If feminists don't want to change their names when they get married, should they get married?

If feminists don't want to change their names when they get married, should they get married?

I'd say your question is based on an outdated world view and a gross missunderstanding of marriage.

  • Marriage has nothing to do with the surname(s) of the couple involved. A successful, long lasting marriage takes a lot of love and a lot of work. This won’t be neither harder nor easier depending on your surname.
  • You as a couple should have the discusion together and decide what works best for you, regardless of what others think or what society view as the norm. Even if you wish to have the same surname, why should it be the husbands’? My husband took my name so… yeah. Side note, he is also a feminist.
  • In my country both partners get an engagement ring. I know couples who used necklaces, bracelets or nothing as engament “rings”. It's really not an issue. I'd say that in any functioning relationship you can have a discusion about it and decide what works best for YOU.

19 Replies to “If feminists don't want to change their names when they get married, should they get married?”

  1. I am a devoted wife of 22.5 years, I adore my husband but I did not change my last name to his when I married him.

    I did not keep my name for feminist reasons per-see. I just did not want to change my name. A woman can be a strong feminist and decide to take her husband’s name as marriage. This name changing is not a litmus test of feminist sensibilities.

    Now he also agreed I should keep my name if I desired to do so, it was kind of a decision that we made together respectfully. I probably would have changed my name to his if I felt my not doing so would cause him stress and embarrassment. Oh, and sometimes people call him “Mr. Reynolds”. He just laughs to himself. I wanted to marry him, start a family and a life. I did not want to cause him anxiety. Since he was so laid back on the topic keeping my name was an easy choice.

    You know, each couple needs to decide about engagement rings. Often a man will WANT his beloved to have a special ring. But in some cultures rings are not the thing. The Amish and other Anabaptists for example do not engage in rings at weddings.

    Names and rings are really symbols and can only take the relationship so far. I personally believe that if people focus too much on those kinds of things they are probably not quite mature enough for marriage. You have to focus on how your choices make the other person feel first and then get political latter.

  2. It seems that you are asking two questions at once… (1) whether feminists should get married if they don't want to change their names, and (2) whether feminists should get engagement rings.

    (1) There are plenty of reasons women do not change their names when they get married. In one case I knew, the woman made a successful career as a lawyer before getting married, and therefore her maiden name was well known and had success associated with it. She was not going to change her name so she would have to redo all of that work to have success associated with her husband's surname. (Sidenote: He was her second husband, and they got divorced after 20 years… reason has nothing to do with feminism. She is now remarried and still did not take hubby's surname).

    On the same note though… What if she did take her ex-hubby's last name prior to becoming a successful lawyer? After the divorce, should she keep his name because the success was associated with that or should she attempt to regain all of the fame same power associated with his babe under her own?

    [On a side note, I knew some lawyers who gained success while single, and then hyphenated their names after getting married.]

    I also knew female professors/ doctors who did the same thing… some hyphenated their names after receiving a Ph.D., but most just took the degree under their maiden names.

    Outside of the names not being changed for reasons like advanced degrees and reputations, sometimes the names just do not sound good. Like if I was to marry Peter Gabriel, I would be Gabriella Gabriel. That just sounds silly… I can hear the teasing from here. Or, from The Wedding Singer, when Drew Barrymore's character is contemplating marrying the initial guy she was engaged to, realizing how cheesy the name sounds, “Julia Gulia.”

    (2) Engagement rings are a bit of a weird issue. I feel like they are more of a symbol to show a woman that a man can support her. I am initially from a very poor country in Central Europe, and know plenty of couples who do not even have wedding rings, nevermind engagement rings. This did not prevent them from staying together nor from getting married. Also, I knew of a few couples who got divorced and the woman got to keep the engagement ring, which she thereafter sold and made a down payment on a new house with. To me, an engagement ring would just be a symbol to say, “I have put a good deal of thought into this,” when a man asks a woman to marry him, as it is customary (in the US at least) to spend a certain % of a year's salary on the engagement ring.

  3. The hive is offended by your generalization!

    Individual feminists are responsible for their individual selves. It sounds like you’re making the dangerous mistake of creating a moral code that helps you understand people easier. Don’t bother. Individual relationships and their participants are negotiated and formed BY THOSE PARTICIPANTS. They may be influenced by cultural norms, but they set the rules. So if a feminist man wants to give his feminist girlfriend an engagement ring and she wants to take his last name—all of them of their own free will—THAT’S FEMINISM.

    Stereotypes are dangerous but yes, sometimes they’re useful.

    This also feels like you’re doing the “no true Scotsman fallacy” that anti-feminists love. Look. The fundamental defining feature of a feminist isn’t what you read online or saw on FoxNews (not that you do either of those). A feminist is someone who asserts and demands the equality of men and women including the freedom to make whatever individual life choices they want. That’s it.

    So if a woman of her own free mind wants to get married, wear pearls, bake cakes and make her husband a martini before he gets home from a hard day’s work, that’s feminism. I know that there is a group of some feminists who some people cherry pick as magically representative of all feminists, and while they may exist, they don’t own feminism any more than the Westboro Baptist Church owns Christianity.

    Statistical Frequency Gets Confused for Moral Necessity.

    Some feminists do some things. Some do not. There are stay at home feminists who are women and some who are men. There are some who work. There are some who make muffins. There are some who make porn. Feminism is about ownership of one’s life and letting women AND men be free of societally imposed gender norms. That’s about it. So, sure, there may be some crusty ones that offend you. But know what? There are crusty conservatives and Christians that offend me. I’m smart enough to know that they’re the exception. Maybe, you could do the same thing too.

  4. Women who don’t want to change their surnames definitely should not marry men who can’t accept having different surnames and don’t want to change their own surnames.

    Other than that, I see no problem. I’ve been married, widowed, and married again. I still use my birth name. In my first marriage, we gave each other engagement rings and matching wedding bands. In my second marriage, there was no engagement ring and my husband opted not to wear a wedding band.

    None of it seems to have done any harm. And none of it has seemed the least bit important since the wedding day.

    But by all means, if you want a wife who takes your surname, avoid dating women who find that tradition silly. And when you propose, offer an engagement ring or not. But if anger at her values is the reason you decide not to offer one, you might want to skip the proposal, too, because divorce costs even more than rings do, and it’s really hard to live with someone whose values offend you.

  5. I didn't change my name when I got married, so obviously I support anyone else doing the same thing. Having the same surname isn't actually an essential part of being married. My husband and I have the exact same rights and responsibilities as couples with the same surname.

    The question details mention engagement rings, but I'm not sure what that has to do with surnames. Is the idea that men buy the right to change their wives’ names with an engagement ring? That's a strange notion.

  6. If vegetarians don't want to eat steak, should they eat at all?

    If a teetotaler doesn't want to drink rum, should he be drinking water?

    If a man doesn't want to marry, should he be living?

    I think you get the idea where I am going. Changing or not changing the name after marriage is just a choice, one action in the task of marriage. Feminist or not, if someone doesn't do it, it has no connection to getting married.

    Would someone who doesn't want to go anywhere for honeymoon would still be getting married? Their significant other might be pissed, but still they would get married!

  7. I don’t call myself a feminist, but my views often overlap with feminists. I could come up with a lot of reasons why a feminist (or anyone else for that matter) would forego engagement rings. But plain old “men don’t get them so women shouldn’t either” would have to be among the dumbest reasons.

    If the couple had already bought into the tradition of giving a gift of jewelry to celebrate and memorialize the occasion of the engagement, and tit for tat equality was the highest priority, that could be solved with giving the man a ring or other jewelry.

    In the spirit of equality and feminism, should men decline to give engagement rings to feminists and limit rings to wedding bands that both wear?

    There’s no such thing as “the” spirit of equality and feminism. You and your significant other get to decide what is right for you. If you insist on not giving an engagement ring, then that’s something you might want to let slip early in the relationship. I can say for certain that I will not be taking cues from your interpretation of feminism and equality.

  8. Not all cultures have this as a tradition. My husband’s family in Belgium would have thought it was strange if I had, not only because they don’t do it, but also because their name is long and difficult to pronounce or spell, even for them.

    Getting married isn’t about what other people expect. It’s meant to be mutually beneficial. Nothing should be enforced except sharing financial responsibilities and caring for your children. The details differ from one country to the next as to what that entails. Whether you wear rings, whether one of you changes your name to match the other, and other non-essential signifiers of marriage change over time and place because they’re not what marriage is about.

  9. Personally, I don't like the idea of changing my name (actually, I don't like a lot of the traditions around weddings that stem from women being chattel). It makes me uncomfortable, and I cannot shake the connotations of ‘ownership’ – being transferred from father to husband.

    It seems out of place in a modern society, that I should be expected to change my identity if I were to marry a man. That I would be legally marked as his, as ‘Mrs X’ on my passport and driving licence, whilst he would be expected to do nothing comparable.

    The fact that I wouldn't take a partners name is no reflection on how I feel about marriage, as it exists today.

    An equal, modern partnership is good! If a person wants to take their partner’s name because they are proud of their partnership, then I will absolutely defend their right to do that.

    It's just not for me – I would find different ways to show the same pride, something both of us could do (e.g.: both hyphenating names, or both changing to a new surname).

  10. Apparently there are a number of countries where the woman does not take the husband’s name. In many of them the woman is not allowed to take the husband’s name.

    I knew that in Quebec women did not automatically take their husband’s name, but tripped across this article listing a number of other countries where this is also true.

    The list includes

    • Quebec
    • Greece
    • France
    • Italy
    • Netherland
    • Belgium

    The article also lists countries where it is the custom for the woman to keep her maiden name including

    • Malaysia
    • Korea
    • Spain
    • Chile

    So, this is really just a cultural issue that has nothing to do with engagement rings.

    Well worth a read.

    Here Are Places Women Can't Take Their Husband's Name When They Get Married

  11. Feminists?

    It's just practical not to change your name. What a hassle:

    • Change your legal name
    • Change your bank accounts
    • Change your name on bill payments
    • Change your name at work
    • Update your stupid social media

    Plus, some of it costs money. I'm not going to waste money on 1950s gender rules.

    It varies country by country but many already don't care and you'd have to be a radical right winger to care.

    This stopped being a thing thirty years ago. Catch up with the times.

  12. It is more convenient if a woman does not change her name after getting married. This way, her name in the school records, college records, employment records, banking records all remain the same and there is no need to keep changing all these.

    After marriage, they can just change the marital status and show the husband’s name at the appropriate column.

    This must be viewed not from a feminists point of view but convenience point of view only.

  13. Getting married and changing name is so unrelated. Here in Canada (Quebec province) the law is even made like that. You get married and you keep your name. That’s it. When you get kids, he/she can have the father’s last name, the mother’s last name or combination of both. Of coarse, you are going to tell me that if the kid has the combination of the 2 last names and he later marries another person with 2 last names, it could make a kid with 4 last names and going exponentially over generations. But the law is made that you can keep only 2 names and have to discard the others going down the generations.

  14. Hello, I'm a feminist who got married and didn't change my name.

    I got married for all kinds of reasons, practical and emotional.

    I didn't change my name for three reasons. One, changing names is a hassle for working actors. Two, the practice exists because women used to be property, and the name change indicated a transfer of that property from her father to her husband. I didn't want to perpetuate that tradition. And three, I don't know why I'd stand in a long line and fill out a bunch of paperwork to do something I don't want to do in the first place.

    The two decisions have nothing to do with one another.

  15. What difference does it make whether a person changes their name or not? Marriage is a partnership. There is no requirement for changing names.

    As to the question of engagement rings, there is something definitely sexist in the idea that a man should give a special ring to a woman as part of the process of getting engaged, but not the other way around. This isn’t something I’d considered before, but it is a something that should be so considered. Probably the correct solution would be to either skip the giving of engagement rings entirely or have them be exchanged, much like the marriage rings usually are.

  16. Should feminists get engagement rings?

    Do you mean: should feminists receive engagement rings?

    Well, I think it depends on if they want engagement rings or not. Engagement rings are a symbol of your commitment. They are as meaningful as the couple feels that they are. Chances are that you’re going to wear that ring for the rest of your life, so whether you want a diamond ring or a simple band or even something much more specific, is highly personal.

    If you you mean: should feminists purchase an engagement ring for their partners?

    Again, it depends on if their partner wants one. It depends on how they want to symbolize their commitment. It depends of how traditional they are, and how much money they want to spend on something like this.

    As for me, my husband and I are both feminists. We both bought each other engagement rings. We both got down on one knee to give the other an engagement ring (he proposed first, and I returned the favor shortly after). It was very romantic, and the rings have a very deep personal value for us. I would recommend that all couples do what is meaningful and significant for them.

  17. If feminists don't want to change their names when they get married, should they get married?

    Do you suppose that women only get married because they a) want an engagement ring and, or B) they hate their last name and can’t wait to change it?

    Gotta’ tell you then, you are wrong on both counts.

    When a woman gets married and changes her name it can be extremely problematic for her. First of all, she has to fill out oodles of paperwork to change everything – driver’s license, passport, health cards, credit cards, etc etc. And, she has to have some form of ID in order to do so.

    Secondly, who in this day and age is called Mr and Mrs Smith, rather than, Jane and John?

    Third, let’s say the husband dies and Jane Smith wants to get married again. She now has to go to the trouble of changing all her Smith ID into Jones. Do you have any idea how long that takes? And, what a drag it is getting your ORIGINAL birth certificate to prove who you are then all the accompanying paperwork to show that your birth name was changed. Then just change it all again? And for what? Because Don Jones requires his wife have the same name as his.

    Same if the marriage to Smith ends in divorce.

    Ah, you say. But the kids will all have different names than their parents. Well. Little Susie Smith grew up and married Bob Black. Mom and Dad have divorced and now Mom is Jane Jones. So, no they don’t all have the same name.

    The whole thing is really silly and all in the name of tradition.

    I changed my name when I got married 48 years ago because, quite honestly, I didn’t know it was even a choice not to. After a divorce, second marriage where I changed my name again, then divorce again I felt it was the right thing to hyphenate my name since I was now FINALLY marrying a really good and decent man who didn’t even bring it up and didn’t care if I took his name or not.

    So, my advice to young girls now – don’t do it. There is no need.

  18. They shouldn't get married to people who are so insecure, immature, or possessive as to insist on an unwanted name change.

    My wife kept her maiden name when we married 23 years ago. I frankly prefer the sound of that name to the sound if she had taken mine.

    1. Marriage is not about sharing the same name, if you think that this is the purpose of mariage, you should probably not get married. Marriage is about about love, commitment and also a social and legal institution that (in most parts of the world) ensures legal, financial and familiar bonds between the two parts, I can`t see how this could be confused with sharing the same name.
    2. Changing your name is not common in all parts of the world, where I`m from it is highly uncommon for a woman to change her name upon marriage.
    3. My family name is very old and has tradition, because our family has certain objects and artifacts of value that we traditionally see as rightfully belonging to my family. The females have never changed our names in order to keep our valuables and tradition within the family and inherit it to our children. Therefore I have promised my mother to never change my name (I have both my parent`s names), and my daughter has my last name, as to keep our family line. However I could if I chose, along with my daughter, eventually add a husband`s name to our own, but we are expected to not give them up, as that would be seen as chosing a man before our history and family, and we are taught to be proud and independant.

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