A topic that often came up while I was at Wellesley, a women's college in Massachusetts, was discussion around women who automatically change their name upon marriage (a tradition 90% of women participate in each year).
On the one hand:
- She may want her and her spouse (and future children) to be seen as a family
- It's traditional
- A name does not define a person, so what does it matter?
- The spouse won't change his name
- Why wouldn't a woman change her name?
- A woman's individual identity should not be subsumed under her spouse's
- She may like and have become accustomed to the name she's had for 20, 30, 40 years
- If he won't change his name, why should she?
- She's not property
- She doesn't believe in or want to perpetuate a tradition rooted in patriarchy
- She wants to maintain ties to her own family
- Changing her name does not make her "more" married
Before Wellesley, these issues never came up as a point of discussion, especially given the dearth of true intellectual debate that I experienced among peers in the Lynn (MA) Public Schools system All of this makes me wonder if this sort of issue is something that people actually discuss in "real life" outside of more academic circles. Does the common person care about these things? Does it really matter what someone else chooses to do with their own life (and name)? Or is this a topic that people with too much time on their hands discuss? But perhaps most importantly, is the tradition of women changing their name something women (and men) should consider more thoughtfully or does it even matter at the end of the day?
What does taking your spouse's surname mean (if anything) for women in the year 2011?