Skip to comments.More women are taking husbandsí names
Posted on 08/10/2004 6:00:00 AM PDT by presidio9
SOMETIME while Hillary Clinton was switching her name from Hillary Rodham to Hillary Clinton and back again and back back again, an important threshold was crossed people stopped caring. When Hillary initially kept her surname after marrying Bill, it was a blow against the patriarchy and for womens liberation, but today such surname-keeping has lost its cachet.
In the 1990s the number of women keeping their maiden name upon marriage began to dip, according to a fascinating study published in The Journal of Economic Perspectives. This snapback to taking a husbands surname is mostly an elite phenomenon, since among most people it never went out of style. Roughly 90 percent of women take their husbands surname. It is among college-educated women that surname-keeping flowed and is now ebbing.
Surname-keeping took hold in the 1970s. Legal restrictions that forced women to take their husbands surnames began to be overturned or ignored. Women began to marry later and get more professional degrees, both of which made them more attached to their surnames. Ms. became popularized as a way to avoid the repression of Mrs. Keeping a surname was considered a way for a woman to keep her identity.
The number of women in The New York Times wedding announcements keeping their surnames was 2 percent in 1975 and had reached 20 percent by the mid-1980s, according to the Journal study. Then the trend stalled. Among women in the Harvard class of 1980, 44 percent retained their surname, but in the class of 1990, only 32 percent did. According to Massachusetts records, the percentage of surname-keepers among college graduates in that state was 23 percent in 1990, 20 percent in 1995 and 17 percent in 2000.
Why? The studys authors write: Perhaps some women who kept their surnames in the 1980s, during the rapid increase in keeping, did so because of peer pressure, and their counterparts today are freer to make their own choices. Perhaps surname-keeping seems less salient as a way of publicly supporting equality for women than it did in the late 1970s and 1980s. Perhaps a general drift to more conservative social values has made surname-keeping less attractive.
Indeed, the decline in sur- name-keeping might mean that marriage is being taken slightly more seriously. I think it will strengthen marriage, says University of Virginia professor Steven Rhoads, author of Taking Sex Differences Seriously. Its a sign that someone intends it to be a unit, that this is a marriage, and it is for the duration.
It certainly shows that, for whatever reason, younger women are moving beyond old feminist obsessions. Writing in the online magazine Slate, Katie Roiphe argues that the maiden name is no longer a fraught political issue. These days, no one is shocked when an independent-minded woman takes her husbands name, any more than one is shocked when she announces that she is staying at home with her kids.
In the waning of a certain kind of self-conscious feminism, women are freer to make their own choices including traditional ones.
Finally, there is simply the hassle factor. It can be difficult for a mother who doesnt share her childs last name to pick him up from school or travel with him. Hyphenation has its own perils. Writer Frederica Mathewes-Green reports receiving mail for people named Mathwas-Green, Mathers-Crein, Vatherwes-Green and Mebhews-Creen, among others. Her hyphenation wont be carried on by any of her children, and she doesnt regret it.
In an essay on the decline of feminism in the City Journal, Kay Hymowitz notes that feminist pioneer Patricia Ireland recently wrote that a woman taking her husbands name signifies the loss of her very existence as a person under the law. Women who want to get on with their lives and with their marriages greet that kind of old-school feminist call-to-arms with a decidedly 21st century ho-hum.
The feminist idea women didn't want to share their lives with men always ran against human nature. Even the NOW NAGs are discovering tradition is hard to overthrow.
I'm glad my wife kept her name. Laura is much better suited to her than David would be.
I never did learn the order of the names: his then hers or hers then his?
They're also taking their husbands homes, cars, money, toothbrush, etc.
A woman that won't take your name when she marries is not worth marrying.
bump for later
I note with interest that it is those same women who criticized that are, six years later, unhappily unmarried.
On the other side, I know one complete candyass who took his wife's name when he got married and his son has his wife's last name instead of his.
The funniest part is that he's white and his wife is Asian, so imagine meeting a blond, green-eyed dude who introduces himself to you as "Paul Takefuji" (not his real name but pretty close).
I wonder how his dad feels about all this.
Mrs. Theknow and I were behind them in the line to check in once and she heard me mutter at how stupid it was.
She angrily confronted me and said it was her "choice" to keep her maiden name and not submit to a "flawed patriarchal system."
"So, in protest you did not take the name of the "MAN" on your marriage license but kept the name of the "MAN" on your birth certificate."
They did not wish to sit next to us at meals.
I had a chance to "Zing" her again about a year later when I was looking at a bumper sticker on her car that read: "Men of quality are not threatened by women seeking equality."
She confronted me and said, "So, Mr. Chauvinist, what do you think of that?"
"Actually from my experience, I have noticed that women of quality don't have to seek equality."
I agree, but the rules are different for second marriages IMO.
A friend of mine had no middle name so she made her maiden name her middle name when she got married.
Mostly, I think, because she was her parents' only child.
I grew up with a lengthy ethnic name that no one could spell or pronounce. My life was a bureaucratic mess because of all the official misspellings and resultant confusion. It was especially annoying because my first name, though pretty, is also difficult for people to spell and pronounce. When I married a WASP with a simple, normal English name that everyone can spell, my life became a thousand times easier and more pleasant. No more lost mail, no more giggles and stupid jokes from people, no more headaches when I tried to register for things! Now I'm established professionally with the WASP name, and changing it would be a problem. If I am ever able to remarry, whether I took my husband's name or not might depend on how much of a pain in the neck it is, NOT on how much I love and honor him. I wouldn't take it if it were some long vowel-less Polish name, for example.
It was one of those "moments to live for."
Usually I think of good comebacks like that an hour later so it was especially gratifying.
A woman that won't take your name when she marries is not worth marrying.
My cousin is a feminazi who was telling me of why a women should keep her maiden name. I told her she was actually keeping her Dads name and if she decided to change to her moms name, it would really be Grandpa's name. That shut her up and her face got red. Before she could conjure up a response I told her to just make a new name up.
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