Marriage/Name Change

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Wed Apr 3 19:00:46 EST 1996


In article <4ju8rg$mdi at news.cuny.edu>,  <jcoleman at msvax.mssm.edu> wrote:
>In article <31622819.782F at post.its.mcw.edu>, J Potter <jras at post.its.mcw.edu> writes:
>>I know this topic has been discussed before but I had an experience today 
>>that kind of surprised me.  I married this year and took my husband's 
>>name (I have no publications that matter in my maiden name).  This was to 
>>the disappointment (real or feigned, I don't know) of my advisor.  So I 

(snip)

>>was fine.  I felt kind of defensive with all of the questions ...I don't 
>>know if this so-called "disappointment" would be better termed "surprise" 
>>on their behalf because I am obviously one of those "feminist" types 
>>(as I told my advisor, it means to me to have the freedom to CHOOSE even 
>>if I choose the traditional route) but I am concerned about: 1) why 
>>anyone cares and cares to mention it and 2) will the questions end once I 
>>graduate and go on to a place where people will only know me as a Potter?
>>
>>Any advice or recounting of your experiences would be appreciated.

>I personally don't think you should have to explain yourself to anyone...it's a
>personal issue....I changed my name just before coming to graduate

I agree very much with Jennifer, in principle.  I don't think that you should
have to explain yourself to anyone, and I am a firm believer that people
should be called what they want to be called.

That being said, I'll offer to air my "dirty laundry" because I might be
representative of this attitude that you see.  I'm going to air my opinions
in part because I don't completely respect my own opinions; I know I'm
uncomfortable, and I want not to be.

I am uncomfortable when women choose to change their name on marriage
because when I was engaged (a decision I later reversed; I've never been
married) it was a real issue with my fiance.  He even went to the point
of saying to me, "any wife of mine is going to be called Mrs. R-----."
It was a real issue of independence and control, and his attitude made me
feel small and powerless.  

It was hard to "fight" this attitude because it seemed to me that he had
the weight of his family, my family,
  society, and "tradition" on "his" side.  I
didn't yet know very many people my age who were engaged or married (I
was 19 when this exchange took place), and I knew literally NO ONE who
was female, who had married, and who had kept her own name.  I felt
pressured, alone, and isolated.  I got no support from my family about
wanting to keep my name, either.  

So, I am always happy when I see women who keep their own names, because
I remember the frightened unhappy 19-year-old who was me, and I think of
what a difference it could have made to my sense of self-worth had I
known someone else who had already gone through the process, and worked
out a way to keep her name.  Because of the experience I went through, I
see keeping one's own name as an act of courage (although as my experience
has broadened, I now see that changing one's name can also be viewed as
an act of courage, something that never occurred to me when I was 19; an
example of something I have learned by exchanging ideas and thoughts on
this topic with others).  I guess I have to admit that I personally have
been "disappointed" when I have seen women my age change their names 
because it seems to reinforce the idea that "that's what's done," and that
keeping one's own name will remain a "weird idea" and something that one
has to "fight for" for the forseeable future.  
In my case, it is real "disappointment," although there is some "surprise,"
too, because I don't resonate with very many of the reasons that women
give for wanting to change their names.  The one that Jennifer Coleman
gave in her posting was one that I had never heard before, though, and
it reinforced my perception that there are potentially as many reasons
as there are women.

I'm not really "proud" of this, but when I see women my age changing their
names, I have a visceral reaction of feeling threatened all over again
by the attitudes represented by my former fiance.  Perhaps that sort of
thing (personal issues that were really difficult for them, i.e. a family
fight of some sort, or a nasty interaction with the fiance)
is what is motivating some of these people who ask you the inappropriate
questions.

As you pointed out, feminism is about women being able to make their own 
choices.  

Karen




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