Monday, August 18, 2008

i'm a busy bumblebee.

I realize this is my millionth post for the day, but I've got a lot on my mind. I'm also feeling very topical because today Jezebel addressed men changing their last names for their wives, and it's something I feel pretty strongly about.

I'm not above choosing whichever last name sounds best with my first name, so I'll probably do that if I get married. Women who keep their last names are generally treated with a raised eyebrow, but that doesn't even begin to describe the response given to men who change their last names instead. What IS that? One of my male friends, who wouldn't flinch at being called a feminist, said that my husband will "have no balls" when I suggested he might want to change his last name to mine (in theory only, as my last name is wretched).

He didn't explain why it was so emasculating or why it should matter if the husband and wife are seen as equals. When I told an older woman I know that I didn't plan on changing my name unless I liked the way it sounded, she sighed and said, "we live in a patriarchy." She's also a self-proclaimed feminist. Isn't a huge part of feminism working to CHANGE that? Baby steps are the way to go. And I'm not going by Allison Tinkle or Guzzler or Weiner. And um, if the guy I'm marrying is unfortunate enough to have one of those as his last name, he shouldn't have to go by it, either.

I'm in the school of thought that engagement rings are sexist as well, so I know I might sound radical, but just look at the reasons behind these traditions. Changing her name: done because the woman is being passed from her father to her husband (like cattle!) Engagement rings: a chance for the man to essentially "prove his worth" to the woman and her family while marking the woman as off the market.

I know these traditions are part of that whole fairy tale ideal we have in mind since childhood, but I have less affinity towards them than annoyance. I don't like the idea of being seen as property, being obligated to change my name or accepting a ring that's worth several months of my fiance's salary. Personally, I hope my future husband and I make a relatively equal amount so that he doesn't need to prove himself financially and that I'll be fine in the event of a breakup.

I'm not saying anyone else should follow suit. Everyone is free to do what they want. I'd like to exchange cheapy, modest engagement rings that we both wear and trade those in for some nicer wedding rings. But enough about me. What do you think about me?


KATLIN said...

I have no problem with guys changing their last names and I don't think it makes them "weaker" if they do so. I think it actually takes a lot of balls to do that because I'm sure they'll get crap about it from other people and it's not something that society accepts. I really want to keep my last name and wouldn't mind adding my husband's name to it, as long as it isn't too long. I know my granny would be really happy if I kept my last name and had a boy.

April said...

If I ever marry my boyfriend (and we already live together like married folk), we're gonna elope. No name-changing, no engagement rings. We'll have a "marriage warming" party sometime after. Probably at a bar.

(By the way, I LOVE your blog. All I really read are fashion blogs and feminist blogs. This is perfect!)

clarafier said...

i wouldn't really want to take his last name (just because i like my alliteration), but i get confused when it comes to kids. whose name do they get?

allison said...

April, thanks so much!

Clara, I honestly have no idea. Taking both with a hyphen in between seems awfully cruel...

Dennise said...

I think guys changing their last name is something that men should be considering more and more. After all, if they want children they most definitely don't have to be the ones carrrying the brats for nine months and stretching out their nether regions when delivering said babies. Small price to pay, gentlemen.

Lindsay said...

I got married fairly young (23) and I kept my name. My husband and I don't wear rings. This makes people very uncomfortable. A nominally feminist acquaintance once asked me why I even bothered to get married if I wasn't willing to change my name or wear a ring. Umm... I didn't realize that marriage was all about the jewelry. My husband offered to take my name, but I found that unnecessary. Something about the symbolism of name-changing has always bothered me. It's like assuming your spouse's identity. Or something.
Allison: I second April's compliment. Cheeky, bright, stylish young ladies like you are the future of feminism

allison said...

Thanks so much to all of you for responding! It's really refreshing that you've thought about this stuff. It's not that I have a problem who choose to go traditional and wear an engagement ring and accept their husband's last name, as long as they've thought about it. My biggest pet peeve is the acceptance of society's norms without questioning them at all.

Lindsay, isn't it interesting that some of our biggest critics are feminists themselves? I can't believe that acquaintance asked why you bothered to get married without the jewelry to accessorize it!

Thanks so much to all of you for your comments and compliments!