I just read quite the charming piece on how a woman taking her husband’s name at marriage is a medieval, outdated and sexist tradition. And while I have nothing against a double-barrel name or the guy taking the girl’s name, I really quite like the tradition of a woman taking her husband’s name. I think it’s beautiful. So I’m going to defend it a little bit.
Some might see this surname tradition as a dictate of a patriarchal society. I see it as a gift. In marriage, a man and woman give all of themselves to each other, and in this case, the man gives a little extra – his name. Isn’t that kind of awesome? With that he’s also sharing his family with her, creating a visible sign of the fact that they’re a team for life, and providing the opportunity to start a new family who also share the same name (I certainly would not want my kids to have a different surname to me!).
On a practical level, taking a husband’s surname makes life a little simpler. Business transactions and legalities are easier to handle, kids won’t grow up utterly confused at the different names and there’s no need for a debate about what their last name would be, and it would definitely mean one less issue to tackle with the in-laws.
One of the most common arguments is that taking a husband’s name represents a loss of identity for the woman. I don’t think so. What, did her personality fall off because someone addressed her differently? And let’s be honest, part of her new identity is the fact that she’s now married to someone. Someone she loves, and is hopefully proud to be married to. Sure, he could take her name and this argument would be just as relevant, but sometimes it’s okay to realise not all traditions are a personal insult to gender and identity.
Now for a more sentimental reason but a good one nonetheless – taking his surname is going to make a husband feel so loved. It’ll mean so much to him. And believe it or not, sometimes it’s okay to put another before yourself – an important part of a successful relationship actually, and the key to happiness. Sure, it may mean a change and some paperwork for her, but really that’s only small in the scheme of things, and so worth the happiness it will bring.
If you’re a fiery feminist who is very angry right now, think about this – no surname changing means you should also get rid of those equally sexist traditions like the guy proposing to the girl, that diamond ring, being walked down the aisle by dad, and so on. But more to the point, I consider myself a feminist – just a balanced one, who doesn’t hate on men. And at the end of the day, isn’t the goal of the feminist movement about allowing women choices? For example, the choice to take her husband’s name without supposedly losing her identity and being regarded as less of a strong, independent, thinks-for-herself woman? If keeping your own name works for you, so be it. And if it doesn’t, there’s no need to judge.