Monday, October 21, 2013

Jezebel goes for the name-change jugular

Wanted to share with my readers some comments on Jezebel’s Lindy West’s “Men Who Insist You Change Your Name Make Terrible Husbands”. Readers’ remarks are surrounded by quotes. My remarks are in red. I edited many comments to render them smoother / more readable (what’s new?):

“I took my husband's name. It was a really hard thing to do!”

Well, why’dja do it, then?

[same poster as above]:
“…Then he died, and I have his name. It's been almost 10 years, now. I feel like if I ever remarry, I'll be obligated to take on a new name again. Because I can't be married to one person while keeping my dead husband's name, can I?”

Huh? Sure you can, but I’m surprised you don’t see one other option waving its arms wildly up there: Revert to your birth name. Then you’re not dissing anyone, dead or alive.

“Before we got married, I suggested that we blend our names to represent our new household. His response: ‘I would spend the rest of my life actively taking sh_t from every man I know and meet about this. Yes, the married name is a double standard, and yes, it disadvantages the woman. But patriarchy doesn't just limit women's choices."

Aw, poor patriarchs. Their choices are limited too, boo-hoo. Yes: limited to having power over women. I feel just terrible about it. Bet sh-t-taking husband does too.

“We couldn't hyphenate; both of our names were 10 letters long!”

Imagine! That’s why we have this device called “initials”. For instance, we got used to writing our daughter’s surname as “E-S” / א-ס. Rarely does The Whole Thing need to be spelled out.

“I have an 11-letter first name and I've had issues entering it on forms my entire life. I'd HATE to have to try and squeeze in a long, hyphenated last name.”

[BarelyLethal replies]:
“I keep seeing ‘Oh! It's terrible on forms! Woe is me!’ Don't you think that as more of us have multiple or hyphenated names, the forms would change to accommodate us? I haven't seen a credit card application in the last five years that doesn't have at least 25 spaces for Last Name… if more of us adopted hyphenated and / or multiple last names, the forms would have to catch up. So ‘I'm not going to name my kid thusly because forms’ doesn't hold water if it's really something you want to do.”

Elegantly said, BarelyLethal. Just like so many things in life that cause us to extend our comfort zones: There will always be plenty of excuses not to; if you really want to do something, those excuses won’t stop you.

“For the record, I'm taking my husband's last name in the future because my dad is a jackass. Nothing to do with his name whatsoever. Sorry, future husband!

First off, why’re you apologizing to a man you’ve never met? Second, supposing you remain unmarried? Why not unload your dad’s jackassery now? No time like the present…

Have a listen to what Homosaur said about the possibility of taking his wife’s surname:

“The day I take her father's name is the day I cut my d_ck off with a scissors.”

Uh. There is so much macho patriarchy dripping from that remark, not to mention plain old generic anger, I’d be afraid to occupy the same ZIP code as this guy. And to think someone is married to him. Goddess keep her.

Perdue wrote: “If you're so hell-bent on One Family, One Name (which I personally don't care about, having seen approximately eleventy billion kids with different last names than at least one parent in my time on this earth, and exactly zero mishaps as a result)…”

Aspirellls: “I was listening to a fascinating story the other day about engaged couples who both have hyphenated last names and have no clue what to do. I don't know where to even begin navigating that one.”

That story indeed sounds fascinating, Aspirellls. Gee, this is rocket science: How about each retains one name and drops one name, then combine? Or combine all four? Whatever these mysterious engaged couples decide, the earth will keep spinning on its axis, I’m quite certain.

“My best friend growing up was hyphenated and she HATED it.

Oh. Well, then. End Of Discussion. Because we all know that one anecdote equals data. Well, I venture another anecdote: Two of my hypho-kids dropped the post-hyphen name; the third as of this writing is remaining hyphenated. Stay tuned.

“The fact I have a different last name from the other 3/4 of my family has caused a problem exactly .... never. And I certainly don't think it makes me less married or less committed in any possible way.”

Yowza. Amen, Sister. Preach it.

Yoana’s answer to the claim ‘A woman who won’t take her husband’s surname puts herself ahead of her marriage.’
Translation: She's reluctant to be my personal life assistant.

LaurelTreeDaphne: “Is it OK for us to participate in something that contributes to our own disenfranchisement in the interest of holding onto tradition? I wish there was more acknowledgement that taking your husband's last name is inherently problematic, no matter what your reasons for doing so. When you do, you're contributing to that culture that makes 96% of men believe it's emasculating to take a woman's name, a fact that tends to get lost in the ‘choose your choice’ chirp that usually surrounds this topic.

“See, that overwhelming number (96%?!?!?!) is why I am not OK with women taking their husband's last name. Every time this topic comes up, women come out of the woodwork with their personal stories about why it was really important to them to take their husband's last name. OK, ‘your name, your choice and all that’. But on a societal level...oof. That percentage is staggering, and it is not going to change unless we as women start pushing the issue. And it's important to start pushing the issue, because the automatic ‘We want to be one family, one name’ thing is rooted in some really problematic history of women and children being the property of men.

“96% of men believe that taking on a piece of their partner's identity diminishes their manhood in some way. And it's completely reinforced by society: Not only do most people just assume that women will take their husbands’ last names, but the bureaucracy is set up to make it really, really difficult for a man to change his name. You say that it's fine for feminists to want to hold onto traditions, but is it really, when the tradition is so problematic and so reflective of the lesser value men place on us?

Sigh. I think I love you, LaurelTreeDaphne.

“Changed my name when I married the first time. After 10 years when I divorced, it still felt borrowed, so I went back to my maiden. Changing when I married was no sweat; going back to my maiden was a pain in the butt! Everyone wanted double proof that you got divorced and that it was stated in court that you went back to your own name. When I married and wanted to change it, everyone was 'okey-dokey!' Decided I would never change it again, I don't care if I marry a Rockefeller.”

Woo-hoo! And picture me bowing down to these next three:

“I'm glad I did it [reverted to my birth name post-divorce], but it infuriated me how much of a pain they made it, like it was further punishment for me for daring to break away from conformity.”

“Plenty of men have names that are ugly, silly, or difficult to spell or pronounce, but funnily enough, this doesn't usually result in their taking their wives' names. I'm not saying that makes other reasoning invalid, but I am saying you can't divorce it from the larger patriarchal construct. If it was really just about getting rid of a ‘bad’ name, men would change their names as often as women do.

“I have had people tell me they ‘wouldn't feel as connected to their kids’ if they didn't share the same last name. I always thought that was a weird response. It's not like when I pick my kid up from daycare she looks at me quizzically and asks for ID.”

The problem with this "doing what makes the most sense for you" is that often that segues into taking the path of least resistance, which in many cases is simply Taking His Name. This irks me. Keep. Your. Name. If you dislike it, by all means change it, but NOT because there's a man involved.

FeministFury knocks it outta the park:

“The argument, ‘well, you're just going from your father's name to your husband's name’ is stupid (sorry, it is). If more women stopped passing on their husbands' names to their children, the names wouldn't just be fathers' but mothers' as well, which would resolve the problem, so that response is ultimately self-defeating. It also obscures other naming possibilities, thereby closing off creativity. For instance, women could change their names to their mothers' names upon marriage. They could invent new names. They could resurrect a long-forgotten matrilineal name from their ancestry. The options aren't reduced to two, and I bet we kind of don't want to resolve this problem creatively because it's a lot easier to feel defeatist, i.e., ‘well, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't, aren't we? Our hands are tied either way.’ Right. So isn't it easiest just to capitulate (nope, we're not, and nope, that isn't the best response)?”

And the Final Three:

“Pretty much if your life partner who's supposed to be your equal ‘makes’ you do something, or decides to ‘let’ you do something, or issues an ultimatum - you are looking at a giant red flag.”

“What year is this? If there's one tradition that should've died out 50 years ago, it's that one.”

“I'm keeping my name. If you're curious as to why, please go ask my fiancé if he is keeping his name, and why. There you go.”


  1. Pablo Picasso used his mother's name, not because he intended to, but because the Spanish, unlike the French, use both parents' names together. When he made his success in France, the French dropped Ruiz, his patronimic, and he without concern accepted. YYbYZhL

    1. So Picasso was obviously not part of the 96%...the problem is that NO ONE thinks he's part of the 96%...

  2. I changed my first name in court, and it wasn't a big deal. Why I'm not changing my married name back to my maiden name (which I'd love to do; it's a fine, proud family name): I've been married for 47 years, and I've grown to identify with it. I use my maiden name as a middle name and sign the whole thing when I write for publication or for something formal. My son's wife kept her maiden name, which was fine with the female rabbi who married them. The children have my son's name. This may change; who knows? Yam, you make an excellent case for choice.

  3. The rabbi had a say in what the marrying partners names are? That's a new one. Thanks for the compliment, but I have to admit, my aim isn't choice; it's convincing women to keep their names, or at least not change them because a man is involved.