Home > gender issues > What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009, 16:14 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Megan McArdle posted yesterday about some disturbing (to me, at least) poll results.

According to a new survey from Indiana University and the University of Utah finds that a huge majority of Americans think that women should change their last names when they marry. And they’re not sure we should stop at moral suasion…

She links to this article from a DC television station.

About 70% of Americans agree, either somewhat or strongly, that it’s beneficial for women to take her husband’s last name when they marry, while 29% say it’s better for women to keep their own names, finds a study being presented today at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

[ . . . ]

Hamilton says that about half of respondents went so far as to say that the government should mandate women to change their names when they marry, a finding she called “really interesting,” considering typical attitudes towards government intervention.

Good grief. For several reasons, I am almost speechless. But not quite.

I am single and have been for all of my 40-something years. I passed half the average life expectancy of the average American woman several years ago; if I live as long as my grandmothers did, I’m almost halfway through. That’s a long time to have a name, and if I were to get married at some point, I wouldn’t be inclined to give it up and the identity that goes with it. But for me, it’s a matter of feminist principle, and I began to feel this way in my 20s. For that matter, I also question the tradition of patrimony in children’s names and wonder on what logical basis most men would refuse to give their children—not to mention themselves—their wives’ family names. Really, the only reason to stick with the established custom is because that’s the way we’ve always done it and we’ve never done it any other way. That is never, in itself, a good reason for anything.

Let’s not even get into the notion of the government requiring the supremacy of the male name, a topic about which I could write pages.

(Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.)

Categories: gender issues
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