I get sad when I see women changing their names to their husbands’ names. The rationalization usually goes something like “When we have kids, I want us all to have the same name” or “My last name is just awful, and I’ve been waiting to get rid of the thing.” Of course, just having the “same name” doesn’t mean it has to be the husband‘s surname. It could just as easily be the wife’s if the husband was willing to change his name. Likewise, I have yet to find a man who changed his last name to his wife’s because his last name sounded terrible.
Why can’t people just be honest? We live in a patriarchal society, and most men, even most “sensitive” or “good” men are sexist and would consider it emasculating to change their names for their wives’ names. I don’t think most women who change their names can honestly say, “Oh, and I know he’d do the same for me.” He wouldn’t. She has a right to change her name, of course, but if she imagines she’s making that choice in a vacuum and that her husband would easily do the same for her, she’s delusional.
I was not the first to have planned this, but I was the first man I know who wanted to change his name to his wife’s name. I announced it nonchalantly to my parents because I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. After all, they were supposed liberals/progressives, and they’d raised me to live what I believe. My mom in particular claimed to be a feminist. Little did I know that my parents really had a “not in my backyard” attitude toward this issue. My mother even said that it would be okay if the practice were more common. The practice doesn’t become more common unless someone actually does it! Clearly she intended to raise a follower instead of a pioneer.
They pulled every card in the book: indirectly enlisting relatives to guilt me into not doing it, claiming it was disrespectful to my paternal grandfather who had passed away recently, audibly worrying that they’d be the laughingstock among their friends, explaining that in Chinese culture a man changing his name to his wife’s means that he’s poor and being sold away from his family.
I wouldn’t budge, and it was causing a lot of tension. Eventually, I relented at the pleading of my wife (then fiancée), since she did not want our wedding to be an event tinged with a lot of ill will.
In the end, I’m glad we had a pleasant wedding, but I do often regret not having changed my name. It’s depressing to announce to your students that you’re changing your name and then tell them later that you decided not to because of familial pressures—not very inspiring. I may still change my name later, especially if we ever change our minds and decide to have kids. After all, I want us all to have the same name…