This is my submission for the latest edition of the Feminist Odyssey Blog Carnival. Its theme is Feminism and Love.
Three months ago, I got married. I did not change my surname.
In those three months, I’ve had maybe four or five conversations about this at work, with coworkers over lunch or when we’re supposed to be paying attention in meetings or something. They’ve all ended sort of eerily similarly. Basically, they go like this:
Coworker: Hey, didn’t I hear that you got married?
Me: Yup, in October.
Coworker: You haven’t changed your name yet. Does this mean you’re not going to?
Me: No, I’m going to keep the name I already have.
Me: Because it’s my name, and I like it.
Coworker: What does your husband think about that?
I was ready for the, “Why?” question, though I didn’t expect it to come up quite so frequently. But I was taken aback by so many people’s immediate progression to my partner’s reaction. The way I’m seeing it, there are a couple of possible responses:
- He is okay with it, and it is a non-issue — which is why we, you know, went ahead and got married.
- It is actually a sticking point in our new marriage, in which case, talking about it with a work acquaintance is at least a little awkward.
In my case, the situation is the former, and I answer as such. Most of the time, people have let it drop there. But on a couple of occasions, people have pressed the issue further.
Coworker the First: He’s not worried you’re, I don’t know, not committed enough to change your name?
Coworker the Second: As long as he doesn’t think you love him less or anything.
I am now going to make a statement that should not — and probably will not — shock regular readers of this blog: Whether a woman keeps, changes, hyphenates, or does otherwise with her surname upon marriage is not an inherent indication of either her love for her partner or her commitment to their marriage. I mean, it may true in some individual circumstances, but it’s not the sort of connection that one should assume as the default.
Here’s the thing: We got married in the year 2012, and one of these conversations took place in 2013. I thought people already freaking new this! Apparently, that is also something I cannot assume as the default.
I’m not really sure why this is still a Thing. I don’t think it can be my degree of love or commitment that these folks are actually concerned about, on account of love and commitment are expected qualities for both participants in a marriage to display, and no one has yet asked why my husband hasn’t changed his surname to mine. They may, however, be calling into question my levels of selflessness and submission — qualities that are, on the whole, more socially expected of women than they are of men.
I’m also not sure as to whether not legally adopting my partner’s last name makes me any more assertive. While this was a choice on my part, it was not a choice that faced any kind of pushback from either my partner or from any legal or official channels. (Clueless relatives and annoying coworkers, however, remain another story.)
As for whether it makes me selfish? Maybe. Probably. But when it comes to valuing my right to dictate the terms of my identity, “selfish” is not actually a bad thing.