Putting the Bible on a pedestal makes them vulnerable to arguments like this one by an Ohio pastor:

“Women and men may be equal, but I think it’s pretty clear that the Bible teaches us that women should not be in authority over a man . . . Here’s the point I’m making. With all that’s going on with Trump and everybody screaming and hollering about that, when is the last time your pastor stood up in the pulpit and said, ‘Hey, listen, we cannot vote for Hillary Clinton because women are not to have authority over men?”

Some conservative Christians see Donald Trump as a sexual predator, but even these often fail to transcend the biblical worldview. Intuitively repulsed, they explain their moral indignation in terms that are consonant with chattel culture. Violating a woman is problematic because of her connections to other men. She is somebody’s daughter, sister, mother, or wife.

  • Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world. – Mitt Romney
  • As the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women. – Jeb Bush
  • As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize to women and girls everywhere – Mitch McConnell
  • I have five daughters, and what Mr. Trump said is offensive to me and my family. –Rep. Sean Duffy I have a wife. I have a daughter. I have a mother. I have five sisters . . . This was somebody’s sister, this was somebody’s daughter. In some cases it may have been somebody’s mother or somebody’s wife. –Sen Mike Lee of Utah

Why do men like these so fail to articulate their dismay in the language of universal human rights? Part of the fault lies with their immersion in Christianity, which fails to recognize women as free and independent moral agents—with objectives, values and creative power that are not contingent on our martial or motherhood status.

From Adam’s rib to salvation through childbearing.

The problem goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, to stories in which God makes Eve from Adam’s rib and then she eats forbidden fruit offered by Satan. In this narrative world, woman is made to be a “helpmeet” for man, never intended to choose her own sexual partner or chart her own life course. When she dares to disobey and eat from the Tree of Knowledge, sin and suffering enter the world. God then punishes Eve and all later women with painful childbearing, which according to one New Testament writer is the only way that women can be redeemed:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. 1 Timothy 2: 10-15.

Two as one.

The words of a popular Christian wedding song reflect this narrative of woman coming from man and then being joined to him through marriage:

A man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home
And they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.
As it was in the beginning is now and til the end
Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again.

Small wonder, then, that the first woman ever to receive a major party presidential nomination should be one who is perceived as part of a male-led presidential dynasty. Small wonder that despite her prodigious intelligence and accomplishments, she must constantly fight her way out from under the shadow of her husband’s legacy, ideas, and failings. Small wonder that the media can’t talk about Hillary Rodham Clinton without talking incessantly about Bill.

If wives were husbands.

My mother used to quote an old adage, if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. Brian’s family said it differently: If your aunt had balls, she’d be your uncle. Both sayings are meant to remind us that there’s little point speculating about things that just aren’t real. But the reality is that if the genders of Hillary Rodham and Donald Trump were reversed, campaign dynamics would be very different.

It doesn’t take much of a thought experiment to illuminate how gender scripts shape who talks about what. Imagine if the press devoted as much time to the sins, financial dealings and policy preferences of Ivana Trump, Marla Maples, and Melania Trump as they do Bill Clinton. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Imagine if, instead of a headline comparing Donald and Bill, the Washington Post headline asked: Who is worse Melania Trump or Bill Clinton?

Do I hear a protest—perhaps that the views and sex lives of these women aren’t particularly relevant? Maybe you’re thinking that they aren’t as powerful and smart as Bill, and for all we know they don’t even have policy ideas. Maybe you’re thinking they aren’t sexually unboundaried like Bill–not that journalists have investigated their sex lives thoroughly, but aren’t we taught that only men use power and money to get sex, while women use sex to get money?

Or imagine if, during Ronald Reagan’s campaign the focus had been on Nancy’s infatuation with astrology. Is the thought of Ronald Reagan taking cues from Nancy and her astrologer ridiculous? Was Mrs. Reagan too small and ditsy to worry about? Was Barbara Bush too much of a proper lady? And who can even remember Mrs. Jimmy Carter or Mrs. Gerald Ford or Mrs. Richard Nixon?

I think I’ve made my point: Try to deny that the country’s newfound obsession with the character and potential influence of presidential spouses is sexist, and you just dig the hole deeper.

Not Mrs. Somebody, just somebody. Hillary Rodham kept her name when she and Bill got married in 1975. But this became an issue during her husband’s gubernatorial campaigns in Arkansas. The Republican who defeated Bill in 1980 made a point of telling voters that his wife was Mrs. Frank White. Hillary conceded, and when Bill ran again in 1982, she accompanied him on the campaign trail as “Mrs. Bill Clinton.” According to a CNN poll in 2006, 52 percent of Southern voters preferred the name “Hillary Clinton” over even “Hillary Rodham Clinton.” CNN’s polling director called it a matter of “class and tradition.”

What if she had held out? The leftover remnants of traditional chattel culture, which are strongest in the South, still define a proper woman as an extension of her husband—including her name. For Hillary Rodham Clinton, this has created an impossible bind. Without the name change, she might not be on a path to become the next president of the United States. Then again, the Right might have a harder time turning loathing for Bill Clinton into loathing for Hillary Rodham, or treating “the Clintons” as a presidential unit, reinforcing for all the world the notion that a woman and her husband are one being.

As an older woman who is watching the current political circus play out with a mixture of disgust and dismay, I hope young women are watching too and listening well. And I hope one thing they hear is this: Keep your own name. Or make one up. Or, ok, do whatever you want, but just don’t expect that becoming Mrs. His-Last-Name will bring you sweetness and roses without a flowerbed full of stinky dung.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt; Deas and Other Imaginings.
This entry was posted in Musings & Rants: Life, Parenting, Relationships, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Hey Young Women – Think Twice about Changing Your Name

  1. jg says:

    Great essay. I have one question. Where is the Biblical reference to forcing a woman to drink an abortion potion? Thanks.


  2. Ubi Dubium says:

    When my spouse and I married, back in the 80’s, he offered to take my name. I thought about it. I didn’t have any kind of professional identity under my name, so that wasn’t a factor. I finally decided to take his name for a purely practical reason: My original name was constantly misspelled and mispronounced, even by my best friends. Nobody could get it right. My spouse’s last name is easy to spell, and nobody mispronounces it.

    My sister-in-law did something with her name that I thought was great. When she divorced her awful husband, she didn’t want to keep his name. But she didn’t want to go back to her original name either, because that was the name of the young woman who had married that clod, and she didn’t feel like she was that person any more, either. So she took her mother’s maiden name as her new name, as part of creating her own new identity.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, Valerie,

    Finally! :) I often make this same argument to women, i.e., that changing one’s name after marriage is a throwback to the days when women were property. Interestingly, when making this argument I’ve never had anyone tell me “You;re a man; you wouldn’t understand.” :)

    I also point out one additional fact: On one’s credit report, there’s an item called “other names used”. From this information it can be determined whether a woman is single or married (or perhaps whether she’s one of them thar commie libruls :)), and thus to engage in illegal discrimination on the basis of marital status. Should she be married e.g. 3 times (like Donald Trump!) that information could also become available, inviting even more illegal discrimination.

    At the risk of overstating the obvious, :) it’s important to point out that no male has this problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, Valerie,

    One other thing is perhaps relevant here. (You cant make this stuff up. :))

    A female acquaintance of mine (she was in one of my classes) got married when she was a college student, and changed her name. This raised total hell with the college registration system, and caused complete chaos. She quite literally became two people, one who had Phi Beta Kappa level grades, and one who was a deadbeat who hadn’t paid her tuition bill.
    Given the unpleasant experience that I’ve had trying to correct errors with a college’s registration system, I’m glad that I wasn’t in her shoes!


  5. Carmen says:

    Numbers 5: 11 – 31

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lowell Bushey says:

      Hi, Carmen,

      Thanks from me as well. From previous correspondence here (courtesy of Valerie) the Bible is ambiguous regarding abortion, although it’s rather obvious that the Bible doesn’t prohibit it outright. Clearly, the “Biblical literalists” like to “gloss over” these “messy little details”. :)


      • Carmen says:

        There are many ‘messy little details’ for which fundamentalists routinely gloss over or develop a convoluted ‘explanation’. It salves their cognitive dissonance.


  6. Not only did I keep my name throughout my marriages (3 of them), when I had a child, he also got my name. His father has always been pissed off about that but TOO BAD. Babies come out of the mother & SHOULD have the mother’s name. Plus I never married his father. And now, single again (and single forever more), I am SO glad I never took a man’s name.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Almost 40 years ago, I DID keep my name. Everyone was outraged. My mother-in-law, who already disliked me, never did stop being ticked off about this and refuses to address mail to me. Tough titties.

    I think Trump actually is such a freaking troll that he believes Bill Clinton will be President in all but name — he thinks it is a dodge for the term limits, to get the “little wifey” elected so you can be head cheese again. After all, it is something HE would certainly do.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. John Davis says:

    I think a lot of women were persuaded to take their husbands’ names due to school security. Its easy to imagine a busybody school secretary questioning why their mother has a different last name from the kids she is picking up. This also accounts for the absurd trend toward hyphenated last names.


    • Kathleen says:

      I don’t know about that – I didn’t want to take my husband’s name outright (I’d done it before and it was such a pain to change my name and then change it back) and my husband (surprisingly, since he’s usually very ‘modern’ and egalitarian) wouldn’t consider changing his name at all or hyphenating but I ALSO really wanted my kids to have the same name as me – enough that I was willing to go ahead and change my name. So I hyphenated. My kids have my husband’s last name, which is part of my last name and that works for us. It wasn’t ideal. But my view was that we were creating a family and I wanted us to have the same name – that was important to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. John Zelnicker says:

    Valerie – This sentence is confusing: “But the reality is that if Hillary Rodham and Donald Trump were of opposite genders, campaign dynamics would be very different.”

    I think you meant that if Hillary kept her name, the dynamics would be different, since they are of opposite genders. OTOH, considering Trump’s deep-seated misogyny, I’m not entirely sure the dynamics would be all that different.


  10. mriana says:

    I don’t think they are confusing her with Bill due to last name. We had 2 male Roosevelts (Teddy and FDR), a few father and son presidents (one of which was the Bush and Shrub) and no confused Lady Bird Johnson or even Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt with their husbands, although they may have been smashing presidents if times were different, at least Eleanor would have and according to history also., I think it’s a case of sexist/chauvinist men and women in the stone-age, who don’t want a woman president, preferring women stay in traditional rolls. A prime example is Thump himself. He and his arrogant, egotistical, sexist racist, lying bigots (all of which Thump is too) group of cronies, don’t want Hillary running for president, so they keep talking about Bill. They want to believe that a vote for Hillary is giving Bill a third term, despite being told over and over again, Bill’s not running for president. Lady Bird Johnson is Lady Bird and her husband was… er… um… President Johnson. lol I guess it works both ways, but it took a moment to think of LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson). All I could think of was Lady Bird and President Johnson. Anyway, I don’t think anyone can confuse Lady Bird Johnson or Eleanor Roosevelt with their husbands. Then there is Jackie Kennedy or Jackie O depending on the decade. Even our current Michelle Obama can’t be confused either. No, this BS talk about Bill is only a distraction by arrogant, egotistical, sexist, racist, lying, bigots of which Thump is. He only trying to distract people like us and we only need to keep women’s history in mind before we start jumping to conclusions about names.


    • Lowell Buyshey says:

      Hi, mriana,

      A couple of comments. (And yes, I’m giving away my age. :))

      1. When Bill Clinton became President, the Clintons were hailed as the family of the 21st century (even though it was a few years early :)), because Hillary had achievements of her own, apart from those of her husband. This made conservatives apoplectic, and the right wing sleaze machine has been after them ever since.

      2. When feminism became a household word, in the late ’60’s or early ’70’s, women made 68 cents to a man’s dollar for the same work. In the nearly 50 years since then, women have made up but 12 cents of the difference.

      3. Sexist terminology (e.g. freshman) and double standards still permeate our society. Historically, there has NEVER been an instance where double standards have resulted in equality.

      4. Ancient gender values were appalling by today’s standards. Women were essentially regarded a good breeding stock in order to perpetuate the lineage of a male descendant. A wedding was essentially an economic transaction (although no money changed hands), where ownership of the woman was transferred from her father to her husband; hence, she took his name. (She had no say in the matter.)

      Because the surnames of Black people are often those of former slave owners, Black people face a similar situation, although no one has, to date, found a workable solution. For women, however, it’s easy: keep your maiden names.


      • mriana says:

        I get that and know about those things, including the surnames of Black people. I even took my first husband’s name, then my second husband’s name, in part because I hated my maiden name for reasons that make a long story. My mother’s maiden name was better, but she had taken my sire’s name and even kept it after her divorce, thus, the judge refused to allow me to go to her maiden name after my first divorce. Keeping one’s maiden name isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in every situation- I loathe mine. (No, you didn’t give away your age. For all I know, you could be my age, which is not a spring chicken).

        That said, you haven’t told me anything I don’t already know. I still say, only the Repugs are confusing Hillary with Bill and spewing asinine crap in order to distract us. Then again, I started as a Bernie supporter, still am a Bernie supporter, yet I’ve listened, and am supporting Hillary (not Bill or Billary, but Hillary Rodham Clinton). Bill and Hillary are two different people, even with the last name. However, Michelle Obama is right- the sexism/misogyny by Thump et al brings a lot of feelings, even painful flashbacks, to of us women. Just last night, when Thump was denying his sexual behaviour toward women, I yelled at the TV saying, “That’s what my asshole father said and then he was stupid enough to force me to show my mother what he made me do to him.” Michelle Obama (not Barack Obama) knows what she’s talking about in her speech concerning how Thump’s behaviour is affecting women.

        That said, it was Bill who did many things, including extra-marital affairs, which were none of our business, not Hillary (at least as far as we know, but again, it is none of our business). Hillary advanced awareness in child abuse, although this awareness may have gone a little too far, but there is an old saying- the pendulum always swings back to center. I think she will do well in advancing women’s rights and welfare, as well as children’s rights and welfare and minority rights. Of that, I have no doubt.

        It’s not the last name that matters- at least not to me. It’s the behaviours and what the person running for president will or will not do for the people. IMHO Thump will degrade and diminish women and the progress we’ve made. I don’t want my first grandchild, being born in March, to grow up in a neo-Nazi, fascist, racist, bigoted, and sexist Thump dictator world. The last name can be Sanders (my maiden name, no relationship, as far as I know and no, I didn’t support him for his name, but because we share the same views), Rodham, or Clinton. I don’t care, as long as it isn’t Thump or someone like him.

        Now excuse me, while I help to make sure Thump doesn’t see the U.S. presidential oval office and send us back to the 19th century (prior to 1866) or further back.

        Sorry for the rant, but that sexist, racist, egotistical, arrogant, lying, bigot (Thump) p***es me off and if not Bernie, Hillary must win the election and keep Thump out of office, despite her last name, which is not the issue or issues. She could be a Roosevelt or an Adams for all I care (as long as she’s not a modern day Repug). A name is a name, is a name. It’s the person behind that name that matters.


      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, mriana,

        My feelings about Trump are just as negative as yours, and just as strong. Where we disagree is whether Trump represents a singularly despicable anomaly. IMO, he doesn’t. The Republican Party has actively courted the “bigot vote” since 1968. For example, Reagan made the claim that (presumably Black) “welfare queens” were receiving $150,000 per year, courtesy of the taxpayers. IMO, the people that believed such a preposterous claim now are Trump supporters.

        I’m glad to find out that you’re for Clinton; this seems to be a problem with former Bernie supporters. Unless Trump loses by a landslide, someone else will court the “trump vote”.

        However, I do disagree with you regarding surnames. IMO, adopting another’s surname sends a subliminal messagre that her achievements are secondary to his, and/or, that, once married, “mommyhood” should take precedence above all else.


      • mriana says:

        I listened to Bernie, but sons still want to do a write in vote for Bernie and wish I do the same. The thing is, Bernie is right about supporting Hillary in order to defeat Thump and I’ve tried to explain that to my sons, but they are determined that write in votes are best, not seeing the rational behind divided votes causing the one person we don’t want in office to win.

        I remember very well what Reagan said and I never liked him either.

        Regardless, with my first marriage, I followed Xianity because that was what was expected of me. That and I really did not like my maiden name due a horrid relationship with my bio-father. For me, keeping my maiden name was not an option and changing it to my mother’s maiden name cost money, whereas, changing it to my first (and second) husband’s name was free after we married. thereby getting away from my bio-father’s name. When I divorced, I kept the name so that my sons and I would have the same name. I love “mommy-hood” personally and soon I’ll get to enjoy “grandmama-hood”. However, my sons are now grown and I remarried. It didn’t seem right not take my new husband’s name given I took and kept my first husband’s name. That and I think is better for our relationship if I didn’t keep my first husband’s name, even though my name is now different from my sons. My husband doesn’t own me though. I am not his property and he’d tell you the same. When we married (had a humanist ceremony) we were not Mr and Mrs Kirok (his online name) his last name, but rather Kirok and Mriana (his last name) and yes, there was some Star Trek in our ceremony too. :) Long story, but our relationship is unique, in that we are two separate, differently thinking entities (sometimes we even share thoughts), who share similar interest, enjoy each other’s company, and neither one of us is religious. Even so, being a mother and soon a grandmother is more important to me than being anyone’s wife. My sons and my future grandchild (in March) are first and foremost to me. Being a wife takes second place to being a mother and grandmother, for me. It is my offspring that keeps me going.


      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Mriana,

        It appears as though there was a slight miscommunication here; I was referring to work/life balance vs. traditional gender roles. I’ll give a couple of examples.

        Perhaps the best Economics instructor that I’ve ever met worked in a non tenure track position. She did so because she was spared the requirements (mainly research) that a tenure track position required. (She made reasonably good money, but far less than that of a tenure track professor.) Since her husband worked as a tenure track professor in another discipline, it was clear to me that “mommyhood” came first in her life. (Note that I had no problem with this; it was her decision, not mine!) However, after meeting her husband, I strongly suspected that she made this decision to appease him, and to “keep peace”.

        Another case involved a two earner couple, both of whom had “skilled labor” working class jobs. Whenever their kids were sick, she always missed work to care for them, even though she made more money. (To be fair, there may have been practical considerations that affected their decision. She worked in a union shop, and therefore was far less likely to be fired for missing work.)

        I have the (admittedly radical) view that, unless and until the world becomes as “gender irrelevant” as humanly possible, women will never achieve gender equality. (Ditto for race, sexual orientation, etc.) The “name change” business is but on facet of my opinion.


      • mriana says:

        As a single divorced parent of two sons, who father flew the coop after I divorced him (he didn’t even pay child support), I did it all, even stayed home when they were sick. After I got my degree, while they we in preschool, I substitute taught so I could be there when they needed me and when they didn’t need me, I had worked most every single day, which was pretty good, especially at $80/day. It worked out pretty well- at least while they were in grade school and middle school.


      • mriana says:

        I left “my mother” Sanders was my mother’s maiden name.


  11. koppieop says:

    Interesting essay, Valerie! I’m amused to find a contradiction to Shakespeare’s quote “What is in a name?…..when Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention….
    Also, in the 50’/60’s, a Dutch artist became well-known under her stage name “Singer without a Name”. .-

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A. McKey says:

    Thank you for your article. You express precisely how I’ve been feeling for most of my adult life. My wife and I married almost seven years ago and she kept her name. I don’t think I could have married someone who wanted to take my name and somehow erase her identity related to her name prior to meeting me. Whenever someone uses my last name to refer to her, we both make an unmistakable point of correcting the mistake. I’ll be very happy to see when this is the norm, and not some kind of weird exception.


  13. Joe says:

    Great essay.
    One of my favorite name-changes was by a family medicine colleague of mine with the last name Lewis. She married a Dr. Clark. They changed their last names to “Lewis and Clark”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. mriana says:

    This is what I’m talking about when I say it’s not the name, but rather Thump’s horrific and painful comments. Michelle said it very correctly and hit the nail on the head:



  15. Mark Mathison says:

    It should also be noted that it is a cultural thing and in some (mainly Asian) cultures and some Latino, women keep their names. In the not so distant Norse past women took their father’s names so, as my 3rd great-grandmother’s father was Gulbrand, her name was Randi Gulbransdotter and she did not take her husband’s name. His name was Mathias Hanson as he was Han’s son.


  16. Corlene Spoelstra says:

    Just a thought: If taking your husband’s surname is so degrading, why isn’t keeping your father’s surname degrading too? Both come down to being connected to a male member of the family somehow. I am all for keeping your “old” surname, but I think that the whole surname-thing being connected to a man is so entrenched in history that if your really want to be 100% feminist about this, we should not have surnames at all or create our own surnames from scratch. I don’t think so much focus would have been put on Hillary’s male connections due to her surname if she wasn’t linked with so many corruption allegations in the first place – some allegedly committed with her husband and some allegedly committed on her own. I would love to see a female as president, but Hillary Clinton sure isn’t the female candidate I would have chosen for the job. I accordingly don’t think any of the “hoo-ha” around Hillary has much to do with her surname. Just take the time to Google “celebrities with the same surnames that you didn’t know were related” and it becomes clear that loads of people with male connections via their surnames has made names for themselves without people even guessing that there was a connection. In Afrikaans (my home language) we have a saying: “Don’t go looking for a devil around every bush, because you WILL somehow find one.” I am a female lawyer and academic who does not let men boss her around (countless men who have pushed my boundaries have walked away with a kick to the balls and coffee over their white shirts) and I am all for women being independent, but I think sometimes the feminist agenda is pushed to a somewhat ridiculous level. I am a daughter, sister and auntie – not only to men in the form of my father and brother, but also to my mother, my sister and my adorable little nieces.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lowell Bushey says:

      Hi, Corlene Spoelstra,

      As far as I know, there has never been a society where women enjoyed complete equality. However, those that came closest had matrilineal descent. All property was in her name, and the surnames of children were the same as hers.


  17. Linda McQuarrie says:

    H. Since 1976, In Quebec, married womam must keep the name they were born with. It is illegal to take their husbands name. If you move from another province, where you had married and changed your surname to your husband, you have to change, back to the name you were born with in Quebec. All ID has to be changed.

    The first generation of kids after the law came into effect, often had hyphenated surnames. These couples now grown up and having kids had a choice of up to 8 surnames based on potential combinations of the surnames. So now, about 12% use a hyphenated, 82% are going with one of dad’s surnames, and 6% mom’s. The grandaughters of the feminists who got this law enacted, seem to be reverting back to paternal name, which means their kuds don’t share mom’s name. I personally am uncomfortable with that, but it’s not my decision to make.

    My sister, married in Ontario, with an established career under the married surname had a hard time when she moved to Quebec. She changed as required by law, but still used both in business dealings.

    For myself, I married in Alberta, took husband’s last name, had kids, divorced. Later remarried in Ontario. I kept my first husband’s last name, as I had kids with that name, and it was important to me that they did not feel abandoned. I also had a career under that name. My second husband had a daughter from a previous marriage. So three kids, two different last names.

    One thing i did to make us more an obvious family, was get health cards for all of us under the two last names, no hyphen. Rules for school, allowed me to register kids under the assumed combined name.

    It only became an issue when they got old enough for a drivers licence. At that point they had to have id under birth name.

    Of the three daughters, one uses her birth name, one his birth name, and one her married name.

    I am 61. If I had it to do over, I would never have changed my name. It is strange thing to do, definitely property marker. Who you were, gone in an instant. Tracking down girls I went to school with, names changed, where, who are they now, can be a nightmare. More importantly, is what it has cost us in terms of our female history. I was at a graveyard not too long ago. Some women were buried as Mrs. Hubby name. Sad.

    Marriage, divorce, and repeat as required, with name changes each time is bizarre. I had to go to a lawyers office once and sign an affidavit on each of the aliases I have used.

    I actually was very optimistic about quebec, but the young women’s decision to go back to paternal last name strikes me as a real step back. But I also see this trend with single women, giving the kid the father’s last name.not so bad if he sticks around, but can be awkward later.


    • Thank you for taking the time to share all of this context. It makes me a bit sad to think of people defaulting to the paternal name again. :(


      • Linda McQuarrie says:

        Me too. If I had it to over, I would never have changed my name. I think a lot of these young women, as they age, and life happens, msy regret their decisions. I feel bad too for the women in Quebec, who fought for that right, seeing their daughters say not important to them.


  18. James says:

    I hated the name my dad gave me and my wife had taken my last name when we got married but we decided if I was going to change my first name we would just pick our new last name together. So I changed my first name and we jointly agreed on our new last name.


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