Wexistential Crises, Wayward Thoughts, Welcome Distractions and Willful Pursuits

The Name-Changing Game

with 10 comments

All the brides among my Facebook contacts promptly changed their last names after their weddings, and it made me wonder how many women opt to keep their last names and how people generally feel about the issue.

My quick Google search didn’t turn up any surveys in the Philippines, but in the United States I found that women increasingly pick husbands’ surnames over their own and that 70% of Americans say married women should change their names, 50% say they should be required to.

This website asked “Should married women keep their last name or switch to their husband’s?” and 61% of respondents said “switch” while 39% said “keep.”

Some of the answers on the “switch” side were really creepy, e.g. “Once they get married, they should give up their own identity and become part of him.” (OMG WTF.)

I kind of understand why women opt to change change their names. For many, taking your husband’s name is a symbol of love/commitment/unity etc. For others, it’s not a big deal one way or the other and they see no reason to fight social convention. Some may prefer to keep their names but give in to social pressure. And apparently, a lot of women are under the mistaken impression that they’re legally required to adopt their husband’s surname.

I personally feel very strongly about keeping my name. When I was younger I used to doodle Aissa [insert guy’s name here] on the back of my notebooks, but the way I think about my identity and relationships/marriage has changed a lot since then.

It’s going to be a pain having to explain to people why I didn’t take my husband’s last name, but I realize I don’t have to be prissy about it and constantly correct people that I didn’t take my husband’s name because my name is tied to my identity and I’m not any less me just because I got married and it’s an archaic custom, I’m his partner not his property yadda yadda yadda.

I’ve decided to use my “maiden name” legally and my married name occasionally, e.g. when I attend PTA meetings at my kid’s school or whatever, and just try to squelch the urge to pontificate when I’m referred to as Mrs. Hislastname.

I liked what Nancy Gibbs had to say on the matter:

All these identities are me: Ms. when I’m out slaying dragons, Mrs. when I’m in the company of those I love most, Miss when I want to stay home under the covers and daydream. Feminists a generation ago fought for the title and dreamed of Freedom and Choice and Opportunity; maybe the surest sign that they’ve won is not which title we pick, but that we can have them all at once.


Written by Aissa

April 30, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Posted in feminism, personal

10 Responses

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  1. Aiss,

    I’m reading “Committed” now (Elizabeth Gilbert’s non-fic sequel to “Eat, Pray, Love”) and she analyzes the history of marriage. It was widely accepted that women give up their identities once they get married, and the research she finds is pretty freaky. But a very good read.


    May 1, 2010 at 12:33 am

    • It’s freaky that those beliefs still exist today, even in seemingly progressive societies. It’s so medieval.

      That book does sound like an interesting read. May I borrow when you’re done? (There was another book I wanted to borrow from you, the one that has something to do with people communicating via neural impulses.)


      May 2, 2010 at 10:42 am

  2. For many, taking your husband’s name is a symbol of love/commitment/unity etc.

    Odd, isn’t it, that these women’s husbands don’t view taking her name as a symbol of love/commitment/unity.

    I’ve heard the line “We just want to have the same last name” so many times I want to barf. You can have the same last name if he takes your last name.

    A.Y. Siu

    May 1, 2010 at 12:57 am

    • In Japan, sometimes when the woman is the last in her line her husband takes her last name and its considered a great honor. (You can’t do that in the Philippines though.)

      In some countries there’s an interesting alternative: Couples can come up with an entirely new last name, a totally random one or one that’s a hybrid of both their last names (e.g. if Jane Smith married John Ford they could opt to both change their names to “Smithford”) as a symbol of their union and new life together. (But you can’t do that in the Philippines either.)


      May 3, 2010 at 1:30 am

  3. I’m keeping my name. I’m not sure why. It’s definitely an emotional thing on my part. I suppose signing the same name I’ve signed when I opened my Happy Savers’ Club account and when I filled up my NCEE form reminds me of everything my dad taught me.

    I do get the occasional “Bakit (my family name) ka pa rin?” I do want to, at some point, come up with a better answer than “Wala lang…”


    May 1, 2010 at 11:55 pm

  4. i actually haven’t legally changed my name yet, but i’ve started using my husband’s last name. (we just got married last week!) i suppose i never really identified with my last name (always signed with my last name as a squiggle, always preferred being known by my first name only), so taking his last name is just symbolic of ending one chapter of my life and then beginning another one.

    funnily enough, i added the “o” to my family nickname (“mia,” turning it to “miao”) long before i even met raf. ❤


    May 2, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    • You know, I was just thinking that — that you’re now MiaO. 😀

      I like my last name. There aren’t very many of us who have it and we’re all related and there’s an interesting story attached to the name. It’s part of who I am and I want to keep it.

      Different women have different reasons for wanting to keep/switch their last names. I think what bothers me about the whole thing is some don’t really think about it, they just switch by default. It’s more meaningful if they’ve made a conscious, informed choice one way or the other.


      May 3, 2010 at 1:25 am

      • i like your last name, too! when i first met you online i remember you told me that people mistook it for “araneta” a lot and your friends called you “bianca” as a joke because of that. it’s one of the first things i think of whenever your name comes up. 😀

        a conscious and informed choice is always better, whatever the issue is. raf was actually mildly surprised when i went straight to using his last name instead of hyphenating (w/c a lot of newlyweds do; even my sister did it for quite a while). but in the end it was what i wanted, and not what he wanted. now i AM actually MiaO! three cheers!


        May 4, 2010 at 8:31 am

  5. I can see clearly now. I have been cuckolded! I will find this Mr. Hislastname, extract his testicles, have an anatomist prepare them in a solution, and cackle gleefully.


    May 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm

  6. […] a comment » A follow up to my previous post on the subject, for an article my friend Rej is writing for […]

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