Did you change your name when you got married?

The school secretary doesn’t think we’re married.  It’s because I kept my name when I got married. I was Ms. anyway from when I was 18 so I didn’t need to change the title. Anyhow, she alternates between calling me Miss B and Mrs S. Neither of which is correct!  I guess I should correct her but it’s difficult to yell across the playground:’We live in a patriarchal society and so I took a stand against this!” Also I always fill in the forms correctly.  Anyhow, I don’t mind, obviously I don’t judge my fellow human beings for being married or not being married, so I don’t mind too much how I’m seen either.

Anyhow, there is an added layer of complexity to whether you should change your name or not, if your husband is from a different culture. If I’d married someone with an English surname like mine, then I would have wanted to double barrell our names or at least keep our names but double barrell our children’s names. However, my husband said:’I want them to know they are Asian’.  They are three quarters Indian or going on for that. So my children have their father’s surname. I think as well, as it is still the convention that women change their names upon marriage and the children take the husband’s name, so it can be quite a shift for men to accept alteration of both of these traditions. My husband was fully supportive of my keeping my name, he said he thought I should and he wouldn’t change his if he were a woman (We used to debate the issue when we were students though because I said, okay but what name do the children take then?)

In short, it’s a patriarchal society, so women tend to change their name, a tradition which I have rejected (though of course I have my father’s surname, not my mother’s maiden name – and that was her father’s surname anyway, not her mother’s…) So I have ‘privileged’ the less ‘privileged’ sex (women) in my decision.  However, my husband is an ethnic minority in England which is not associated with privilege and given the children were born here and their first language is English, we do want to acknowledge their potentially less privileged identity. So we’ve given the children Indian names too (though we based on the meaning).

It’s interesting the French convention regarding Miss and Mrs.  Mademoiselle means Miss and Madame means Mrs. However, you can get to be Madame EITHER by marrying or by age. Yes, two ways to be more acceptable. How crazy! Or maybe there’s an assumption that all women over a certain age are married?! I don’t think they even have a Ms!

(BTW Talking of marital status and how it is esteemed or not esteemed in society, the children have Old Maid, the card game like Donkey [where you have to pair off the other characters and NOT be left with the Old Maid!]  I guess no self respecting feminist should have the game in the house! (I was given this when I was little and so these cards are mine!) I heard an interesting lecture once about how the witch image is the image of the single post menopausal woman, hunched over with osteoporosis, warts from a lowered immune system, facial hair from testosterone levels (as other hormone levels fall I guess) and apparently the whole broomstick idea was to do with the sexual frustration of spinsters! This Old Maid looks like this, she’s brandishing a huge gun. Oh dear. My son used to love chess. The Queen has all the power there – though the role is to protect the King of course. If she it taken the game continues, if the King is cornered and cannot escape, the game ends.  Ah.  Well. At least chess is not as sexist as Old Maid. And as for poor old Eor, that’s not fair either! )

8 thoughts on “Did you change your name when you got married?

  1. I have always found this topic very interesting. I always feel some male made this rule of name change after marriage 1000 years ago and we are expected to following it. I have also discussed about it in my blog.


    I haven’t changed my name yet but I am thinking to change it once we have kids.
    How do you handle the complication when your kids have different surname as yours?
    I am just worried for them otherwise I would be more than happy to keep mine.

    • Hi, I like your post, thanks for the link. It’s been fine, it’s usually at places like the doctors I end up explaining I kept my name when I got married. Or I just say my name is x their name is y. (It’s just when they try to look the rest of you up on the system they try to use the same name).
      I think there are matriarchal naming conventions in some countries- is it Sweden?? In Ethiopia they don’t have surnames, they just take their (father’s) first name as their surname!

  2. I haven’t changed my name yet but in my case, it’s just been one of those things we haven’t gotten around to do. I plan on changing it eventually but don’t see the need to rush it just yet.

    I don’t believe it’s necessary to change your name, so many these days are choosing to keep their maiden names, in the end it’s up to the individuals to decide what is best for them.

  3. In Spain it is normal for children to keep both parents’ name. In France, “madame” is used for older women or women with children but not on official papers.

    The Witch, I believe, is the archetype of the Wise Woman (from the Pagan trilogy of goddesses, the maiden, the matron and the wise) ridiculed by christian/patriarcal traditions.

    Be happy.

    • That’s really interesting; so The Witch is an attempt to ridicule this pagan female trilogy, the witch is single like the maiden, age of a matron and her wisdom is ridiculed and presented as using evil power rather than received wisdom. And esp post Renaissance there may be have been increased ridicule of different ways of thinking, ‘feminine’ wisdom which departed from the scientific phallogocentric beliefs of the day as practised mainly by male physicians e.g. natural and traditional medicines. Did you see my post My Kinda Feminism? At the end I mention The Da Vinci Code and say that I think some of the appeal of this thriller is the theme of the sacred feminine.

      • Hello Masala Bou, I am not an expert on the Witch/Crone but I understand things like you, and I will definitely go and see your Kinda Feminism post :)

  4. I made my “maiden name” (sounds silly somehow, considering it was my NAME until a year or so ago) into a second middle name, and took my husband’s last name. A lot of it did have to do with cultural considerations — I put a LOT of thought into what to do. I didn’t hyphenate, partially due to length (sometimes I wish I had), but I use “Sara XXX XXX” for professional/academic things. We plan to use my maiden name as a second middle name for our kids, so they carry part of both families.

    The witch stuff is interesting to consider…

    • I did think about changing my name a few years after when we came back from abroad but I think I made the right decision for me.
      My first name, although English is very unusual. It sounds v bizarre with my husband’s surname. I ‘m not saying this would be a good reason for changing or not changing.
      Do you have friends who are divorced? Some of them continue with the married name, some of them switch back.
      My grandfather said to me, when I told him I was Ms, that surely it was for people who were divorced? He thought they had changed from Miss to Mrs and couldn’t change back but wanted to reflect the fact that they were no longer married. I think it might have been more commonly used like that when it first came along. You will be Dr??

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