Women change their names when they get married precisely because identities DO matter. And for most women, husband > daddy.

8 Mar


Jill Filpovic, writing at the Guardian, wants to know why the sweeping majority of women still take their husband’s name upon marriage.



“Identities matter, and the words we put on things are part of how we make them real.”


Exactly, Jill. That is exactly correct. Identities DO matter and the words we put on things ARE part of how we make them real. Do you know what marriage does? It creates a new family. And in our culture, we choose our family names according to patrilineage.


pat·ri·lin·e·age (ptr-ln-j)


Line of descent as traced through men on the paternal side of a family.




Let’s stop for a moment and consider WHY we have established the custom of patrilineage. I think Satoshi Kanazawa has it right:




Patrilineal inheritance of family names, where children inherit their last names from the father, not from the mother, evolved as a social institution as one of the mechanisms to alleviate paternity uncertainty. Like all mammalian males, human fathers can never be completely certain of their paternity, but, unlike most mammalian males, they are asked to invest very heavily in their offspring.




Satoshi Kanazawa! You mean that EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGIST?!




Yep. I mean him. What is it about evolutionary psychology that gets feminist knickers in a knot? Feminists HATE evopsych with a passion that is almost unparalleled.






Evolutionary psychology is an offshoot of evolutionary biology, which is uncontested by any rational person, because sexual dimorphism is just so fucking obvious. You can scream EQUALITY to the high heavens and it will not change the fact that men, on average, are bigger than women.




One set of evolutionary biologists got around to thinking, hmmm, if our physical characteristics evolved so differently, is it possible that we also have psychologies that evolved differently to reflect what it is we DO with our bodies?


And evolutionary psychology was born.


The earliest feminists and suffragettes of the First Wave had absolutely no problem acknowledging that women had a special role to play in society: as the mothers of all citizens, they had a vested interest in what happened to those citizens.




“A woman’s place is in the home; and out of it whenever she is called to guard those she loves and to improve conditions for them.”

Nellie McClung


The Second Wave feminists, however, rejected maternal values, since they strongly implied that women were not constitutionally or psychologically equipped to center their lives around competition and ingenuity and survival. Women’s psychology evolved to prepare them to live inside a perimeter, guarded by men, with the primary goal of ensuring the survival of their offspring.


Well that sucks. “Fuck that noise” was the rallying cry of feminists everywhere! And off they went, out into the wild blue yonder, to compete head to head with men in a battle of wits, guts and glory!




Aaaaaaaaand 70 years later, most women are working as support staff and paid caregivers, safe inside their little perimeters while men skulk out the edges of human knowledge and possibility.




And what happened to the offspring? Where the babies at? Oh, yeah. We don’t have any. Not enough to replace ourselves, at any rate.




What an ingenious plan! Let’s not have any children! And the ones we do have, we’ll pay some other woman to raise! Hello, ladies with brown skin. Get over here and raise my one kid, would you? Don’t ask for too much money, though. I have gel manicures and throw cushions to buy with this money I earned as a secretary for some man doing the real work.


A, B, C, D …. Now where does G go again?


Know why 90% of women change their name when they get married, Jill? Because there is something deeply, profoundly psychologically satisfying TO WOMEN about feeling that you are under a man’s protection. You leave your father’s name behind and place yourself under your husband’s shield, and you share a name and identity with the children you have together.




When Jill writes about identity, she wants women to cast off their identity as a WIFE and MOTHER. For women, HER identity should only include HERSELF. No one else could possibly matter.


That feels pretty shitty for most women, and most of them reject that definition of self. Then they sally forth into a wider culture that tells them at every possible turn that, honestly, husbands and children DO NOT MATTER.


The whispers start.






Women abandon the few children they have to the care of women poorer than themselves, divorce is easy, cash flows like water from their ex-husbands and taxpayers and the search for something more, something better, something else continues, in defiance of what actually makes women happy.




Today is International Women’s Day. How about we celebrate it by cheering for all the ladies who are married to the fathers of their children? Those are the women who are helping to create a world filled with happy, productive, stable and caring people.




Oh, gosh, but that would make men an essential part of International Women’s Day wouldn’t it? Well we can’t have that. We need to celebrate the day by EXCLUDING MEN, because Patriarchy! Privilege! Power! Oppression!




All across the globe, women will march and cheer and gather to celebrate women. 90% of the married ones will have their husband’s name. Too bad 90% of them won’t KEEP their husband’s names. They’ll take the name of Husband 2.0. And 3.0. And 4.0.


As for me, I’ll be celebrating by going about my day, safe in my perimeter, with the father of my children. And I’ll sign all the school permission slips with my husband’s name, which is also my name. After all, it’s part of my identity. It’s part of what makes me real.


Lots of love,









33 Responses to “Women change their names when they get married precisely because identities DO matter. And for most women, husband > daddy.”

  1. jg March 8, 2013 at 13:14 #

    Hey JB:
    You should check this out in the Atlantic.


    H/T: Freenortherner


  2. hollychism March 8, 2013 at 13:23 #

    I dropped my father’s name like a hot potato as soon as I got married. I did not want to keep the name of my abuser. My husband is my best friend, partner, and the captain of our ship.


  3. Liz March 8, 2013 at 13:46 #

    I took my husband’s name, but it was a little strange going from Abercrombie to Gonzales.


  4. Marlo Rocci March 8, 2013 at 14:01 #

    Patrilineage naming only works when women do not need to have an identity for work that is constant. As women entered the professional workplace, maintaning a constant name that becomes a part of their personal “brand name” is preferable.

    Plus, as a man, I don’t want any woman taking my name because it’s a form of slavery…for me. It’s a way of saying “I have your name now, so you have to take care of me for the rest of your life”. That ended when women convinced me that they were equally able to take care of themselves in this economy (aided in some part by technology).


  5. Erudite Knight March 8, 2013 at 14:31 #

    Do I hate the double-hyphen named women, instant mark of a feminist.


  6. Erudite Knight March 8, 2013 at 14:32 #

    ^ Wow, feminist indoctrination in action. I am sure your wife will reward you with lots of sex…


  7. sqt March 8, 2013 at 14:41 #

    A choice between my father’s name or my husband’s was no contest to me. I felt like the man I chose to make a life with defined me far more accurately than the name I was given when my mom chose to remarry when I was seven. By that time I had had her first husband’s name and her dad’s name already, so I was used to seeing it changed.


  8. Ashley March 8, 2013 at 14:55 #

    Meh. Women can change it or not, if they want.


  9. happycrow March 8, 2013 at 15:12 #

    Sorry, EK, but the first part of what Marlo’s saying is absolutely accurage. My wife has has scholarly publications and work, and her personal “brand name” is crucial to her ability to do that work and research (which happens to be a shared passion). And plenty of banging at Chez Happycrow (as a result of which, the Happychick has…. MY last name). Complicating that, my last name doesn’t *exist* in her country of origin, meaning that if she adopted it there would be all manner of inane b.s. to deal with that simply isn’t worth it.

    Problem here is where people are drawing the lines for other people. Marlo’s drinking some serious feminist kool-aid there. That doesn’t work for me. But neither does categorically saying ~”anybody who doesn’t take their husband’s name hates men and is logging in to Jezebel for their daily quotient of righteous stupidity.”


  10. judgybitch March 8, 2013 at 15:35 #

    Outside of academia, what other professions require branding? Just curious.

    I happen to know a number of academic researchers who changed their names upon marriage, and simply include their maiden names in brackets on their resume.

    Doesn’t seem to be a really big deal.


  11. Liz March 8, 2013 at 15:39 #

    Whose name do the kids get?


  12. Liz March 8, 2013 at 15:45 #

    Eventually I grew accustomed to random calls from collection agencies and criminal investigation services….


  13. happycrow March 8, 2013 at 16:13 #

    In academia, it’s important — footnotes in printed material that’s long out of the chute can’t be updated.
    I can potentially see certain types of journalists having the same circumstances. MOST other professions where “name” is an issue, there’s enough celebrity for “whee, I got married” to resolve the issue. Obscure research fields? Nuh-uh.

    You’re right; for most work this would be a total non-issue, but as a categorical it does fall a little short of absolute.


  14. zykos March 8, 2013 at 16:40 #

    I can think of a few careers where the branding can be a helpful tool. Sales (in particular, real estate), performing arts (if you don’t have a band name or pseudonym) but also other artistic discipline. Basically, anything where your success depends on your fame. At that point though, if the woman’s central preoccupation is a high profile, famous career, why bother with marriage? What’s the point? She has demonstrated that she doesn’t need a man to take care of her, so surely apart from tax breaks, there isn’t much she can gain. From the man’s perspective though, since she has demonstrated that she doesn’t need him, and her career is more important than her family, the potential is just for net loss.

    So yeah, a woman who doesn’t want to change her name may not be a raging feminist. But I see no benefit, and only disadvantages for a man to marry such a person.


  15. Wilson March 8, 2013 at 17:06 #

    A woman who already has a “scholarly reputation” is too old to marry.


  16. Doc March 8, 2013 at 17:22 #

    I remember the first time I read about evolutionary biology – I thought to myself – “This makes sense. All of the women are going to be screaming it’s not true since they can’t face the truth.” So I just smile when I see them frothing at the mouth. It’s like all of the other things that are known about “women” – they say it’s not true, but it gets them into my bed, and on their backs.

    So they can deny it all they want – it’s good from my perspective since I get what I want, and probably good from theirs since it gets them what they want – at least while they are young and attractive – after that, rinse and repeat with a different batch and let the older ones wonder what happened. 🙂


  17. Kai March 8, 2013 at 17:32 #

    ”anybody who doesn’t take their husband’s name hates men and is logging in to Jezebel for their daily quotient of righteous stupidity.”
    Yeah. I think intent is the issue. A woman who refuses to take her husband’s name because she doesn’t need a man and her identity is her own, and she won’t change just because she marries and blah blah blah, probably as described above.
    A woman who prefers to keep the name for its practical applications – somewhat different.
    That said, I have heard of women who do legally change their name, and use their husband’s name within the personal and social spheres, and simply continue to use their maiden name professionally.


  18. Kai March 8, 2013 at 17:34 #

    I just find it odd that feminists are so attached to their (often absent) fathers / maternal grandfathers.
    It’s not like not changing your name makes you independent of men. If women changed their name from their father’s to something of their choice when they moved out of the house, THEN it would be about their own identity, and they could be choosing to either assume their husband’s or keep their own at marriage. But as long as it’s about the name of the father vs. the husband, it is if anything anti-independent to prefer the name you were born to over the one you chose yourself.


  19. judgybitch March 8, 2013 at 17:37 #

    That’s a spectacularly good point. You have no choice in the name bestowed upon you at birth, but you do get to choose your husband. His name is the one that represents choice.


  20. Mark March 8, 2013 at 18:26 #

    One must remember that most women with PhDs have already published (some doctoral programs encourage as many as 4 or 5 papers before completion) and so are often already establishing a ‘name for themselves’ by the time they marry. Same could be said for some women establish successful careers early on before they decide to marry. It isn’t then a question of one’s father’s name or one’s husband’s name. it’s an issue of maintaining the recognition one has earned under one’s maiden name. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a necessary indicator that a woman is excessively career-oriented (indeed, academic jobs are some of the most family-permissive jobs in the world).

    I know of a few female professors in various fields who married and kept their maiden name (at least professionally); some of them teach at the same university as their husbands; most have children too. It makes, I think, a certain measure of sense for anyone to keep the name under which they began their academic career (or political career, in some cases). Or if you’re a Rockefeller or a DuPont; it always pays to have one of those names, married or not, no matter what you do for a living.

    Funnily enough, universities, like the CIA, are among the only institutions that encourage intra-institution marriages, or selectively hire married couples. Often times a prospective professor will even insist that a university give a job to his/her (usually his) spouse as a condition to working their. It is ironic that the same universities often so enthusiastic about the destruction of the family will go out of their way to preserve the integrity of faculty members’ families (which, incidentally, I think is a good policy).


  21. Mark March 8, 2013 at 18:30 #

    Many a 26 or 27 year old completing a Phd program has already published 4-5 papers, and a dissertation and thus is already well on the way to establishing a reputation, so your claim isn’t necessarily true. Many, of course, already marry other PhD students before graduating, I’ve noticed. But a woman academic marrying at, say, 30, may already have a respectable CV.

    Indeed, for female mathematicians (admittedly a minority in the field), this is especially the case. It’s very common for mathematicians to do their most ground-breaking work before 40.


  22. happycrow March 8, 2013 at 19:04 #

    Mine, and I married a keeper who didn’t even *dream* of making an argument against that. In fact, when somebody once suggested the other way, she got pretty righteously pissed.

    My wife is a Calvinist parson’s grand-kid, and not precisely a social liberal.


  23. Ter March 8, 2013 at 21:46 #

    I’m curious, what happens if a man with a hyphenated surname (Smith-Frinkenszcthikel) marries a woman with a hyphenated surname (Jones-Hoppenshoppen).

    What surname do the children use if the woman keeps her surname? Is it like multiple choice? or do they have to play favorites and choose one parent’s surname for the child, or do they mix-and-match? First day at school: ‘My name is Jeremy Smith-Frinkenszcthikel-Jones-Hoppenshoppen…please don’t hurt me”.


  24. judgybitch March 8, 2013 at 21:55 #

    There’s a dance number in there somewhere!


  25. Alex March 8, 2013 at 22:52 #

    like others have said already, i don’t mind if the name is kept for practical purposes, like your job and stuff. however, i do wish it were legal to slap the narcissists that do it just out of spite of shit, like mimi force from the blue bloods seires


  26. zykos March 9, 2013 at 04:57 #

    There are a few things to watch out for. First, what is the wife’s field? There is a small minority in science and engineering, and an even smaller one in law or medicine that decides to teach as opposed to practice, but the vast majority will be in the “soft sciences”, i.e. disciplines where there is no objective truth, and feminism is the rule of the law. First red flag there.

    Second, you mention the intra-institution marriage and the access to employment. I’m well aware of that, in fact both my parents happen to work in the same institution (I’m also of the opinion this is a terrible idea, but to each their own). Wouldn’t that be a conflict of interest? There’s enough complaint about shitty arts profs, I’m not sure we should be happy about Mrs. AnthropologyOfOppressiveWhiteMales getting tenured because her husband, Mr. ParticlePhysics, insists she does. And if you are Mr. ParticlePhysics, what can be said about a woman who wants to marry you in the hope this will advance her career? Red flag number two.

    And I repeat: what is the point of marrying such a woman? It’s not so the kids can be “legitimate”, nobody gives a damn about parents being married anymore, and they will most likely get hyphenated names. It’s not to secure the man’s work potential (she’s a tenured prof, she can support herself) and it’s certainly not to secure the woman’s sexual exclusivity. If you do see one benefit, besides taxes, why a man should prefer to marry such a woman, I’d like to hear it.


  27. zykos March 9, 2013 at 05:03 #

    Each generation has been pushing the age of marriage by a few years, and we got to the point that you claim a 30 year old woman is not too old to marry. Newsflash: biology hasn’t changed, a pregnancy after 35 years of age is still medically considered as a “geriatric” pregnancy that carries substantial health risks. 30 is the last call to think about starting a family. Some still succeed, others realize it’s too late (or rather, don’t realize anything at all, and are just puzzled that it “doesn’t work”). A woman who has waited to complete her PhD to marry is not exactly serious about her future family and makes a poor marriage prospect.


  28. Eric March 9, 2013 at 10:02 #

    My mom compartmentalizes. As a professional, she’s Ms. her maiden name. Anything to do with family (husband, her children), she’s Mrs husband’s name. No hyphen for her or us, just one name or the other depending on the context.


  29. Eric March 9, 2013 at 10:05 #

    Oops, that sounds like we her children also switch up our names depending on the context. We have our father’s name only.


  30. abel March 9, 2013 at 18:57 #

    Women are supposed to obey men in the marriage. They obey their bosses, the laws of a government and biological laws – why not a husband?


  31. judgybitch March 9, 2013 at 19:41 #


    Not a fucking chance. That implies mindlessness and being a child, the two things I absolutely do NOT want to be as a wife.

    I defer to my husband on some issues, because he is the one who has the knowledge and the expertise to deal with those things, and in return he gets the responsibility of making the right choice.

    He defers to me on plenty of things, too. My word is final, but that comes with the responsibility to make the right choice, too.

    We have separate spheres of influence, and that reduces conflict to almost nothing.

    But neither of us “obeys” the other.


  32. Z March 26, 2013 at 06:13 #

    This is the same thing I was thinking about the other day. We’re kind of brainwashed by this culture that it’s just “awful” and “oppressive” and “the patriarchy” and “demeaning” to take the husband’s name. Yes, the name you were born with is the name you were born with just like if you have brothers, but culturally speaking for a woman it’s “Daddy’s name” or “husband’s name”. And if you keep daddy’s name… in some sense it’s like you never really left and started over new with the husband.

    Even if the husband accepts and goes along with your “liberated” ideas, there is this sort of background feeling of “not really being married” more like perpetual dating or being roommates. And I say this as someone who was brainwashed by the feminist ideas and didn’t take my husband’s name for YEARS. I kept my original name for a very long time. But… the point you aren’t encouraged to sit back and ponder is… in a culture where it’s Daddy’s name or Husband’s name and deep down nobody really thinks of it as anything but those two choices, then the obvious choice is husband.

    All the time when I still had “daddy’s name”, thinking it was “my name” and somehow “independent”, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t “complete”. Like I hadn’t finished getting married. I think this idea and pressure to not take the name or to hyphenate or do anything to hold onto your childhood identity is overall detrimental to most women.


  33. Z March 26, 2013 at 06:15 #

    Maybe that’s more an argument for not entering the professional work place.


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