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Sunday, November 7, 2010

On Names

I know that I already posted about, but one of my favorite [political/feminist] bloggers just posted an article that explains my perspective more eloquently, although not all of it applies to me.

As I noted before, I do plan on changing my name and taking Chris' surname.  I am choosing this having given it much thought and reflection on the various aspects of the consideration.

This blogger, offered a list of ten potential reasons that a woman who identifies as feminist (which I do) would choose to take her husband's last name as her own (which I plan to do).

She makes many good points, but here are some of my favorites:

6. Because her maiden name was her father's name and keeping it did not feel like any more a rejection of the patriarchy than taking her husband's name did, and she liked her husband's name better.
9. Because she and her husband want the same last name, but the law makes it infinitely easier for her to change her name to his than for him to change his name to hers, or for both of them to choose a new name they share altogether.
10. Because despite knowing it comes from a weird, fucked-up patriarchal tradition, there's still some weird, fucked-up place inside her that likes the idea of taking her husband's name—and no feminist/womanist lives a life free of compliance, consciously or not, with weird, fucked-up patriarchal narratives and expectations. But unlike privately calling another woman a bitch or playing the role of Exceptional Feminist with a group of male coworkers or secretly doing all the housework in her own home, the name thing is there for everyone to see and question, every day of her life.
...Every time we publicly castigate or question women who have taken their husbands' last names [we judge and castigate them] —because there are reasons, not always evident and none of our fucking business, for that choice which can and sometimes do trump political statements on a personal, individual level.
This is not to argue that taking one's husband's name is inherently a feminist choice (although I'm not sure it's inherently not a feminist choice, either, depending on the circumstances). It is merely to say that we cannot (and should not) axiomatically assume anything about a woman who has taken her partner's name, rendering this yet another subject on which the casual passing of judgment is a pernicious affair indeed.
Quite evidently, we each have a responsibility to think critically about our individual decisions, and not pretend they happen in a void even when we make choices for no one's pleasure or security but our own. just because one is doing something for herself doesn't magically turn it into a choice without cultural implications.
But it's eminently possible to critique the culture in which individual choices are made, and the cultural narratives that may affect our decision-making processes, without condemning those individual choices. Or the womanists/feminists making them.
Not every feminist/womanist will make the same choice, nor should they be thus obliged in order to prove feminism's value. Feminism has sufficiently demonstrated its own worth by providing that spectrum of choice in the first place.
In general, I recommend this blogger's writing and find her insights quite interesting (although I do not always agree with her).   I like that she put this in terms of feminism and how we, as persons with strong ideals and points of view, forget that others can make choices that are not 100% in line with ideologies and are still legitimate and do not negate a person's identification as feminist (or belonging to some other ideology).

I just like this post and wanted to share, particularly as it pertains to me and my own personal decision...and one that I clearly felt like required an explanation of some kind.


  1. Ok, so I feel compelled to comment. I absolutely appreciate all of these reasons and love that you have thought about it so critically, but I think the most compelling reason for you to change your name is that you want to. You are entering into a covenant with each other and I think that adopting his name is a beautiful display of that commitment

  2. Thanks, Nicole. :)

    That's definitely where I came from at the beginning. There is something about this issue that feels deeply-seated and powerful for many people.
    Although, I have been practicing what will be my new signature and it's a lot more cumbersome than my current signature and will definitely take some getting used to. :)

  3. I'm in the opposite boat as far as my personal decision. I don't plan to legally change my name. Why? Well, much like #6, I think Laura Hart is a better name that Laura Walker. Laura Walker is a good name too, don't get me wrong, but I just feel apprehensive and just generally not excited to go by it officially. I may introduce myself as Mrs. Walker once kids get involved, but I should think legally it will always be Hart.

  4. Plus, Hart-Walker just sounds like a Care Bare.

  5. Laura, I totally understand. Plus, you know, you'll get to avoid what I hear is a huge paperwork hassle in getting the name changed. :)