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Educating the Menfolk- A Bleg

November 24, 2008

My best friend for my whole entire life is getting married in the spring.  I am excited and yet concerned for her because it has been a long distance thing and she’ll be moving away from her friends and family.  But I like her fiance which is more than I can say for the other guys she’s dated.

So she’s keeping her name.  She’s always been keeping her name.  This is not a new phenomenon.  I guess he’s still not over it, they are still fighting about it, and he is not forcing her to do anything, but he isn’t exactly supportive.  He is also not over telling his mother EVERYTHING.  Even if she specifically asks him not to tell anyone.  And it seems like he might just be having a bit of an issue with the whole “my fiance gets to tell me what to do sometimes” thing.  I dunno.

Since he was raised in a rural environment, and is also in the military, I think he just needs a little assistance to check his privelege.  She was asking me for books or something he could read, because she wants him to be on her side, but she doesn’t want to argue.

I’m sure there are good articles around that could help with this.  Work is currently my hell.  So if anyone has any suggestions, we would both be grateful!

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  1. I got married last summer and it was never a question of whether or not I would change my last name. I didn’t change it nor did I take a hyphenated name and my husband was completely fine with this. The only one who did seem to have a problem with it and vocalized it was my own mother. She got divorced from my dad in 2005 and her boyfriend has since proposed but she’s turned him down. If she were to marry him, she would have had three last names (and identities) before the age of 50. She brought it up once and said that I was disrespecting my husband by not taking his last name and my husband piped up and said, “No, really. I can’t think of any reason why she would need to take my last name.” That seem to settle it for her.

    For us, marriage isn’t about semantics; it’s about love, respect and commitment. I can’t even imagine being someone other than Rachel Richardson — this is who I am and my name is very much a part of my identity. Children aren’t in our foreseeable future, but should we have any, they will have a hyphenated last name. I wrote more on why I disagree with the practice of a woman changing her last name for a columns and review writing class — you can read it here. There’s another great article written by Catherine Deveny here.

  2. Thanks Rachel!

    Personally keeping my name would be a deal breaker for me. I like my name, No changey. I actually promised my Dad when I was like 5, because he was an only child and has no sons. But I like my name regardless of that, and probably wouldn’t have changed it even without that promise.

    It’s the boys who seem to have a problem with it. It took Mr. I a little while toa ccept it as fact as well. I think they are just raised with this whole “all I can give a woman is my name” thing. And no one ever bothered to mention that maybe said woman wouldn’t WANT their stupid name. Maybe she’d rather just spend life with them?


  3. I don’t necessarily understand why they would marry if they are having a quarrel over a name. I mean, if they cannot agree on something as simple as that…it seems like there might be a problem…

  4. I don’t think agreeing on things all the time is necessarily the hallmark of a good relationship. I think in this case he’s just coming from a very different place than she is. (A much more traditional place.)

    And some would say that this is a big deal, a very big deal, where others wouldn’t care. What’s important is that they find a way to work it out between the two of them that doesn’t breed resentment or cause issues in the future.

  5. Andy permalink

    Um. Okay, so I’m married to someone in the Army. I hope she can handle a complete throwback to 1950s gender roles, because that’s military life, or at least that’s what will be expected of her. If he’s not eating lunch, well, why isn’t she making for him/bringing to him? If he gains weight? It’s obviously her fault (somehow).

    It’s kinda, sorta better if you don’t live on base. And I definitely don’t recommend staying through deployments unless you have a job and/or a really great support system that includes non-military folks.

    The military is one of the LEAST family-friend organizations in the country. Misogyny and sexism are rampant and institutionalized. Rape, sexual assault, and domestic abuse occur entirely too frequently, routinely go unreported, or if reported, too many are not prosecuted nor punished.

    I’m not trying to scare you or say that your friend is going into an AWFUL SITUATION! DANGER! (heh), but it’s easier if you know what you’re getting into instead of being blindsided. The misogyny and sexism can really wear you down, especially if you don’t have a place to get away from it (feminist-friendly people, web communities, liberal churches, etc).

  6. Laura permalink

    Before my husband and I got married, he told his family that I was keeping my birth name. His grandmother asked, “Isn’t OUR name good enough for her?” He said, “I guess I should mention I am also keeping my name.”


    As for your friend, well, I guess I would ask her fiance why he wants her to change her name? Would they seem more married? More loyal? I think we all know women who have had 2 or 3 last names as a result of marriage, divorce and widowhood. Finally ask him if he would be willing to change his name? He would likely say no, it is his name and he is proud of it, etc. Then ask why he would not expect her to feel the same way about her name?

    These sound like typical relationship issues to me– who is in charge, what are the boundaries, etc. Perhaps some premarital counseling would be helpful. Not because I think they are “in trouble” but only because sometimes it’s helpful to have a neutral party help with some contentious issues. Just a thought.

  7. Piffle permalink

    I kept my name too, and it hasn’t caused any problems; though what I really wanted to do was to combine our last names (One syllable from each name) and he wasn’t willing to do that. It’s an option that often isn’t explored, for both people to change their name. It just seemed symbolic of starting a new family with roots from the past to me.

  8. I did not change my name. Partly it’s because I got married when I was 34, partly because I had been working in the tech industry for 9 years, and partly because I’d have had to change my name with social security, my driver’s license, 3 brokerage accounts, 1 bank, 1 credit union, 3 credit card companies, a car, a condo, utilities, and the insurance company. Actually, you don’t change the name on real estate per se, you have to sign it over to yourself or something like that.

    But I can say that if you’re on the fence about changing your name, making the to-do list that would be involved can help you decide if you actually WANT to change it.

    I can also understand why most of the women I know who changed their names did so when they were younger and had shorter lists!

  9. rebecca permalink

    I’m from Montreal, and women here almost always keep their maiden name.

  10. I can’t help but think that the name issue would indicate fundamental differences in philosophy. Sure, they don’t need to agree on everything to have a successful marriage, but the whole ‘modern’ vs ‘traditional’ gender role thing can be a HUGE obstacle for a couple to overcome. Maybe he simply hasn’t examined where his objections to her keeping her own name come from (male privilege) and he will come around. Or maybe she will cave in. But either way, this indicates to me that they need to talk long and hard about how they see themselves splitting responsibilities around the house, career and childrearing.

  11. Shinobi permalink

    I Generally agree Fatadelic. That’s why I’m looking for some good literature to give him, perhaps to help him reexamine the origins of his privelege.

  12. Shinobi, my go-to on things like privilege is always the Feminism 101 blog, so here is a link to their main post about privilege:
    It contains a few links to other blogs on the topic, including Barry-from-Alas-a-Blog with a male privilege checklist, Brown Betty on what privilege is and what it isn’t, etc. I don’t think these things address your friend’s exact issue, but they might give you some backup.

    But I think in the end, the best thing is for her to explain in no uncertain terms what keeping her name means, and what taking his name would ask her to do. (Not saying she hasn’t done so, but sometimes these things have to be said in more detail and multiple times.) I think sometimes people hang on to tradition because it’s always been done and don’t think as much about why it’s been done that way (basically to transfer ownership from father to husband, as good a reason as any to take exception to name-change) or what material and psychological hardship it may give the bride.

  13. I went to my family doctor this summer for a bad case of poison oak and it was the first time I’d been there since I had gotten married. I went over the forms with a middle-aged male clerk and changed my emergency contact listing my husband from my boyfriend to my husband. He automatically began to change my last name and I interrupted him and said, “Nope, that’s still the same.” He had the nerve to then say, “What?! You didn’t take your husband’s name? Shame on you” in a kind of joking way. I responded, “Well, I suggested he take my name and he chose to hang on to his for the same reasons I chose to hang on to mine.” I don’t understand why some men are so adamant on the name change for the wife, yet would never consider to change their own name. When my husband and I first discussed the issue, he was supportive of my decision to keep my name, but said that he thought that the practice of taking a husband’s name represented a wife joining that family. I pointed out to him that while I’d be “joining” his family, in a sense, I’d also be divorcing my own. He got the point.

  14. Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has a great FEM 101 series, though sometimes I wonder if guys just flat-out reject that stuff if they know it’s written by feminists. Counseling is probably the best route to go.

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