Taking the man’s name

Today’s Skepchick ‘Afternoon Inquisition’ asked – slightly shortened – ‘What do you think about the practice of a wife taking her husband’s name?’. I remember realising this practice was clearly sexist, and I couldn’t understand why I’d never seen it before – it’s obviously about the woman becoming the man’s possession. Ick! Having had this revelation, I mentioned it to various friends/family, almost all of whom surprised the hell out of me by disagreeing.

A couple of people said ‘it’s just nice’, which I think was code for ‘it’s traditional’. As a general rule I reject any argument that includes the word ‘traditional’, so that didn’t convince me. Then there was ‘what would we name the children?’, which made me laugh. Why does that matter? Sure, there might be the occasional administrative slip, but that’s hardly a deal-breaker. Just choose a name. It’s not like the kid is any less yours.

The main comeback was ‘it’s just what you do’. Or that it’s the expected thing, and so is easier for others. These people disliked the sexism, but didn’t think of the issue in those terms – it’s unimportant because marriage isn’t one-way possessive. Which is fair enough. And I’ve since read of people who disliked their original name and wanted to change. Obviously fine too.

Still, personally: ick. While I see it needn’t matter, I’d have trouble shedding the sexist connotations. Marriage is a partnership, not a takeover, and I’d rather have nothing suggesting otherwise. Of course, in the unlikely event of any woman wanting to marry me, she’ll do what she likes. I can’t see my marrying someone who’d be swayed by my opinion anyway.