The Changing of Last Names

Lately I feel I have come across a lot of articles about women’s struggles with changing their last name when they get married. Most of what I have seen have been women who didn’t want to change it and are justifying why they didn’t want to, and women who did and are explaining why they regret doing so. I have not seen anyone defending why they did change their name. I don’t understand why no one is defending the other side, or why we (I feel) are making it a “feminist issue.”

I changed my last name.

I am almost 24, female (duh), and would classify myself as a feminist. Not a bra-burning, man-hating feminist, but I believe in equality for men and women. I believe that women have come a long way in history. But I also believe that not everything is a feminist agenda.

I was young when I got married. My husband proposed just days before my 20th birthday (which my mother, after a long chat, quickly got over), and we were married just two months before my 21st birthday. You do the math; we have been married almost three years (actually, it will be 3 years on Tuesday!). Here’s the thing: I never questioned whether I should change my last name.

Actually, throughout the entire planning process, I was looking forward to going down to the DMV, to social security, and showing off my brand new marriage license that had my new last name on it. And I was actually upset that this name change could not be reflected in time for our honeymoon for which we needed passports (because, when I got my passport, we had not yet married, so it had my maiden name on it).

Yes, I am a little traditional in some senses. Some in my field have insinuated I am not feminist because I don’t mind the “Mr.” coming first in “Mr. and Mrs.” on a letter, because I changed my last name. They have attempted to explain my own feelings to me: that I accept this notion simply because I am familiar with a patriarchal society and therefore I go along with giving up my identity for a man. That is not the case with me.

My husband did not make me change my last name, though he did express his desire that I do and that he might feel hurt if I did not. Why would I want to hurt my husband so early in our marriage and with something he would be constantly reminded of? I did not have a long, historic relationship with my last name; I was not really attached to it.

I am also Christian, which played a role in my feelings about marriage and changing my name. I felt it would be disrespectful of me to not change my last name. I was committing myself to him for the rest of my life, so I felt I should commit all of me—including my last name. After all, what is so special about a name? It does not make you who you are—you choose who you are.

It is difficult to explain why I chose to change my name because it just felt right to me. I chose to be part of another family. For me, changing my last name is a way to create my own legacy, alongside my husband. Not a day goes by that I regret changing my last name. In fact, there’s a sense of pride when my students call me “Mrs.” Especially since my husband is in the military now, it makes things a lot easier.

So, women: If you’re married did you change your last name? Why or why not? If you’re not married, do you think you will change your last name?

And men: How do you feel about your wife (or future wife) changing her last name (or not)?

Is a last name really that big of a deal? Should it really be a “conversation” that we have, over whether women should change their name or not? Does a personal choice, related to feelings and beliefs, really need to be a feminist issue?

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