“For a long time I have felt that a major inequalities is how woman give up their family name to take on their husband’s after marriage. I’ve been married for nearly forty years and neither of us questioned the fact that Miss Clyrene Harris would become Mrs Clyrene Morley when we married. I don’t believe my wife had any strong feelings about it, it was just the norm. As I’ve got older I’ve really begun to question this practice.
Why should a woman give up her name and take on that of their partner?
When the Danish Badminton player Peter Gade married Camilla Hoeg, he became Peter Hoeg Gade.
If you are going to have a formal marriage ceremony, why not have a joining of the two family names to mirror the joining of the two people?”
Sunniva Heggertveit-Aoudia, Consultant, Trainer, Mentor and Coach appreciated Stephen’s comment and question and added that “There are different practices across the world, not all cultures perform the name changing after marriage. In my home country, Norway, it is very common to keep both names: maiden name and husband’s name.
I now live in France and was horrified when I got the first tax papers; I no longer had a name! I had become Mrs Husband’s Last Name, Husband’s First Name! I think it says something about women’s status in society: you don’t even have the right to your own name. Later on my bank changed my name without asking me, to my first name and husband’s last name. I was very angry! But, talking with other women, they had not thought much about this practise; “it is just the way things are”. However, it seems some women around me now start noticing these inequality for women due to the fact that I started commenting on them”.
Stephen then went on to acknowledge that from time to time his wife still receives correspondence addressed to Mrs Stephen Morley, which in his opinion is a step too far.
Is this discussion yet another example of the general status of women in our society. I suspect there are not so many men that would give up their claim to a family name and the connections that go with it, so why should society (and many men) expect a woman to so do.
I am conscious of how this name changing practice impacts on children too. In most societies, it is the norm to give them the father’s last name, or in more aware families double barrel it with the mother’s name. In my case our two children have the mother’s family name as their surname. I was recently asked, after introducing my son to a business contact, whether his mother and I were divorced. Never married was the answer and still very much together. She did not change her name and the children have hers.
The person who asked the question wondered how that made me feel. I asked him how his wife felt not passing her family name on to their children. He had never given it a moment’s thought, which is no surprise really. When you think about it, which family names appear on your family tree?
This is another interesting gender inequality that seems to set in societal stone. I think it’s time to get the hammer out and start smashing it!