Wednesday, January 2, 2013

WTF should I do with my last name?


Dear ESB,

WTF should I do with my last name when I get married?

I've read some great posts over at APW about name changing which gave me some good ideas and opinions, but I still can't decide.

I'd love to see what your and your reader's thoughts on the subject are.

Options I’m considering:
-Keeping my name
-Changing my last to his & moving my last name to be part of my middle name
-Keep my name legal and go by his name publicly

Future baby name options:
-All have his last name
-Hyphenated
-One has my last name, one has his

He doesn’t want to change his name at all (which is understandable because his last name is awesome), so unfortunately we can’t go the route of making up a brand new one. He is also supportive of whatever decision I make.

Reasons to change it:
His last name is seriously awesome, my last name isn’t awesome, it’s easier on kids than hyphenating (which I’m not super stoked on anyway), I’m not super “established” in work/art, I love change/fresh starts & what’s the difference if I take one man’s name (FH) over another man’s (father)?

Reasons to keep it:
It’s MY name damn it, I feel like it’s “anti feminist” if I change it and mostly; I’m really proud of my family which is tiny and I feel like by changing my last name I’m leaving part of me behind (if that makes sense).

HALP.

-Ms. ?


*****

A few months after H and I got married, my 13-year-old niece stood next to me at H&M, watching me sign a credit card slip.*

"Wow, I guess you had to learn to sign your name all over again, huh?"

"Nope. I didn't change my name."

"You don't have to change your name?"

"Nope."

"You mean I could keep my name when I get married?"

"Yep."

She's got a great name. She should keep her name. And it blew my mind that she didn't even know this was an option.

I knew from the time I was little that I'd never change my name. I never even CONSIDERED IT. And it makes me crazy when a professed feminist (!) explains that she never liked her last name anyway and/or it was really important to her husband that she change it and/or she wants to have the same last name as her children (my mom and I have different names and WE SURVIVED!).

Makes me crazy.

It's 2013 and we're moving backwards.




Those are my thoughts.

Kirsten Owen in Comme des Garçons by Craig McDean for Visionaire 20 via Enid Hwang via Tosha Wynn
______________________________

*I believe I was buying her a pair of hot pink mittens. It was her first time at H&M! Not that anyone cares.

152 comments:

  1. I have never agreed with you more, ESB.

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  2. It is MIND BLOWING to me that almost all of my married friends changed their last names. It never ever ever occurred to me. I am who I am. Why would being married change something as fundamental as my name? As for kids, my parents divorced and remarried a bunch of times, so I never had the same last name as my mom either. Having a different last name than your kid doesn't make them any less your kid.

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  3. WORD. WORD. WORD.

    i didn't change my name, either. my husband *sorta* pestered me about it, but it was always assumed that it would be this way.

    that said, we gave our daughter his last name. it seemed like it would be easier in life if she had the same last name as her father, though i can't think of any legitimate reasons why at the moment. an awesome dude friend of mine gave his kid his wife's last name, and PEOPLE CAN'T GET OVER IT. (time to evolve, folks !)

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    1. I'm totally the same - chances are, my kid (if one ever appears) will have my husband's last name, but for the life of me I can't work out WHY! Maybe we could flip for it...

      I'm really glad I never changed my name - I considered it, as people asked me about it and I wanted to have a well-thought through response.

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    2. I have my mom's last name. I can't count the number of people in my life who have immediately assumed my mom is single and/or remarried. For the record, my parents have been happily married for 30 years.

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    3. I keep telling my fiance that whoever gives birth first gets to name the kid...

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  4. was dealing with a vendor today who remarked how lucky I was that I married into such a great last name. I smiled sweetly and said, yeah, that's MY name. MY MY MY name. I didn't change it.

    It was not a debate in my head for one second, and it wasn't really for him either (though I've heard a whole lot of guff about it from the unlikeliest of people)

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  5. Two options make sense to me:
    1) Keep your name.
    2) Steal his name.

    (why do people get so bent out of shape over what other people do to their name)

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    1. I DON'T KNOW, BUT IT WASTES EVERYONE'S TIME.

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    2. Right? I feel like I was shamed by changing my name. There was no pressure, I just didn't have a strong connection with my dad and I do have a strong connection with my FIL. I felt honor, but sometimes I feel like my "feminism" is brought into question... Mostly by people on the internet - my family knows who I am and what I stand for, but I guess the act of adopting my husband's name was a female crime.

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    3. I changed my name and I often feel like this.

      Either option is fine. Either option is a feminist option as long as you have the choice and it's the right decision for you.

      End.

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    4. Glad someone said this. I would consider changing my name and would also consider myself a feminist and this post definitely made me feel a little squirmy. It's a personal choice and everyone should just do what feels best to them.

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    5. I know 2 different couples that changed their names completely (into a new last name). One couple changed their name by combining parts of their two last names into one name (and that name happens to be a real last name, and it's a great name). Another couple I know (through a friend) changed their last name to Wins because then everybody Wins. NOT JOKING. But who are we to judge what people do with their own names? I am taking my husband's name in July. I love the idea of combining names though too. While some may seem "better" than others--to each their own. As a friend of mine said it best, the point of feminism is that we have the right to choose!

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    6. OMG that is so awesome. I want to change my name to Wins.

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  6. Do whatever the eff you want.

    Don't want to change it? You're a feminist! You DO want to change it? You're STILL a feminist. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's all about being able to make the right decision for YOU.

    I went with your second option myself.

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    1. The issue with choice feminism is that many things we think are a 'choice' aren't really choices. i.e. " I chose to stay at home!" Did you really weigh the options--not between work or home, but between you or your partner staying home? If the answer is "No, we never seriously discussed my husband staying home." Then what you did wasn't as much a choice, as it is falling into a culturally-dominant default option.

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  7. hey guess what, it's your own damn name, and if you want to change it, that's your own prerogative. being a feminist means you get to make your own mind up about who you are, and if you want to change your name for any reason at all (all the reasons you listed seem pretty legit to me), you should be able to do so without every self-righteous, non-name-changing woman accusing you moving the female race backwards (srsly??). it doesn't sound like you're caving to pressure from FH, or any man, imho.

    anywayz, just wanted to throw out of couple of other options. you could keep your birth name is a middle name, or pass it along to your kids in some way -- for example, all the kids in my family have my mother's family name as our middle name. that way there's still a connection to both side's of the family. or, last names as first names is another way to keep your last name in the fam (both my dad and my grandfather have last names as first names for that reason).

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  8. It doesn't bother me when people change their names for whatever reason, marriage included, but it does bother me when everyone assumes that the woman will change her name and the man won't.

    I never even considered changing mine because I love my name. My sister originally planned to change hers but then she realized she'd be happier keeping her name. I love that we'll have the same last name forever.

    For the kid argument, I'll second ESB. I didn't have the same last name as my mom (because she changed it when she remarried) and it was perfectly fine.

    I had a family member make the argument that she loved changing her name when she got married because she was starting a new life and she looks back and it seems appropriate because she is "such a different person now." That gave me the chills. Because a) does that mean she changed completely but her husband didn't? and b) I'm changing all the time, whether I'm married or not. Should I be taking on a different name every decade to reflect that?

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    1. i have a friend who planned a completely different name for herself depending on what career she went with (so she had, like, an astronaut name, a crimefighter name, a rock star name, &c). she now has the rock star name.

      that's not exactly changing your name every decade, but it's pretty boss.

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    2. I love that.

      I can respect changing your name for different eras of your life based on your personal progression, but the paperwork alone would keep me from ever putting it into practice.

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  9. Seriously. My husband wanted me to change mine. No way. My first name is Sarah and I love my unique last name. His last name is Thomas. He still teases me a bit about not changing it, because it was hard for him. Well, I wouldn't change my name a thousand times over. However, our marriage over the years has been fab and is not any less strong because we don't share a last name.

    The most frustrating thing is that sometimes people assume we are not married, even when we are standing together wearing our rings. (Immigration desks in foreign airports always ask us why we are together.) This may be because we are different races though.

    A married couple does not need a "family" name - they are already a family.

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  10. I have my mom's last name. When I got married I hyphenated. SO STUPID. Now I get to spell a last name that's 15 letters long.

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  11. eh, i can respect not liking your name and picking up one you like better. i toyed with ditching my middle name, and i'm pretty sure i'd have kept my lady-card if i'd bumped last to middle, taken joe's last, and left the middle one on the curb.

    vaguely related: i can't bring myself to give a shit when my mother's sweet 90-year-old friend forgets i didn't change my name and sends us a card addressed to lauren and joe hisname. i love it when people excuse their, like, racist and/or homophobic elderly peeps* but CAN'T DEAL with someone who didn't keep tabs on their nomenclature.

    *kay is neither racist nor homophobic.

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    1. Ditto, LMO. We have older relatives that send us mail addressed to D's last name and I'm not going to pick a fight about it. What's the point?

      My passive-aggressive method of getting it across in the mail is having an address label that very clearly states both our last names and using it on all our mail. Older relatives don't seem to notice it but younger friends figure it out and change accordingly.

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    2. Sounds like Kay and Gow should be texting pals.

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  12. I do not have the same last name as my mom, my dad, my stepdad, my siblings or my husband.

    Guess what? ALL FAMILY.

    That's my only real contribution to the conversation though. I got nothing else for you.

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  13. See Bitch, Ph.D. for speedy rebuttals to pro-name change arguments.

    Notice that you're not considering him changing his name or giving the kids all your name. These are patriarchal traditions. Following them makes them stronger. Keep your name. (I am really really tired of the idea that as a feminist you can somehow choose to do patriarchal things without patriarchal baggage.)

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    1. But what if you choosing to change your last name has (at least in your mind) nothing to do with patriarchy or the tradition behind name changing? Case in point? I would change my name if I were marrying someone of the same sex. Can't it be a family unit thing vs. a patriarchy thing?

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    2. But then why get married? How does one "stay a feminist" and marry someone?

      And isn't feminism about having the choice to do what feels right...

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    3. Amanda, even if you'd change your name if you were in a queer relationship, no one else knows that. If you change your name in a hetero relationship, you're stuck with the patriarchal baggage and you reinforce the idea that WOMEN changing their names is a normal thing to do. If it's important for the family unit, why can't the man change his name? Why can't you hyphenate? Why can't you come up with an entirely new name?

      Lord knows we all make concessions to frustrating social norms sometimes, and I'm certainly not going to revoke your feminist card for changing your name. But the fact that you're a feminist generally doesn't make everything you do a contribution to the cause.

      Speaking of which, I really don't believe that feminism is about what feels right, especially since we learn 'what feels right' from a gendered, sexist society.

      Marriage on the other hand has some patriarchal baggage (which you can't get rid of), but people have also made extensive investments in developing egalitarian models of marriage and partnership. There aren't any egalitarian models of women taking their husbands' names because it's not egalitarian.

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    4. "But the fact that you're a feminist generally doesn't make everything you do a contribution to the cause."

      To play devil's advocate - not everything you do HAS to be for "the cause".

      When it comes to name changing, do what's right for you.

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    5. Yup. Of course it doesn't have to be for the cause. Of course you should do what's right for you. But don't pretend it doesn't come with patriarchal baggage, or that you didn't learn what feels right and normal from a culture stuffed to the gills with patriarchal narratives.

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    6. Thanks Rhubarb for all the good points and for nipping the "being a feminist means doing what feels right to me" crap in the bud.

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    7. I'd like to mention that same sex couple do get issue about their last name changing too! Some people assume we are relatives, cause lesbians!? Also had to deal with some family member not understanding why on earth I would change my last name to hers, especially because lesbian.

      Do what YOU want.

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    8. Rhubarb just said the first refreshing thing I've heard on this subject in years. Keep your name, if you don't you make the patriarchal tradition stronger. If you must change your name, fine, but admit that you're doing it *despite* being a feminist because even feminists can't always escape the pull of the patriarchy. Do not claim that because you *chose* the patriarchy, it's somehow free from patriarchal baggage.

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  14. I went with your option #2. didn't feel right getting rid of my name completely but I also really liked the idea of starting our own family and us all sharing the same name. (this coming from someone who grew up with a different last name from her mom, stepdad, and half-brother...) oh, and guess what? I consider myself a feminist. ESB may (scratch that...WILL) disagree, but I think you can be both.

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    1. I did the same thing, and it was perfect for me. Sometimes when I write out my new full name (Carly Maidenname Marriedname) people assume I go by both last names, which is fine too.

      Emphasis on "it was perfect for ME". Do what is perfect for you.

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  15. I believe that feminism is about having the choice. If you'd like to adopt your husband's name because it's awesome then do it and keep your name in the middle. I mean how often do you really use your middle name anyway.

    However, the old conversation that in order to be a feminist one must follow a decided set of rules that supports being a female is ridiculous.

    I agree with some of what ESB said, but it seems a bit hypocritical to me - Would a "real feminist" get married, much less take someone's name?

    Choose what feels right to YOU - stop asking other people's opinions because in the end you are going to have to live with it and you are never going to appease a crowd.

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    1. Took the words right out of my mouth!

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    2. Okay folks. Feminism isn't about "I choose my choice" it's about *equality* between the sexes.

      You can change your name and still generally be a feminist person. But it doesn't change the fact that most men don't even *consider* changing their names and that most women *automatically* change their names when they get married a sexist tradition.

      Participate in it if you want. Don't pretend it ain't sexist.

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    3. Anon 6:58 - YES.

      I am so tired of 'I'm a woman and I made a choice therefore it was a feminist choice' arguments.

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    4. Taking your father's last name is still patriachy! It's inescapable really, that's why the choice argument is the once that makes the most sense to me. To truly escape patriarchy, you and your hubby would have to make up a new name that you both would take.

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    5. Except if you had a feminist mother or (gasp) and unmarried mother your name could be your mother's name, a hyphenated name, or your father's name, but regardless it's YOUR name.

      You don't get away from the patriarchy by giving up the name you've had for, let's assume, 20+ years, and taking your husband's name. If you want to make the world more equal, you have to start somewhere.

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  16. I had planned to change my last name because it sucks, and I looked forward to changing it all my life. But I waited because I heard it takes a long time and I needed to use my medical benefits and I didn't want any confusion about coverage. Therefore at work I have kept my name, mostly. When I go to social functions with my husband, or contact the school for my stepson I use his name. I have multiple email addresses with different last names. Voicemail greetings confuse everyone. But I must confess I'm starting to like keeping the original name. My advice, make your decision and implement it quickly.

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    1. That's interesting to hear. I'm contemplating legally/socially taking his last name but keeping mine in the professional world. That way I can keep the street cred I've earned in my industry more easily, plus as a bonus I get a bit of a buffer between my personal and professional lives, since professional contacts won't know to google or facebook his last name

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    2. My mom did this! She's an immigrant and her first and last names are difficult for Americans to pronounce/remember. Not to mention her last name was different from the rest of us (my father, my sister, and me). Socially, she went by a nickname and the same last name as us. It was slightly confusing, but basically a non issue.

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  17. I have a hyphenated (long and complicated to spell) last name that I will most likely never change LEGALLY. I've spent my entire life with confused people who either didn't understand why my parents did such a thing (I grew up in the south) or assumed that I was a product of divorce and adoption by a father in law (WTF). Then when I was in high school, some people assumed that I was married (!) because my last name was hyphenated. Now I'm marrying a guy who has a five letter last name and people always ask me what I'm going to do. I usually joke and say "i'll just tack it on". But I know I wont. Honestly I think the name changing issue is a point of laziness on my part and if we have kids well I might just chose to give them his last name because it's easier. Or we could just all change our last name to something like Trampoline or deMontparnasse and call it quits.

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    1. "adoption by a father in law" whaaa? WTF indeed. Is that really a thing??

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  18. Could not agree with you more ESB. I kept my last name, basically because as an artist, it is too unique to change it. It's easier for google to find me with my real name :)

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  19. I have never understood the argument that women change their names so that they will have the same last name as their children. If you want to have the same last name as your kids, give them your name. Even in feminist circles, it's super rare to do that. It's almost always assumed is that the man's name will be passed on to the wee ones.

    To the person who wrote in, I don't think any of us can tell you what to do. You're going to have to make this decision for yourself even if you feel confused right now. And know that if you make a decision that doesn't feel authentic later, you can always change it (although that may take a while and cost $$).

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  20. Change your last name, keep it, or incorporate it into your middle name whatever you do it's ultimately your choice.

    However I do not see how purposely giving siblings with the same parents different last names becomes an option.

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  21. I kept mine. He kept his. He's a 3rd, so when/ if we have kids, the first boy would probably get his name and be a 4th, and the first girl would get my last name. If we have two of either gender, we'll just alternate. I'm sure people will still be able to figure out that we're family- they do when I hang out with my cousins, and I don't have the same last name as any of them. Or my sister, for that matter...

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  22. Ooh ooh! The name change issue. Classic.

    The very most important thing you must remember is that it's your decision, not your husband's or family's or friends' or APW's or ESB's or their respective readers' (it's a very biased crowd, anyway). There are so many reasons to go with any one option and not others, you can't let the internet, tradition, feminism, or anything else get to your head on this. Dig deep and pick what feels the *most right* to you.

    That said, I was totally in your position until just a few weeks before the wedding when we had to go get our marriage licenses. I agonized over it for months, and ultimately decided to keep my last name, and change my middle name (which wasn't that meaningful to me) to his last name. This unconventional route was suggested offhand by a friend and turned out to be perfect for me. Taking his name as my middle is a nod to family unity, but it was really important to me to keep my last name because it's tied to my racial identity, and furthermore in my culture, women don't do a thing to their names upon marriage. I honestly think the only thing we're missing out on is getting to be called The Hislasts, but I never felt that to be a problem with my family, so whatever.

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  23. Change your name if you want to, whatever.
    But surely you realise that taking your husband's name doesn't exist in a vacuum? It exists in the context of our traditionally (and still - gender pay gap anyone?) patriarchal society.

    Choose whatever you like, nobody's revoking your feminist card - but not all choices made by women are feminist choices.

    We all have different aspects of our identities - feminist, socialist, wife, sister, lawyer, mother, atheist whatever - and the requirements of these intersect and often conflict in respect of any given situation. We manage to make decisions and hold onto the inconsistencies and identity anyway.

    Fwiw I have kept my name, my husband his (the awesome portmanteau I suggested is now my FB name for privacy and lols) and our son has both, unhyphenated.

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  24. Whatever you decide, it's not permanent. I mean, it's a pain to change it and then change it again... but it's not impossible.

    That said, I kept mine (I have an awesome name, and I'm named after my dad's great aunt who never married or had kids - so I like keeping her name.) and I am ASTOUNDED that there are women in their 20s and 30s who didn't know that was an option. Keep your name, change it - but I want people to know they can do whatever the fuck they want.

    Women should have a choice, that is feminism - but what I really hate is no guy really feels any pressure to change his name. No one turns to a man and says "but if you keep your name, how will you really be a FAMILY? And when you have kids, won't they be confused that your name is different?" That's what pisses me off, not that women continue to change their names but that men don't deal with any of the shitty questions people ask.

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    1. It isn't permanent but to me it seems easier/better to keep your last name and then see how you feel--vs. taking his and seeing how you feel. I would think many men would feel sad or embarrassed if their wife changed her name BACK to her maiden name. I'm not saying it can't be done, but if someone is unsure, it seems better to err with keeping your maiden...?

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    2. As to Hillary's point, I'm dragging my heels on changing my last name. Husband really doesn't care what I do, as long as my choice doesn't make me unhappy.

      So far we've both gone to the DMV and changed our names (we both added my last name as a middle, and I took his last), but that's been it. From what I hear, it doesn't really "count" until you go to the Social Security office here in the US. I still haven't done that.

      I'm a firm believer that when it comes to really tough decisions to stick with the status quo until you feel good/there's a compelling reason to make a change. If having different last names bothers me enough to make a change, I'll change. It certainly doesn't bother him enough to want to change, so he's not gonna.

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    3. Oh also! Some men have to deal with some shitty questions--usually shitty questions that reflect more upon their wives than themselves, to be honest, but shitty questions nevertheless.

      When we were seriously considering all options, when talking with (good, close, dear) friends about perhaps taking my last name my husband was bombarded with horrible questions like "Why would you do that? Is she that controlling?" or "Won't that make you feel like less of a man?" and "You know no one will ever take you seriously, right?"

      At least when I was floating that idea by my ladyfriends, I was met with rather vehement "YES. DO THAT." My coworkers actually still call him Mr. MyLastName, even though he didn't take it. Love them.

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    4. When we were talking about the name issue, my husband didn't understand why I wasn't that keen on changing my name. I asked him if he would change his, and he immediately said "absolutely not." I was SO angry that he didn't consider it for a second, but didn't understand my hesitations until we talked about it. Needless to say, I never changed my name.

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  25. If you want to change it to his because his name is awesome, you shouldn't let the idea of what you've heard feminism "should be" stop you!

    I used to think I would change my name if I got married because I don't know my dad anymore and I always hated the name anyway. If I were still in that position, I wouldn't hesitate to change it. But a few years ago, I legally changed my last name to my mom's. Now, my name rocks so much, I'd never change it!

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  26. I, like ESB, never considered changing my last name. If I had found out at any point that my now-husband didn't like this decision, I would have laughed in his face. But I think he's actually proud that I kept my last name.

    I agree with many of the statements above - particularly those that note the patriarchal tradition of name-taking (Rachel, unfounddoor, Rhubarb, Amy, etc.). If it was even AT ALL common for men to take their wive's names, I wouldn't mind women choosing to take their husband's names. But, as it stands, while I acknowledge that it's everyone's right to choose, when a friend gets married and takes her husband's name? I'm secretly a little bummed/let down.

    While I feel this is already solved for women (keeping your own last name), I'm not sure what I feel about kids. I'll probably just give the kids my husband's last name (for genealogy's sake? see 17 beats comment above about not having any good reason for it). He suggested doing what Anonymous 3:33 said (girls getting my last name, boys getting his) but that's maybe silly...? Ugh, who knows?

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    1. This is quite a difficult issue.
      In Spain we use his last name and her last name for children. Women keep their two surnames (dad's surname, moon's surname) Nowadays some people choose to alter the order for kids, mom's last name, dad's last name.
      Using two surnames avoid's sharing name and surname with a lot of people and that is why I think not many people have middle names in Spain.
      One thing I would not do is give children different surnames. The family name is a parent's issue and giving each child a different surname, IN MY OPINION, makes your problem your child's problem.
      It's not a life changing matter, but I feel sibling should share a surname or set of surnames or something. There are many ways of knowing you belong to a family, sharing a name is only one of them, but it's one that I feel is easy to provide.

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    2. One of my favorite "parents kept their own names, both want to pass on their legacy" solutions I've seen was my sister's ex's family.

      The son (the ex) was given the father's last name as his last, and the mother's last name as his middle. The daughter was given the mother's last name as her last, and the father's as her middle. It seemed rather egalitarian, though it helped there were opposite gendered children in play.

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  27. I don't know. I kept my last name, and generally am happy with that decision, but sometimes I wonder and doubt. The argument that a lady can avoid patriarchal traditions by keeping her father's last name doesn't hold much water for me. The tradition is already patriarchal and unless you are given your mother's name you are part of that tradition from the day you are born. Then again, a shared family name can be beautiful. If you put the issue of name-changing next to others like work place equality, child rearing, marital dynamics and responsibilities and the ways we empower the young women in our lives... hislastname or herlastname doesn't seem like the most relevant measure of feminism.

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    1. Right, but we get to change existing patriarchal themes by taking action ourselves where we are comfortable. If our generation starts keeping our own name more often and then we start doing more diversified things with our kids names and getting liberal men to more often change their name, over time the male tradition of owning your family name breaks down.

      And all of those other "more important" things you listed are reinforced by all the smaller ways in which we flip or dismiss male-centric ideas.

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    2. Good point, so long as we don't get too judge-y when women we know decide to to take husbands name and make feminist choices elsewhere in life. What I don't dig is sisters divided against each other over names. Discussion is great, so is action, but let's educate rather than accuse each other. Some last names just sound better/suit us better. In my case, I will always identify with my maiden name. But if my sister decides to take her guy's name I'm not going to accuse her of hurling us back few generations in terms of gender equality.

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  28. You could also do a combo name. Our son will be his last my last as is normal in a spanish speaking country. Right now neither of us have changed our name but if/when we move to the US, we'll both modify our names to his last my last as it is important to me that we all have the same family name(s). Not sure what the next generation will do but that thankfully is their problem.

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  29. give your kids your name. . .

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  30. A lot of really good points here. For the record, I'm engaged and I've decided to hyphenate.

    As far as feminism...Keeping your maiden name is still supporting patriarchal traditions...in most cases it's your father's name. The patriarch of your family. It seems making up last names is the only solution.

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  31. I'm also from a teensy family. I can count my relatives on both hands and have fingers left over. Plus, my maiden name's spelling is unique, as my great-grandfather changed it when he was running away from a communist government that wanted him dead...seriously.

    I took my husband's last name just because I wanted to. Seriously, do whatever you want. I like the anonymity of my husband's all-American last name. Plus, it's my third last name (and first marriage) which brings me to another point...

    You can always change your last name. If you decide to go one way, you can always decide differently down the road! It's not too much of a pain, I promise.

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  32. As one who lived with a hyphenated name (a long one, too - 24 letters including the hyphen) for 26 years, don't do it. It's a pain in the ass, you always have to spell it out for people, computers don't accept the hyphen as a letter, bubbling on tests in school takes forever. One year, I got 3 jury duty notices in 3 different versions of my whack ass name. So despite being a hardcore feminist, my husband's 7 letter name seem like a dream. Took it.

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  33. A bit of back story - when my parents were married , my mother took my father's name and I got it when I was born. Then my parents divorced when I was about a year and a half old - but for a long time, my mother kept her married name. It's a pretty big hassle to change everything back again.

    Since they've divorced, I have next to no relationship with my father. When I was 18 or so, my mom decided to revert to her maiden name. At that time, she asked if I wanted to change my name along with her and my answer was no. Not because I have a deep emotional attachment to my father and the name he gave me, but because I just... didn't really care.

    Flash forward to now: I'm 4 months married and am planning on eventually taking my husband's name for a couple reasons. First, I like it better and I like the way my first name sounds with it. Second, I have no emotional attachment to my father or the name he gave me. Third, because I g-d feel like it.

    I'm holding off right now though, not because I'm uncertain as to whether or not I want to make the change, but because I just renewed my passport under my maiden name and all of the work that goes into a name change in Canada is extensive and expensive (passport, social insurance card, Canada Revenue Agency (taxes), provincial health card and drivers license, PLUS all the elective changes like credit cards, work information, bills, etc).

    So right now, it's not a rush. I'm married to him and that makes me pretty damn happy, and my name is not a sticking point.

    Additionally, I asked him how he felt about the whole name thing and (as with much of the wedding planning) he shrugged. He has no interest in taking my name - which doesn't bother me either - but doesn't really care a great deal whether or not I take his, or how long it takes for me to make any change.

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  34. Since the patriarchy and the tradition has been addressed, it is worth pointing out that this tradition is specific to the US (and of course, various other countries). Other places have different traditions. For example, Italy actually declared in the 70s: no more name changing. Women keep their maiden names (children still take the fathers last name.)

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  35. Sometimes I get tired of fighting things that everyone else seems to think of as normal. I surprised lots of people when I did change my name and you know what - it is so fun having a new name! Feel a bit like I got a naughty tattoo or something ha. Also I'm not so close to my Dad and I felt I was choosing between his name and my husbands name so that made it easier. My husband couldn't give two hoots and would hyphen if I wanted him too, but then say I have a daughter, what's she going to do? Have three surnames?! It's nice to join a new family, it's nice to have an old family. I feel part of both - turned out my name was not such a huge deal.
    But if it does feel really weird, then keep your name and hyphen when you have kids if you want to all have same name?

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    1. "then say I have a daughter, what's she going to do? Have three surnames?"
      - my husband had a similar query about what our son (who has both our lastnames, unhyphenated) would call his kids.
      My answer: whatever the heck he wants to.

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  36. If his name his more awesome than yours and you want to have the same name, then take it! But otherwise keep your own name and make lottery of which name the kids get.

    I just don't get how people don't see that by people just keeping either their own name or taking the name of whichever spouse that has the most awesome name is not a way to change a patriarch tradition. My husband took MY name since he had a boring one and mine is pretty ok. It happens to be my father's name, but if we have a daughter, she will have her mother's surname and can continue to give her children the surname of her mother if she wants to.

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    1. Well as is pointed out in the awesome Bitch, PhD link above, you may have been named at birth according to a patriarchal tradition, but then you spend a substantial portion of your life being a person, doing things, and creating stuff under that name - so it's really not "your father's" name at that point, it's YOURS.

      My family's a bit weird in that I actually am the fourth generation with the same maternal last name, but when I got married I didn't think about whether I should keep "my great-grandmother's last name," it is MY NAME.

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    2. (different Anonymous than the one you replied to, just so you know)

      I read the article linked to above, and the fact is that I just don't feel anything for my last name. I don't feel a ton of ownership for it, I don't feel like it's uniquely mine, for a reason that the author doesn't address--it's the 3rd most popular last name in the US. The number of people with my last name is ridiculous, it doesn't even identify my family, it's just a generic. Even the number of people with my first/last name combo is quite large, I run into them on a regular basis and it's weird. I know ESB doesn't think that the awesomeness or un-awesomeness of the name should matter, but it matters in how I feel about it, and aren't my feelings about it really the important part? I feel like by taking my fiance's name when we marry, I'm creating a new name that's more uniquely mine, simply by virtue of my given name being extraordinarily not unique to me.

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  37. I don't see how CHOICE is backward. That's the whole point of feminism. Giving people the option and choice to be whoever they want to be regardless of gender.

    I had no intention of changing my last name. I thought it was old fashion. Then a lot of shit happened and I didn't want any connection to my fathers last name. So i took my spouse last name.

    Oh and being of the same gender doesn't guarantee people not giving you shit about changing your name. My mother's reaction was why not take my last name instead then? And why all the trouble? On the other hand my spouse's family were pedantic at the notion that I took their last name, as if it was a grand honor. In my eyes I didn't take their last name, I took my spouse's. Because i liked her name and i got to change mine.

    Bottom line: Do WHAT YOU WANT. CHOICES is true feminism and true liberation.

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    1. except it just isn't as simple as you've tried to portray it.

      First, not all choices made by women are feminist choices.

      Secondly, how do you evaluate a choice as a *real* free choice when all the societal norms and power structures already push you a particular way?

      Unreconstructed 'choice feminism' just doesn't make sense.

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    2. I know they are many different schools/ideology of feminism but that's just more people telling me what to do with my life.

      I don't see how a woman putting down an other woman for taking her husband's/spouse name because she wants to and she choose too of her own accord is feminist.

      That's my point, the moment you stop giving a shit about what other people think of you and make your choices base on yourself, your value, and yes your baggage, that's when you start to liberate yourself.

      I strongly disagree that any choices a women makes that is of her own accord and own choice isn't feminist. I chose to stay at home. This is considered by many to be anti-feminist. When in fact, all my life i was told a real feminist free women gets a career. I did not choose to stay at home for my "man". In fact my spouse is gender queer. Or for children. I chose to do so because I realized that is what makes ME the happiest. If YOU or another women disagree, that's okay, but its still doesn't make me against women rights. I would never impose my way of life on another person, or woman.

      I personally think women arguing against each other about what is a true feminist and a true women isn't getting us anywhere. We should respect each others choices, regardless of our personal ideals. Focus instead on lowering the number of sexual assault, the inequality in pay, and making allies with other groups and genders (because i also don't believe gender is binary).

      That's my two cents. :)

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    3. I agree with your penultimate paragraph!

      "a woman putting down an other woman for taking her husband's/spouse name because she wants to and she choose too of her own accord is feminist" -- I really don't mean to put anyone down, whether they change their name or not. I do feel that people are right to determine themselves what they want to do, but I was pointing out that it isn't necessarily a *feminist* choice. In my own comment somewhere above, I made the point that we all have various facets to our self-determined identity (feminist, atheist, mother etc etc) and they often have conflicting demands in relation to any particular decision. Yet we make those decisions and continue to identify ourselves.

      I consider myself a feminist. Are all the choices I have made feminist ones? No. I'm an atheist, does that mean all choices I have made are atheist choices? No, it doesn't.

      I would never criticise you for choosing to stay home (believe me, I am struggling with that shit enough myself right now) - I'm not saying you, as a person, are against women's rights. i'm just saying that not all choices made, in the context of a traditionally patriarchal society, are in *support* of them.

      Similarly, when (almost) everything tells you to do one thing, is your choice to do so really free?

      I get that you disagree with me and that's fine. I just think people could stand to look more at the substance of their choices rather than freaking out about having a particular label attached to them.

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    4. Same anon here as replied to Hilary above (geeze I really need an avatar...):
      I think the defense, in general, is being made against ESB's scorn that a self-professed feminist would keep her husband's name. As I think you are saying, a woman can be a feminist while making what some feminists would call anti-feminist choices. I really do believe that in life you have to pick your battles. Maybe the number of women who are taking hislastname without a second thought are collectively dragging us backward, but you can't put all of the onus on the individual. And you can't revoke a sister's v-card just because she changes the way she signs her credit card slip.

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    5. Hi, anon from before, slow answer sorry.

      I understand your point of view better now that you have explained it. I actually get it. I think for me, it's really hard to divide my life like you do. I tend to see it as a whole of whom I am. And as Anonymous January 3, 2013 10:27 AM, explained my defensiveness is more toward a woman who claim I can't be a feminist while making what some feminists would call anti-feminist choices. You clearly aren't in that boat and your not the one who said women who take their husbands name are backward.

      I really do respect your point of view and it made me think of a few things. And yes, you are right, sometimes we don't have a choice, sometimes everyone and everything in life pressure us in a direction. If we have a crisis at hand we do our best with whats there. But in this case, in the name changing case, I think this person sure didn't have pressure to do it and she is clearly allowed to make that choice. The simple fact that she's considering what it means to her means that she is actively thinking of women's right and place in the world. Even a woman who choose to take the name of her husband because she believes that's the right thing to do, as long as she doesn't impose it on others, she is being true to herself as a person. I don't see how she's less of a feminist.

      I think I'm just stuck on people doing what feels right to them as long as they don,t hurt/impose on others.

      And kudos for being a stay at home mom. Hang in there :)

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  38. Wow. I'm chiming in SO LATE here. But I changed my name. And I felt super judged about it which I thought was ridiculous and unfair. But it was my decision, and I'm happy I did it. I think it's all up to you. I moved my maiden name to my middle name and now use my full name when signing most things. It works for me. I'm still a feminist.

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  39. I don't understand this illogical feminist last name viewpoint. Typically a woman's maiden name comes from her father's family, correct? So you're already by default assuming a subservient role to a pre-determined male patriarchy. I don't think feminism should have anything to do with it.

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  40. Unless you know exactly what you want and are unconflicted about it (which you, like most of us, are not), there is really no right, perfect answer to this question. That's essentially what you laid out in your question and I think it's a really common struggle.

    Sometimes the best thing to do is to pick the option you feel least uncomfortable with. Think way into the future and about how it may make you feel on a regular basis. Think of your future kids and what you think would be best for them in school, as adults, what message you want to give them, etc. There's no right answers to these questions, just what feels right to you.

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  41. Another comment -

    I was always way more confused and offended by the assumption that kids take their father's name even when women do not take their husband's name. It's so pervasive and it always seemed backwards to me and a way more "antifeminist" assumption. I never understood it, especially since the decision is made by a woman who chooses not to take her husband's name, presumably for feminist reasons. It represents, to me, a metaphorical (if you will) isolation from the rest of her family and handing over of her children to her husband.

    Can anyone explain why this choice is so popular? Honest question.

    I realize, as I said above, that there's no right answer. Just wondering why so many choose this one.

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    1. This is so so true. And now I'm feeling even more wishywashy about what to do about kids' names.

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    2. I think that's a good question. The only response that makes some sense to me is that it responds to men's anxiety that the kid isn't theirs. Women always know that they're really the kid's mother. Pregnancy and birthing give women a physical connection to their kids that men don't have. Giving kids their father's name can tie them to their father in a tangible way.

      It's still sexist and imperfect. But other options are either cumbersome or otherwise imperfect.

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    3. Whoa. Anon, you just blew my mind. I've been told that the real reason that Jewish lineage is carried through the mother is because you always know who the mother is, so this same rationale for giving children the father's name makes more sense to me than anything else. The question of what our kids' last name will be is the biggest sticking point for us (me) and I appreciate the alternate way of thinking about the issue! Thanks.

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    4. I chose to give my son my husband's (boyfriend at the time though) last name. He has children from a previous relationship, one of which has lived with us since she was a baby and I am the mother that she knows. I wanted them to share the same last name and not have any of the half sibling baggage that I had growing up. We ended up getting married when the baby was about 6 weeks old and I kept my name. The clerk at the courthouse asked me if I was sure about 5 times. She never asked my partner anything.

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  42. I was hoping to change my last name once I was married because my father is was an asshole who royally screwed over his family in every way possible. I hate to break it to you, but it's all patriachy - whether it's your father's name or your husband's name. So the only feminist choice in my mind is to have a choice and do what feels right for you! Love your name and your Papa? Keep it. Love your husband (who you choose, btw), then why not take his name?

    In the end, since I had published/established my name, I just added my husband's name (which luckily is only 4 letters long). Space NO hyphen! And in terms of my kids, no bloody way they will have anything but my hubby's name. But I know women who have given their kids their last name, hubby's name just a middle name. Which is awesome. It's all cool as long as we have a choice!

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  43. I didn't read everyone else's comments on this because I feel like it's a personal decision that just requires some relaxed, private thinking. However, you're obviously well past this point- as you're writing in for suggestions, so I'll add my 2 cents.

    I was VERY against changing my last name for as long as I've known (my last name is awesome, but I do agree with esb that that is besides the point). My husband is very archaic in his opinion about this (I even got an exasperated "my friends will make fun of me!" at the height of his desperation, which sent me to the floor laughing). I asked him to give me one GOOD (read: non-chauvinistic) reason... and after a lot of thought he said "I'll feel as though we're really a family, with a family name, if we share one". Which for some people means hyphenating, even having him take yours as well. Anyone can argue that you're a family regardless, but I feel there was a sweet sentiment to his idea and the tradition of families and names.

    For me, I moved my maiden name over to share the spot with my given middle, so that my married name is my only last name. I couldn't be happier.

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    1. Ummm . . . that response is pretty chauvinistic if he isn't considering changing his name at the same time. I don't consider myself a feminist, but I think if you do and changed your name, then yes, you are a bad feminist.

      There, I said it.

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    2. Yikes @ H.H.

      Marrying a chauvinist is a bigger problem than the name change. :-/

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  44. Changed my name. It felt wrong immediately. Paid more than $400 and spent six months legally changing it back (with his last as my middle name). Worth all the fuss, worth every penny. My advice: think about it for a long time before you do anything. Nobody said you have to make a change, or that you have to do it right when you get married.

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    1. solidarity high five for his last as middle! sorry you had to go through the fuss but glad it was worth it.

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  45. I kept my name, never even considered a change.

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  46. Do what feels right for yourself and your husband. Taking his name doesn't make you a bad feminist. Think about how you want to introduce yourself on your honeymoon, in five years, in fifty.

    As a side note, my aunt didn't change her name and still is called Mrs. (Husband's name) about half the time, so think about whether you want to correct people all the time or if you're willing to just roll with it like my aunt. While your name is part of your identity, it's only a part. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", right?

    For myself, I personally feel like my parents did an awesome job of naming me, and any future husband of mine would need a really fabulous name to get me to change. That said, I'm open to posibility.

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  47. As a scientist it was extremeley rare for me to change my name, and a bit like committing academic suicide. I did it anyway because I like my husbands last name better. AND BECAUSE I COULD. That's it. His mom has her original last name. My family could give a shit, so there was no pressure on me from either side or from him.

    A few months after we got married a woman I met almost chided me for doing this, since in the 70's when she got married it was considered anti-feminist to take her husbands name. She kept her name BECAUSE SHE COULD and to make a point. 30 years later I sort of feel like I was doing the same thing by changing mine, because all the pressure was on me to keep my name.

    Do whatever you like best. It's YOUR NAME. You could change it to "I wake up at dawn to cook my husband breakfast and iron his shirts" and honestly no one should be giving you any shit about it.

    It's one thing to talk about the implications of each option, but feminism is about CHOICES, not shaming others into doing one thing or another. We should be supporting each others decisions.

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    1. THIS exactly.
      Speaking as someone who was (12 years) established in my career when I got married and who loves/is very proud of my family name, I can understand some of the issues this subject creates.
      I changed my name with zero regrets 3 years later.
      I refuse to believe this makes me a crap feminist.
      Women deriding other women's choices sounds more like crap feminism to me.

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    2. Again, feminism is about promoting EQUALITY, politically, socially, and economically for women and men!

      There are larger social forces at work that inform our decision making!

      Women are capable of making sexist choices. Society still rewards us for it. Changing your name is a sexist, unequal tradition, not in any way feminist. And most women do it because it's expected, not for aesthetic/personal/professional/queer reasons.

      If you never make a feminist decision that upholds and defends your own equality, then you may not have many more CHOICES to make.

      It doesn't mean you can't be a feminist. Not every hill is worth dying on. But changing your name is part of the problem, not part of the solution when it comes to equality between the sexes.

      But you're just going to get defensive again and type choice in capital letters.

      #sigh

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    3. I disagree that feminism is just as simple as being able to make choices. I also dislike treating feminism as this black-or-white thing, either you're feminist or you're not (or the puke-colored "you're a bad feminist"). There is definitely a continuum in the degree of feminism. Changing your name to our husband's can fall along ANY part of that continuum as well: Anon 11:40 AM is pretty far towards the feminist side, and those who just change without thinking about it are more towards the non-feminist side. And that's just one dimension of feminism -- as many have already pointed out there are many other important things to worry about when it comes to the meeting the true mission of feminism: to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women. So like, it's ok if you change your name for whatever reason, but maybe just realize that when you say "I am a staunch feminist and yet I changed my name," you should be ready to defend that decision and think critically about its impact on feminism's true mission, not just say "feminism is about choices" -- way too simple of a cop-out, folks.

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  48. I think it's a personal decision, and that people have their reasons...I did change my name, because I had absolutely no attachment to it (or the alcohol asshole that gave it to me). My husband, on the other hand, is literally the only person in his family with his name, so it felt like we really were starting over. So, to each their own I guess...

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    1. Yay to reneging on inheriting names from alcoholic assholes in the name of "feminism". Here here Joelle!

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  49. I can't read all of these comments (clearly a heated issue). But I just had to say esb, you won me over all over again with this response. It IS 2013.

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  50. I'm sorry but I am a feminist that changed my last name. Why? Because I could either keep my last name which is my FATHER's name (who is a misogynist pig) or take my new family's name (a family that has always embraced gender equality). My new family name connects me to a family in which the women have earned more than their husbands for three generations, which is really impressive. My family has oppressed women and kept them in the kitchen for generations.

    When you make blanket statements about what women should or should not do, you might judge people on the wrong principles.

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  51. my boss told me her husband said it was dealbreaker for him and that she HAD to take his last name. i'm sorry. if my now husband made it a DEALBREAKER, i would have definitely left him before the wedding.

    i haven't changed all my stuff (and i am embarrassed to even say how long we have been married, but my husband doesn't even care that i haven't changed my stuff), but i hyphenated just because i love both our names. i really don't care that people think it is a mouthful to say. my husband even said he'd prefer our kids take my last name (whether just mine or hyphenated) just because he likes mine more.

    and i feel, like another commenter stated above, feminism is about females being to make whatever choices they want. so, belittling other females for whatever last name decision they make is not helping the cause. as long as the decision was their decision alone, with no male pressure...that's all that matters.

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  52. I think there is a lot of judgement out there about taking a name or not taking a name based upon societal pressures, feminist or otherwise. It makes it hard to decide what to do and no matter what you do someone will have something to say about it.

    But no one has to live with your name the same way you do. Whether you change your name, keep your name, hyphenate names, or come up with an entirely new name you are the one who has to use it, introduce yourself as it, sign it. You are the one who has to carry it and your reasoning for having it around all the time. So tune out all the white noise of everyone else's opinion and do what you want to do.

    You're a staunch feminist and against tradition so you won't change it. You never had a real family so you want to change it to have an extra feeling of kinship. You cannot fathom not being who you have been for twenty plus years. You want to create a whole new family with a fresh start and a fresh name. All of these are legitimate reasons, and only you can pick what reason is right for you and what you are comfortable living with and carrying around with you.

    The nice thing about 2013 is you can choose whatever path you want. The scary thing is no matter what you choose you have to be brave enough to defend it. No one can tell you what choice you believe in enough to defend. (Though everyone will try)

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    1. This. So true and so well stated.

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  53. helloooo feminism entails not HAVING to do ANYTHING because you are a woman. including changing, or keeping, your name.

    duh.

    jesus.

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  54. A few thoughts to toss into the fray here. Some things Hillary Schuster and I have been discussing personally today since this came up. This is largely about children's names.

    As a man, I'm rarely ever considered by society when it comes to children, period. Most people see children as an extension of their mothers — either physically or socially. Many times Hillary has watched as a newborn is passed around the room to be held and attended, only to skip right over me for the next female nearby. Any progress we've made in feminist ideals over the last twenty years has supposedly been matched by a progression in male roles and expectations as well. But I don't see it. I feel it as an individual, and I exercise it, but I don't see it reflected back.

    So children's names. This is important to me. Not that we follow a patriarchal tradition for the sake of. I'm even okay with violating traditions, especially if we feel they are regressive, or in favor of something new and interesting. That extends to children's last names as well. But what I'm not okay with is defining the lineage of a man's name as a continuation of these negative aspects of male dominance in our society. Because for many men, this tradition is far more important and personal than any of that bullshit. And as last names are a thing that we still have, we'll have to reframe the meaning of that lineage to move on. Fighting against last names as if their meaning must only remain static as a patriarchal leftover will only serve to damage something that men like me greatly value for its larger and more personal meanings.

    To that point, there are few ways that a man is able to recognize his personal connection and continuity with a child publicly. In our society, a woman with a child is a mother. She's that child's mother. She's the physical originator of that child. It doesn't matter if she's coddling the child, pushing it on a swing, or ignoring it in a grocery store. Mother.

    But a man is more often in the suspect position. If he's not seen as an outright danger to the child, he's seen as the "help" or "contributor" but rarely the originator or "owner" (a concept I don't care for). In the best and most generous of scenarios, a man can be seen as a protector, defender of a child. But rarely by the public, and almost never at first glance.

    I've never seen the taking of a husband's name as ownership. I've always seen the taking of a husband's last name as an incredible honor and an insane responsibility. Part of being a man in our culture, and in my entire concept in my upbringing for better or worse, is that men accept great burdens, even before they've proven themselves worthy. It's a great and beautiful suffering, and one I'm often crushed by, but also fashioned after as I grow. Mens' burdens help shape and define us as we struggle to live up to them. Having children with my name is perhaps the greatest example of that. It's a small lie about my worth that HAS to become true over time through the process of child rearing, rather than instantly through birthing.



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    1. continuing...

      In this way, a man is expected to earn his children over time, and it's the name that precedes them in public that reminds him of that challenge, and rewards him when that name is called out. A woman has her children in the public's eye even before she births them. A mother is considered good before she is proven to be bad. A father is often expected to be floundering, and full of idiocy and immature instincts until he has proven that he is good.

      When a child is identified by that name, the balance of responsibility and reward is put into play. Bite a kid at school? Yeah that's my name. Win a ballgame? That's my kid! Get arrested for drinking underage? Yes officer, I will be a better father. Graduation? I can't wait to hear that name.

      I cannot imagine denying my wife the same satisfaction if she is so inclined to want it through a name. She will deserve such beautiful suffering by the responsibility as I hope to. But to dismiss a name as some sort of leftover patriarchal assumption? No way. If anything it's part of a tradition that makes the most of men in our society — the everlasting balance between responsibility and reward. And it's one of the biggest examples we have.

      I respected and supported my wife's decision to keep her last name after we were married. And I will respect her desire to have her name carry on with our children however we end up choosing for our own personal reasons. I only hope that in our society's growing desire to justly value a woman's last name, that we don't de-value a mans' name in the process.

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    2. Thanks for your insight. Very thought-provoking.

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    3. Very, very insightful. Thank you for this!

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  55. I think the bigger issue is the future kids' names. It doesn't matter if you keep your name or not, if the kids by default will take on the patriarchal name.

    That being said, I enjoyed BitchPhD's take and agree that even if you have your father's last name, it is YOUR name, because you've lived in it; doesn't matter where it came from.

    Other comments: I grew up with a different last name from my mom and stepdad, who raised me; having a different last name was never an issue. I don't have a relationship with the dad who's name I share, but I still wouldn't change it, because it's my name.

    I think most women (myself included, up until about 2 years ago - I'm 23) assume that they will take on a new name. This assumption actually skewed my judgement more than I would have admitted at the time - just the whole mindset of, "when I meet the guy, his career/status/family/lifestyle will have a bigger impact on me than visa versa" - I thought less about my own development because it seemed less important than making a good husband choice. And taking his name absolutely played into that idea of changing my identity.

    My plan: I would like my last name to be Hislast Mylast. And I would like his last name to be Mylast Hislast. The second name will be the "official" last name (for bubbling test forms and whatnot), so that will remain different. But we will say we have two surnames. We will share the same surname combination, but it will be unique to ourselves/our line. When we're with my family or at my functions, it will be the "Herlast family," and when we're with his people/colleagues, the "Hislast family." Totally context dependent; neither identity trumps the other.
    For kids, I figure the girls will all have my last name (Hislast Herlast) and the boys will have his (Herlast Hislast), using the second name most often (ie in school). If this really bothers anyone, they can pick whichever name they want to use cohesively, but they'll still have both (I've grown up with a few different legal first and surnames and know that casually switching things around in the school district, bank, dr's office, etc isn't hard at all, just as long as someone is keeping track of the "real" name for driver's ID etc). And when they get married, the girls will keep my last name and take their husbands' also; the boys will keep his last name and take their wives' also (this is my fantasy, anyways). This way, both the matriarchal and patriarchal line has a chance, and nuclear families will still share a unique combo of surnames that serve their purposes within the context of that family.

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    1. Edit on the kids - they will keep one parents name and drop the other, replacing it with spouse's name (so girls will become Husbandlast Mylast, dropping their dad's name)--- no one will have more than 2 surnames, ever. And while we're at it, let's just get rid of middle names all together.

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  56. I got annoyed by some of my female friends' opinions of me taking my husband's name; they thought it meant I 'belonged' to a man. But I think they fail to realize that, at one point or another in the past, we ALL got our names from men. None of us has a say about our last names at birth, nor our first names for that matter - marriage is one of the few times that you can speak up, and do what works best for you.

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  57. Nobody is saying you are a bad feminist if you change your name. I got about as judgmental as anyone in this conversation, and all I'm saying is that taking your husband's name has inescapable patriarchal baggage.

    So do MANY MANY other decisions, practices, etc. We don't live in a magical world full of unconstrained, ahistorical options. We all make compromises and decisions with baggage all the time. That's not news. You can be an super-committed feminist and still make some decisions that conflict with those commitments.

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    1. I'm sure it wasn't you, but I'm also sure that someone in this thread explicitly stated 'if you take your husband's name you are a bad feminist'. But I agree with you.

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    2. Rhubarb, I really appreciated your imput. I took my husband's name (partly as a smart personal branding move as my new name is much easier to search for than my old name) and in fact took offence when feminist friends suggested I shouldn't have.

      Since then, I've done a lot of thinking and reading and decided that, whatever my personal reasons are, and however much I've thought about them, I cannot dispense with the baggage.

      I'm not changing my name back, but I can acknowledge that my motivations were personal, not feminist. I'm much stronger in my feminist views now, so I do feel some regret. My compromise has been to go by Ms, rather than Mrs, because my marital status is not something that needs to be advertised.

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  58. Do some women hate feminism?

    Worth a read to clear up some misconceptions about what feminism is.

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    1. Did not expect to like this article but really did. Thanks ESB for starting a stimulating conversation that I actually think was very mature without all of the over-moderating they do over at APW.

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  59. There are already like a million comments on this post, but I'd like to send my thoughts into internet eternity.

    I echo what some here have said: neither option is "anti-feminist" if its 100% the woman's choice. With respect to this writer-inner, it seems to me that she WANTS to change her name, she just feels bad about it. I totally get that. But at the end of the day, that is way too much energy wasted on wondering if changing your last name makes you a female misogynist. There are WAY BIGGER women's issues than last names.

    I went through this process recently (deciding what to do) as I'm getting married this summer. At first I felt lame for wanting to change my name and I quickly GOT OVER IT because it was what I wanted, ultimately. So for women making this decision, just figure out what it is that YOU want, do that thing, and fuck anyone who judges your for your life choice.

    Sidebar, but much more significant gender-equality issue than fucking surnames: ladies, negotiate your damn salaries.

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  60. I took my husband's last name, I'm not sad I did. It wasn't a deep choice, it felt right.

    You don't owe anyone an explanation, so the best thing to do is just look at your options and pick what feels right.

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  61. my last name is now Christina MIDDLENAME MYNAME HISNAME. no hyphen. i have two last names, not a merger of names. i kept my middle name. if we have kids, they will have two last names, no hyphen. in many other countries, people have more than one last name, so there's no reason why we need to pick one all-holy last name.

    his name is now Alejandro MIDDLENAME MYNAME HISNAME III. he got to keep the III even though he added my name. why not! he goes by HISNAME publicly, but MYNAME is in there legally. i go by whatever i feel like that day.

    honestly, if it's not an easy decision for you, you'll get no satisfaction or feeling of "i made the right decision" no matter what, so you gotta just pick something.

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    1. My husband and I also have two last names, Mylastname Hislast name, no hyphen. My husband does use both last names publicly and so do I. This way we use both names and have our own name for our own family, which I think is awesome. It was an easy decision for both of us, and we are totally happy with our names (even though we always have to spell it).

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    2. Thank you for saying this: "honestly, if it's not an easy decision for you, you'll get no satisfaction or feeling of "i made the right decision" no matter what, so you gotta just pick something."

      I have been struggling with this choice for a while now and no option truly feels right.

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    3. I am so glad to see this. My fiancé and I are getting married in August, and we've decided to hyphenate my middle name and his last name as both of our future last names. If he had not agreed to do this as well, I would never have considered changing my name at all.

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  62. Thank you for writing this post.

    "Isn't feminism about having the choice to do what feels right..."

    No actually, that's the RESULT of feminism. As a result of feminism, you can do whatever you like. So please understand that while it is possible to be a feminist and take your husband's name, taking your husband's name is not a feminist act.

    In summary:

    -Doing whatever you like
    -Feminism

    These are two separate things.

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  63. This may be a post-party response - but having just gotten married I'm angsty about this as well.

    I always said I wouldn't change my name - but his name is RAD. Too long to hyphenate both. He also changed his name right before we started dating to his maternal grandmother's name (previously his middle name). So the fact he's already changed his name - and to a maternal family name - makes it feel a lot more fair me changing to that name. As well, the change means HISLAST would be our family name - as in none of the rest of his family has that last name, and it is from a maternal lineage. So sort of like choosing a new one to share?

    I also have my grandmother' maiden name as my middle, and as we were very close I don't want to lose that one OR my last name. I LIKE being connected to both sides of my family legally/historically/etc. So I've been planning to keep all four (first, two middles unhyphenated, hislast). I'm trying it out for a few months before I make the legal plunge and it feels weird and not like myself. So we'll see what I finally go with - but I'll echo the comments above that the level of judging regardless of which road you take is a little disheartening.

    (and as a caveat - I have zero pressure from him one way of the other. He knows first hand the angst in name changing and has repeatedly encouraged me to do whatever feels right).

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  64. I never even thought of not changing my name. Granted, I was born and raised in North Carolina, and when we got married the only women I knew who hadn't changed their names were ones with kids with their current last name.

    We've had a couple we're friends with get married since then, and she kept her name, and I'm a little jealous.

    I don't mind that I changed it to match my husband, but I do mind that my last name is now also a woman's first name, which is really annoying. I did change my middle name to be my maiden name, and we've discussed naming a child my original middle name (its my mom's maiden name).

    My husband said at one point that if it was socially acceptable (meaning to his & my friends and family, not to everyone ever [I'm sure there are people who find this totally socially acceptable]) that he would have taken my last name, as its more unique.


    But, if you aren't sure, then don't change it.
    You can always change it later, if you decide to.
    And changing your name is a HUGE fucking hassle.

    I would pick one last name for kids, just so they don't have to deal with questions about why their last names are different.

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  65. Fascinating. My view: Would never, could never, did not. Also: whenever this subject comes up, I think of the line from The Crucible: "...Because it is my name. Because I shall not have another in my life." Maybe I'm overly romantic, but I like the idea of sticking with what you've got.

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    1. Were you in The Crucible in high school too???

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  66. omg i am so sick of bitches raving on about the patriarchy. I went to liberal arts college and jesus do they love to go on about the constraints of the patriarchy. I wish people would put that word to rest; it reeks of desperate academic articles by phd candidates attempting to make old ideas sensational for publication.

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  67. 1. Who asks a stranger what they should do with their own name?

    2. Awesome answer to this preposterous question.

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  68. My mom didn't give me a middle name in the event that I got married and wanted to take someone's name, I could still keep me own too (as a middle name.)

    That being said: I agree with those who said it's your CHOICE and you feminism isn't determined by what you choose to do. (Who have you been talking to? Seriously.)

    As for kids, there is no way in hell I'd birth something and then give it someone else's last name. My cousin gave her kid the dad's last name (they aren't married) and she has had so many legal issues and constantly has to prove her son is hers. Not worth it.

    My ex's parents married. She kept her name and gave it to her sons as a middle name.That's another possibility to throw in the ring.

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  69. Kept my surname - but I don't correct when people address me as Mrs ( insert his surname )

    I like my name and I am not his daughter

    the only downer is if i have children then apparently you have take lug your birth certificate to the airport each and every time bc they don't want another - NOt without my daugher scenario. They also mistake you for a child stealer so i will review it when the time comes.

    Do what you feel like but it is a lot of paperwork be warned!

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  70. I had this same discussion with my fiance the other night. We had just had a family dinner with my family and were driving home. My older sister married eight years ago and decided to hyphen her last name so that my family name would always exist. Incidentially, she has just had a baby boy whose last name is hyphenated. Our name lives on!

    Sadly, it has seemed to be some sort of common folklore in our family that I too would be keeping or hyphenating my last name. I can tell you now, my last name and his last name stuck together with a line in between does not make it look or sound particularly nice. It was cringe-worthy and extremly embarrassing when my entire family turned on us and began questioning our thoughts and motives. I never thought it would actually matter and was not prepared for the speech my father gave on 'being proud' of our family name. I AM PROUD of my family name and it will always mean something special to me. They then all mentioned how my elder sister kept her name...etc, well you can imagine how it went on and on and on.

    It never really concerned me until tonight. We hadn't even really discussed it (only being very newly engaged and haven't even set the date yet) but already feeling this kind of pressure is increasingly overwhelming. I do regard myself as a feminist but I don't believe that by keeping my last name I'm making a stand.

    In all truth (and this comes from my own thoughts and feelings), my mother changed her last name to my father's and if was good enough for her to change her name then it's good enough for me. So I will probably be one of those women who has to change their signatures and and credit cards and I'm sure when the time comes it will be a sad and bittersweet moment and probably frustrating to go through all of the paperwork. But it will also be MY decision. Oh, and the children will have family names as their middle names. Problem solved.

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  71. I went the hyphenated route myself (my name - his name).

    Waaaay before my husband had even proposed I had made it clear that I planned to always keep my name. This bothered him. He thought it showed some lack of permanence in the union. I, of course, pointed out that my name was innately-linked to my identity and that I had been going by that name for 30 years. I didn't want "that person" to be snuffed out by marriage! Changing names felt like the beginning third of my life (plan to live long) would cease to exist if I changed my name. It also speaks to my heritage! His name is very Scottish, which I am not; and my name is very Danish. It just felt false! I even pointed out the obvious, that I would never ask him to change his name! Because like my name, his is rich with history that he takes a lot of pride in! Side not, but I hate trying to remember the new names of the girlfriends I grew up with!

    When he did propose and we got married he never pushed for me to take his name - never even approached it; he understood it was my choice. The tricky part is children of course. I've got half-siblings with hyphenated names (my sister has a 15 letter last name for crying out loud!!!) and I've always thought it was terrible! I don't want my children to deal with that. They can have my husband's last name and I'm fine with that. That's another reason I went with the hyphenated route, so that somewhere in the name jumble we do share a name (not that it matters too much).

    I have to say that I'm very happy with the hyphenated route, because I'm able to go by either name! The whole name change is a huge pain in the ass too. Most of my accounts remain in my original name because I was too lazy to chase everything down. Surprisingly this has not been an issue, because when I explain that I got married and show my license with the hyphenated name - both names - I have always gotten an "oh, okay"...even with plane tickets (when my mother-in-law purchased tickets for us using only my husband's last name and not my hyphened one for me). I use my original name at work, so no confusion with consultants there. I identify myself with my husband's last name when I join him for a doctor's appointment. I know it sounds silly! But I like that I can use either or both and it works just fine!

    To each, his or her own! Some people aren't as attached to their last name as I am! I do understand that! ;)

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    1. Oh...and I did go with the hyphen so there wouldn't be a mistake over whether I had two middle names or two last names (that's an issue my mum ran into with the IRS, and even though it was their stupid mistake she spent a lot of time fixing and explaining it!). Don't worry though, the hyphen isn't pronounced! ;)

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  72. First of all, ditto to everyone who says that feminism is about choice. You have to decide what's right for you. Screw anyone who says you're setting women back because you change your name.

    I used to be a "never name changer" kind of girl. Then i met a man who said he would change his name to mine, because he wants one name for a family more than his own name. For some reason, this made me more open to changing my name (perhaps, oddly, the feminist in him makes me more open to different options). He also has a way cooler name.

    I'm adrift as well!

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