It was a very simple question asked by my sister on gchat Wednesday, and it turned into a long but great conversation about names, feminism and personal choice.
Of course this topic has been written about thousand of times in numerous blogs all across the vast, wide internet by amazingly smart women, and I think we should read and listen to all the different, individual stories out there about name change.
In recent years, I’ve subscribed more to the “feminism as personal choice” philosophy when it comes to things like name changing. However, in the past, I never really thought I would change my name.
My opinions started to shift since meeting Trey. When he turned 21, he was legally adopted by his dad and changed his full name- first, middle and last- to the name he has today. I asked him about it and it seemed so common sense to him that it made me wonder if I was over-thinking the name issue. It is, after all, just a name, and it’s only my identity if I make it that way. Not like I’d be changing my first name. And my birth name is the most common last name in the United States so I don’t feel that strongly aligned to it.
For these and other reasons it started to make sense to me to change my name. However, when I am faced with the assumption that I will change my name, even though that’s my plan, I get so, so angry at the presumption that I will and should change my name!
My friend Kate had a great point on twitter the other day: she kept her name and feels like she has to constantly defend that choice. As I lean towards changing my name, I feel like I should have to stand up for my choice as well. I’d love to see a world where it’s not just presumed that a woman will change her name when she marries. I certainly don’t mind people asking me why I plan to change my name, because it is a choice I’m arriving at after much thought and I’m happy to discuss what is a personal choice for me.
I would rather not see one choice favored over another. I don’t want to see changing one’s name treated as the status quo, just as I don’t want to see keeping one’s birth name treated as the one, true feminist choice to make. I would love for everyone to have the luxury to think this through and make whatever choice works for them.
Or, in the words of my sister,
A main tenant of feminism is this capability to make choices and not be judged by that alone…. It’s like, “yay, we can wear pants,” but sometimes a woman wants to wear a dress. And that doesn’t lessen what she chooses.
What choice did you arrive at, and what brought you there?