The Last Name Debate
By Kristen Flowers
Here is a fun experiment for you to try on your husband. Ask him if they would have considered taking your last name instead of theirs when you got married. Based on what I have experienced, I will bet that most men will immediately say no and provide you with a very creative answer.
I unwillingly participated in this experience recently with my fiancé Nick. We were driving in the car, talking about our upcoming wedding when he asked me if I was planning on taking his last name, I said that I had been planning on it but would definitely miss mine. The Flowers last name had always served me well and it was one that people remembered and could always spell. Nick agreed that I did have a great last name and said that he never liked his.
Why don’t you take my last name when we get married? I proposed casually.
The silence that followed told me that I had struck a nerve.
No. He finally said but he didn’t stop there. He told me that if I “forced” him, that it might be a deal breaker on our entire relationship.
Stunned I sat quietly mulling this around in my head. Nick is an extremely progressive and open-minded man but on this subject it seemed that he was completely inflexible. My curiosity was peaked so I asked him to explain why it was so important to him and I got the following explanations.
My last name is a legacy passed down to our children. I told him he would absolutely be correct if his surname would be the only thing that would win him the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones but in today’s society, there was no noble legacy to pass down.
It will end his line since he is the only male left. Yes, I agreed but is that really so bad? Nick’s father was adopted so he never really knew his Grandfather. When Nick was a young boy his parents divorced and his father has been out of the picture for the last ten years. When I pointed this out he agreed it wasn’t the best line to continue but he still stayed firm on his decision.
I should be proud to take his name. Shouldn’t you feel pride to take mine? I asked. Why was my last name so inconsequential and his was more important? It didn’t seem right, but again he couldn’t seem to explain it.
The debate raged on in our house so we decided to bring it to our listeners on our radio program. The responses we got were telling. Not only did we get men calling with the same excuses Nick had already given me, but we had women calling saying that I was being a “feminist”. This caught me off guard. Of course, I’m a feminist! I believe in the equal rights of women to men. I believe in equal pay, an equal voice, and in this case, an equal consideration in our future. In response to that some of the listeners said that I was challenging the social norm and that I could hyphenate if I really wanted to.
Unfortunately, they were missing the point. Why is my name not equal to my future husband’s?
I still felt I needed more answers and a wider focus group circle so I turned to social media. On our radio station’s Facebook page I asked the question again, “Why does a woman always have to take the man’s name in marriage?” I got the same usual responses, but two in particular caught my eye. One woman simply said “because.” Another said that she would think “her husband would be less of a man” if he agreed to take her name. Again, I was shocked.
The more I thought about this topic the more it bugged me. Why shouldn’t a woman’s name be given just as much weight as a man? Why does the woman have to leave her legacy and family name behind in order to take her husbands but it doesn’t work the other way around? Most people can’t answer the question, but I believe it should be given thought.
Before this discussion was brought up I had always planned to take Nick’s last name. I never thought twice about it but now I am left with a more complicated feeling. What does that say about me as a person if I do take his name?
I don’t have the answers but I am fascinated by the discussion. I certainly respect those women out there who choose to take their husband’s last name and I would never want to put anyone down for it. I’m simply looking for a good reason and I don’t feel “because” quite solves this debate.