Feminists are often chastised for placing too much emphasis on questions of symbolism, such as the patriarchal tradition that a woman take her husband's name upon marriage. But apparently ending that tradition is a really big deal, as the headline of this post indicates:
Opponents of Biblical Patriarchy Move Our Culture Closer to the Precipice: Now Men take their Wives' Names after Marriage
Who knew we feminist minded women and the men who love us could be so powerful? The headline refers to this story from USA today, excerpted as follows:
As Donna and Mike entered their wedding reception, an unwitting announcer told the expectant crowd, "Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together for the new Mr. and Mrs. Salinger!"
Some guests clapped, some chuckled at what they presumed was a joke and most looked at one another in confusion. The couple spent the entire reception and some of their honeymoon explaining to people what they had done.
The groom, you see, had started his day as Mike Davis and ended it by doing something precious few of his brothers-in-arms do: He took his wife's last name instead of her taking his.
Not all men who take their wives' names necessarily act from a purely feminist motivation. The article notes that Michael Buday, who is suing California to make it just as easy for a man to change his name upon marriage as for a woman, plans to adopt his wife's surname "to show his affinity for his father-in-law." But Mike Salinger did it "because I'm a big ole granola liberal and I wanted to tweak the tradition while showing my wife I love her." Say it with me together now: AWWWWW :) I was heartened that the comments thread below the article contained a number of entries by men who had made the same choice.
Right now, it is all but taken for granted that a married woman will become Mrs. Husband. A lot of even feminist minded women will go with the husband's name because it sounds better or because they want to be identifiable as a family unit or because they want to have the same last name as their children (the patriarchal naming tradition for children being far too strong for most people to fight). These are all great reasons except for the fact that it is a one-way street. Men generally don't change their last names because they like the way their wife's name sounds or for any other reason. As things stand now, name changing is always a concession the wife makes to patriarchal tradition. I fantasize about some day in the future, when name changing is a gender neutral act freeing couples to make that decision based on whose name they like better (or other factors) without seeming to support women's second class status even symbolically.
Naturally, the Ladies Against Feminism are ready to view anything and everything as more important than women's equality. In this case, the Ladies opine that tweaking patriarchal naming traditions will harm our descendents' ability to trace their geneology. (Of course, don't we already record name changes with our marriage certificates and people's maiden names on birth certificates? So how hard will it really be?) Also, does it never disturb anyone that it is virtually impossible to track down long lost living female friends because they are rendered invisible on Google by virtue of changing their names?