Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Say my name

Yesterday, Skepchick HQ received this email regarding maiden vs married names and the long term fallout:

I recently had a conversation with friends about how we
didn’t realize many of our professors were married to others in the
department because they had different last names. This started us
talking about how women in the sciences cannot change their last name
because of issues with publishing. I am at a point in my life where I
am both applying to graduate schools and have talked with my longtime
boyfriend about getting married. I’m wondering if this is something
I should take into consideration when deciding whether or not to
change my last name. In your experiences, how large of an issue can
changing your last name be once you have published and plan to
continue publishing? I think this is an important topic for women in
the sciences to be conscious of. Without having had this conversation
with friends, the issue wouldn’t have occurred to me, and I just
wonder if it would cause a lot of hassle that most women are not aware
of when they choose to change their last name.

Whenever this topic comes up, it makes for interesting conversation. Amy posted it as an AI two years ago, and we decided that we should revisit the subject.

When I got married, I was hardly a feminist. The thought of not taking my husband’s last name seemed like an immature betrayal of what I was supposed to do… to, you know, prove I’m his or something. But also, my maiden name was Wojnowski, and all my life I wanted a last name that was at the top of the alphabet and easy to spell and pronounce.

Little did I know that in the years to come, I would feel a little betrayed by my own name. A name I chose to take. I’m not particularly close with my husband’s family. And by “not close” I mean “thinking about them drives me to drink… more… more than I would anyway.” And yet, I’m quite close with my family. And my husband is closer to my family than his own. I hate that I share a name with a group of people I’m not really a part of aside from a piece of paper that connects me to them through one person.

Plus, I’ve always liked my first name. Elyse is a rare enough name that there’s rarely, or ever, a question over who people are talking about when they say it. No one ever asks “Elyse who?” It’s Elyse. You either know me or you don’t. Why couldn’t I appreciate that about “Wojnowski”? That’s a name with character. Not that Anders isn’t… but it’s common enough.

My name doesn’t feel like mine. And at this point, I’ve done enough work as Elyse Anders that it seems silly to change it back… plus kids and all the hassle of paperwork and emotional baggage… and explaining that no, I’m not divorced. And in the end, it is nice to be one family with one last name… it’s less to think about when I’m filling out forms and I can barely keep track of everyone’s birthdays as it is. It’s convenient. Sharing a last name makes it easy to visit each other in places like hospitals… or when dealing with calling the cable company “I’m his wife. Elyse Anders.”

But in the end, Elyse Mother Fucking Wojnowski is just a more bad ass name.

How do you feel about name changing? Did you? Would you? Guys, would you change your name? If you did or didn’t, do you regret it? What advice should we give young girls on their names? Should I change my middle name to Mother Fucking Wojnowski?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I offered to change my name, but in the end my wife opted to change hers (I was totally fine with whatever she wanted to do). Sometimes I wonder if she regrets the curse of having “no last name” now that she’s changed it, but I think that’s the extent of it. Of course, her situation is reversed from yours regarding familial warm & fuzzies.

    “Mother Fucking Wojnowski” is a most excellent middle name. You should totally do that.

  2. I have been married for a bit over two years. I did not change my name, and I have never doubted that decision. I would have had issues with publishing, but that’s really not why I didn’t change.

    I had been using the same name for 26 years (now 28). To me, my name is a part of who I am. It would have felt like giving up a part of my identity. Honestly, my husband objectively has a cooler last name than I do, but it just didn’t feel like my name.

    If my husband had even breathed a word of displeasure about my decision, we honestly wouldn’t be married. I have no issue with people who decide to change their names. I have a huge issue with men who pressure their wives to change. It’s not your name, dude. It’s her name and her decision.

    (I would also have an issue with a woman who pressured her husband to change or someone pressuring a same-sex partner to change or someone pressuring their partner not to change their name. But I have never encountered any of those circumstances in real life.)

  3. Fine, change your name.

    By the way, to be fair to the Anders, you really don’t know the Anders side of the family. My mom alienated us from them years ago, when she was paranoid they were all out to sabotage her.

    1. Anders are people who I either don’t get along with or don’t know. It’s not less sad that I share a name with them and not the people I love and am closest to.

  4. Marilee Cornelius is just too awesome for me to ever change it. I love my goofy last name. It’s Dutch! And super awesome.

      1. RIGHT? I totally agree! I don’t have a middle name, either, although I think i mentioned downthread (totally replying to someone instead of making a new thread, lol) that my mom’s original name was Barnum and I wanna have that as my middle name.

        Marilee Barnum Cornelius just sounds nice :)

        Talk about some European family history, though!

  5. I bet it’s pronounced “Voy-nov-ski”.

    My surname is pronounced “Ya-va-rov-ski,” but in English my written surname, Jaworowski, is unpronounceable.

    Upon seeing my written name, a lot of people think that I’m related to famed Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski. It’s easier to ignore two letters than to correct people. I just say he’s a jerk who never shows up to weddings and funerals.

    1. It is quite common for last names to morph as people move around. I bet the last names are related even if you two aren’t. Cornelius has several different variations, for example.

  6. I did not take my husband’s name when we got married. If we had planned to have children, I might have changed my name, but we don’t. His name is easier to spell and pronounce than mine, but I like that both my first and last names are unusual, and I like representing my family name even though I’m not going to pass it on.

  7. When my husband and I were dating, I mentioned that if I were to get married, I would not change my name.

    He gave the usual fuss of “tradition!” and such.

    Then I said if I had a girl, she would get my last name.

    Again, he fussed until I pointed out that, by his reasoning, my daughter should grow up, get married and change her last name anyway, so why does it matter?

    I could see the light come on in his eyes.

    Our family has four different last names. It’s wonderful chaos. And I love it whenever he gets mail for “Mr. Richards.”

    1. I have said for years that this was the most logical solution. My daughter has my last name, but my ex-husband pressured me into changing mine. I held out for a year, and regretted it immediately. I got it changed back, and it’s never changing again. “West” is too easy to spell, to easy to say, and it’s MY name, MY family. Also, since it’s going to be the name on all my research and my degree, it needs to be something I won’t look at in 10 years, after the (possible) divorce (50% probability, not a certainty), and hate because it isn’t mine anymore.

  8. When my now-wife divorced her first husband she reverted to her “maiden” name. When we started talking about marriage it was clear that meant something to her and she wanted to keep it. It was important to me that we share a name, so I offered to change mine. 21st century and all, not a big deal, right?

    Even after explaining to both families (no, I’m not trying to distance myself from my family; no, I’m not trying to insinuate myself into your family), it still took a criminal background check, a court order (complete with sniggering from the “manly” men in the back of the courtroom), three months, and over $500 in fees to make it happen.

    And you know what, screw ’em all. We’re happy, all the little things Elyse are simpler with a shared name, and I’ve never regretted it, even though it means I exchanged a (so far as I know) globally unique name for a more common one. It’s just a convenient handle, after all; I’m still me. :)


  9. I once read somewhere that it could be more feminist to change your name to your husbands rather than to keep your own. After all, you are generally born with your fathers name, which you don’t get to choose. At least you can choose your husband, and taking his last name is a reflection of that choice.

    I changed my name last year when I got married, and it’s been reasonably straightforward to deal with the repercussions. When I talk to old clients or government contacts I simply tell them that I used to be MacKenzie so they know who they’re dealing with. In my CV, I list publications under both my maiden and married name, and I think it’s obvious to most people that I’m the same person and not trying to take over someone else’s publishing credits.

    My husbands family occasionally drives me to drink too, but my husband doesn’t… and that’s what matters most, right? So we’re a team, and our shared last name sort of cements that.

    1. Also, I want to take my mom’s maiden name, Barnum, as my middle name because I am quite proud of both family histories. So very European!

      1. Marilee Barnum Cornelius… I suspect you’re a fictional character, created by Lemony Snicket or Roald Dahl, or possibly J.K. Rowling.
        You may be a victim of nefarious fantastical fictional shenanigans.
        Are you certain you exist? :D

        1. And, yes, in fact, I AM related to P.T. Barnum! Somewhere back there. He was a bit of a horn dog, though…

    2. I feel like the argument in your first paragraph tends to assume that a woman doesn’t really have ownership of her own name the way a man does. My last name came from my father. My husband’s last name came from his father. We’re on equal ground there, and there’s no more reason for me to change than for him to do so. When it comes down to it, my name may have come from my father, but the fact that I’ve used it all my life makes it my name.

      I’m trying to say that you shouldn’t have changed your name, as it seems like you had other reasons and it’s worked out well for you. But I’ve heard that particular argument before, and I’ve just never found it compelling.

  10. If my first name was Anthony I’m pretty sure I would have insisted on changing my name instead because her maiden name was “Stark”. Just sayin’

  11. okay, but my last name is my father’s last name, and has no connection with my mother’s family. My parents are still married, but we almost never speak with his side of the family, and I feel no familial connection with them. I have thought about changing my name to my mother’s maiden name, but that is really my grandfather’s name, so do I change it to my grandmother’s maiden name? really I would like to drop a last name all together and go by middle-as-last name. would that make me sound too much like I think I’m a pop star? *sigh* I probably will end up taking his name after all.

  12. You could always morph your last names together and both change your name, or even just choose one that sounds cooler. Elyse Lumberjack Bootstraps is pretty awesome, too.

    1. My husband and I were prepared to do this–he’s Krausnick and I’m Sauer, and we were going to both go with Krauer. But his mother convinced him that his dad would be upset if he changed his name. I’m still not sure why it was any of their business, but long story short, we both kept our names. If we ever decide to have children, we’ll probably hyphenate (but we’ll have to go Krausnick-Sauer, because the other way round sounds funny).

      I’m proud to share my father’s name, which my mother took when she married him. I’ve talked to her about this before, and she half wishes she hadn’t changed her name–but at the same time, HER father was a terrible person and she wanted to separate herself from him, so it’s complicated. I don’t regret keeping my name, and it’s never been an issue so far.

  13. I changed my last name when I married, after contemplating keeping my maiden name, but like Elyse, my maiden name began with Wy and I kinda wanted to be closer to the top of the alphabet. I relcaimed my Wy- name after we split up, and then adopted my grandfather’s first and second names to publish under, in part because he would have absolutely hated that… while I personally rather like the name. Dysfunctional family dynamics. AND it’s a B name. :)

  14. When I got married *mumblemumble* years ago I absolutely changed my name. I hated my maiden name and after years of being teased (Burty-turd, and Hey Burt, where’s Ernie among the most PG) most of my life Walker seemed perfect. And when I divorced him the Judge asked me if I wanted my maiden name back – Hell no!

    Saying that, I never had any professional reason for or against but I completely understand. Whatever works for YOU, not your family.

  15. My husband and I talked about the name thing when we got married; we had already been living together for almost 8 years and owned a house together. We’re close with his mother’s family, not his father’s (who shared his last name) or my father’s (many of whom I don’t have a language in common with). In addition, I found my difficult maiden name a bit irritating professionally and had no real desire to keep using it.

    We eventually decided to both change our last name together (I think it may have been his suggestion originally). We went through both our family trees and found a last name we liked on my maternal grandmother’s side–and that’s the name we go by now. In my professional life, I still use my maiden name as a middle name to help people from getting confused, but I like being able to use my new, much simpler last name in face-to-face conversations. We made the change 6 years ago and are both happy with it.

  16. It’s more than just publishing that can be an issue. My girlfriend has built up a reputation on her maiden name within the consulting business world, a name change would make it almost impossible for her to get a new job with a different company just because everyone would know her based on the name she had, and not the one she gained. Plus, she has a unique last name that she wouldn’t want to give up anyway. My sister also kept her maiden name, entirely because both her and her husband are officers in the military and in the same unit (at least until she goes active) and that might create issues from a career standpoint too, especially considering they are roughly the same rank, or at least their rank promotion times overlap enough where they end up being the same rank for an extended period of time. It’s all fine and good to change one’s name, but anymore, a reputation is attached more to a name than a face, and as such it can cause a lot of career related issues to change that.

  17. It would never have crossed my mind to change my name, if I hadn’t been involved with Homeland Security because my husband was immigrating into the US.

    I got married at 37 years old.


    Thirty fucking seven. Why in “Bob’s” name would I call my own name a “maiden” name? I had my deliciously musical name, Alison Randall, for 37 years. That is NO maiden name. Everyone knows me as Alison Randall. Everything I’ve ever done was done as Alison Randall. So why would I even consider changing it now?

    My lawyer was pressing me to “explain myself.” Well, I got married in Quebec, and women in Quebec don’t change their names. “But this is America,” she said. “So? In America women don’t change their names either. Not when they’re 37 years old.” Apparently I was making things “hard for myself.”

    But I wasn’t. The judge was a hard-ass, but the judge was also a woman, and probably a woman who had her own damn name.

    I can’t say that I don’t love my quebec family. I adore them. And sometimes they address my letters as “Alison Tremblay.” Which is fine. The only possible problem is when they write checks to “Alison Tremblay.” Good thing all of our checks have both our full names on them.

    I love my name. My husband said, very early on, that if somehow we accidentally have children (“Bob” forbid), he wants them to have my name. I love that man.

  18. No I wouldn’t change my name, because why the hell does anyone have to worry about that. It’s a human construction which doesn’t mean anything outside of the meaning we assign it.

    My mom didn’t change her name, and neither did my wife. I prefer it that way, because she’s still got the name of the girl I feel in love with.

  19. Before we were married, I suggested to my wife that maybe I should change my name, but she insisted on changing hers (she had issues with some of her family members.)

    Personally, I believe “tradition” isn’t a compelling reason by itself to do anything. If there aren’t other reasons to do something, you shouldn’t do it.

    When I was young, my older brother’s finacee asked him to change his name (to Wong.) He refused, and made fun of the idea. They ended up breaking up over other issues, but I never really understood his attitude towards this. I figured it would be cool to have a surname that was associated with a different ethnicity.

    My advice to young girls – if you meet someone you want to marry, one of the first questions you should ask him is “would you change your name to mine?” If he reacts the same way my brother did, maybe you should consider what else about your relationship he’d make fun of.

    I think it’s equally important to address this to young boys as well – if you meet a woman and want to spend your life with them, examine your privilege – just because it’s tradition for the woman to change her name, doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be (and that goes for everything, not just names.)

  20. I didn’t change my name. As I informed my disappointed in-laws, I was born with my name and I’ll die with it. However, one issue I never thought I would have is “proving” I’m married. Couples have certain rights, legal and otherwise, if they are married. If I say “I’m his wife,” the person listening has to take my word…there’s no “visual” way to confirm it. For example, coming back through customs…we declare as a family, but there is only one line for surnames and our passports have different names.

  21. Neither changes our name. With a later marriage it was a lot about each of us having our own established identity. No regrets. I would consider a name change if I could get a cooler one tho.

  22. I’m trying to figure this out — I know I’ll keep my name professionally (I’ve already published under it) but I’m leaning toward changing it legally, mostly because I like the idea of adding a new facet to my identity. That, and the whole kids thing.

    Generally – I think the rule should be “the best name wins.” Each couple decides the rules of what makes a name the “best” — uniqueness, ease of spelling, place in the alphabet, likeliness of children getting teased, cultural affiliations – whatever makes sense to you as a couple. I came up with this when I was dating a guy with the last name of “Scheit.” Yeah… and I spend a lot of time in the UK. Had we gotten married (we didn’t) my name (the very boring Anderson) would have totally won.

  23. My last name is now such a mess. I was finishing graduate school when I got married. I always wanted to work with my maiden last name, so I officially changed my last name to MAIDEN MARRIED name. Two long last names with a space. I worked as MAIDEN, lived my life as MARRIED and only official paperwork (e.g. mortgages, taxes, license) had both.

    I really liked that. I could separate my work and personal life and my kids and I shared a last name.

    Then, I started working for the federal government. They do not allow me to work as just MAIDEN. So all my paperwork has MAIDEN MARRIED name. 19 letters in all. And they make me sign it out in full in all paperwork. It’s annoying and unwieldy and I don’t know what I would do if I could go back in time. Probably just change my last name to MARRIED and let go of my maiden name. It does make life easier with the hubby and the kids.

  24. When my wife and I got married a few years ago, I encouraged her to take my name. Since that time as I have become more and more aware of social justice issues I would take that decision back if I could. I am half adopted (my father adopted me) and I took his last name during that process. I transferred that feeling of pride in my name onto my wife, Sarah. I played up the tradition of name changing and didn’t consider that she had just as much right to her name as I did mine. She changed her middle name to her last name as a compromise, but it was a compromise should not have needed to be made.

  25. I changed my last name, because I didn’t mind my husband’s name, and I guess I felt that it contributed to family unity. We met in the army and being addressed by my last name, it was a strange adjustment. I do sometimes miss my maiden name and am definitely more proud of my own family than my husband’s. But I love who my husband is, we have kids, and I think it would bother me more if we didn’t all have the same last name. In hindsight, I think it would have been nice to use my maiden name for the whole family, but at the time it didn’t seem important.

  26. I’d like to know more about the issue of changing names when you’re publishing papers. I’m an author, but of fiction and educational books. I thought if I were to get married that I’d probably change my legal name, but keep my family name as my pen name and continue using it in publishing. But I’m not familiar with science/academic publishing—can you continue to use the name you’ve already published under, even if you’ve legally changed it?

    1. Not really. There are a lot of things you need to use your “legal” name for. Getting a grant from the government requires your legal name (might require social security number too…not sure of that). A lot of universities will not recognize anything other than your legal name, for example when listing your number in the campus phone book or making your email account. I’m a tech, and wouldn’t be able to use anything other than my legal name on some paperwork…some of the stuff I work with requires geting a certain governmental agency’s approval and I had to give up my name and SSIN for that (I also had to go through a background check for that and before that to get hired where I work). You could publish under another name (however I think most journels frown on that), but since you have to use your legal name for other things like even submitting a grant, it’s best if they all match up.

      Also in academia, in your sub-(sub-sub-sub-)field, you would know how everyone was related in terms of what grants were submitted by who, whose lab does what work, who published with who, who graduated from whose lab, who became tenured faculty somewhere and so on.

  27. I’ve been going back and forth with this in past but in the end decided that I am going to keep my name in case of marriage unless the person I marry has particularly cool last name like Morgenstern! One reason which also influenced on my decision was that peeps in our branch of the family tree have our last name because certain douchebag didn’t bother to marry our ancestor. So while it most likely wasn’t easy for her to be unwed mother couple hundred years ago but it makes me slightly proud that I got my last name originally from a woman.

    I have to admit that I quite like having difficult to pronounce last name just to make life hard to others, I’m finnish. This idea gave me warm fuzzies especially when I was still with my ex (who wasn’t finnish). :D

    I do accept that everyone makes this decision them selves and I suppose there isn’t real right or wrong decision but I do find myself questioning my friends when the have married and changed their name. I am little sad for them.

    And at last! Elyse Mother Fucking Wojnowski would be fucking awesome name!

  28. I’ve always found name changing kind of weird (though my mom did change hers), and I find it even weirder that most divorced women don’t revert to their maiden name (my aunt did).
    I never intend to change my name. Being in academia didn’t enter into my decision. As far as I know, though, you can publish under any name you want, as long as your not misrepresenting yourself (using someone else’s name, or a pseudonym).
    I like my family and my name. Stafford is a nice English name. Common enough that people can say it, but rare enough that sometimes people call me Stratford or Stanford.

  29. When I was married, my wife didn’t change her name. I think she would’ve, if I’d requested it at the time. Likewise, I would’ve been perfectly OK with changing mine to hers.

    Another option is to both change their names to a third name. As far as I can tell, this is what Zach Weiner and Kelly Smith did. When they got marries, they both changed their last names to Weinersmith.

    Compounding last names might not be the best option, though. Taking a random wedding announcement from the “North Lake Tahoe Bonanza”, Christina Brown and Aaron Martini would end up as Christina and Aaron Brownmartini. But how about something where you combine parts from each last name to make a third? So, Christina and Aaron could pick from Brotini, Martown, etc. Of course then you’d get in-laws bickering over how many letters of each name get into the final product.

    1. Steve, my husband and I were going to combine our names Krausnick and Sauer into Krauer. We didn’t go through with it in the end, though (his family objected, and for some reason we decided to let that control our decision…)

  30. I only had one publication before i got married so that was not an issue. What was an issue was the fact that my last name was MY name for close to 30 years and as much as I loved the guy i was marrying I couldn’t not imagine giving up MY name. His name is much easier to spell and pronounce. My name is long, hard to spell, foreign and impossible to pronounce. But it is MY name. The kids got the long weird last name as their middle name and the easier as their last name. I think my husband would have not liked it if i wanted to give them my last name. He is sometime not happy with my decision, thinks is causes troubles, but after 22 years he just accepts it. It was never a problem not having the same last name. Yes, i have to explain that the husband and kids have a different last name. And… I learned to tolerate it when at school i am called Mrs. HisName, but I think of it as being called ‘junior HisName’s mom’.

  31. I changed my name, mostly because my “maiden” name was annoying, difficult to spell and I dislike my father. My husbands name was nice, easier to spell and frankly, reflects my ethnicity better. As far as papers go, my first name is pretty recognizable and I got married early enough in my career that very few of the things I wrote are under that name. So that’s what worked for me.

  32. I just got married this summer. My wife didn’t care for her last name (she was basically forced to change it when her mom married her jerk stepfather). I didn’t care for my last name either, and neither of us wanted to reinforce the idea that a woman should have to have her identity subsumed by her husband’s to our possible future children. So we picked a new last name that both of us liked and we both changed our last name to that! Saves us the headache of trying to decide what last name to give our kids, etc. etc. Not saying this is a great solution for everyone, especially when one spouse or another has a particularly strong attachment to their family name. But this way we were able to both bite our thumbs at the patriarchy and gain identities which felt more true to the two of us, and what could be better than that?

  33. As a same-sex couple, when we married we decided it would make things a lot more *solid* and understandable for people if we had the same last name. I was born with the only unspellable, unpronouncable three-letter surname in existance, and was happy to give it up. Publishing wasn’t an issue – I was young and had not yet published.
    The spouse was a bit more tricky. She was born Firstname Middlename Lastname, with Middlename being her mother’s maiden name. When her parents divorced, Spouse decided to hyphenate her middle and last names (her youngest sister took Lastname and her middle sister took Middlename as their surnames, so all three had different last names). So now she was Firstname Middlename-Lastname.
    We didn’t want a double-barrelled surname, so we decided to choose one, and although they are both good names, Lastname is pronounced differently in my country than in hers, so we went with Middlename. She took Lastname as her middle name so now she is Firstname Lastname Middlename.
    So I now have the same surname as my wife’s maternal grandmother (as does our daughter), which I think is appropriately matriarchal for a double-female-headed family!
    Rereading that, I now think – what a clusterfuck!

  34. I changed my last name when I got married, but I also had longed to have a new last name. The only other people in my family that I shared that last name with I wasn’t that close with. Now I’m very close to my husband’s family, and I feel very included, I really enjoy being a McKelvin.
    I don’t want my daughter to feel like she has to follow in the tradition though. I want her to decide to change or not change her name based on what is best for her at the time.

    1. I also want to add that I feel like I started building my professional brand as an artist only after I changed my name for marriage. I didn’t have to go through any professional change overs, and that also helped things go a bit more smoothly.

  35. I changed mine, mostly because I wasn’t particularly attached to my “maiden” name. My parents changed our last name when I was young, for understandable reasons. When I got married I’d only had the new name for a dozen years or so and felt the convenience of making the relationship obvious (and the fun getting a more unusual last name, to boot) was well worth the price of giving up a name that wasn’t really “mine”.

  36. I like being the only person in the world with my name. I like the ever-more-creative misspellings and mispronounciations that people come up with. And I like that it ties me to the small band of Dutch-Canadians descendant from my immigrant grandparents.

    Also, there’s a pub with my surname in Holland that I’m determined to go have a drink in some day, and it just won’t be the same if I go off and change it, now, will it?

  37. I grew up in Puerto Rico. I think most of the married women I know kept their last names. Including my wife and most if not all of my family. We use two last names one from the father side another from the mother side.

    For myself I don’t like the idea of taking the husband last name. My daughter has our last names hyphenated and I hope she keeps it.
    My last names remind me of my parents and I like that. They represent my past and they do the same for my wife. It seems to me unfair.

  38. I got the best last name ever, unspellable, unpronounceable, and at the end of almost every alphabetical list. By taking it I lost the name of a parent I wasn’t close to and a bunch of history I was ready to leave behind. It was pretty much wins all around, and very much a conscious choice.

    Elyse, if you do decide to change your middle name, please do it in a courtroom that allows cameras. I want the judge’s reactions recorded.

  39. I’m on marriage #2. I decided not to change my name before we married. I just didn’t want to do it. It didn’t hurt that my husband has three nieces who share my first name and his surname.
    My husband really doesn’t like it but he respects it. I’ve offered to hyphenate but he really finds that distasteful, he’d rather I not change my name at all then.

  40. The whole marriage last-name changing thing feels like transfer of ownership to me. First you are your father’s property, then your husband’s. Not that this is true for everyone, or even for most people, but in my imagination that’s how the tradition began.

    That said, I did add my husband’s last name to my father’s last name. So I guess they share ownership or some-weird-thing? Anyway, keeping my original name made me feel like my own identity wasn’t getting swamped by my new status as Mrs. Unfortunately, Torgersen Peterson doesn’t fit in the space allotted on any standard form. This means that I usually get filed and addressed as Terrie Peterson anyway.

  41. I hyphenated, figuring the publication trail would be obvious since my surname was in front. I wanted us to have a family name so that any future kids would have the same last name as both of us. My husband uses our hyphenated name socially, but has retained his professionally (so no official name change).

  42. I decided to change my last name to hubs as it sounded way cooler, if my maiden name was cool I would have kept it hubs would have had to be fine with that :D . What annoyed me most about getting married was that on the marriage certificate Fathers were mentioned in the document but nothing about mothers and their occupations, I actually voiced this annoyance when filling out the paper work mainly due to the fact my dad died when I was 11 and my Mum raised us. What made many people balk as well was my choice not to wear a wedding ring, interestingly my husband wanted to wear one (which he does).

  43. Long before marriage was ever a consideration, we discussed the name change issue (because our friends had gone through the decision to keep their names for professional reasons rather than both taking on a new name):

    Me: If we get married, do you expect me to change my name?

    Him: Only if you want to.

    Me: Well I definitely wouldn’t change it to yours, since that just symbolizes going from my father’s ownership to my husband’s ownership, and I think that’s fucking gross.

    Him: I never thought of it that way.

    Me: I can’t help but think of it that way for me. What do you think about changing both our names to a new one?

    Him: No, I like my name. I love my family and I’m proud of my heritage.

    Me: Me too. So we’re keeping our names if we ever get married.

    Him: Yup.

    And we did.

    For the record, he thinks it’s ridiculous to make fun of guys who take on their wife’s name. The way he sees it, if you want to change it, it’s your choice, and other people can fuck off.

  44. Say my name… And everything illuminates… da da…

    Anyway, when me wife asked me about it, I said, “it’s your name, why are you asking me about it?”

    I’m constantly amazed at how unusual (read unique) my wife is. In the intervening years (lotsa them), we’ve met so few married couples *with* different last names that I too have wondered how many people think we are divorced. I always figure that’s their problem.


  45. I got married when I was 20 and changed my name because I truly did not care either way. My husband pretty much assumed I would take his name. He was more invested in my taking his name than I was in keeping mine, so that’s what I did. 16 years and 2 kids later we divorced; while discussing the legal issues ahead he said something like “and of course you’ll be changing your name back”. I stared at him blankly, then said of course NOT. I’ve had this name my entire adult life, it’s the name of my children, AND he doesn’t get to decide that for me! He was taken aback and displeased, but didn’t argue with me.

    My parents were divorced and remarried; my mom hyphenated both married names so she had the same name as us legally, but used only her newer married name professionally, because she often worked with violent criminals and didn’t want them to have that connection to her children. That was a more valid consideration before the internet and Google.

    I think names are very personal, and no one should get to dictate what name you live with (not even parents!). That said, if you don’t have strong feelings about either last name, and especially if you plan on having children, all kinds of bureaucratic nonsense will go much more smoothly if you choose one name together and all stick with it. I can’t speak for my ex-husband, but in my mind taking his name had nothing to do with ‘ownership’ and everything to do with starting a new family together, where we were on the same team and the same page. I think that goal can be achieved in many ways, and with any name.

  46. I had many reasons to not change my name. One reason may have been to rebel against my step-mother. She was an incredibly wonderful woman, but seemed steeped in tradition.

    As it turns out it took her over five years to learn how to spell my husband’s last name, and in the almost thirty years we were married before she died she never figured out how to pronounce his name.

    Quarksparrow: “Also, there’s a pub with my surname in Holland that I’m determined to go have a drink in some day, and it just won’t be the same if I go off and change it, now, will it?”

    A few years ago we visited some of hubby’s family in the Netherlands (where multiple vowels abound!). In the town square when his dad grew up was pub with his last name, with one of the many vowels changed. But it was not any of the unusual forms my step-mother used.

    Unfortunately, it was closed that day so we could not go in. Though the bank his grandfather worked at was open, but they would not exchange our travelers checks.

    And a wee funny: I signed up for the local grocery store loyalty card. So my hubby and son use our phone number to get the discount. They are only slightly annoyed with the “Thank you, Mr. H!” instead of “Mr. L.” :-)

  47. My ex-wife not only took my last name when she married me, she continued to use my last name as her own after we separated and she said she would keep it ever after we divorced, which strikes me as absurd. I think wives who go through a divorce should be required by law to take back their maiden names. To this day, and to the end of our lives (unless she remarries) I will always refer to my ex-wife as “Cheri Day”, NOT Cheri Husband. She is not part of my family anymore!

    1. Wow… so you lent her your name as long as she was yours and now that she’s not she has to give it back? Because it was never hers to keep?

      Thus proving that last names are, in fact, about ownership.

      1. How do you come to that conclusion? He said nothing about ownership. He said she wasn’t part of his family anymore. Which seems like a pretty reasonable way to characterize somebody you are no longer married to. I’m assuming that you have some prior experience of this poster being possessive towards women? Because I’m really not seeing how you are getting anything related to ownership out of this post.

        1. The ownership question is the whole point of feminists interrogating the tradition.
          He’s reinforcing the tradition of ownership with his attitude:
          “I think wives who go through a divorce should be required by law to take back their maiden names.”
          Now that he isn’t with the woman, he wants the power to force her to change her name. Because she’s not his property anymore. Like it’s the title to a car he isn’t in possession of.

        2. He’s saying that, as her husband… and even as her ex-husband, he gets a say in whether she gets to have his name on her. She is no longer Dale Husband Brand Cheri. She needs to take his name off of her. He gets to tell her what her name is and when she’s allowed to use it. She could use it when she belonged to him. Now she doesn’t. She doesn’t get to use a name that says she does.

          That’s fucked up.

          Also, what punchdrunk said.

          1. I’m sorry, but this strikes me as such an ungracious reading of his comment as to be practically malicious.

            Here’s what I read: My wife took me last name to symbolize our joining as a family. Now we are no longer family. I want her to stop using that symbol.

            Yeah, the “required by law” thing seems a bit harsh, and I disagree but mostly because I don’t think we need a law for every little silly thing that happens that annoys me.

            It seems to me his comment is more about families than it is about having power over women.

            I don’t think we should have a law that forces people to use a name they don’t want. But I can also totally empathize with the feeling that somebody who changes their name to yours and then uses it in a way you don’t like is slighting you somehow. For example, I guarantee there is somebody else in this country named Sarah Palin who grinds her teeth every time she thinks about the fact that her name will forever be associated with vacuity and malicious idiocy through no fault of her own.

            In my comment below I explained that my wife wanted to take my name to symbolize our love and for the sake of family cohesion. If we divorced, I would expect her to change it back. It has nothing to do with ownership of her, just that we are no longer in love and we are no longer a family (and, sigh, I am assuming for the sake of this argument that we no longer consider ourselves to be family following whatever led to our divorce; if you still consider your divorced spouses to be family that’s a perfectly valid choice too). I also wish that douchebag uncle who nobody in the family wants anything to do with would change his name too, because we don’t consider him part of our family either and we would like to stop getting calls from bill collectors who are trying to find him.

            I just think you are putting way too much emphasis on the fact that this particular example involved a man speaking about a woman, and I really don’t get where you are finding anything about ownership. That seems entirely your own projection.

          2. I just think you are putting way too much emphasis on the fact that this particular example involved a man speaking about a woman

            You’ve said this TWICE. You have the clear bias, not us.

            Also, once again, totally interesting that it’s his ex-wife that has to go through the trouble, work, time, and MONEY but he doesn’t do jack shit. Nice. Real nice.

            Please explain to me in detail how his ex-wife keeping the name she married intno effects him negativley. Explain why it is SO important that she change her name.

          3. And she doesn’t just have to deal with the process of changing her name a second time — she has to deal with the aftermath as well. She had a name, changed it, and then has to change it again. This is a really big pain in the butt, and one reason why my own mother hasn’t changed back to her own maiden name even though she is very connected to it and her family. My mom, after almost THIRTY YEARS of marriage, is now known in her small town by her ex’s last name. Changing it back would be really concfusing. Not to mention, not free nor simple.

            So, basically, Dale gets divorced and he has it easy. But his ex-wife? Must go through hoop after hoop. All because he doesn’t like that she kept his damn name.

          1. I’m certainly familiar with the argument that names are about ownership. But this is a pretty heavy accusation to level against somebody on pretty flimsy evidence. The poster expresses a desire that somebody who is no longer a member of his family would no longer use his name. He says nothing about ownership and other than the unfortunate use of the word “woman” when calling for his unnecessarily invasive law there is little indication that his displeasure at her continued use of a name he feels she has no right to has anything to do with her gender. (Yes, I am being a tad bit generous by assuming that this word reflects only his own experience and the fact that women are more likely to take their husband’s name than vice-versa rather than an overall outlook on gender.) I could see the exact same statement coming from a gay man whose spouse continued to use the hyphenated name that they invented. I just don’t see how you can attribute such a nasty attitude to this poster based on these few sentences.

            That’s why I initially assumed Elyse’s response was based on a pattern of behavior from Husband. It’s not inconsistent with somebody who feels possessive towards women and believes that her taking his name is a symbol of that. But it’s also not inconsistent with somebody who feels that sharing a name symbolizes a familial bond, one which his ex-spouse, coincidentally a woman in this case, no longer has with anybody else who also shares that name.

            I really don’t see how it is much different from Elyse’s lament that she now shares a name with people whom she does not like and does not feel familial with. In fact the only difference is that Elyse would like to change her own name while Husband would like somebody else to change their name, and given the inversion of the order in which the two subjects acquired the name that doesn’t seem unfair. Any kid on the playground can tell you that the one who had it first should get to keep it.

            If I changed my name to Marilee Barnum Cornelius, you wouldn’t kind of wish I would change it back? Is that because you think own me, or because you think you have a better claim to the name?

          2. No. I would not care if you wanted to change your name to Marilee Barnum Cornelius, although I’d think it rather odd. HOWEVER, we’re talking about a LAST NAME, nto a full name. You know that, right? A last name. It’s not like she took his ENTIRE name, first, middle, and last. These are two un-related points.

            A married women keeping her ex’s last name is not the same thing as some random person suddenly taking my full name. What the hell?

            And, if I wanted to change my last name to Husband today, then I should be able to, and Dale shoudln’t have a say about it. Period.

            Also, what if she just happens to like the name more? Maybe her father’s last name is really crappy or hard to spell or maybe her father was an abusive asshole. Who knows? Who cares?

            Oh, and changing one’s name is a PAIN IN THE FUCKING ASS. It’s not free, and it takes going to the court, and filling out tons of paperwork, etc. What if she just doesn’t think it’s worth it?

            It’s interesting to me that SHE has to go through all the work at least twice — and maybe a third if she gets married again. But he does nothing. Except call her a meanie pants all because she doesn’t feel like changing her name.

            Oh, and thanks for the mainsplain’, dude. Really. Truly. *eye roll*

            Seriously, Dale pretty much parroted THE EXACT FUCKING PROBLEM that we feminists have with this whole name thing, and yet you’re trying to tell us we have it wrong? No. I don’t fucking think so.

          3. Also, I’m not sure why you keep trying to tell us that the only way we can cnosider Dale’s statement as sexist is if he has a “history” of “controlling women”. You DO realize that sexism is very often subtle and not direct, right? It’s internalized and institionalized.

            Google “institutionalized sexism” because it’s relevent.

            Dale is probably a very nice man most of the time, and I wouldn’t even call him sexist from what little I know about him. But he’s routinely clueless and routinely supports sexist notions, and then has a habbit of not coming back to explore the topic when we bring up the problem.

            Sexism is NOT always overt. It is very often subtle. And this is part of that subtle sexism. Indeed, at least here, it’s not even that subtle!

    2. Bitter, much? Man, you routinely miss the fucking point when it comes to feminism and sexism, don’t you?

      1. HOWEVER, we’re talking about a LAST NAME, nto a full name. You know that, right? A last name. It’s not like she took his ENTIRE name, first, middle, and last. These are two un-related points.

        I’m not sure I agree. Last name, first name, full name. People feel possessive about their names. Look at what Elyse said in the post up top:

        Elyse is a rare enough name that there’s rarely, or ever, a question over who people are talking about when they say it. No one ever asks “Elyse who?” It’s Elyse. You either know me or you don’t. Why couldn’t I appreciate that about “Wojnowski”? That’s a name with character.

        The fact that there are not tons of people walking around with her name clearly makes her feel a little bit special. It’s big of you to not have any of the same feelings about your own name… if I believed you were being truly honest with yourself when make that claim. Do you really think you would be as proud of your name if it were Kate Smith? My name was the most common male name my year of birth. I don’t have a beef with it, but it doesn’t really mean much to me to be one more Bob in the world.

        A married women keeping her ex’s last name is not the same thing as some random person suddenly taking my full name. What the hell?

        No, but it has enough in common that either example can be used to illustrate the common possessiveness that people feel about their name.

        And, if I wanted to change my last name to Husband today, then I should be able to, and Dale shoudln’t have a say about it. Period.

        Agreed. That’s not really the point of contention.

        Also, what if she just happens to like the name more? Maybe her father’s last name is really crappy or hard to spell or maybe her father was an abusive asshole. Who knows? Who cares?

        Who cares indeed? This is entirely irrelevant. Maybe she wants to keep the name because she still loves him. Maybe it’s easier to spell. Maybe she’s had it long enough that she no longer thinks of herself by her old name. Maybe she is wanted in six states by her original last name. None of that is really relevant to how Dale feels about it, though, and none of it suggests that Dale feels she should change her name because he no longer “owns” her, which is the accusation that has been made.

        It’s interesting to me that SHE has to go through all the work at least twice…

        Yes, interesting. But not really Dale’s fault, is it? In fact I talked about something similar in my post below, about how it was much easier for my wife to change her last name than for me to change mine, and how that didn’t seem right to me. But it’s not like I created the marriage forms in my state and it’s not like Dale invented the convention that women take their husband’s name. Hell, he doesn’t even indicate whether he cared one way or another if she took the name in the first place, so really you could potentially argue it’s all her fault for going through with the name change in the first place. Again, not really relevant to how Dale feels about her continued use of her name, or whether or not he believes he owns her.

        Except call her a meanie pants all because she doesn’t feel like changing her name.

        Cite? I see nowhere that Dale calls his wife mean. He says he believes that it is absurd for her to persist in using the name of a family to which she no longer belongs. I don’t see any indication that he thinks this is malicious on her part. Absurd is not a synonym for mean.

        Oh, and thanks for the mainsplain’, dude. Really. Truly. *eye roll*

        Yes, fuck me very much for trying to be clear and thorough when expressing myself. I don’t know you. I don’t know how well you understand my perspective and my interpretation of Dale’s statements. In fact, the only thing I know about you is that you have a cool name and that you are projecting really nasty attitudes onto another person based on a comment that appears entirely innocuous to me. Therefore, based on my experience with you, it is best to be as clear and thorough as possible, because my experience tells me that you are prone to misinterpret anything that is not very carefully elucidated. I thought I was taught to compose my thoughts this way primarily through American public high school and college education. But apparently it’s just because I have testicles.

        1. You’re wrong. So, so wrong. I do not have the time nor the desire to explain BASIC CONCEPTS to you. Seriously.

          I encourage you to do some research. And stop trying to act like some authority on a subject you clearly know nothing about.

          1. What the fuck? How the hell am I to do research into Dale Husband’s opinions on the significance of last names? This is the only point of my contention. I have read his original post many, many times now and I still see no hint of what you and Elyse have accused him of. Here are your primary arguments:

            You have the clear bias, not us.

            An assertion presented without any evidence.

            And she doesn’t just have to deal with the process of changing her name a second time — she has to deal with the aftermath as well.

            You repeatedly assert that changing one’s name is difficult and complicated. There is no argument here, and it is totally irrelevant to whether or not Husband believes that he “owns” his wife, or that he “lent” her his name only for so long as he “possessed” her. The difficulty involved in changing one’s name is neither here nor there.

            You repeat this argument no less than three times, each with increasing volume and vitriol. Based on your “repetition = bias” assertion, I think we can conclude that you are the one who is biased. Or at least we could if that assertion wasn’t totally inane.

            You DO realize that sexism is very often subtle and not direct, right?

            You appeal several times to the infinite complexity of gender relations. This might be a valid point if Elyse was accusing Husband of eliding some subtle inequality, but she’s not. She’s accusing him of harboring an outright barbaric mindset towards women, specifically his ex-wife. There is nothing subtle about “She could use it when she belonged to him. Now she doesn’t.” or “Because she’s not his property anymore. Like it’s the title to a car he isn’t in possession of.”

            Please explain to me in detail how his ex-wife keeping the name she married intno effects him negativley.

            You assert, through implication, that because the negative impact on Husband by his first wife is minimal, his aggravation at her continued use of his family name despite no longer being a member of his family can be interpreted as a clear sign that he believes he has ownership over women. This is quite a stretch. His reaction may be disproportionate for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with possession. You yourself introduce a couple of possible motivations by accusing Husband of being bitter and by suggesting that he believes his ex-wife to be mean. These are both perfectly good explanations for why a person might want to distance themselves as much as possible from another, for example by no longer sharing a last name with them, and yet they have absolutely nothing to do with any sense of ownership that Husband might feel towards his ex-wife or his attitude towards women in general. Regardless, the comment did not strike me as possessing nearly the weight of emotion that you interpret it to. I see no reason to believe Husband sees this as anything other than a minor annoyance, one more absurdity in an already absurd world.

            Also, what if she just happens to like the name more?

            You assert that Husband’s ex-wife has her own reasons for keeping his name. Well… no shit. She must have a reason, which could be anything from laziness to dodging the authorities. This has nothing to do with whether or not Husband believes that he owns her, believes that his last name symbolizes that ownership, or believes that he, Dale Husband, ought to be able to tell his wife what name to use rather than generally believing that when a family dissolves the component members should revert to names that better reflect their current relationships.

            Oh, and thanks for the mainsplain’, dude. Really. Truly. *eye roll*

            Then you dive straight into the insults.

            I appreciate that you feel that explaining your feelings and interpretations of the world around you is “mansplaining,” and should be avoided. For many, however, learning more about how our fellow humans see the world is considered valuable and illuminating information. I would appreciate it if you mansplain how you came to the conclusion that Dale Husband believes that his name symbolizes total ownership over his wife, rather than the more parsimonious explanation that he simply feels that a person who is no longer a member of a given family should not be allowed to that family name, regardless of gender. Your abuse, repetition, and unsupported denouncements have somehow failed to educate me.

            The whole notion of ownership is completely unnecessary to explain Husband’s annoyance, which is why it appears to me to come from left field when Elyse introduces it.

          2. THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT DALE’S COMMENT, you numb skull!

            “Feminism and last names” — there is a good fucking start.

      2. Sexism is NOT always overt. It is very often subtle.

        So? Overtness has nothing to do with it.

        Look, if you want to argue that the way that our society treats names overall is sexist and has negative implications for women, you’ll get no argument from me. But we’re dealing here with a specific statement by Dale Husband followed by an inference from Elyse. I believe that Elyse’s inference is unwarranted – Dale’s post appears to be more about what a name means for a family than about his relationship with women. While it is not impossible that Dale intended what Elyse accuses him of implying, it seems to me that he deserves the benefit of the doubt. My interpretation seems more plausible to me – obviously, being my interpretation, it would seem more plausible to me, or else I would have interpreted it differently – and Elyse’s accusation would be an enormous taint on Dale’s character if true.

        You seem to be confusing several issues – the difficulty of changing one’s name, the legal rights that one has or ought to have for their name, the Western tradition of women taking the names of their father followed by their husband, and how Dale Husband feels about his wife continuing to use the name of a family she no longer belongs to. The ONLY one of these things that I am defending is the last one. You can rant about the others all you want – I have already done my rant about the exact same topic here – but I am not interested in that discussion because I’m sure we will agree on almost everything. I am only interested in how Elyse was able to come to conclusions that she did about the extreme heinousness of Dale’s feelings towards his wife’s name. I’d also be curious how you know (or think you know) that he is bitter and thinks his wife is mean.

        Please explain to me in detail how his ex-wife keeping the name she married intno effects him negativley. Explain why it is SO important that she change her name.

        Aside from the continued association with somebody with whom he does not wish to be associated in a familial way, it doesn’t negatively impact him, which is why I agree that we do not need a law forcing her to change her name. However, Dale never said he was negatively impacted. He said it was absurd. He seems to feel that this is a very minor infringement on his right as an adult to define his own family. I really did not read the level of emotion and vitriol into his comment that you and Elyse seem to have.

        You’ve said this TWICE. You have the clear bias, not us.

        Cite please. The fact that I had very similar responses to you and to Elyse is not an indication of bias, it’s an indication that the two of you are making similar arguments.

        I have already said that I am being slightly generous by assuming that Dale’s use of the word “woman” was due to his specific experience and common social conventions. I do not know, but I suspect, that he would have similar reaction to two men who divorced if one continued to use the other’s name despite no longer retaining any ties to that family. This is because it is my general policy to give people the benefit of the doubt. If there are two possible interpretations of their statements, and one is innocuous while the other is vile, I tend to assume that the innocuous interpretation was intended without further clarification. This policy has served me well over the years, preventing many unnecessary arguments. I recommend it.


        Dale pretty much parroted THE EXACT FUCKING PROBLEM that we feminists have with this whole name thing, and yet you’re trying to tell us we have it wrong?

        This is exactly the point of contention. Elyse has charged that Dale views his control over his ex-wife as absolute, and his name as a symbol of his possession of her. This is obviously a feminist issue, and a serious one at that. It is also an attitude that I absolutely do not deny exists. However, I believe that Dale sees their shared last name as a symbol of the family they once shared. She has now left that family, and he thinks it absurd that she does not revert her name to one that she DOES share with people who are still her family. That latter interpretation is not a feminist issue, or really anybody’s issue except Dale’s. Just because you disagree with his opinion that his wife’s continued use of his name is absurd does not mean that he is a bitter man who thinks his wife is mean and believes that he owns her.

        But he’s routinely clueless and routinely supports sexist notions, and then has a habbit of not coming back to explore the topic when we bring up the problem.

        Wow, look at that. An answer to my initial comment. Was that so hard?

        1. My point about Dale is not that he’s this terrible person walking around thinking he owns his ex-wife. My point is that this is the implication of what he’s saying. He doesn’t have to be explicitly thinking “I own her”. His statements just happen to be a very perfect example of the problem with name changing.

          Sometimes our words and thoughts and wants carry far more baggage than we realize. Demanding that a woman carry your name only while married to you is one of them. Dale is saying things that are horribly sexist. Does he mean to? I don’t know. Does he understand all the issues lying under the surface of what he’s saying? I don’t know. Does it matter? Not really. “I’m hurt” does not give you the right to demand that women go around changing their names based on whether they are yours or not. It’s part of the basic core of the not changing your name in the first place.

          1. I don’t know if you are deliberately not addressing my points or not.

            The crux of your argument is that Dale’s statements can fairly be summarized as “Demanding that a woman carry your name only while married to you.” I don’t feel that this is a fair description of his comment. I would word it “When families dissolve, family names should reflect current familial relationships.”

            In many cases, the implications of both will be very similar. The difference is that the latter may be held to be true even in a hypothetical purely egalitarian society. Imagine a hypothetical situation where all adult families are formed by conjoining the first syllables of each last name. The Hargrove/MacIntyre marriage produces the Harmac family, the Lopez/Williams marriage produces the Lopwill family, etc., regardless of the genders of the spouses and with the order of the syllables determined by random draw. In this world, the former statement would be utterly senseless, but the latter may be expressed unaltered.

            Obviously we do not live in such a world, and you might fairly argue that Husband failed to appreciate that his proposal might have unforeseen and unfair consequences for women. However, that is a far cry from “proving that names are all about ownership,” and need not reflect any of the implications of last names that you not only assert are true in general for our society, but attribute directly to Husband.

            There difference between “I have a right to tell women what name to use because I own them” and “I would support a law that requires people to use a family name that accurately reflects current familial relationships” is the difference between “I have the right to shoot anybody who annoys me” and “I support the death penalty for serial killers.” People who believe the former almost invariably also support the latter, but people who support the latter do not necessarily believe the former. You can’t make a cogent argument against the death penalty by arguing that a person does not have the right to kill whomever they don’t like without due process, and you can’t mount a fair case against Dale’s comment by arguing that men do not own women.

            I agree with you that hurt feelings do not justify a right to tell other people what name they should use. I DON’T agree that a person who feels irrationally possessive towards their name as a result of hurt feelings is the equivalent of somebody who believes that they own women.

          2. lofgren, you are completely and utterly clueless about this subject. Just stop AND DO SOME RESEARCH. You should probably do some very, very basic research on sexism in general, actually, because clearly you don’t understand any of it.

  48. Someone asked about changing their name as a published scientist. Bottom line: no big deal in terms of reviews, grants etc. My students sometimes agonize over it, and for them, I suggest several ways to handle it. Some people have a one-liner atop the publication list saying “formerly LastName”. Then you boldface your last name in your publication list, so that your authorship is obvious even if the name changes. One of my grad students chose to hyphenate. Another grad student was like Tyler, and she and her husband chose a different relative’s surname who they loved. A third has kept her name. Honestly, it is whatever choice one is most comfortable with. It’s a very personal decision.

    I kept my name; after all, it’s mine! Not sure that was a wise choice as my last name is Smith – try searching for my papers on PubMed! (smile) I probably should have taken my companion’s name as his is unique, but then no one can spell or pronounce his anyway, so lose-lose either way. I once considered a third road – my mother’s maiden name, but it turns out his was an Ellis Island misspelling and everyone else with the name is Korean, not Polish. Ah, well.

    My favorite story, however, is the neuroscientist at Stanford who underwent a sex change (sorry I am forgetting the name) from female (Barbara, I think) to male (Ben?). He overheard a conversation thereafter: “Mind the brother is a much better scientist than the sister.” Go figure.

    (My first post – hello!)

  49. My mother never changed her name, which my father was fine with and which I was fine with. We always gave family pets her last name, so there would be somebody else in the family with her last name. (I’m sure somebody will jump in here and say this is degrading. Well you weren’t there and I assure you it was cute and silly and neither my mother nor her family felt degraded.) She says that the only annoyances are that sometimes people assume that she and my father are divorced, or that she is his mistress or girlfriend or that they never married, and a handful of times people did not believe that my sister and I were her children.

    When we got married, I told my wife that it was entirely her choice to take whatever name she likes, but that I was not willing to change my name. I can admit this is for entirely neanderthal-like irrational reasons, both for adherence to tribal identity and because, despite all my fancy modern logic, I would feel slightly emasculated taking her name. Emasculated is not something I feel very often. I just don’t put that high a price on my masculinity. But for some reason taking my wife’s last name caused me to feel like my inner caveman was gnashing his teeth at me.

    My wife never asked me to change my name. She did change her name, for the sake of family cohesion and because she loves me (meaning, it was her choice to change it as a symbol of her love for me and our joining as a family). I appreciate this token from her. I’ve decided to view my own irrational resistance to the idea of taking my wife’s name as a harmless quirk. It’s not like this token of troglodyte masculinity has any impact on anybody but my wife, and she doesn’t seem to care. I think in almost every other way I’m pretty good about ignoring the silliness of traditional gender roles, and I respect others for having the courage to openly defy them, including men who take their wife’s name. This is just my one thing. It’s really just not worth the effort to try to change this bit of irrationality. If I am going to go changing myself than there are a lot more important places to start.

    I did offer to take my wife’s last name as a middle name. She said it wasn’t that important to her, but I felt like if she was going to change her last name it was kind of polite to return the gesture. Then we found out that this is a much more difficult change to make. She basically had to check a box and then mail out a bunch of forms. I would have had to go through a more elaborate process. If it was because I was adding a middle name rather than changing my last name to my spouse’s that would be fine. But actually it was because I am The Man and my wife is The Woman, and there was no box for me to check and no pre-made form for me to mail. That seems stupid. The state where we got married now allows same-sex marriage, so hopefully now that the form says “Spouse 1” and “Spouse 2” instead of “Husband” and “Wife,” at least you would have the option of putting the man down as Spouse 2 in a hetero marriage and hopefully make the change as easy as it was for my wife (which was not super easy, just easier). Still, seems like there ought to be an easy option for both spouses to change their last name.

    In some cultures, you take a new name to mark many milestones in your life. You get a name when you are born, another when you become an adult, another when you marry, another when you have children, etc. I think that’s kind of cool. It’d be neat to have a name that not only identified you as an individual, but told a story of your life. In our culture a lot of people do that with tattoos instead of names, but I don’t like needles.

  50. I’m not changing my name. I like it, it’s rare, it connects me to parts of my family. But however traditional there is no way to patch the current system to fit a world where all ones 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 etc. ancestors are equally important. So I’ll stick to my idea for a name culture of the future:

    John and Jill get children Alice and Andy
    Alices name will be Alice Jillsdaughter Johnsdaughter and Andy will be Andy Johnson Jillson

    If showing marital status in a name is important, we can add, when Andy marries Sally, Andy Sallysman Johnson Jillson.

    Or we can go all the way back to nicknames. Andy Tall Banker

  51. My fiancee and I are planning on double-barreling. To make matters extra funny/weird, ours is a Swedish-Canadian joining, and I have a distinctively Swedish name. My name sounded really strange when using it with her last name, which she wants to keep, so it was mostly a choice of which sounded better. In the end, we’re both ending up with Mine-Hers.

    It might be more complicated to do it this way, but that’s not really a great addition; we’re getting used to tangling with the bureaucracy of three different countries (including the UK).

  52. My mother had a double name, I always wondered about that because it’s odd that she has a different name than I do..
    I would want to keep my name, unless the other person had a super super cool surname. My longterm boyfriend’s surname is Tank, though. Lea Tank? That is not me…

  53. My wife uses a hyphen with her last name. It allows our family to share a name, but also allows her to keep her own identity. In our case though, she is quite close with my family (my parents at least).

    Inconvenient for signing things though, makes for a long last name.

  54. My husband is going to change his surname to mine, as he’s not particularly close to his father (and 100% shares his name), he’s proud of his Scottishness, and I have a Scottish name (his great great great x 100something) had to change his name to something “more English” when he went to Cambridge.
    When we got married, my husband said specifically “Do not take my name. I hate it.”

    We’ve been married 6 months and haven’t done it yet though, as he’s not sure how to tell his dad. Everyone else knows though and his mother (who is no longer married to his father) was pretty excited about it.

    As a bonus, keeping my name would avoid awkward circumstances when people see my family crest tattoo and I’d have to explain a discrepancy. Thankfully, that won’t exist.

  55. I’m getting Civil Partnered (I can’t think of a way of saying that without it sounding linguistically awkward- we’re getting a Civil Partnership? One more argument for same sex marriage!) in October, and my partner and I have decided to double barrel our names, at least partly because we want to have kids and we thought it would be easier that way. We’ve decided to do it her name-my name because we think it sounds better, but friends who we tell are split on that. I would have been up for making up a new name but she likes her original name too much for that! Of course, down the line, this does bring up a question of what our hypothetical children should do if and when they get married- you can’t just keep adding names indefinitely- but we’ll leave that for them to decide!

  56. I was never interested in changing my last name, but since my husband and I are planning on having children and I want to have the same last name as them, I hyphenated my name (and my husband will be hyphenating his after my visa application is completed – no use adding more paperwork to an already ridiculous process!). I also changed my middle name, taking a name from his maternal side. This was basically for cultural reasons, as I am Australian and wanted to have a Welsh name, because my husband is Welsh, and our children will be Welsh, and we will all be Welsh speakers. To be honest I was more excited about changing my middle name than I was my surname, and I wouldn’t have bothered changing my surname if I hadn’t been going through the process to change my middle name.

    But I will keep my original, unhyphenated surname for academic publishing purposes.

    The thing that has been strange to me is people assuming that I have changed my title. I always used Ms. because I don’t see why anyone needs information about a woman’s marital status (this is the only info that Miss vs Mrs appears to impart). After I was married people assumed that I’d changed my title to Mrs. and are so confused when I tell them I’m still Ms. Our bank assumed that I had changed it to Mrs (at the time I was telling them about my name change) and sent me new bank cards and cheque books which I asked them to change again to Ms. A staff member at the bank said to me “I thought Ms. was only for women who were divorced?”.

  57. I don’t intend to get married, but if I did I would be disappointed if my hypothetical wife wanted to take my name. Not that I wouldn’t be open to discussion, but I do think that it’s part of the fairly oppressive earlier role of marriage, and keeping that tradition alive makes no sense to me.

    I’m still a little surprised that all of my married friends and relatives have so far opted to take their husbands’ names.

  58. Names are arbitrary. They do not define who you are, what you are, or what you may be. There is no difference between a woman taking a man’s name than a man taking a woman’s name. Or for one man to take his husband’s or one woman to take her wife’s name. I suggest for those who have issues with the name thing, have BOTH change to a new last name different that either of the originals. Hence defining a new family identity if you define your identity through a name. As for publishing, haven’t you ever heard of pseudonyms? I publish under a pseudonym. Reason for that though has more to do with living in a very conservative area and writing non-conservative fiction. Don’t need ‘visits’ by extremists.

    As for the whole Miss., Ms., Mrs., Mr., etc. I am tempted to start a movement to just change it to M. for both sexes. Why should your mail depend on your advertizing your sex?

  59. I was actually tempted to change my name when I got married, just because my own’s so common that it has caused confusion about what *I* have actually published (even including my very common first name doesn’t prevent this!). But I’d already published under my ‘maiden’ name, and decided it was better to just stick to it.

    My husband considered changing his last name to mine, just to make it easier to deal with administrator-types (“Yes, we’re really married, see? Same last name!”). But that would have resulted in an… unfortunately infamous name for him. Then we tried combinations of the two names, with only hilarious or unfortunate results. Oops. And any real ‘admin’ reasons are becoming fewer and farther between, so I decided we’d keep our own names. We haven’t had it cause any problems for us.

    Now regarding the OP’s initial question:

    I know of several women who both teach and publish using their maiden name, even *after* legally taking their husband’s last name at marriage (passport, driver’s license, credit cards, tax forms, phone listings, etc.). For researchers who (for example) do work with live animals or on controversial subjects, this strategy can also help maintain privacy and security at home (incidentally, I don’t personally know any men who have taken this strategy, but there are probably at least a few).

    I also know some women who published, then changed their name upon marriage. And yes, following a publication record through name changes can be tricky. It’s becoming a bit easier now that more articles are appearing online and that some indices allow you to “tie” your own articles together at the exclusion of others, but we’ve a long way to go yet before it’s headache-free. For job applications, it does mean you need to be clear on your c.v. publication list where you are on an author list (by bolding your own name in every reference, for example). It also will draw attention to the fact that you’ve married, which may or may not be something you’re comfortable with.

    I also know of a couple women who have done things like changed their married name back to their ‘maiden’ name after divorcing, hyphenated it after a second marriage, divorced, kept the hyphenated name for professional reasons but remain unhappy with doing so… No-one (OK: “very very few”) likes to think their marriage will end, but it’s something to keep in mind.

  60. When I married back in 1980 I changed my name, rather uncomfortably but conformity had a strong appeal at the time. I was divorced 10 years later and changed my name legally to one that I chose for myself and that proved to be oddly influential. I would not change my name just because I married again because to me it’s saying to the world that I am of less importance or relevance than my husband. Actually I wouldn’t marry anyway, I’ve lived with the same person now for well over 20 years and we see no reason to sign any legal documents other than a will.

  61. (er… to clarify a typo: “we” decided “we” would keep our real names. No, it wasn’t a unilateral decision on my part!)

  62. I can’t speak on the publishing/keeping/changing name thing, but I can speak of my own marriage.

    My wife and I didn’t even have a conversation about names until pretty close to our wedding. I like my last name (George) for several reasons: It confuses people when they ask for my last name “Okay, so… wait. It’s George Brian, or…?” It’s an immigration name, not my father’s family’s actual name (Just like in the Godfather 2!) And I just like how it sounds.

    My wife’s last name is Savage. It doesn’t get much cooler than that. I never expected her to change her name, nor would I ever ask her to do so. It didn’t even cross either of our mind’s to have the conversation, as we both assumed we’d keep our own names. If anything, I would have taken her name, because SAVAGE. I mean, that’s badass.
    No one in either of our families really cared. We were taking to my grandpa about it and he said “Eh, why bother changing it? Too much paperwork.” It was really funny coming from my seemingly old-school Sicilian grandfather.

  63. My sister and I informally take my mother’s last name as a semi last name. Mad Rabbit Killer (if Rabbit = Mom and Killer = Dad) because both names are fairly unique, and neither of us care for our father’s family much. That said, I would not change my name. I do have a publishing history, but I also have a very unique last name, such that searching my name combination brings up me on the first many pages of Google hits, or pubmed searchers or what have you.

    I think my boyfriend likes the idea of me taking his name, but will be happy for me to informally call myself by his name. His name is terribly common after all…

    I never have understood why none of my partners wanted to take MY last name. It’s awfully cool.

    I would like to make a quick comment about one other name trick that seems to have died a death (I hope). Hyphenated names. My ex partner had one and it struck me as awfully unfair that if we had children they’d get last names from both of his parents, but neither of mine. Same thing if I’d married him and taken his name. I think you should pick one or the other for children. Or drop one and pick up the wife’s for the kid. Talk about confusing family names though.

  64. My wife and I fought over this for many hours. We didn’t fight over whether or not she should take my name – we both didn’t want that. We fought over WHY she shouldn’t take my last name.
    I didn’t want her to change her name because it was symbolic of the patriarchal “property laws” which don’t recognize women as fully human.
    She didn’t want to take my name because it was boring.

    Our marriage almost never happened.

  65. For what its worth I didn’t take my husband’s last name. I’ve had to call people that talked to my husband. No one has ever questioned me or refused to give me information after I identified myself as his wife, even though our names are different. Its not that much of a hassle.

  66. When my wife and I got married she changed her name to mine. The name she had been wearing was the name of her first husband, an abusive drunk with an impressive rap sheet. If she had chosen to keep that name I’d have been a little hurt, and might have wondered whether she was really ready for another marriage.

  67. There’s a comic book writer/artist and his wife who, when they got married in the late ’70’s/early ’80s, hyphenated their names together: Bill Loebs and Nadine Messner both became Messner-Loebs. I always thought that was cool. Wouldn’t work with everyone, of course, you could get some odd combos…

  68. I changed my last name to my wife’s only after we got married and were planning on having children. I figure it makes things a bit easier for strangers if we all have the same last name. For people I am just getting to know, I like it that I changed my last name as it gives me an ice breaker if it happens to come up (especially when they know my wife’s family already).

    My only problem is that since changing my last name and setting up a new email address using my first & last name, I’ve gotten email wrongly addressed to me intended for three different other people with the same first/last, including a .com addressee. Never had this problem before and my previous last name was even more common than my wife’s.

  69. I think this is an interesting question. At one time it was a hot button topic, but now it seems common for people to consider all name changing options when getting married. I changed my last name matching my now husband’s last name. It wasn’t a big deal decision for me at the time (10 years ago), honestly it was a cultural thing for me and I didn’t feel the need to challenge it. Besides, my last name is now pretty cool.

    I think it was a bigger deal to others after I got married. It was just a sign that I was now married. Also we got some cards and such that said things like Mr. and Mrs. my husband’s first name and our last name. At the time that made me feels like they were erasing my identity. I think that kind of behavior would be kind of passé now.

  70. When my wife and I got married, it was decided that either we both changed our names or no one changed their names. Ultimately, she kept her last name, but we decided that if we ever have kids (which is a big “if”), then for some of the reasons Elyse mentioned we would combine our names, Voltron-like, to make a new one for the whole family to share. Our names don’t hyphenate well, but they blend together to make a name that would sound kick-ass preceded by “Count and Countess Von”. Well, if you put her part first and my part second. If you do mine first and hers second, we sound like a brand of harmonica, or a barbershop quartet.

  71. Your name is never truly yours. Your last name is the name you were given through lineage, so the family marks you as their own. Your first name you share with many strangers whose parents decided to call their child thus. Yet people will pass judgement on your character and value as a human based on your name.
    I understand, but I don’t accept. I don’t belong. I wish I could make up a name that would reflect who I am. When I was ten, I wanted my name to be Elvira – completely oblivious of the Mistress of the Dark. I wanted to be a pirate but I also considered changing my name to Han Solo.

  72. i kept my last name when i got married, both for “serious” reasons (it’s my name, it’s how i identify, it seems unfair that it’s assumed i should take my husband’s, i’m very close to my family) and “frivolous” ones (my first name is Pamela and my initials are P.A.M. – if i’d changed, it would’ve been P.A.H., which is rubbish by comparison!)

    husband likes his name, and is also close to his family.

    occasionally we get confused relatives, but it’s a great way to identify telemarketers (anyone who asks for Mrs H clearly does not know us…)

    as to kids – the current thinking is that the first one can have his name and the second mine.

  73. I’ve been married twice- I hyphenated the first time, kept my name the second. I am glad I kept my name. It’s a great teachable moment for people when they snidely ask why, and I give them the Patriarchy-is-evil smackdown. I love to see the smirks fade as they can’t really think of any response.

    My birth name was a name my father was given by his stepfather via adoption, and represents a family of choice, not circumstance, so I was happy to hang on to it for that reason, but I personally like Julia Penelope’s answer to the problem- take your mother’s given name as your last name- given names are usually chosen by mothers, and as such are the only truly matrilinear names. As a real-live radfem, this appeals to me. I also think the name constructions are cool. Kristin Denise just has a ring to it…

  74. I’ve always assumed that if I ever entered into a long term relationship with a woman and intended it to be lifelong and/or produce children we’d get married. We could of course agree upon a cohabitation contract and cohabiting couples with children in common are nearly legally equivalent with married couples in Norwegian law, but this thread has made me realize there is one important difference, namely names.

    What if my wife to be is actually a name-stealer? Norwegian name laws ensure no-one can take the last name I have without being part of a family that already uses the name. This protection applies to any last name used by 200 or less people, and anyone wanting to use my last name either has to get permission from all 23 users of the name alive today, or have a great-great-grandparent or closer ancestor using that name (including a parent of course) or be married to someone using the name. But if we’re “just” cohabiting my almost-bride would need my permission to take my name.

    So are the legal complications of cohabitation instead of marriage worth it to keep my name safe from potential name-stealers? I think not. For one thing, if we were cohabiting and my almost-bride “I’d really like for us to have the same last name, and I really like yours” I’d be flattered and sign the form once I got over the knee-jerk reaction against patriarcal tradition.

  75. lofgren The Mansplainer clearly knows nothing about this subject

    Hey! Also! Numb Skull! Google “Deraling for dummies”.

    Oh and “sexism and last names”

    How about “feminism and the history of last names”

    Shall I provide you some more search ideas? BECAUSE HOLY HELL DUDE FUCK OFF.

  76. I know this AI is kind of old, but I’ve never posted a comment here and this very topic just created some big issues.
    I just told my BF that I didn’t want to take his name if we got married. Apparently, this is a huge source of contention for us that I never knew existed.

    We never really disagree on things, and he claims to be a feminist, so I was really surprised at his vehement response. He’s bewildered that I would even want to do such a thing and mad at me for continuing to pursue the subject after he’s made it clear that I was wrong and I should just STFU and deal with it.

    I don’t know what to do… so far we’ve never really had problems, and despite some differences in upbringing seemed to be on the same page. How do I convince him that HIS side is the one hindering MY rights without causing more mayhem and driving him away, when otherwise he’s well-intentioned?

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