When it comes to getting married, 90% of women still take their husband’s name after the ceremony.
Last week, on International Women’s Day, I read a Comment is Free piece on the Guardian’s website that talked about exactly that.
Unfortunately, as someone who got married last year and happily took her man’s surname, it left me grinding my teeth in annoyance. When planning my wedding, ‘alternative’ was my buzzword. But when it comes to marriage, I guess I’m a traditional girl at heart. I never questioned the idea that I would change my name; in fact, I couldn’t wait to do it.
That doesn’t mean I believe that women should be forced to take their husband’s surname though. I’m big on choice – you should be able to do whatever feels right for you, without having to answer to anyone else. This is why I was so annoyed at the Guardian article. After I finished reading it, I was left with the overwhelming feeling that I was inferior in some way, less intelligent and less independent than the feminist-types who shout loudly that marital name changes are out-of-date and misogynistic.
So why did I decide to change my name?
I’m not going to tell you it was to create a strong family bond, so I will have the same name as my future children or because that’s just what you do when you get married. I didn’t have any intellectual reason other than I simply wanted to. I couldn’t wait to share my husband’s name and since we’ve been married I love being a Mrs.
Identity is one of the central arguments against a woman changing her name in the Guardian article. Sure, if you have a high-profile professional identity attached to your maiden name I can understand the hesitation to change it. But however you change your name, whether one half of the couple takes the other’s name, you double-barrel, or even make something up as the author suggests, there is going to be an identity implication.
Until I read the article, I had never really thought about the effect my name change has had on my identity. But as I contemplated the issue, I realised a few things. Since I became a Mrs, I do feel different. In the time since I’ve been married, I’ve made some significant changes to my life, where before I struggled with self-doubt and motivation. I’m not saying that being married is the reason for this, but perhaps subconsciously I have left behind the girl who lacked self-esteem and have started to become a grown-up, who is more willing to strive for what she wants.
Perhaps it is easier for me to accept my husband’s name as my own because we’ve been together since I was a teenager, over ten years now. He has always been a part of my life and has been influential in shaping who I am now, through our shared experiences and his support of my decisions and dreams. If I had been in a relationship with someone less supportive from a young age I might be a very different person now.
But my sense of identity has been tied to my husband for so long, that changing my name isn’t a big step. If I had spent my twenties an independent woman things may well be different.
Ultimately, there are so many more serious issues relating to women’s rights, I would rather focus my ire on them than the fact so many women still choose to take their husband’s name.