Spotted: Rising Feminist…Would you be offended if your wife did not take your last name?

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An innocent enough question….or so I thought. Apparently the tradition of assuming the male’s surname is a big deal. I mean a BIG deal! I initially posed the question to a close friend, just to get his opinion. After receiving his opinion and not finding solace in it, I posed it to several other male friends, the result was not surprising. I assumed the answer across the board would be that they would be offended – that doesn’t bother me, but when I got into the weeds of WHY it offended them, well that bothered me.

So first, let me put out this disclaimer, I’m not against women taken their husband’s last name. I too may take my husband’s name if I ever make it to that point in life. Secondly, I only posed the question in respect to my career. In the career realm, I think I’d like to continue associating with the name I already have out with the public (only on a small amount of articles, but that’s beside the point).

Ok, back to these responses. One guy – let’s give them names – we’ll call him Grumpy responded by saying that if his girlfriend said she wouldn’t take his name he’d “dump her on the spot.” Another guy, Doc, said his wife “can be as feminist as she wants but I’d like her to have my name.” Dopey said “YES! [he’d be offended] Men pass on the last name. Finally, Sleepy said “Nope.” The answers didn’t surprise me, typical for males, but the reasoning behind their answers, I just couldn’t get behind. Dopey went on to explain that men are the head of the households and that the entire world follows this tradition, so basically it’s only right. Grumpy said he wouldn’t waste his time on a proud femme and that it comes off as her being too good for his name and selfish.

Naturally I have problems with both of these views. Not because they are wrong, this is their prerogative, because I just don’t agree with it. Here’s why:

  1. I believe that men are no longer the resounding “head of the household.” In some cases yes, but times are changing. The shift is very prevalent, where more women are working, more women are becoming the breadwinners and more dads are becoming stay at home dads. For me, this shift doesn’t automatically mean that women should reject their husband’s last name; it simply means that this isn’t a valid basis for an argument.
  2. Keeping your last name is not selfish. Ok, maybe just a tad but I don’t see how being selfish with YOUR name transcends into selfishness in the relationship. Coming from a career driven woman, my name is my pride and joy – when it comes to work. If my name is on it for me it shows that I’ve accomplished something, I’ve broken through some barrier, it’s mine. Yes, you can argue – well your husband’s name can be yours…true…but since I honestly don’t plan on getting married until well in my 30s, my husband’s name is some foreign thing that hasn’t been through the long years of colleges, the long hours of job applications, or the nonstop work days – it doesn’t have the pride attached to it as it is attached to my maiden name. Hey, this is just my opinion though. Now back to selfishness in a relationship, this one small act really holds no weight on truly selfish people. I can be selfless and a team player and still keep my name. I can honor my husband and the household while still holding on to the thing that identifies me to people.
  3. Tradition. Pfft. Let’s talk about tradition. What is tradition? It is a belief or behavior passed down in society. The thing about tradition is that it is not set in stone. With every new generation, with every new advent of technology, there is a slight change in tradition. Don’t believe me? Check out this list of “traditions” that are no longer in practice. Deviating away from tradition is natural, I’m sure if you sat down and thought about it, there are some “traditions” that you too have deviated from, and if you have…then in my opinion you can’t use tradition as an excuse, or else I’ll label you a hypocrite. Yep, I give labels like a boss. Deal with it.

Now in my discussions, I decided to do a little side research, to see what the people of the interwebs thought. It seems to be a pretty evenly split, both sides citing “tradition,” “feminism,” and “solidarity” as reasons why or why not to take on the surname of the husband. Some say it’s an outdated practice; others say it shows the true commitment to the marriage. I don’t know what’s right. According to Doc, traditions is one of those things without reason or logic, it’s just an accepted societal norm. Ok, I can buy that, but I don’t have to agree. I realize we all play a part in perpetuating gender and class roles and that it’s hard to break away from the mold, but I just pose the simple question of “why?” Why are so many things that we accept, ok? Personally I don’t think it’s fair for the woman to have to give up her last name, a part of her identity just to gain another. However, I’m always interested in a good reason. If you have a good reason as to why women should take her husband’s last name – that doesn’t include: preventing confusion, respect, oneness, etc. then I’m all ears.

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