Since getting married (even since just planning to get married) I’ve been questioned a lot about what name I’m using. Daniel changed his family name since we became engaged so there has been some confusion about what we’re actually calling ourselves! I’m surprised at the amount of people who are surprised when I tell them that Daniel and I have both chosen to hyphenate our surnames.
The concept of the male’s name still being the “default” name to be consistently passed onto women and children actually offends me from a feminist standpoint; I find it patriarchal and feel that it reinforces a perception of male dominance and authority. The important point I want to make here is not that I believe all women should keep their family name or even hyphenate it. Women should be free to do whatever they darn well please when it comes to the name they take in marriage. There should be no “default”, no expectations. There should be no “socially unacceptable” thing to do. People should be free to make decisions that feel right for them on an individual basis, without fear of being judged and without having to put up with silly questions and looks of surprise.
Hyphenating surnames, from a feminist perspective, is not about providing a “solution” to sexism in naming. I certainly don’t believe that it should be mandatory. It’s just about having the choice (and people being accepting of that choice) in the first place, which is what feminism is all about at it’s heart.
I wanted to hyphenate my name…
- Because I like my surname.
- Because I identify with my surname. I have been using my name for the past 23 years. It is my name. It is who I am.
- Because my father is the only male offspring of his parents and he had no sons. Had both of his daughters changed their surnames in marriage, the family name would die with my father.
- Because I have a high degree of family pride and appreciation for the family that raised me.
- Because we felt that our marriage was about starting our own family and we wanted any name change to be symbolic of that.
Or, to put it simply in the words of my husband – “Because I didn’t want to get rid of mine and you didn’t want to get rid of yours and I wanted both to be ours”.
Having a hyphenated surname can make things a little tricky. I’ve encountered people who insist on dropping the second name entirely (and I correct them) as well as people who look at me quizzically and ask what will happen if my children grow up and want to hyphenate their names as well. My response is that my children will grow up to enjoy the same freedom that I had in changing my family name; what they choose to do is up to them. Triple and quadruple-barrelled names, though rare, are not unheard of!
So. That’s me. How do you feel about changing names in marriage? What did you do?