No, taking your husband’s name doesn’t make you chattel…but it IS succumbing to the patriarchy!


by Cyn Collins | 5/7/09

Dear Cyn,

I’m a woman who’s going to be married soon, and I’m planning to take my husband’s last name. I like the idea of sharing a name with my husband, and I don’t feel like taking his name makes me his property or anything…but I’ve been surprised at how much of a hard time I’m getting about this from my friends and family. My baby boomer aunt says that in her day, no self-respecting progressive woman would take her husband’s name. Am I succumbing to the patriarchy here? Really?


Dear Alicia—

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Well, obviously you are succumbing to a patriarchical invention, since you would be taking his last name. You are changing the surname you probably got from your father to a new one from your husband, thus continuing to discontinue matriarchal traces. Really! I mean, would your husband-to-be consider taking your last name? This is a growing trend being done more often. For example, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s last name is a hyphenated hybrid of his surname and his wife’s. What about a compromise such as hyphenation? Then you can maintain some of your original identity. It helps people find you, too—if you want to be found, that is.

I’ll be frank, I tend to agree with your aunt, because I think taking the husband’s last name only is a little archaic. But I appreciate that you may have any of several reasons. It may be because (a) you are a traditionalist (I rarely channel her, but what would Martha Stewart do?), (b) it feels like you’re completely bonded, (c) you’re telling other guys that you’re so not available. I understand that many a strong woman takes her husband’s name—perhaps it is because you are strong that you can do this, without worrying that the world will view you as chattel. Be strong, and do what you want to do. They’ll get over it. There are many ways that friends and family try to tell soon-to-be newlyweds how to do it all, from your last name to the date and naming of your first child (?!) to your residence to the details of the wedding. They’ll very soon accept this and get over it. Trust me. When it’s done, it will be done—and if you ever get divorced, you’ll have the piles of paperwork to prove it.

Good luck!


Image courtesy Mircea Tudorache (Creative Commons)

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