Feminism Fodder

What’s in a name?

A friend at work is from a culture that’s a bit similar to the Indian culture in terms of the importance given to men.

This friend, when she got married many years ago, decided to keep her last name instead of taking her husband’s. Now, her husband, being an open-minded bloke, had no issues. But his parents did and were appalled that she would choose to not change her last name.

How many other women from cultures such as these are prey to the same problem?

It’s something I’ve always wondered — why is it a must that women take on their husband’s last name after marriage? Why can’t women choose without being looked on strangely if they decide to keep their own name?

During uni in Bombay, I had two teachers who had hyphenated their last names and one who kept her own after marriage and I thought that was impressive. I know it’s definitely not uncommon in Australia — there are several women in the field of psychology that stick with their maiden names. Part of it I think has to do with the zillion publications probably.

Now, my last name is 9 letters long (in addition to my first name being 8 letters long) so while I thought the hyphenated thing was good, I don’t see it being feasible at all. I have decided to stick with my own last name if I ever get married. I guess for me personally, it’s part of my identity. It’s a name I grew up with. It’s a name that’s on all my degrees and all my certificates. Why would I want to change it?

What about all you other women out there?

If you are married, did you choose to take on your husband’s name or was there no choice involved? Do you have your own last name? To those unmarried — do you have an idea what you might do? And of course, to the men — would you be okay if your wife chose to keep her last name? Or would you choose to take on hers?

Do share.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

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  • Lilly
    15 May 2009 at 9:48 am

    I kept my name however it becomes a little messy with the kids surname. Which surname do you use?

  • G
    15 May 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Do you know in some customs the groom also changes the bride’s first name? I would be totally lost, if I wake up one morning and people address me with a name that is not mine.
    Anyway, since you have asked, I have stuck to my maiden name and will continue to do so. Many in India might judge me as someone who has a very high self-esteem or who does not respect the husband’s family blah blah.
    Quite frankly, given the place I have made for myself as an individual, not as someone’s wife, I am bound to have some self esteem. And about respect, that doesn’t come with name change.

    (Phew! such a long rant can as well make up a post on my blog)
    πŸ™‚

  • Footloose
    15 May 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I decided years ago that I would keep my name. Because,
    1. Changing it would be like erasing my original identity (which I’m extremely fond of:))
    2. I don’t see why the woman has to change her identity.
    3. I’m afraid my first name won’t go with the dude’s surname or first name(if he’s South Indian);).

    p.s. : I’ve been neck deep in work and away from blogs and blogging. Good to get your nudge:)

  • SSQuo
    15 May 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I am not married, but I have thought about it kinda. As of now, I don’t think I can easily get rid of my last name. I am not averse to losing it entirely, but at the same time I’m not averse to keep it as well. So, I think its a decision that I’ll make in time.

    Speaking for the man here – I don’t think my boy will mind if I choose to keep my original last name. Youre right it is part of me, and my identity and essence for my life thus far.

    The hyphen is just a bit too much, event though I know people who have done it.

    I have very close friends (married) where the wife has kept her name, and from what I can see, for every woman that wants to change her name, there are those that don’t. I think this means though that the no. of women who don’t change their name is increasing, because traditionally women used to just change it irrespective.

    Ive also heard of women changing their first name after marriage, but that I have heard from older women, not the ‘now’ generation.

  • Ersa
    15 May 2009 at 6:40 pm

    definitely keeping mine if i get married…similar to yours, both my first and last names have 9 letters each…so no hyphenating and complicating it any more πŸ™‚

  • Psych Babbler
    15 May 2009 at 10:11 pm

    @ Lilly: I’m not married, nor do I have kids. At the moment, I don’t feel like I want kids. But if I do, I would be okay with having the father’s last name for the child…hyphenated would be good, but that would be too cruel for the child given my long last name! πŸ˜›

    @ G: Good on ya! And I didn’t know about the changes to the first name. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like — a complete loss of identity!

    @ Footloose: Good to see you back! And nice to hear that you plan on keeping your last name…

    @ SSQuo: It’s good to know that you have the opportunity to make a choice. I guess we do have it better nowadays — there’ll probably still be parents of the guys that will have problems but the guy may be okay with it.

    @ Ersa: Hehe…you can see where I come from in terms of hyphenating our names… it takes long anyway to fill out forms…imagine if we hyphenated it!!! πŸ˜›

  • Smita
    16 May 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Your post is so so timely!!!

    I had kept my surname till last week but then there were issues (as u have discussed in the post) and I decided to finally give in after 2 years. I was ready to retain both the surnames but that too wasn’t acceptable…..

    I was not wanting to change the surname because it was a part of my identity….but anyways…

    You know there are some cultures where even in name of the girl is changed???

  • Psych Babbler
    17 May 2009 at 3:16 am

    @ Smita: I guess as long as you made the choice and are happy with it, there’s no issue. But yeah, heard about where even the first name is changed — can’t even imagine what it would be like — kinda like losing your entire identity of about 20 years!!

  • indianhomemaker
    25 May 2009 at 10:03 am

    There’s a book by Atwood, where all the women are Ofx, where X is the name of the person who owns them. So Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will become Ofabhishekbachchan, Manyata Dutta becomes ofsanjaydutt ….and then we realise that this is exactly what we are following here anyway..maybe with a slight modification.

    But I know many families where nobody has changed any names and children have both the parents surnames, very successfully.
    As in Abhishek Jaya Bachchan, and Shweta Amitabh Bhaduri.

    I think name changing etc are little symbols of patriarchy, that are a great reinforcement of our social conditioning, and should be abandoned…asap
    Nice post.We must blog about such issues!