The surname changing thing has loooooong fascinated me as a feminist and the conversation is back, again, and it’s as lively as ever.
From Jill Filipovic in The Guardian with “Why should married women change their names? Let men change theirs” :
That is fundamentally why I oppose changing your name (and why I look forward to the wider legalization of same-sex marriage, which in addition to just being good and right, will challenge the idea that there are naturally different roles for men and women within the marital unit). Identities matter, and the words we put on things are part of how we make them real. There’s a power in naming that feminists and social justice activists have long highlighted. Putting a word to the most obvious social dynamics is the first step toward ending inequality. Words like “sexism” and “racism” make clear that different treatment based on sex or race is something other than the natural state of things; the invention of the term “Ms” shed light on the fact that men simply existed in the world while women were identified based on their marital status.
Your name is your identity. The term for you is what situates you in the world. The cultural assumption that women will change their names upon marriage – the assumption that we’ll even think about it, and be in a position where we make a “choice” of whether to keep our names or take our husbands’ – cannot be without consequence. Part of how our brains function and make sense of a vast and confusing universe is by naming and categorizing. When women see our names as temporary or not really ours, and when we understand that part of being a woman is subsuming your own identity into our husband’s, that impacts our perception of ourselves and our role in the world. It lessens the belief that our existence is valuable unto itself, and that as individuals we are already whole. It disassociates us from ourselves, and feeds into a female understanding of self as relational – we are not simply who we are, we are defined by our role as someone’s wife or mother or daughter or sister.
And from Kate Harding with “Why I lose my mind every time we have the name conversation”:
Oh, I know, I know, Jill’s piece was judgey and shamey and insensitive ill-conceived, and it’s really important that we maintain our focus on that, until we all get sick of talking about it again.
Nope. In addition to the fact that I disagree with all of that, I submit that it doesn’t matter one bit what Jill said, specifically, the other day. Because this conversation happens, in exactly this way, every time. No matter who starts it or how they frame it, the people who want to examine the persistence of this fucking canonical anti-feminist tradition are shouted down by women who took their husband’s names and thus don’t think this conversation is fair to them.