In posting about how Québec since 1981 doesn’t legally allow married women to choose to take their husband’s name or not, I sort of stirred the pot and set off a set of fiery direct messages (DM’s) into my mailbox.
Before we go any further:
I refuse to call it a ‘maiden name’ any longer
Some people divorce and remarry. They aren’t ‘maids’ any more, and all of that is more BS because being a ‘maid’ also means you’re a virgin when you get married (LOL) and all these other patriarchally-constructed social mores that we are all subject to as women and men have nothing to do with or not an inkling of.
I am just going to refer to it as a ‘last name’ or ‘family name’, as that is what it is.
Saying “maiden name” it just lends more credibility to the fact that men have last names that are ‘family names’, and women have to have ‘maiden names’ to be under some sort of male rule – her father or her husband.
It sounds petty. It sounds trite.
“OMG Who cares, we all know what you mean”
And yet…..words carry meaning and power, and I strongly urge all of you to reconsider calling it a ‘maiden name’. Think about it, why don’t men have ‘bachelor names”?
Why do only women get saddled with this societal, patriarchal crap of having to have society peg us as Mrs., Ms., or Miss, to know if we are married or not (and men only have Mr.), and on top of that having to use another word to refer to the fact that we were previously unmarried (maiden name)?
Also, women who get married are unlikely virginal maids, so …. let’s not kid ourselves. Even the word ‘maid’, makes me side eye.
I’d say with me, when we get married, the jig will certainly be up on my virginity as a bride when our 6-year old son shows up for the civil ceremony beside us.
I am not emotionally involved in any decision of what you choose as your family name after marriage
I only care that it is equal / fair for everyone to have the freedom of choice to decide, and whatever you choose, is fine, whether you decide to:
- keep your own last name
- change it to another parents’ last name
- take your spouse’s last name
- merge the two last names names
- make a hyphen
It’s all FINE. Everyone has different reasons for each and they’re all valid.
Back to Québec. What made me call it patriarchal BS to force women to legally be UNABLE to take their husband’s name, is because we do not have the freedom of CHOICE to do so or not.
Why not just let people do what they want?
If it is true equality, we should be able to do what we wish with our last names when we marry.
By putting in a law that says we do not even have the option to decide for ourselves, is contradictory to its supposed ‘equality measure’ in society ‘forcing women to take their spouse’s name’.
We have so many different partnerships now, including same-sex couples who don’t have the same structure.
I suspect it is also very likely that it is to prevent foreign women from being able to marry spouses with French last names, and then ‘hide’ under that family name so to speak. So instead of being called by your perhaps ethnic last name, you’re now called “Beaulieu”.
If it is really, truly equal, we should be allowed to choose, but it isn’t because the law is again, patriarchal and choosing on our behalves, under the guise of it being a feminist cause when it really isn’t.
In Québec, you can change your name but only under certain circumstances like if let’s say your parents named you Adolf. Or if for religious reasons you can prove you MUST take your spouse’s last name, all of which I find bizarre because then we should be able to just choose if we want to take a spouse’s last name or not.
Why would someone keep their family name?
Why wouldn’t they? Women almost always get stuck with this stupid issue as a problem and men usually sail past all of this with nary a worry. Their names, from birth, are pretty much secured to be their names professionally and beyond all the way until their death.
Women, have to battle stigma against NOT changing their last name… and also, changing their last names as well.
A few short examples of some valid reasons:
If you don’t change your last name:
- You don’t feel like a family unit
- Your children will have the last name of your spouse but not yours
- You don’t feel ‘married’ or committed
If you change your last name:
- Your spouse may be upset you don’t want to be a “family unit” or as “committed”
- You have to go through a hoopla of changing EVERY DOCUMENT YOU OWN to indicate this – Men? Generally don’t even consider this
- You were professionally known by your own name and suddenly you have to switch? People can get confused especially if you published under your own name.
- You lose your ethnic/cultural sense of self if your name happens to mean a lot to you
- You MAY feel like you’re under his umbrella name rather than standing on your own
- Seems unnecessary (you were likely already living together before being married so everything is in both of your names)
And either option, though perfectly fine, are rife with pitfalls for women.
Why else would someone change their family name?
Aside from the reasons above, I know women who have purposefully chosen to change their family name because they would be treated better. Simply put, if your name is more English, or less ethnic, you’re going to have a much better service in general. Especially if you don’t have an accent either, people will see your last name and subconsciously (biased or not), treat you better.
This is anecdotal but also factual. I have friends who can see the immediate difference in using their husband’s last name for a service versus using their own, in the way they’re treated over the phone because based on your name, you’re judged to be a certain something-or-another. Please note that WE ALL DO THIS. It isn’t wrong, it’s just we need to be conscious we are doing it and to be more thoughtful.
Some of us may be more predisposed to like someone based on their name because we feel a certain kinship with them (maybe the same last name?), and others of us, may be more predisposed to not like them because of their names (a bad breakup with someone comes to mind…).
Or, you simply don’t want to have (likely) your father’s name any longer for whatever reason.
The interesting thing is you can make more money if you keep your own name
Really? Yes you can earn up to $500K over a lifetime.
A 2010 study from The University of Tilburg in Holland shows that because highly educated, high-earning women are more likely to keep their last names after marriage, a positive bias towards them doing so has been created.
The research found that women who changed their names were viewed as “more caring, more dependent, less intelligent, more emotional, less competent, and less ambitious.”
Women who kept their names, on the other hand, were seen as “less caring, more independent, more ambitious, more intelligent, and more competent.”
You don’t say.
Obviously a name is just a bloody name, and none of it can really say who you are as a person, and YET it seems to have an effect on people when they realize you have your own last name and not his. All of this is to say that names matter. A lot. As a woman of colour, I know this, and there is no denying that a name says a lot about you for good or for bad.
P.S. Even if I could take his name when we get married, I will keep my own because it is my name and identity.
Also our son took his name, but that’s because I didn’t push for mine at all when I was pregnant. I was not having a very good relationship with my father and I did it partly to spite him.
In hindsight, I should have considered it as my name not my father’s name, and pushed for my name to be our son’s last name. My partner was okay with either option, he just simply asked who’s last name our son would take, and I immediately said “Yours“. I should have considered making my last name his middle name at least.