Monday, 7 February 2011

a post about changing my name - or not

It's hard to say when this got so complicated. I think it's just one of the many things that I hadn't considered until we got engaged. I'd always maybe thoought that I'd just keep my name, and that would be fine.

Except there are several reasons why it won't be fine.

J would love it if I took his name. His family would too.

My mum even wants me to change my name.

And I want to be of one name, when we are a family. J won't change his name - not to mine, or not to a third option.

But if I change my name, what will people think of me?

At work, people assume I won't change and that I would be betraying something essential to myself (office contains many feminists (myself included), divorcees/children of divorcees) and their experiences have shaped their opinions, which are obviously all very good points.

We visited Iceland last year, and I learned about their naming system, whereby the children take their father's first name as part of their surname. So David's son James would be James Davidsson.

David's son Jane would be Jane Davidsdottir. In some progressive families, some children take their mum's name as part of their first name. But it's not standard.

When women become wives in Iceland, they don't change their name. But their family lineage most often passes down without any part of their name in it. This is how they trace their family back to the founding Vikings and they are very proud indeed of how they can do this.

I won't pass on my name to any children. We're a patrilineal society in Britain, and that's just how it works. They will take J's surname. That's how we keep records and trace ancestry.

And in a way, what would my family be, without my father's name? I currently have a man's name - my father's - and his father's, and his father's, until the time we hopped off a boat and landed in this country (I have a very old, very unique surname. But so does J.)

In the balance of things, I may take his name. One of us has to give if we want to be a family. But you know what worries me most?

The thought that people will think I just took his name, without a second's consideration. I am making a conscious decision. I am a feminist. But it won't look like that to many people.


  1. I honestly don't think you can know what will feel right until it happens. I went through all of the same emotions, and am now 3 months into being married, still not sure what to do. Just before the wedding I decided to take his name. But I still haven't. I have changed one of my email addresses to Clare Hislast, one of the others is still Clare Mylast, my facebook (which is OBVIOUSLY the most important of all...) I'm Clare Mylast Hislast, and at ork I'm still Clare Mylast. I answer to all names, and am not offended by any of them. But I'm still not sure which one is really ME. I'm taking my time to decide, and that's the great thing - you don't have a time limit - if you haven't decided by the wedding, just see what works out for you.

  2. Heh, I'm SO much shallower - I hate my 'maiden' name and always have done. His is a really lovely and interesting one - I can't wait to jettison my hated name (especially as I'm estranged from my father who was not a good dad) and get myself a purty new one. Even if I'll spend most of the rest of my life spelling it.


  3. I think you've really hit the nail on the head. Feminism is about choice, not about being forced to do the non-traditional. Any feminist who would pass judgement over a woman's choice is being just as oppressive as the patriarchal society against which she is battling.

    There are other ways to express your feminism - volunteering or fundraising for your local women's shelter; mentoring teenage girls; even encouraging your sons/nephews to respect women or your daughters/nieces to be strong, independent-minded women who know that they can achieve anything. I think that each of those means significantly more than a name.

  4. Totally agree with Beccasaid- Feminism is about choice, not about being forced to do the non-traditional.

    As you saw from my post, I'm really struggling with this at the moment too. I don't know what to tell you!