Feminism in Marriage

A rising feminist movement is trying to sway women to keep their maiden names when they get married. Because the movement speaks from a progressive standpoint in regards to women’s issues, their main attack is on the traditions of marriage. Families who follow the traditional marriage customs are used to women changing their surnames and often find it strange when women go against the customary traditions. Women who are married should change their names to that of their husbands because it helps create a strong family unit and bypasses unnecessary confusion for the future.

A shared last name sets the pace for a strong family unit. In marriage, a woman’s last name is sometimes seen as part of her identity. The sharing of a surname is a sign of two people joining into one family and continuing a family line. According to Jill Filipovic from “Why Should Married Women Change Their Names? Let Men Change Theirs,” she says, “Your name is your identity.” (26) Her claim is that women lose their identities when they submit to traditions such as these. She goes on to suggest that women in the past have been forced to change their names by pressure from traditions they do not agree with personally. In addition to Filipovic, feminists around the United States are rallying to get women to forego changing their names upon marriage because of suffocating traditional values. They claim that traditional marriage is setting feminism back by making women change their surname. Because it is a tradition that has long been customary in the United States, this movement is blaming traditionalism as the culprit behind the lack of momentum in this feminist issue. Despite Filipovic’s claims, a family whose members all share the same last name is more unified than one whose members do not. A woman may feel more dignified and independent if she opts out of changing her name when she gets married, but this decision to make herself feel more liberated could hinder her children’s perspective of marriage.

There are several different problems that arise when a woman opts to keep her maiden name when she gets married, often having to do with the children under the marriage. First, there is the issue of what name will the child take, either the husband’s or the wife’s. Then, there is the possible problem of the child getting confused over their parents’ lack of a family connection that is often found in a shared last name. A surname is one thing that members of a family unmistakably have in common and it is something that binds them as one family. Without this, there could arise confusion as to how unified the parental unit is. A child could get confused because their parents do not share the same last name. Though this might be true, children of parents who do not share the same surname are more affected by this decision than immediately assumed. Filipovic even says in her essay, referring to a last name, “The term for you is what situates you in the world.” (26) The child might question why they have a different last name than one of their parents. Instead of experimenting with how affected a child is while living under parents with different last names, it would be more beneficial and less time consuming for the woman to simply change her name to that of her husband and forego any confusion in regards to their child.

Married women should change their names to match their husband’s because it helps create a strong family unit and avoids unnecessary confusion for the future. Though feminists are trying to change traditions such as these, they do not realize that the family unit is stronger when the family shares the same last name. Marriage is about sacrifices, not about trying to maintain personal independence when joining the life of another person.

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