Getting married, changing my name, and feeling like a "bad feminist."
April 12, 2019 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting married soon and plan to change my surname. I never thought I would want to do so , but now I'm here, and I do, and I'm feeling guilty about it. If you've made a similar choice, I'd love to know how you reconciled your decision with your identity as a feminist.

Just to clarify, this question isn't Should I change my name? Please assume I am going to change it.

Possibly relevant details:

* I'm changing my name from Sarah [Middle] [BirthLast] to Sarah [BirthLast] [MarriedLast], i.e. replacing my middle name with my birth surname.

* My primary motivation for changing my name is that I genuinely love my fiance's family, and am excited to be a part of it (legally, as they already make me feel very included). I'm excited to become one of them in name!

* I'm getting married a bit younger than I expected. I imagined I would be in my 30s at least when I met the right person, but I'm actually only 28 and therefore less advanced in my career than I predicted. (I do have some publications under my birth name, which is part of my motivation for preserving my birth surname as my new middle name.)

* My fiance has no preference either way and is absolutely not pressuring or even encouraging me to change my name.

* We plan to eventually have children and to give them my fiance's surname.

So, the issue:

I personally feel that feminism is about empowering women to make the choices that suit them best -- there is no wrong choice, even if it a traditional choice, so long as it is made autonomously. I don't judge other women I know who have taken their husband's last name, although I confess I have sometimes wondered privately about their motivations for doing it.

However, I also feel like in my own small way, I am just perpetuating the social expectation that women change their names, that a husband is the head of (an opposite sex) marriage, etc. I don't feel good about perpetuating those things, and I wonder if my excitement about becoming a [MarriedLast] is clouding my judgment in a way that I will later come to regret.

Also, I just got a fairly judgmental reaction from a coworker (~60yo married woman who kept her birth surname) when I mentioned this to her in passing, so I admit I'm feeling less confident in my choice than I do on a typical day.
posted by schroedingersgirl to Human Relations (53 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's request -- restless_nomad

So - from my male perspective, my first wife decided to keep her name (mine is Polish and, well "weird").

Yes, the kids got my surname - however, there were endless "eyebrow arches" and snideness from people in the education vocation over the years, with an attitude of: "Oh, she doesn't have the same name as you? Must be your "girlfriend", probably not even the mother of the children..." (She is a visible minority, I am white - the kids overall skin-tone is not immediately apparent as the same visible minority as their mother)

It sucked. More than a few times over the years we were married, my ex commented that if she had to do it again, she would have taken my surname.

(And myself, when we were talking about her taking my name - my take on it was: I don't even want it, why would you?)
posted by jkaczor at 10:04 AM on April 12, 2019

You're keeping your own last name just also adding his. You're recognizing that you're part of both families (not just his).

Would it make you feel better if both of you took your last name as a middle, and his last name, and did the same for your kids? We seriously considered doing this for ourselves, and are doing this for our kids.
posted by cacao at 10:05 AM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

(~60yo married woman who kept her birth surname)

"Oh, you kept your DAD'S surname? Way to fight the patriarchy!"

Then you take a microphone out, drop it, and run away.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:07 AM on April 12, 2019 [24 favorites]

You do not have to legally change your name right away. Why not sit on it for a while? One of my friends took a few years to change hers. She was Jane Doe and became Jane Doe Smith slowly. People called her Mrs. Smith right away.
posted by notjustthefish at 10:08 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

You're not going to feel less bad about it later. Keep your name.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2019 [14 favorites]

I feel like this is one of those things where some people are just super judgy in general, in both directions and for no apparent reason. For example, a co-worker asked me "what's your new name now?" and I said I didn't change it; she gave a judgmental huffy breath and asked "you DIDN'T?!" and then quickly added that she hadn't changed hers when she got married, either! So weird! Bottom line, you just gotta do what feels right to you, and there doesn't have to be a huge moral justification!
posted by karbonokapi at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

I took my husband's last name but he didn't head the marriage. I earned the money. Only I knew where all of the financial accounts were. He immigrated as a dependent on my work visa. He did the laundry, washed the dishes, and cleaned the house. He stayed home with the baby while I worked. Our marriage wasn't totally gender flipped - I did all the emotional labour - but it certainly wasn't a monument to the patriarchy.

Now we are divorced. I am keeping the name. I'm not taking my father's name back. I am an independent woman and nobody gives a flying fuck about my name.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2019 [13 favorites]

Do you have to reconcile it with your identity as a feminist? That is, can't it be something you want to do, and that's worth it to you, but that isn't in itself a super feminist thing to do and that's fine?

It's convenient doing the socially ordinary thing, which is what changing your name is; there are advantages, emotional and practical, to having everyone in the family having the same last names; you like your inlaws and want to express affiliation with them. Those are all good reasons to do what you want.

Considered as an isolated decision, it's not the most actively feminist thing you could be doing, but there's no one grading you on whether every decision you make is the most actively feminist thing possible.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2019 [10 favorites]

I am a feminist who took my husband's name.

I did it because I wanted our family to have the same name. I did tell him that it felt unfair, and he did a beautiful thing (I didn't ask him to do this, he came up with it): when I legally changed my name to MyFirstName MyMaidenName HisLastname (dropping my original middle name), he legally changed his to HisFirstName MyMaidenName HisLastname (dropping his original middle name) too.

While this gesture was beautiful and supportive, during our life together it hasn't been the big deal I thought it might have been. I have a very ethnic maiden (now middle) name; and my family and my culture are heavily influential in the way we and our kids live. My personal identity has never felt subsumed. The only time I really notice the name thing is when it's positive: It's convenient to have the same last name, and his is a lot easier to spell. I have no feminist qualms at all.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

No one makes choices in a vacuum. We're all influenced by the society we are percolating in and form our opinions and values based on it. Something like 80% of American women change their name to their husband's name on marriage, so if they're all bad feminists then there aren't many good feminists left.

There are a lot of imperfect choices and compromises we have to make in our lives. I still drive a car and use air conditioning even though I know I live in a catastrophically warming planet. It is good to consider that discomfort and do my best to offset my comfortable choices with uncomfortable ones that will hopefully have a bigger impact, like protesting and volunteering.
posted by muddgirl at 10:16 AM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

In the end, nobody is going to care about this even a fraction of a percentage point as much as you do. This is about what you want. You don't need to explain or justify your decision to anybody.

If you're worried about making a permanent decision when you aren't sure, you can always use the name casually for a while without changing it legally. Nobody is going to notice if you do this.
posted by something something at 10:16 AM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I mean, if you change your name, you certainly won't be alone. I am the only married woman I know who didn't change her name when she got married. Literally the only one. It is still, by far, the more common/popular choice. So, if you're a bad feminist for that, so are millions of other women.

I'm trying to be as delicate as possible because obviously, I think more women should keep their names when they marry. But who cares what some stranger thinks about your marriage and your name? Fuck 'em if they can't be happy for you.

But you could also wait a little bit and settle into being married to see if some of your euphoria fades a bit and you decide you want to keep your name. I had a college professor take her husband's name right after marrying and then decide that wasn't her name and she couldn't get used to it, so she changed it back. (All with her husband's support and their still married decades later.)
posted by Aquifer at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Tangentially related: you can still publish as Sarah BirthLast. Nobody cares, and I know lots of people who continue to publish under the name they first published with, no matter what their legal name may be. Bibliographic continuity may be important for you, and perhaps publishing with BirthLast only, you may feel better about this guilt.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:19 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm more on the feminist "lite" end of the feminist spectrum, and never really cared about the name thing one way or another. But I recently got married and took my husband's name. For me, it was a super weird experience because I've always refused nicknames and shortenings, and always felt like a name is an identifier, and it feels like somehow it changes who I am to go around with a new last name. But I guess that's the thing - my husband and I are a team, we are a united front against the world. And our last name is our team name. It's not owned by him or by me, it's ours together and that's what makes it special.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:22 AM on April 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

If it's of any help, I know of same-sex couples where one partner took the other's name because they like their partner's family (though sometimes those are situations where the person didn't like or didn't get along super well their own birth family or father.) So that can be a gender-independent reason.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:23 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Letty Cottin Pogrebin--one of the founders of Ms.-- did this.
posted by brujita at 10:23 AM on April 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I changed my name, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone. My now-husband and I talked about it - he'd been married before, in a situation where he had changed his last name, and therefore knew what a hassle it was to change it back; he didn't want to change his again for that reason, and didn't expect me to change mine either. I sat with it for about five months, from the point we told people we were getting married to the day we filled out our marriage license paperwork (which is when I needed to make the decision).

I didn't really struggle with it, though. If my husband had expected me to do it, or if I was being pressured by his family or something, it would have been a different story for me. But this was wholly my decision, which in my book is pretty damn feminist.

In the end, people are going to have opinions about whatever you do - how other people do marriage is something people LOVE to have opinions about - so go with what you think works best for you, and practice rolling your eyes at those people, because their drama is not your problem.
posted by okayokayigive at 10:23 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I sound a lot like you. I got married at 26, which is young for my peer group, and took my husband's last name, despite mixed feelings about it. I also got a horrified outburst from an older acquaintance, "Oh no, don't change your name!"

Five years later, no real regrets. I just really wanted both of us to have the same last name as our kids. My husband was not willing to take my last name or invent a new one, which I was a bit annoyed with but I also chose him knowing he's not the type to do socially non-conforming things. He was fine with me keeping my name but ultimately that wasn't what I chose.

There are lots of ways to be feminist and lots of ways feminists make non-feminist decisions sometimes. You will have plenty of other opportunities to advance feminism in your life but that doesn't have to be the only framework you use to make decisions.
posted by carolr at 10:24 AM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think the judgement you got from your coworker has roots in a generational thing. You probably know a bit about the history of feminism and can form an idea of the type of person she was when she married and made her choice, and maybe she's retained that judginess-by-necessity from then. I think that as keeping names and other options have become more common and accepted the choice to change your name is seen as less of a "betrayal" of feminist ideals to a whole lot of us, as you explain in your question above.

So basically that's her problem, not yours, live your truth etc.

I think that names have power and that making an active choice about your own is good. I think that your motivations for changing your name come from a place that reflects the values you would like your family to uphold and that those seem sound, but I also think that there are ways to express those values without changing your name, which you'll be doing anyway. Would this family be any less yours if you didn't share a last name? Of course not. But there are people who would assume that they were less yours if your name was different.

So that's the effect you're going for by changing your name - guiding the assumptions of others. There very well may be people who also assume other things because you took your husband's family name, shitty unfeminist things. Do you feel like that's going to cut into the satisfaction you have with your choice? Do you feel like it will hinder you at all for those people to preemptively judge you?

Some stuff to think about, is all. You can do a trial run for a while without legally changing your name and see how it feels, you can use different names for different purposes (this can be quite helpful in drawing boundaries between personal and professional, too) and just see how it goes. Living with uncertainty about a choice like this is good practice.
posted by Mizu at 10:27 AM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

So, your coworker could definitely learn to keep her opinion to herself: arguing at work with women who make different compromises with the patriarchy is not great.

That said, this answer?

"Oh, you kept your DAD'S surname? Way to fight the patriarchy!"

Then you take a microphone out, drop it, and run away.

This is actually an incredibly sexist response: my birth name is mine and belongs to me, just as my brother's birth name is his. Saying something like this tells me more about your feminism than whatever you choose to do with your surname when you're married.
posted by Laetiporus at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2019 [26 favorites]

I have a pair of (opposite-gender) friends who changed both their last names to a name they kind of made up together. Both of their families were very irate about it up until the wedding, and then nobody really made a fuss after that.

I have another friend whose last name rhymed with a sexist slur, which didn't bother him too much, but his fiancee made a bit of a joke about becoming "Mrs. XXX" and so he changed his last name to his mother's maiden name. His sister liked the sound of that so much that she followed suit, so the whole generation after their parents now has the mother's maiden name.

I guess what I'm saying is that last names are very personal things and whatever decision you make is right for you if you feel it's right for you, which seems very in keeping with feminist ideals.
posted by xingcat at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2019

Thanks for the answers so far, much appreciated!

I'd love it if future answers could focus on my actual question, and not on (a) inferring that my marriage is going to be inherently unfair or unbalanced or (b) implying that I'll be the only one in the marriage working towards a gender-equal relationship. My fiance and I both feel strongly about gender equality, we both strive to fight gender norms in our day-to-day lives, and I wouldn't be marrying him otherwise. He literally does not care whether or how I change my name.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:33 AM on April 12, 2019

I do not think keeping one's birth name, even if it is your father's, is perpetuating patriarchy. You were born with it. It isn't a choice. It was patriarchal that you were given it, but that doesn't mean that you were a party to it. Taking your husband's name is, as you and others have pointed out, perpetuating a tradition built on the idea that women are not full persons.

I am a feminist and I hate it when women change their names. I silently judge them. I complain to my partner and he agrees and wonders what is up with the women who change their names too. (We agreed that were we to have had children, we would give them my name since I'd be doing the 9 months of hard work and to fuck the patriarchy. But we didn't have kids, so...anyway...)

In short, I think it is not a feminist choice.

(a) I am also fully aware, as should all people who are silently judging their sisters, that it is a choice, and choice is kind of the point.
(b) not every choice I make is 100% in line with my feminist ideal. I sometimes wear make up. I sometimes shave my legs. I think both of those things have their origins in sexist expectations of women, but I participate.

A thought: I loved the entry from fingersandtoes about her husband also changing his name to add her maiden name. Maybe you can talk to your partner about a change he could make that would be a mirror to your own? It doesn't have to be his name, necessarily, but something to make it feel like you are each making a tangible and significant transformation instead of (just) you becoming part of him/his family.
posted by girlpublisher at 10:34 AM on April 12, 2019 [16 favorites]

Just in case it is helpful to hear this: You are doing a great job thinking critically about this. I am confident that you will make the best choice possible for you and your family and I support you. Also, I think you already said it best--"Feminism is about empowering women to make the choices that suit them best."

Next time that discouraging coworker (or anyone else) says something and you need to shut them down try saying, "Ultimately, feminism is about empowering women to make the choices that suit them best. Even though it is a really hard decision, I plan take my partner's last name. Please respect my decision."
posted by lucy.jakobs at 10:38 AM on April 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

However, I also feel like in my own small way, I am just perpetuating the social expectation that women change their names, that a husband is the head of (an opposite sex) marriage, etc. I don't feel good about perpetuating those things

I would embrace the fact that yes, you are. But at the same time, I bet you make other personal or professional choices that fight harder than most to make the world more equal. That’s how we all are, living in an imperfect (and misogynistic) world and culture. I will never change my name but I obsess over makeup, I dye my hair, I love shoe shopping and vintage dresses and anything pink or sparkly. That doesn’t make me or you more or less feminist, because it’s not a contest. Now, before you have the kids you’re planning, is a good time to embrace being less than perfect in your feminism or in any capacity. There will always be opportunities to fight the power/patriarchy, sometimes we take them on and other times we need the convenience of not doing so. I often think that my external appearance enables me to be a covert feminist operative in a way ;-) - maybe your name will do the same for you.

I wonder if my excitement about becoming a [MarriedLast] is clouding my judgment in a way that I will later come to regret.

If you’re worried about this, you could always change it back to your birth name formally if you decide you want to later. It’s just paperwork and hassle, there’s nothing to stop you.
posted by sallybrown at 10:40 AM on April 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

I didn't change mine, but I know many fine feminists who did. This is the way I see it: feminism is more than the sum of individual choices we choose to make as individuals. It is a political movement looking at the bigger picture of the context those choices are made in.

Does it matter if Helen Eggbeater changes her name to Helen Muppetwrangler on marriage? Eh well, at some level it's perpetuating the status quo, but it wouldn't matter nearly so much in a world where John Eggbeater was just as likely to do the same. The important question to ask for me is less "is Helen as an individual right or wrong to make this choice?", and more "why is this the choice that 80% of women make and virtually no men do?". That imbalance is symptomatic of the wider power imbalance; we can't individually navigate our way out of that one by making the right choices about our own personal lives. That would just reduce feminism to a purity test rather than a movement.

So. Changing your name is not particularly a feminist choice, but there are none of us who get through our lives without making some kind of non-feminist choice, in some sense. (My children have their father's surname, I'm married to their father, neither marriage nor children taking their father's surnames are particularly feminist choices.) It doesn't mean you as a person are a bad feminist, so long as you are still actively interested in tackling, and in seeing, the wider power imbalance all around us and the way that shapes the choices we make.
posted by Catseye at 10:47 AM on April 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

> "Oh, you kept your DAD'S surname? Way to fight the patriarchy!" Then you take a microphone out, drop it, and run away.

This may feel like a nice zinger, but please don't. Two wrongs don't make a right, and it runs directly counter to your stated desire to not feel like a bad feminist.

None of us can dismantle thousands of years of patriarchal traditions on our own.

(Also, you don't really know for certain that her birth name is specifically her father's name, do you. Do you really want to turn this sort of interaction into an actual personal attack?)
posted by desuetude at 10:48 AM on April 12, 2019 [10 favorites]

About the choice whether or not to take her husband's last name, a woman I know said, "Either way I've got a man's last name. Might as well be the one I choose."
posted by entropone at 10:48 AM on April 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am a woman who plans to marry a man and while I face the issues of feminism about name changing, I 100% WILL be changing my name. My family name is associated with untold amounts of pain, for myself and others. I’ll be happy to take my possible husbands last name, make one up together, create a brand new last name for myself, or take one already in use by others.

My name is my own and what I decide to do with it to mark or not mark a major transition in my life is my decision.

Your name is yours, and you may transform, discard, or keep your name as you wish. And you are not bound by transitional events. Legal name changes happen outside the events of marriage and divorce.
posted by bilabial at 10:51 AM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

About the choice whether or not to take her husband's last name, a woman I know said, "Either way I've got a man's last name. Might as well be the one I choose."

Let me join the chorus of hating this a lot. Even though I'm a woman, I still get to have a name. The name I was born with is my name. I might choose to change it (I did, when I got married -- my husband and I both hyphenated and both used the double-barreled last name. I changed it back when he left.)

Saying that a woman's name isn't her name because it's the same as her father's really bothers me.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:52 AM on April 12, 2019 [20 favorites]

lucy.jakobs: "Also, I think you already said it best--"Feminism is about empowering women to make the choices that suit them best." "

OP, I only write this because you marked this comment as best answer -- but you should know that there are plenty of people who would vigorously protest against 'choice feminism' as "selling neo-liberalism with a feminist twist." For them, feminism is not about choice at all.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:55 AM on April 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

I'm sorry my answer got deleted; I was trying to answer the question regarding whether you will regret it. I framed it by saying that as a feminist, *I* would regret it, for reasons stated in the question itself. Also, I insinuated that I'd likely only regret it if I were questioning it at this point, OP says they are.

I guess a less direct answer would be... listen to your heart? What is in your heart probably won't change, based on my experience.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:55 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Feminist, married twice, I didn't take my husband's last name either time. When I write emails to my son's school, I sign it Firstname Lastname Husband'slastname that isn't mine but is the kid's. I don't think that's anti-feminist - it makes it easier. And at the same time, while I have no issue with my son's friends' parents and his teachers misnaming me because I don't insist on it and they genuinely might not know (because who reads email addresses or signatures anyway), it still makes me nuts when non-kid-related friends call me by his name. I suspect that my annoyance isn't actually about feminism - it's about the ability to be taken as the person you call yourself.

As you said, feminism is about being able to have choices and to make the choice that best expresses the life you want to live.

Frankly, I think that it's because the name thing was a battleground for women in your coworker's generation, that you can have the privilege of taking your husband's name as just another choice rather than an anti-feminist one. Because women fought and were ostracized for insisting on being called "Ms.," you're welcome to be called Mrs. if that's what makes you tick. We're not going backwards, and fuck to any Republicans who think otherwise. I think nowadays, keeping your name for professional reasons only makes sense if you've already made a professional name for yourself - otherwise, in this age of social media and constant self-reinvention, a lot of people change their personas as a necessary part of telling their ongoing professional story - and the name you go by is only one small aspect of this.

You're not betraying your coworker - you're reaping the benefits of her struggle. Which, yeah, might not feel good to her. But you can also tell her that you totally appreciate where she's coming from, and are grateful for feminists like her who made your choice easier.
posted by Mchelly at 10:56 AM on April 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

I did the same thing as you: firstname oldlast newlast. I am unequivocally a feminist, and I have pretty strong feelings about gender roles and expectations being bullshit (your mileage may vary). My husband was fine with whatever I wanted; he leaned slightly away from me changing, because it sounded like too much trouble, but he also thought I had a much more personal investment in my own name and should do what I liked with it. He personally wanted to keep his name the same because he'd been using it professionally for a long time, and thought it made sense if I wanted to do so as well.

I kind of liked having what felt like a free name-change token not requiring jumping through as many hoops as a court-based name change, and I liked his last name a lot more than my original one. I have issues with my family of birth that made changing my name appealing, but keeping it as my middle name somehow clicked with me. We aren't having kids, so their potential names weren't an issue; getting married was really a fairly minor change ten years into our relationship. I took a few months after the wedding to think about it, and ultimately just went with what I wanted. I felt a little pressure not to change my name, because I hate the idea that it's routine or expected. But a decade on, I like my current name and have no regrets. When the question comes up, I feel like telling everyone "You don't have to! Only do it if you want to!" But by the same token, if you do want to, it's your name and you should do what you like with it. Names are personal and important, and you should have the one that feels like yours.

(And as it happened, the practicalities of changing my last name weren't nearly as big a pain in the ass as I expected. I just changed it with various places as it came up, and left unimportant things lie until/unless I felt like updating them. I went to the Social Security office first, and the DMV didn't even ask me to prove anything. With my old last name as part of the mix, it's clear that firstname oldname and firstname oldname newname are the same person, so it's not like I stopped getting my mail, or grade school acquaintances on Facebook could no longer find me. Hell, I'd sooner deal with a new name than a new email address (which I didn't have to, because I already had an email username unrelated to my legal name). Just don't put your new name on things like airline reservations till it's actually legally done and you have ID with it.)
posted by kite at 11:00 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

OP, I only write this because you marked this comment as best answer -- but you should know that there are plenty of people who would vigorously protest against 'choice feminism' as "selling neo-liberalism with a feminist twist." For them, feminism is not about choice at all.

I'm well aware of that. But I'm not one of them, hence why I said in my Ask that my personal brand of feminism focuses on empowering women to make autonomous choices.

If future answers could assume that I have at least some understanding of the issues I'm asking about, that would be great. Thanks. Bowing out now.

posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:00 AM on April 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Ms. Kreiger is going back and forth about whether she wants my name when we get married.
Currently, she's leaning towards keeping her existing surname, by which she's been known personally and professionally for decades, and tacking mine on the end.
Her stated reasoning has been that, should we have a child, it would be easier to all share a surname, but there's also been a lot of "that's what you do," too. Given that her and I and our kid all have different surnames (which he takes great delight in differentiating), I'm not sure it would make a practical difference.

If she did add my name, I doubt her friends and colleagues that refer to her as [Her Surname], and me as Mr. [Her Surname] are going to care, judge her, or change their habits. I'm not sure anyone's opinion but her's is valid, either. She is entirely free to call herself whatever she pleases, which I took to be the point. If you cast off the shackles of millennia of social convention, do what makes you happy once you've done it.

My input so far has been to tell her that she's welcome to my name if or however she wants to use it, but as far as I'm concerned, she's [Her Surname] in my head. Personally, I'm more of a fan of Brazilian-style handfuls of names for everyone, then picking a couple of them for day-to-day-use.
posted by Kreiger at 11:09 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm the biggest no-fun feminist around and I can't imagine giving two shits about whether a woman changes her last name. We have a hell of a lot of bigger issues facing us than this!
posted by noxperpetua at 11:10 AM on April 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Anyone who chooses this incredibly Middle-Class White Feminist idea to moan about has nothing better to occupy their mind, which is sad; you should feel slightly vindicated that you’re pisisng off people with boring opinions.

That’s not to say that women who keep their own name are wrong, but it IS to say that anyone who seriously gives a shit about what other people do with their names needs a hobby.

Marriage is a commitment and for most people it’s about subsuming part of your life to another. To be honest, I’m not overly impressed with people who think that a woman changing her last name is an idiot and an enemy of feminism whereas a man changing his name is a hero with a big dick, or whatever. If you have to recruit your husband to change his name too in order to get feminist approval, how feminist is it?
posted by stoneandstar at 11:15 AM on April 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I changed mine because I wanted to share a name with my husband - show that we’re on the same team, as someone said above - and I had no particular attachment to my last name. It was my father’s, he was not super close with his family, and I even less so. Had I been given a last name from my mother’s side of the family, who I am very close to and love very much, I suspect I probably wouldn’t have changed it. My husband and I have also discussed both changing our last names to a totally different non-family-related name (we’ve known two couples who have done that), and we could still do that in the future.
posted by skycrashesdown at 11:15 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dressed to Kill: Perhaps this will help:

As I stated, I would like to change my name primarily because I absolutely adore my fiance's family and want to recognize that.

Also as I stated, I have some concerns about doing so, because even though I am not doing this for normative reasons, it could be perceived as such, and ultimately (in a very small way) set feminism back for future generations of women.

Yes, they are in conflict, because I am a human with complicated human thoughts and feelings. Hence why I asked for help parsing this out.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:16 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Everyone was shocked when I took my husband’s last name and people to this day still bring it up. People who meet and come to know me also express a “hmmm” when they realize I took my husband’s name. It’s been years.

I come from a family where my father’s side abandoned me once he died. I thought for a very long time and though my name is always my own, I didn’t want that last name anymore. And my husband’s family fully embraced me into their family. But I’m not going to explain this to people. It’s my personal, vulnerable history.

I find that I am at peace with it. I externally and consistently advocate for women’s rights. Everyone who knows me knows this. They might pause when they realize this last name business, but not a single person questions what I support.

In response, sometimes I also say that people are complex and their decisions reflect that.
posted by inevitability at 11:17 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Regarding the concern that you're perpetuating a social norm of women taking their husbands' names:

My husband and I flipped a coin, and it ended up that he took my last name when we got married. We & the kids both took his family name as a middle name so we all match. But the number of people who actually know we did this is quite small! Yes, maybe we contributed in a very small way to normalizing men changing their names by sending my husband out to deal with the Social Security administration and his employer's HR department. But past that, people just make whatever assumptions they would have made anyway. His extended family mostly assumes we (including the kids) have his original last name. My mom is strongly assumed to be the paternal grandmother if she comes along to a child's doctor appointment. I have been told more than once that I've made a mistake in listing my emergency contacts on medical forms because I've listed my mother and husband as having the same last name. From this I imagine that most people who just know we share a legal last name (e.g., kids' teachers) would assume it was his (if they were to think about it).

Overall - it's just not actually as public a choice as it feels like.
posted by cogitron at 11:20 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

...and on a lighter note, in the distant past, I knew a woman with a name along the lines of Firstname Lesion, who was completely overjoyed to marry a man with a name along the lines of Firstname Legend.
The number of people who started out tutting at her for changing her name "in this day and age," then enthusiastically endorsing her decision when they heard the specifics still cracks me up decades later.
posted by Kreiger at 11:20 AM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have some concerns about doing so, because even though I am not doing this for normative reasons, it could be perceived as such, and ultimately (in a very small way) set feminism back for future generations of women.

Okay, but you explicitly said that you feel this way too. And you're not wrong about feeling that way. And it probably won't change if you make a decision in conflict with this feeling.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:26 AM on April 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm a total feminist and have worked for reproductive rights for most of my career. But I am going to take my partner's name when we marry. I just like it better. I'm currently a SMITH, and have no real connection to my father's side. I've had the most generic name my entire life, and my husband's name is very rare and sounds really good with my first name. And, I will be the only person in the world with that name which is super cool. You really don't have to justify it.
posted by kimdog at 11:27 AM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

[Folks, we need to dial this back about 1000% and stick to answering the actual question, which is above the fold. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:27 AM on April 12, 2019 [7 favorites]

I changed my last name to Sparkles when I got gay married because HELL YES.

Names are meant to be changed, you do you. Don’t let people make you feel bad. This whole idea of names and lineage doesn’t have to be this big, fixed, immutable and powerful deal, we can treat it like silly putty instead and make it something else.
posted by nikaspark at 11:29 AM on April 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

I resent that this is still a thing! I chose to keep my birth name and my sister chose to take her husband's name (she shifted her original last name to be a middle name and both her children have her original last name as a middle name, so the name is still there, but no need to deal with hyphens.) Both of us get to hear about it from uninvited busybodies. So, I guess what I'm saying is that this is yet another thing that we can't win.

Your decision makes sense for you and that's that. Find a quick and easy way to shut people down if they question you, whether it's a joke or just a curt answer that indicates to the busybody that they can fuck off with questioning your feminist credentials.

Also, congratulations! Your husband-to-be and his family sound absolutely lovely and I hope that you have a long life filled with happiness together.
posted by quince at 11:30 AM on April 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

"Oh, you kept your DAD'S surname? Way to fight the patriarchy!"
This here was my response to any feminist-type questions.
I wanted to share a name with my future children. And my maiden name is MY DAD's name. And that name is a bastardized English version of what that name was only 2 generations ago. I wanted to keep my maiden name as well, for professional reasons. My husband thought I should not change my own name at all and while he theoretically was all about everyone changing their name to a new name, he is the last of a line of HIS LAST name, and continuing this name was important to him.
It was weirdly (because it surprised me that I felt that way) important to me to keep my given middle name so I didn't want to replace it with my maiden name.
I am [Birth First] [Birth Middle] [BirthLast MarriedLast]. My legal last name is both names, with a SPACE in between, NOT a hyphen. I was told the hyphen is what really causes computer systems to go crazy. This worked, though because while my maiden last name was 9 letters/2syllables, my married last name is 4 letters/1 syllable. I might have made different choices is my husband's last name was as long as mine.
posted by atomicstone at 11:30 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you've made a similar choice, I'd love to know how you reconciled your decision with your identity as a feminist.

I changed my name socially when I got married. I didn't reconcile it because it wasn't a feminist thing to do. As a rule, I try not to let my judgments about what is or isn't the "right" thing to do change in order to conform to my personal preferences. Instead, I either do the right thing or I accept that I am going against my own personal beliefs in order to get some other benefit. That feels uncomfortable, but going against one's moral or ethical beliefs should feel uncomfortable, or they're just suggestions.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:33 AM on April 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

Okay, but you explicitly said that you feel this way too. And you're not wrong about feeling that way. And it probably won't change if you make a decision in conflict with this feeling.

The solution to “I feel conflict about making the right choice for me because it carries a lot of baggage” is not “then make the wrong choice for you because it looks great to others!!”
posted by stoneandstar at 11:33 AM on April 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

Hello, big time feminist here who did almost exactly what you are doing, although I did also keep the middle name. My name is now [first] [middle] [birth last] [spouse's last]. I did wait about a year to do so, as I was moving around within a new job, and I wanted to keep some sense of continuity for a while. We are celebrating 29 years in 8 days.

I do have publications under my original name, and when I publish now I use [first] [birth last] [spouse's last]. I do not think it is confusing to anyone looking at my CV.

As for the reasoning, I did it to show solidarity with my partner. We are a team, and having the same last name was important to both of us in order to make that clear. We would have considered doing some sort of combo last name, but he is the fourth in a line (first - middle - last - IV), and the name is just too lovely to mess with. (We are not creating a fifth, for what it's worth.) Additionally, his mother had remarried so does not share his (our) name, and he does not have any brothers. Basically, it's our name, and only ours. :)

I strongly believe that your name is your choice. Men should be able to change, women should be able to change, it shouldn't be anyone's business what you want to be called. My best friend was married several years after I, and her husband took her name. I think name changes are becoming less of an issue, and it's about time.

Do what makes you happy. No one will take away your feminist card. And if they try, send them my way and I'll take care of it for you.
posted by blurker at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

As context, I am getting married soon and I am not changing my name, because my name is who I am. I don’t like it when other women change their names.

Changing your name is not a feminist action or a feminist choice. But I switched from a STEM career where women are underrepresented to a field that is often coded as feminine. That is also not a feminist choice, nor is it a feminist action. But it is what I wanted to do and it makes me happy. I further feminism in other ways and I try to support women (and I think about intersectionality etc).

Not every choice you ever make needs to be objectively feminist for you still to be a card-carrying feminist committed to the cause. If it makes you happy to change your name, do it. It is after all, your name.
posted by plonkee at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

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