For most of human history men have ruled over women. Even in the civilized West women were the property of their husbands up and through the nineteenth century. It took until the twentieth century for the United States to grant women the right to vote. We have come a long way in a very short time. Women now work in the same jobs and for nearly the same pay as their male counterparts. Women are free to divorce their husbands and speak for themselves. They attend colleges and university at rates higher than men. These are all positive achievements.
Many women, however, continue to give up their family name when they marry. This archaic tradition is beyond silly. It is a throwback to a time when women belonged to their husbands. It is a tradition, like marriage, that should stop, and soon.
The California Name Equality Act of 2007 allows marrying couples to change their last (or middle) name free of charge. The women doesn’t have to assume the family name of her husband or add a silly hyphen. Each of them can blend their names to form a new name.
Effective 01/01/2009, one party or both parties to a marriage may elect to change the middle or last names by which that party wishes to be known after solemnization of the marriage. Each party applying for a marriage license may choose to include on their marriage license the new name in the spaces provided on the marriage license application without intent to defraud.
It was a news report I saw about this new law that got me thinking about this issue. This is a very small step in the right direction. At least it might get people thinking about the issue and questioning traditions.
Men should retain their family name. So should women. Our last name is part of our identity and heritage. It is, in a very real way, part of who we are. It should not change, ever.
I have strongly encouraged my best friend, Kirsten, to legally change her last name to her maiden name. She has resisted because, she says, my name is easier for people to pronounce (her maiden name is Uhler [you-ler]).
That was easy. But what about the children? I propose children use a new name that is a creative blend of the last names of both the parents’ last names. This would give them a connection to their ancestors and an identity all their own. We have discussed this with our three daughters. They like the idea of changing their last names from Danley to Danler.
Right now you’re probably thinking I’m nuts. It’s not so crazy, though. Every parent chooses a last name for their child just like they choose first and middle names. They just choose a last name without considering an alternative from tradition. And that traditional last name choice is almost always the last name of the father. Misogyny marches on.
What do you think?