Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Lucy Stoners

I've been grappling with the idea of taking Mr. Octopus' last name ever since we got married this past summer. On the one hand, I think Mr. Octopus' name would sound pretty good with my first name. On the other hand, forsaking my last name means that there won't be anything definitively Vietnamese left about my name (unless I make it into my middle name). Then, there's the whole issue of leaving my family behind to become part of his (figuratively and literally). (Note to self: It is not a Vietnamese tradition for a wife to take her husband's name.)

Frankly, I think this last one is the hardest to resolve. It's about leaving my identity behind because, let's face it, your name is a big part of who you are. Men don't have to deal with it. Moreover, they aren't expected to deal with it. Imagine the confusion when you ask a guy if he plans to take his wife's name (what a stupid question!). Their name is their name, and that's who they are and who they'll stay. It's expected that his children will take his name, too. Women, on the other hand, get their father's name at birth and take their husband's name upon marriage. Our names flow from the two most important men in our lives, period. (Note: I prefer not to use the antiquated term "maiden name," which implies that women before marriage are/should be virgins.)

Then there was Lucy Stone (1818-1893) who took issue with this tradition. She was a leading suffragette and was married to an abolitionist named Henry Brown Blackwell. In addition to her views on the women's vote, she caused controversy by refusing to be known by her married name. She viewed keeping her name as an assertion of her own rights, her own (pre-marriage) identity. She had many followers, who became known as "Lucy Stoners." She continues to inspire women today, and there is even a Lucy Stone League that is dedicated to (among other things): "equal rights for women and men to retain, modify and create their names, because a person's name is fundamental to her/his existence" and "equal actual frequency of name retention, modification and creation between men and women at marriage and throughout life."

Most of my married girlfriends haven't changed their names. I suspect it might be because they (1) don't like their husband's name, (2) can't be bothered to endure the logistical pain necessary to legally change their name, (3) don't have kids yet so they don't have to decide and/or (4) simply aren't willing to give up their names and their identity. I'd be interested in hearing what you all think about this. Don't be shy!

6 comments:

hh said...

not married, but would take the huz's last name if it sounded nice next to my name since my last name is pretty common, otherwise, i'd leave it as is...cos i like the alliteration.

smudge said...

i hear ya' sister! i struggle with this as well...born with an unbearably long last name and my hubby's got a nice pronouncable last name. but when i got married, i just couldn't fathom going through all the trouble of changing my last name, and hence losing part of my own identity and heritage. the future kids issue will throw a wrench in my plans to be sure...but until then i'm sticking with what i have!

Anonymous said...

Whatever you do, don't keep both names with a hyphenation. Hyphenated names are so ridiculous; one just postpones the question, leaving their children to struggle with it. Like the national debt.

Keeping one's own name is fine; it's modern, sensible, and convenient. Like a pre-nup. Actually, I think keeping your own name is just like a mini-prenuptual agreement. It's sort of a threat (it'll be that much easier to leave you, mister).

But if you want to win a guy's heart and score points with his family, you'll take his name. Guys really get off on that kind of thing. Like oral sex; sometimes you just have to give a little more than you get back. And a little oral sex goes a long way.

cshinpark@hotmail.com said...

having tied the knot myself this summer...i've had to think a bit about this name changing stuff. interestingly-ironically??---my husband feels strongly about me just keeping my name (for the those good reasons, etc, i hope). i actually like his last name--o'connor and mine too---park, but the thought of hyphenation is highly unappealing to me--never liked it. taking his name would make me carol o'connor (aka, archie bunker minus an extra r and l) and don't really want that either. above all, i am hopelessly lazy and don't wanna go through the paperwork and whatnot. hence, i'm keeping it for good. also, i'll have to check my sources but i think korean women might not take their husband's names either (mostly happening in korea, i think). as far as the kid thing goes...down the line, if people at my kids school or whatever refer to me as Mrs. O'Connor...I'm okay with that. even now, we get mail from family, friends, and random referring to us as Mr and Mrs...i don't get my knickers in a twist about it--no biggie, I'm still me. Sorry about being so long-winded here!

Octopus Grigori said...

I'm happy either way -- just as long as I get to name one of the kids "Smush".

Anonymous said...

I've been married for a year and a half and continue to rock the big CHOI. Is it because I love my name? Not really. I loathe my first name, but I stick with it because it's mine, so I guess that's the logic to keeping my last name too. I'm down with most of your comments. I certainly am too lazy to deal with the legal drama of changing my name. And since I married the Whitest Guy Ever, I'm doing my best to keep it real on the ethnic front. But when it comes down to it, it's my name, I'm used to it, it's part of who I am, and my being married doesn't change that. It's really a very personal choice and I'd respect any decision a woman makes, as long as it's really her decision at the end of the day.
Anyway, it was never an issue with me and my husband because he always knew that I had no intention of changing my name. I have no problem with people calling me Mrs. Whatever. I think you can still be your name and be Mrs. Octopus too.
As an aside, if I had married a Korean guy named Choi, THEN I would have changed my name. Or a guy named Turner so I could be Lana Turner. Cool.

-LC