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Apparently I can't be a feminist because I changed my name when I married.

(463 Posts)
dustandfluff Wed 21-Nov-12 22:00:19

I heard someone (a feminist writer dunno who) on Radio 4 a few months ago saying women who change their names when they get married are not feminists.

. I have long been interested in feminism and women's rights. I appreciate the feminist arguments against changing your name. I had my reasons but I don't think that's relevant here. To me this sounds as though to "be" a feminist you have to meet a particular standard.

I think this is the kind of thing that puts a lot of women off the movement.

Opinion s anyone?

Feckbox Wed 21-Nov-12 23:38:18

You can't be a feminist if you got married grin

Or so I was once told

Fozzleyplum Wed 21-Nov-12 23:44:35

I'm never sure why some people get so worked up about the whole surname thing. I am Miss X at work and Mrs Y at home for pragmatic reasons; I married at a stage when it would have been professionally inadvisable for many reasons to namechange. An added benefit is that I have a work identity and a home one - a bit like a work and home wardrobe.

Whilst I can't get excited about it, I don't see the point of the recent spate of new double-barrelling. I know some people have rational reasons to do so, or genuine old D-B'd names, but I also know of a fair number who do it to for the aesthetics (to sound posher?), which seems a bit pointless IMO. But then I think personalised number plates are pointless, too, so I guess I'm not that bothered about names.

NewNames Wed 21-Nov-12 23:44:59

If you keep your surname and he keeps his, which surname do the kids get if you don't want to double barrel?

Selim Wed 21-Nov-12 23:53:13

I preferred DH's to mine but I didn't hate mine enough, I don't think, to change it if I was a man. Its much more socially acceptable to change your name as a woman, a man would have to explain himself all the time so would probably need a greater level of dislike to force the decision to change. I don't love my new name so I think if I was getting married now I might go with my mothers maiden name, which is lovely and fuck knows why she inflicted my dad's name on us

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 21-Nov-12 23:56:25

Oh, FFS, anyone who judges on something as single-issue as whether you changed your name ...!

I didn't change mine, and I'm hoping if we have children we can give them mine. But it's one decision.

I think it is important is that using the name you want is respected, and that it's not assumed that all women are 'Mrs Husbandsname', but that's part of a bigger issue of respect, surely.

TheDarkestNight Thu 22-Nov-12 00:03:13

I hate the 'you can't be a feminist if...' things. They tend to come from the same women who believe that everyone should be a feminist, too (which I sympathise with). You can't have it both ways, either anyone who believes in gender equality is a feminist, or people who stick to one exact lifestyle and world view are feminists. It's silly, I'm agnostic, but I certainly don't agree with every other agnostic, or make the same choices as them. Why should being a feminist restrict the choices of women? I thought the whole point is that we don't want that!

garlicbaguette Thu 22-Nov-12 00:05:36

I agree it is un-feminist to change your name to match your husband's. But most of us do un-feminist things; you have to pick your battles. It doesn't mean you're not a feminist, though it does work the other way around: women who take pride in being Not A Feminist love to tell us all how they honour their husband by taking his name, or some such codswallop grin Perhaps the woman on R4 had met one too many of those!

Anyway, this is still a free country, allegedly. You can use as many names as you like as long as you're consistent smile

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 22-Nov-12 00:07:53

I think gender is a construct. I believe in equality of the sexes.

And I do think there are things that are incompatible with feminism. But IMO they tend to be sustained practices in society, not one-off decisions made only by women.

SomersetONeil Thu 22-Nov-12 01:48:25

I think it is un-feminist to change your name to your husband - I don't see how it can be anything but. I have changed my name, but if I'm honest, it doesn't sit completely well with my feminist principles.

DH didn't expect me to. I kept my own name for quite a while, but by the time it came to have children, I decided to make the change as I wanted us all to have the same name. Weak and feeble reasons, really, but there you go.

I do think the surname/title thing is important in the grand scheme of things. It seems so insignificant to the usual anti-feminist types, but it's not. It's just another way that women are assimilated, and the Miss/Mrs thing - being defined by your marital status in a way that men are not, is ridiculous in this day and age.

But - I do loads of things which are incompatible with feminism. Anyone deigning to tell me I'm not a feminist based on any of that, would be given extremely short shrift.

exoticfruits Thu 22-Nov-12 07:23:54

It is trivial - you can do whatever you like and it is nothing to do with anyone else. If I had a double barrelled name the very first thing that I would do, as soon as old enough, is drop half and I would keep the part I liked best and I couldn't care if it came from the male or female side.
Women need to concentrate on things that matter.

scottishmummy Thu 22-Nov-12 07:54:08

why dont you have double barrelled Ms His-Your Name
i do think the whole mrs hisname and mrs is archaic
i do think its fair enough to query why you took his name as opposed to maintain own name or double barrelled

NotGoodNotBad Thu 22-Nov-12 08:26:53

I don't judge individual women on changing or not changing their name, but I do think it is a real shame that so few women keep their name, and default to being Mrs Hubby (both 'Mrs' and 'Hubby' being defaults). A sea-change is long overdue.

BIWI Thu 22-Nov-12 08:32:40

Surely, in this day and age, it's actually about creating your family name? Men can change their names if they wish - nothing to stop them.

I changed my name when we married because it was something I wanted to do. I did not, however, promise to obey my husband in my marriage vows. That really would have been unfeminist!

Trills Thu 22-Nov-12 08:34:36

Anyone who says "you can't be a feminist if..." is wrong, unless the end of that sentence is "you think the sexes should not be treated and valued equally".

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 22-Nov-12 08:39:33

It's a damn sight harder for men to change their names, though.

I sort of like the idea that when you get married, you'd both pick a new name out of thin air and that'd be your family name, but then I think that implies that marriage is a new identity and I'm wary of that. I can see why people feel that way, but for me, it's a problem because it is one more thing reinforcing the idea that until you're married, you somehow don't have a grown-up identity that's separate from the one your parents gave you.

(Mind you, my perspective is, shall we say, tinged slightly by the lecture my dear dad gave me about how marriage is when a woman really stops being a little girl and becomes an adult. hmm)

AmandaCooper Thu 22-Nov-12 08:47:49

I don't think anyone should underestimate what a big deal keeping your own name can be. It's a big political statement, which your husband and your families are obliged to share in for the rest of your married lives. If there is a conflict between their expectations and yours, you have to decide whether to put your principles above their feelings - and that's not a natural or easy thing to do particularly when you're trying to ingratiate yourself with new inlaws who have never had any female children. I knew my DH would support my choice but I felt it was asking a lot of him and that when it came to naming the DC the issue would be magnified x100. It was a huge compromise for me but completely meaningless to the people I made it for. You have to be a feminist to even recognise giving up your name as a sacrifice.

NotGoodNotBad Thu 22-Nov-12 08:48:42

"It's a damn sight harder for men to change their names, though. "

Maybe in England. I'm pretty sure that here in Scotland you can call yourself whatever you like, though the General Register website suggests this only applies if you were born here.

I remember watching a documentary some years ago on surrogate mothers, and when the surrogate mother gave birth her husband's name was put on the birth certificate even though he had nothing to do with it, and then it had to be changed later. Madness!

exoticfruits Thu 22-Nov-12 08:49:00

A sea change is not long overdue - people minding their own business is long overdue and leaving people to do what suits them.

exoticfruits Thu 22-Nov-12 08:49:48

It is no big deal - it is trivial.

exoticfruits Thu 22-Nov-12 08:51:04

Giving up my name wasn't a sacrifice and I am a feminist.

exoticfruits Thu 22-Nov-12 08:52:06

What is irritating is other people telling me what I ought to think- I am an adult and I think for myself.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 22-Nov-12 08:52:35

Yep, I'm in England. It'd be exactly the same in Scotland for DH, though, since he is neither Scottish nor English - it's true, it wouldn't apply to him as he wasn't born there.

Someone was mentioning on here a while back, about how if you are married, it's assumed your husband is the baby's father even if you're a surrogate mother - I don't think it's a one off.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 22-Nov-12 08:53:34

exotic, TBF, this is an issue where no-one ever minds their own business! Before my wedding was over I'd already had to justify what I was doing twice to family members who couldn't wait to tick me off about it.

I agree with those who have said that changing it is not a feminist act, I didn't change mine but that doesn't make me a better feminist than those that did, I have various other feminist failings, such as hair, make-up, sacrificed career to an extent for children. We can't all be 100% feminist all the time. However I do think that the more we consider the feminist point of view when making our life decisions the better, whichever choice we end up making.

With regard to the specific point of name changing, I don't really have an issue with people changing their names but do really wish more women would use Ms instead of Miss and Mrs, I think that is a more significant issue than the name. As for Mrs Husbandfirstname Husbandsurname, don't get me started on that.

seeker Thu 22-Nov-12 09:07:36

I am always amused that women so often seem to have horrible/difficult to spell/embarrassing/ ugly last names - and men never do!

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