Now, I’m not against traditional marriage, or committing myself to one person for the rest of my life. I am, however, against taking someone else’s last name. I touched on this subject briefly in an article I wrote a while back on my tumblr in reference to my adoption and having my dad’s last name, but my choice to keep my last name goes a bit deeper than that.
In the 19th century women were literally objects owned by their fathers or husbands. They weren’t allowed to own or buy property, and when they wed and took their husband’s last name, everything they owned became his. That last name was a symbol of ownership. Girls’ fathers would quite literally ‘give’ them away for marriage, and allow another man to place his name on her, therefore owning her. I’m personally not a big fan of being ‘owned’ by a man.
While women may no longer be considered property, your name is your identity and how the world views and categorizes you. Women are just expected to take their husband’s last name, and take on the identity his name carries. Who you are as a person may not be changing, but how the world views you is. Men get to keep their names and the identity it holds. They never have to question who they might become one day. Men simply exist, while women are identified based on their marital status.
When I was growing up I never even learned to write my last name in cursive. It’s not written on my ID, and I don’t sign it. I grew up believing that one day I would get married, and change it, so why bother? I believed that my identity would change one day under the circumstances of which man I chose to marry. I believed that my name was temporary, and not really mine. Part of being a woman is subsuming our own identity into our husband’s, and that impacts our perception of ourselves and our role in the world. Girls shouldn’t believe that who they will be depends on who they marry; we should raise our girls to believe that they are already whole.
I only chose to keep my last name a few months ago. I originally decided on this because of my dad; he adopted me and gave me his last name. He’s the first and only man I’m willing to change my name for. But once I made that decision I felt empowered and strong. Girls in their mid-to-late 20s worry about finding a man and changing their name, but knowing my name will never change I don’t feel a strong need to be in a serious relationship. It helps me focus on who I am as a person, not who I will be. I’ve learned to be proud of who I am.