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It got me thinking about the continuing – nay, growing – phenomenon of women changing their surname name to that of their husbands. Tell a modern woman that she can’t vote, get a job or own property and you will quite rightly be chastised, laughed at, slapped around the head or most likely a combination of all of three. Yet the overwhelming majority of western women (various sources for the UK, USA and Australia have the number at between 80 and 90% and climbing) continue to happily embrace the tradition of giving up the surname they’ve grown up with in favour of a man’s as soon as they’ve walked down the aisle. A tradition – as most of us know – which arose around the distinctly un-feminist concept of passing “ownership” of the woman from her father to her husband when she got married.
My wife hasn’t taken my name, and we are both content with that. Her family name (and yes, I acknowledge the semi-irony of the fact that family names are invariably paternal) is very important to her – her father passed away some years ago and she doesn’t want to lose the name she has grown up with. Personally, as someone who has generally viewed the Bridal Name Change (BNC) as a particularly archaic patriarchal remnant, I have never put any pressure or expectation on her to change her name to mine. However, such is the social expectation which seems to accompany the BNC, that when in discussion my darling wife ‘fesses up to the fact that she – gasp! – is keeping her maiden name, she now tends to do so in a near-apologetic tone, such is the judgement that seems to emanate from those listening (Does she not truly love me? Is she really a committed wife? Am I not man enough to take control of the situation?). Not that this bothers me, I’ve been generally of the opinion that people will get used to the wild craziness of our choice and learn to deal. I always considered my position strengthened by the fact that I have no intention of changing my name as a man, so if I were a woman I wouldn’t change it either.