Why I Think Wives Shouldn't Take Their Husbands' Last Names

Speaking only for myself, I find the practice of the wife taking on the husband's name to be a subsuming of the wife's identity to the husband and a tacit assumption that the husband is the more important member of the couple.

Now, of course, in some marriages that is the case. And perhaps calling someone who does do it "stupid" is extreme. But it worries me that someone would consider their own identity less important than that of their husband -- which is what "Mrs. John Doe" implies.

I also hate it when people insist on referring to Marina as "Mrs. DeCandido" even after they've been corrected. (I've also been referred to as "Mr. Frants," natch, but when I correct them on that, it always takes the first time.)

I still think the practice is based on outdated laws and customs that set women in a subservient role. And I really think more men should consider that their own names can get altered, too.

I had a professor in college, Scottish by descent, whose last name was Gwilt. He married a Chinese woman whose last name was Go. When they married, they both changed their surnames to GoGwilt, which I thought was nifty. Admittedly, this wouldn't work with, say Jane Thermopoulos and Bill Milewski, but it's neat.

I've also found myself encountering a lot of men who are actively offended when they find out their fiancées want to keep their names. I've seen this happen twice recently where the women both intended to keep their last names (in one case because it was more beneficial for her job as a salesperson if she kept her last name because she's related to a well-known sports figure), until they shared this with their fiancés, who proceeded to hit the roof. In both cases, the women wound up hyphenating their last names.

One of my best friends from high school had been telling me since we were both 15 that she wouldn't change her name when she got married, and she was always very definite on the subject. When she told her fiancé that she was keeping the name, he was driven to tears (according to her). So she took on his last name.

OTOH, I have one friend who changed her name because she had no great interest in remaining associated with her family. My mother-in-law was born Dina Rosengaus, then became Dina Frants when she married Valery Frants, my father-in-law, in Russia. When they divorced (after moving to this country), and Dina married Zelik Leybenzon, she remained Dina Frants -- the reason was practicality. Frants was the easiest name of the three choices to deal with and for people to pronounce.

I'm not sure there's necessarily a point to all this, but I don't think the vast majority of people think about why the woman always takes the husband's name -- I mainly think this because I don't think the vast majority of people really think about 90% of what they do, if not more.

[First posted on the "Keith R.A. DeCandido [KEITH.D]" topic on Genie on 27 August 1995.]


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