Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ladybrain Review: Name Changes

I have a confession to make. I married a dude and I took his last name. I do the Hillary Rodham Clinton thing at work, and might continue to do it professionally, but for all legal purposes my birth name is no more.

You might think "bad femimist, very bad!" but I didn't take the decision lightly. When we were dating, my fella talked about changing his name to mine, us both adopting a different last name, or changing our name to a symbol. I shit you not. It was a bracket smiley. :]

My Fella is a fucking adorable human.

So believe me when I tell you that I thought long and hard about it. Because family names are very important to me and because I wanted to establish a family distinction from my controlling parents, I made the decision to change my last name upon tying the knot. And let me tell you, it was a huge pain in the ass. Plane tickets mistakenly made in my married name before I changed my license, or my birth name after I had changed it, credit card not matching any form of identification but my college ID, trips to the MVD, sigh. It sucked. But because it's a societal expectation that I will change my name without giving it a second thought, at least I wasn't met with any indignation.

I've read several essays from men who want to take their wives' names, for any number of reasons, hitting huge road blocks from MVD clerks, friends and family. Here's one from The Globe and Mail.

I was chastised, however, by a coworker of my fella, who identifies as a feminist.

So whatever your decision is, if you're a hetero couple hypenating, a gay couple keeping individual names or anything in between, all I will say to you is this: Congratulations on your nuptials, and don't take shit from people who disapprove of what you decide to do with your name.

But, shocker, most Americans don't share my cavalier attitude on this subject! A recent study from Indiana University and the University of Utah shows that 70 percent of respondents think it's beneficial for women to take their husband's names when they marry, and a little over half of repondents say that there should be a government mandate forcing women to change their names.

I'll let that sink in a little.

Now, once you've recovered from that little gem, let's talk about the language here. I haven't been able to find the study in question online, but the USA Today story implies that the question was worded roughly this way: Is it beneficial for women to take their husband's last name?

That's pretty poor wording for what I'm guessing they're trying to get at. The answer to that question--is it more beneficial for women to do the socially normal thing and take their husband's names--is obviously yes. I'm sure all the women who have endured eye rolls at their hyphens and explanations that they started their careers with their birth names can attest to the fact that it would be much easier in some ways if they were comfortable being Mrs. So-and-So.

If what they're trying to find is people's opinion on whether women should change their names, as a proclimation of the proper-thing-to-do, the question should have been this: Should women take their husband's names when they get married? Bam. Beneficial problem fixed.

Although the study was conducted by universities in conservative-type-states (my bro-in-law pokes fun at his hometown of Seymour, Ind. by pointing out that the former grand wizard of the KKK hails from there), one would assume that they took a random sample of people all over the country. Until we can see the study online, we can't be sure of the sampling or the question-wording.

One thing we can be sure of: If the reports on this study are even close to the true results, we're in worse societal shape than I thought.

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