Marriage is associated with a lot of things – family, love, children, and weddings, to name a few. It’s also the moment when many young women leave behind their family name and take on their husband’s family name. A few years ago, a study presented at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting found that 70% of Americans believe that a bride should take her husband’s last name. A little disturbingly, 50% of respondents in the study felt that it should be a legal requirement.
Well, there are some practical reasons I guess:
- Assigning a single name to the family creates a unified family unit… at least on paper
- In the past, a name might have been the only indication of paternal identity available (*snicker*)
But supposedly we live in an enlightened age! It costs about $150 to legally change your last name in Canada. After the initial paperwork, you still have to follow up and get new copies of all your cards and documents. It’s not a terribly streamlined process, despite the apparent support for it. So why do we still insist on making women go through the process and cost of changing their last names? Simply tradition?
In a recent article in The Atlantic, couples who have gone an alternative route were highlighted. Some couples featured men who changed their last names, while other couples chose entirely new names. Some families kept their names and allowed their children to choose which last name they wanted!
I would not change my last name, if I were to get married. Beyond the initial cost of time and the monetary cost of the required paperwork, there is a very clear cost to you and your personal brand. I am 28 years old now, not a 20 year old fresh out of school. I have built up a personal brand – there are published articles with my name on it, industry contacts who know me by name and numerous social networking sites all connected to me. If I suddenly change my last name, how will these acquaintances find me? If someone searches me on Google scholar, what happens when they cannot find an article that I claimed I had published?
Readers might recognize the same sentiment that I expressed in my article about why I’m not having children: I am very resistant to institutions and expectations that erode at who I am. Like having children, perhaps my opinion has evolved because I have left it too long and my sense of self is more ingrained than it would have been if I were younger. But at the same time, I think it’s important to value the personal brand that each of us has created over the years. It is part of our identity. Marriage isn’t always forever, after all.
Who here has changed their name after marriage? Who’s planning to change their name after marriage?
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