I recently asked my mum why she never took up my dad’s name after getting married and her answer was: ‘the need for it never arose’. Given she got married at a time that taking up your husband’s name was almost a no-brainer, I was appalled that she was able to pull that off. By taking a name, I do not just mean being referred to as Mrs X, I also meaning changing the name in the official documentation like identification cards and bank account details.
Origin of changing names.
Women take up their husbands’ names for different reasons these days, but when this culture first emerged , coverture was its sole inspiration. When a woman got married, she ceded all her legal rights and obligations to her husband, as such even her identity was merged to with his. Besides breathing, a married woman had the right to do little else, and was forbidden from taking part in financial and legal transactions.
Perhaps it because of this grim past that many women elect not to take their husbands’ names, given none of these things make sense these days. A good number of women still take their husbands’ names, simply because it is what happens – more like the bride wearing white during a wedding. Nobody cares to unravel the specific events that led to the conclusion that brides should wear white. Other women choose to hyphenate their names so their own names do not disappear. Still, others flat out refuse to change their names.
Why won’t some women change their names?
A lot of reasons:
- It is too much work – It is quite a hustle to get all those names change in official documents, and the sheer effort makes some people choose to pass.
- It is part of their brand of professional rep that they have taken so long to build.
- They feel like it is a loss of their identity, to lose a name that has been part of you for the longest time is like erasing a chunk of your life.
- Their husbands’ name might be a tad…unsavory.
- They love their maiden names.
- Like my mum, they do not see any urgent need for it.
But besides its ‘perceived’ lack of practicality, the conversation on changing names is a touchy one, and could potentially evoke a lot of strong feelings.
Given that the discourse on the attitudes, biases and feelings associated with changing names has long been tied to women, we sought the views of these five men to lend us new perspectives and deeper understanding of what exactly is in a name. We asked them if they would have a problem if their wives refused to take their names after marriage and this is what they had to say:
Well, I don’t know… I guess I’ll first ask her why she doesn’t want to take my name…. Since we’ve been brought up believing that a wife should take the husband’s name… So her not taking will be something new that I’d want to understand.
In my opinion, having the husband’s name, makes both parties to be a family… Being recognized with one Name…. Because marriage has brought them both together…. Now, if she decides not to use his name, what will be the identity of that family?
I don’t know..but I think I would have a problem, because we should have a family name, and culturally a lineage should be able to be traced, as even in the Bible. And it’s also very important for the kids, to have a name that unifies us.
I don’t think it is an issue for me, people have reasons why they keep their family names. I think that’s her decision to make, it has nil impact on the relationship.
Plus you have to earn the name to want to make someone choose it, maybe some people opt to stick with a name they have earned.
Yes I would have a problem. But I’d be willing to hear her rationale on that. Some things are just customs, not meant to undermine women.
There is need for some kind of identity which would be the only justification for the change of name. But I don’t think I’d make a big deal out of it if the lady does wanna go for it.