I'm a newly married man and agonising about what we should do about surnames.

(252 Posts)
MaleMan81 Fri 10-Jan-14 09:50:35

My wife and I got married a few months ago. She hasn't changed her surname to mine, and I've been saying to her that I'm not sure I agree with the idea of a woman taking a man's name. And that's how we have left it.

I think we both would be very happy with this decision if children were never going to be part of the picture.

However she recently became pregnant, and although we are both thrilled and excited, I have started to think that if we are going to become a family it would make us all feel more united if we both had the same surname as our child. My wife agrees with this.

So the options as I see it are - she takes my name, I take her name, or we do that terribly modern thing of meshing together our surnames to make a whole new name!

Now I would like to think of myself as a thoroughly enlightened man who is a feminist, but the problem I'm having is that her surname sounds a tiny bit silly, and is the kind of name that would be gift to bullies in any environment. I don't want to write her actual name, but a surname that would provoke a similar reaction might be something like "Awkwardly". What is worse is that my first name rhymes with her surname, which would give me a name which would at the very least cause raised eyebrows I imagine.

In comparison my surname is more normal with no real meaning, and is something along the lines of "Bailey".

The only meshed version of our names that really scans property actually sounds even worse than her surname, and not something I would want to saddle a child with.

So that leaves me favouring my own surname simply because it sounds more normal, and works better with both our first names. And to be fair my wife has said that she was a bit embarassed by her surname as she was growing up, although now she is fine with it.

I would like to think that if it was her with the normal sounding name and me with the odd name, then I would be happy to change my name to hers. But I'm worried that subconsciously I am simply imposing my name on her as is "tradition" and automatically favouring my own name.

I am also aware that her taking my name is the "normal" and "expected" thing to happen, and is the easy option in terms of acceptance in society. And I must also admit that I am generally a quiet person who doesn't like to draw attention to myself - which is exactly what would happen if I did what is seen (by society at least) as something reasonably radical like taking my wife's name.

I'm just confused and going around in circles now. What have others done?

minipie Sun 19-Jan-14 00:26:31

Very glad to see a post from a man considering this question.

I have started to think that if we are going to become a family it would make us all feel more united if we both had the same surname as our child. My wife agrees with this.

See this right here is where you have allowed traditional assumptions to infect your otherwise logical analysis.

There is really no reason at all why having the same surname makes you more united as a family.

You don't all need to share the same hair colour to be a family do you? Or the same first name? So why do you all need to share the same surname? Is it simply because society expects families to have the same surname? Well society expects women to take their husband's surname too - so if you can reject that expectation then you can also reject the one about families having the same surname.

I speak as someone who has a different surname to my mother - made no difference whatsoever to how "united" we felt or feel as a family - and someone whose daughter has a different surname to me - again, no effect on our family "unitedness" at all. It is a complete myth.

GarlicReturns Sat 18-Jan-14 15:04:37

I like their deductions ... that a woman who takes her husband's name is perceived as more submissive, therefore less of a go-getter ... and that this makes sense pragmatically.

By way of consolation, all you married name-changers: you're seen as more caring grin Our male-patterned economy, apparently, sees 'independent' as worth $500 a month more than 'caring'.

You know, I've always wanted to be called a ball-breaker. My time has not yet come wink

TheDoctrineOf2014 Sat 18-Jan-14 14:15:23

Interesting fv!

funnyvalentine Sat 18-Jan-14 13:38:06
duchesse Fri 17-Jan-14 20:52:18

Well, I'm already dead for sure, along with my last child. I was 41. Good old tradition. Damn medical advances for ruining tradition!!

McFox Fri 17-Jan-14 12:55:15

I haven't changed my name, but my DH couldn't give a toss. He's of the opinion that I do whatever I want and understand why I feel strongly about it. We didn't have the big over the top proposal either, we decided as an equal team that we wanted to get married, and went to buy a ring together.

Family and friends on the other hand are weirdly outraged by me keeping my name. I've been told by basically all of the women that I'm being silly because I want to retain my own identity. They have ignored my requests to stop calling me Mrs DHsName, or addressing mail to me like that too. I am really saddened by this. Just like I am saddened by my mate who got accidentally pg by an arse, and aren't together, yet their new daughter has his surname. What in the actual fuck?

It's my right to retain my name and although I can see it causing problems in the next few years as I am pregnant at the moment, I think that I'd be doing any child of mine a disservice by doing what I 'should' and changing my name. I need to feel confident that I can pass on my feminist principles to my child, and if I change my name, how can I do this with conviction?

TheDoctrineOf2014 Fri 17-Jan-14 12:37:52

And a life expectancy of, oh yeah, many of us on the thread dead already.

Mitchy1nge Fri 17-Jan-14 12:26:44

and a minge that has turned itself inside out from churning out too many babies

duchesse Fri 17-Jan-14 12:19:53

Ah yes, let us all stick with tradition. <goes back to tilling the field of turnips with a bent stick, whilst suffering cholera>

CaptChaos Thu 16-Jan-14 05:07:01

Stick with tradition she should take your name.

Ah yes, tradition.

Society loves tradition. Male society anyway.

Ah, 'tradition'.

<misty eyed smile>

Can you tell I'm biting back a rant that includes the words 'actual history' in prominent places?

Givemeabiscuit Wed 15-Jan-14 21:24:30

Stick with tradition she should take your name.

duchesse Wed 15-Jan-14 11:25:17

It bloody mattered to me, so I kept my own surname. I love my husband but I don't see why that means I have to surrender my identity.

HamletsSister Wed 15-Jan-14 09:58:31

No - it didn't matter as much to me because my name was a common one. My DH's name is unusual and he has become (through death) an only child. I have numerous siblings (all female) who have chosen to keep their maiden names. I didn't have an opinion one way or the other - in some circumstances I would have been bothered, in this case, I wasn't. It mattered to him to keep his name (Very old Scots name) and it didn't matter to me to keep mine (not quite Smith, but close). I would say there is a 50/50 split amongst my generation. I didn't change immediately but it happened organically as I moved jobs and areas after we were married.

TheDoctrineOf2014 Wed 15-Jan-14 08:49:14

Quite, slightly. Full names are used in a professional context and they are expected to remain a constant badge if identification. So women who "keep their name for professional reasons" are following the male pattern of one name from birth to death.A good example of the structures being set up for male norms...

duchesse Wed 15-Jan-14 08:20:21

"didn't matter as much to me" is most definitely a socialisation thing and therefore to be challenged.

slightlyglitterstained Wed 15-Jan-14 07:44:41

Isn't the basis that "keeping my name didn't matter as much to me" likely to depend on socialisation in the first place? If you expect you'll lose something in the future, it's natural to try to protect yourself subconsciously by detaching a bit from it now.

Whereas if everyone tells you something is forever and it's a crucial part of your identity...this kind of thing:

A man’s name is not like a mantle which merely hangs about him, and which one perchance may safely twitch and pull, but a perfectly fitting garment, which, like the skin, has grown over him, at which one cannot rake and scrape without injuring the man himself.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

...then unsurprisingly, you might be rather strongly attached.

duchesse Tue 14-Jan-14 23:05:19

Well, much of the point is that there be a level playing field. And while 50% of the population or thereabouts isn't making decisions from the same starting point as the other 50%, they can't really be truly equal. Because to make decisions from the same starting point, those 50% have to strip back many layers of socialisation and conditioning that they may not even know they have.

Things such as taking one's husband's surname or the children having the father's surname being "normal" or simply "what one does". I still maintain that if a woman thinks all around the subject and decides that because her surname is Bumface or her own father was horrible and she sees no reason to keep her birth surname, she wants to change her name on marriage to her husband's, I have not the slightest issue with that.

If on the other hand a woman changes her name because that's what you do (most of the women in this country I would imagine), then that's not a decision taken from a level playing field.

Blistory Tue 14-Jan-14 22:20:32

I guess what I'm saying is that it's the decision-making process rather than the decision itself that is the crucial part.

I think that might be where a lot of disagreement arises. It seems to suggest that it doesn't matter if the decision is sound as long as the process to get there is. Not sure that I can get on board with that.

I'd say it's a personal choice, rather than a feminist choice. I don't understand what makes it 'feminist' (or why it should have to be)?

duchesse Tue 14-Jan-14 21:59:39

I guess what I'm saying is that it's the decision-making process rather than the decision itself that is the crucial part.

duchesse Tue 14-Jan-14 21:58:21

I think that if a person thinks all the way round a topic and nevertheless comes back to the majority decision for personal reasons rather than androcentric social pressure, that's still a feminist choice. It's toeing the line or unthinkingly adopting a status quo weighted against women that is the unfeminist course of action.

Sparklyboots Tue 14-Jan-14 21:51:51

DP and I have two children, a boy and a girl. DS has DP's surname, DD has mine. The names aren't really double barrelable. DS was named for.DP as he was the last of his name, and his dad had died just before I got pg, and cos I didn't know my father and so being able to give a father's name seemed really amazing in the mist of pg hormonal states, at least. DD got my name because, well lots of other, less emotionally charged reasons. I feel slightly ridiculous because despite all my careful 'personing' (as my DM calls my attempts to not thoughtlessly pass on a male-identified world) we have sort of suggested through the names that gender is the single most important qualifier of identity. So not a perfect solution.

Feminism is about women's liberation. I don't see why all choices have to be labelled 'feminist'.

Something can be a good choice for you and the right choice, and you can be a feminist, without it being a feminist choice.

HamletsSister Tue 14-Jan-14 20:35:57

Maybe I thought feminism was about having choices - not about labelling but about choosing because, you know, now we can.

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