Last names should be about preference, not gender politics


Gendered traditions shouldn’t influence how married partners decide on their last names.

Despite feminist strides made in other areas, a 2018 Atlantic article discussed the phenomenon of heterosexual women still being largely expected to give up their own last names for their husband’s upon marriage. 

Expecting this practice from women rather than allowing them to make their own decisions—judgement-free—is an antiquated mentality.

Furthermore, insisting that tradition trumps personal preference perpetuates outdated gender roles. The practice of taking on a husband’s name has historically served to objectify women.

For these reasons and so many others, it’s more than reasonable for women to reject traditional romantic practices like these if they find them uncomfortable. 

For some women, taking on a husband’s last name feels too much like sacrificing a part of their identity to their partner. Others have established a career under their birth name. Some just prefer their name the way it is.

No matter the reasoning, women are entitled to keep their own last names if they so choose. 

Similarly, if a woman wants to take her husband's name, that’s well within her rights, and doesn’t mean she’s compromising her identity or that she isn’t a feminist. Women shouldn’t feel pressured to conform either way. They should do what feels right for them.

In the same vein, if a husband chooses to take his wife’s last name, he isn’t losing his masculinity. Instead, it’s an individual choice ideally based on thoughtful consideration by both partners in the relationship. 

Having a husband change his name is a great alternative that subverts traditional gender roles, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond a couple deciding they want to share the same last name.

Normalizing non-traditional practices when it comes to settling on last names after marriage also serves to normalize options pursued by non-heterosexual partners, who don’t always conform to male-female partnerships. Non-binary people and same-sex couples don’t fit the heteronormative expectation that a wife should take her husband’s last name.

Hyphenated last names, combined last names, or even brand-new last names are all potential options for couples where neither party wants to take on the other’s name. A myriad of practical solutions exist—and none of them should require upholding outdated heteronormative tradition.

Choosing to change—or not to change—your last name shouldn’t be perceived as a social statement. There are plenty of options out there, and one is no better than another.

Ultimately, your name is your name, and you’re entitled to do what you want with it. 

—Journal Editorial Board


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