As I get older and older I try harder not to fall into the trap of “because” and “that’s the way it’s always been done”. I didn’t like that when I was younger and don’t want that for myself at an advanced age. I know I will never be modern or hip but I at least can accept some of the social norms that are appropriate in society and doesn’t go against God and the law. One of the areas that I have come around on is dealing with women and their name change. You see, when a woman gets married to a man she drops her name and takes his because “that’s the way it’s always been done” in society. Well folks, THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
In 1972, women accounted for only about 38 percent of the labor force. Today, they make up closer to 47 percent. During the 1969-70 school year, only 92,481 master’s degrees were awarded to women, compared to 143,083 awarded to men. Those numbers have risen monumentally since, with the 2009-10 year seeing 417,828 master’s degrees awarded to women compared to 275,197 awarded to men. In 1970, only about 11 percent of Ph.Ds that year were awarded to women, compared to 2010, when the figure was closer to 50 percent.
Clearly, women are closing gaps in many fields. They are seen, and are seeing themselves, as equal to men in all fields. As the gaps close, women are getting more and more confident to try things that were seen previously as reserved only to men, and, even in some cases, doing better than men.
So, why is it still considered the norm for a woman to change her last name when she gets married to a man? The tradition came about with the archaic idea that women become the property of their husbands after marriage. That’s where the term “maiden name” comes from. A maiden, meaning a virgin, retained her birth name until her virginity was essentially sold to her husband, when she then became his “property” and thus adopted his last name.
Marriages were a way of securing yourself a comfortable future. The woman stayed home and bore children and were responsible for them. The man went out and worked to earn an income to support his family. These roles were a given and never really opposed. Marriage was just a glorified business transaction. Dowries, in which the woman’s family pay the man’s family to accept their daughter and support her, were part of this transaction in many cultures.
Dowries not the case anymore in America, though. Women are taught to be their own person from a young age. In many developed countries, women are encouraged to study higher education, develop their own talents and bloom into independent women. As of 2012, nearly 50% of married couples had dual incomes.
And, yet, it’s still the default to change your name after marriage if you are a woman.
A name is an identity. As one grows and matures, their name collects a personality and uniquely identifies them a person. What is it about a union between a man and a woman that makes women “property” in this day and age?
Let’s abandon this tradition. No one is anyone’s possession, and no one should be forced to change something so close to them. Don’t make women feel guilty for wanting to keep the name they were born with. They are still a whole person without their husband.
It should be a matter of choice for the woman and it not the business of others.