Changing your name to your husband’s name celebrates an evil history of oppression

The practice of women changing their surnames to their husbands’ surnames after marriage is sexist and evil and should be stopped. Before you tell me it is up to personal choice, let’s learn a little bit about the history of the practice.

The myth of the natural inferiority of women greatly influenced the status of women in law. Under the common law of England, an unmarried woman could own property, make a contract, or sue and be sued. But a married woman, defined as being one with her husband, gave up her name, and virtually all her property came under her husband’s control.

During the early history of the United States, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. If a poor man chose to send his children to the poorhouse, the mother was legally defenseless to object.

WIC – Women’s History in America

The purpose of a woman changing her surname upon marriage was to signify that she no longer belonged to her father – now she belonged to her husband, along with all her property. Women lost all their rights when they married. A man could beat and rape his wife every day, and it was okay, because she was his property. There was nothing she could do. Any property she owned became his. All her belongings, even down to her clothing, was his. So if she decided to run away, she would be accused of stealing even if she took nothing but the clothes on her back.

“But,” you may say, “those things don’t happen anymore! So if a woman wants to change her name to her husband’s, it’s her own choice and it has nothing to do with that.” (For now I’ll put aside the issue of the near-impossibility of a man being convicted of marital rape even in our “enlightened” modern times.)

Well, let’s say, hypothetically, there is a holiday every year called Linchday. No one really knows when or why this holiday started. All they know is, it’s a fun day that everyone has off from work and school, when children play fun games with ropes. Maybe they jump-rope, or play some variation on tag, or give each other colored ropes as gifts, sort of like valentines. One day a historian says to you, “Hey, did you know people from a small town in the US back in the 1700s started this holiday to celebrate the yearly hanging of black slaves?” After learning that, how would you feel about playing those rope games?

Hopefully, after learning its history, celebrating that holiday would be out of the question for you.

A woman changing her surname to her husband’s after marriage is a tradition that comes directly from the idea that a man owned his wife as his property. Do we really still want to be following this tradition, knowing where it came from?

“But, but,” someone (not you, surely) may say, grasping at straws, “it does not mean that to me. I just want to show the world that I love my husband!” Then why don’t you trade names? Doesn’t he love you, too?

Ignoring me, this (surely fictional) person says, “Moreover, it is most definitely MY choice. I am not required nor pressured in the slightest to change my name!” Perhaps if you had decided to keep your name, you would have experienced what most women do: wedding checks, letters, junk mail made out to “Mr. & Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname.” Friends and family calling you “Mrs. Hisname,” refusing to remember your repeated corrections.

“For some reason, even though it was perfectly legal for me to keep my maiden name upon marriage, everyone expected me to take my husband’s surname.” The Choice and Power of Surnames

“Aftermaking it clear to some of his family members that I kept my name, they still address correspondence to “Mrs. (his name).” I recall at least three occasions when I told his mom, for instance, that I had kept my name. I even mentioned it to his grandmother. Still, our mail says “Mrs. (hisname).” Other family members do the same.” Source

“I just got a holiday card in the mail from MY aunt, who apparently ignored the fact that I did NOT change my name?! My mom said she specifically told my aunt that I hadn’t, but somehow it doesn’t surprise me that the ‘error’ occurred.” Source

“How do you correct people without being a bitch? Am I going to send my aunt a note to say “Just got your Christmas card, by the way I didn’t change my name” – hurting her feelings won’t fix my hurt feelings, you know? With my husband’s family I wonder if the name mix-up isn’t just passive aggressiveness. Does anyone else get that sense?” Source

“this same thing has happened to me with people sending me things addressed to Mr & Mrs. HisFirst HisLast. even people who know i haven’t changed my name. not just aunts, etc but including – get this! – the state when they sent us our marraige license. (and when you open it you can see the document which clearly shows i did not change my name).” Source

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the man in the bushes with a knife

First I want to say that I am not belittling what these women have gone through. Rape is a horrible crime, no matter the perpetrator or circumstances.

police sketch of suspectThis man has been attacking and raping women for 13 years. He literally hides in the bushes with a knife—he is the perfect cliche to perpetuate the stranger-rapist stereotype.

I’m not sure why this is breaking news. The only thing I can think of is that they are trying to publicize these crimes to help catch the guy.

In a study published by the Department of Justice, 82% of the victims were raped by someone they knew (acquaintance/friend, intimate, relative) and 18% were raped by a stranger.

Only publicizing stories like this perpetuates the lie told to women that they only need to watch out for the stranger in the bushes.

Where is the breaking news on the other 82% of rapes?

thoughts on hyphenated names

Dr Hegarty said: “In the 16th century, naming men before women became the acceptable word-order to use because of the thinking that men were the worthier sex. This grammar has continued with ‘Mr and Mrs’, ‘his and hers’ and the names of romantic couples like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

I often do this without thinking, though I’m getting better at noticing and stopping myself.

I was thinking about this in terms of hyphenated names- do most hetero couples who choose to hyphenate their names together put the man’s name first? How do they decide?

As a person in my 20’s, I have several friends with hyphenated names inherited from their parents. They all hate their last names. They are long and difficult to relay. They are embarrassing.

My boyfriend told me about a study he read (I’m sorry, I can’t find a link) that concluded that hyphenated names are detrimental to women and beneficial to men. People would see “Nathan Smith-Roberts” and think his parents must be progressive, open-minded and tolerant people. The same people would see “Norah Smith-Roberts” and not hire her because she must be a man-hating radical feminist.

I think hyphenated names are a well-intentioned but bad idea. They’re too problematic. What does the next generation do?

I think in a family with multiple children, there are two ideal solutions, assuming the couple wants to pass on both names. They could take turns- name the first child one last name, and the second child the other. Or, for hetero couples, they could give the father’s last name to any sons, and the mother’s last name to any daughters. That makes a lot of sense to me.

Where did your last name come from? Do you like it? Have you ever changed your last name? Why? What would your ideal solution be? I would love to hear your thoughts!

scary statistics about makeup / what are you afraid of?

This survey of 3,000 women produced some disheartening results about how makeup still runs the lives of women.

  • One of of five boyfriends have never seen their girlfriends without makeup- not even in bed.
  • 41% of the women polled said they would be mortified if a colleague saw them without makeup.
  • One of of five said they would not let even close girlfriends see them without makeup.
  • One third would not even consider leaving home unarmed with a full grooming kit—including lip balm, eyeliner, deodorant, and hairbrush.
  • 71% said they are much prettier with makeup on.

What are we afraid of?

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why “mrs” and “miss” are always wrong

wedding table card

“Mrs” always bothered me, even during that brief time I was an ultra-fundamental christian (I may write about that some other time ;D ), though at that time I wasn’t sure why. “Mrs John Smith”… really? Do you not exist as an individual?

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