Thu 13 Aug 2009
I too am surprised by these findings, about whether or not women should change their names:
Hamilton says that about half of respondents went so far as to say that the government should mandate women to change their names when they marry . . .
As someone who would not even have gotten married without the pressure of making family happy, I can completely understand not wanting to change one’s name. So, at the risk of sounding like whatever stereotype you want, when my wife asked if I wanted her to change her name: I said no. There were practical reasons, sure — being a doctor means there’s a certain amount of work involved for her to get the name on your certification changed, and she does have publications under her name. If you are a female who has published under your maiden name, I strongly suggest not changing your name. It’s a pain. There were also ideological ones — I do actually buy into the concept that the reason women took men’s names for so long was because they really were junior partners, and there’s no reason to abide by it.
But to me, I think the reason was that I viewed her as a person with a specific name. In the same way you experience a moment of confusion every time you meet a female friend named Jane Smith, and she introduces herself as “oh, now I’m Jane Jones”, I had a concept of the person that was represented by my wife’s name, and it would just be weird for it to change.
But — to the actual results, what the hell? Forced named changes? Sometimes I am really shocked by how quickly people go from “this is my preference” to “and it should be forced on others.” Given this line from the article:
About 70% of Americans agree, either somewhat or strongly, that it’s beneficial for women to take her husband’s last name when they marry,
I’m not sure if the “half of the respondents” mean from the 100% or the 70%, but that’s still a huge chunk of people who think “I am so right that my preference should be forced on others.” Scary! But I can see how it happens — I’ve had people who can’t understand that I could support marijuana legalization but not want to use it myself. For many people, there seems to be only the agree-allow and disagree-prohibit decision spaces — the concept that one could have a wish for a society that does not enforce one’s preferences seems strangely lacking.
The one point on which I completely agree with name-modification is the one Megan points out:
As a practical matter, I suspect that name changing will endure, because hyphenation is not a stable equilibrium, and it’s really quite useful for everyone in the family to have the same last name.
Definitely — but it’s certainly possible to have a family in which the children have one name, but that one of the parents goes by a different name in certain contexts. I certainly grew up that way, and it was a convenient method of screening calls — if a caller asked for Mrs. Moore, it was probably related to something with us kids, if they asked for Dr. [my mother's maiden name], then it was work related. It’s no stranger than someone being called by their first name in one context, their title in another, their last name in still another, and finally “mom” by one’s children.