At a very young age, before I had even heard of words like “feminism,” I had already decided that if I were to ever get married, I wouldn’t take my husband’s last name. My family, being the southern traditionalists that they are, at first found my remarks to be cute, but as I grew older and my views remained unchanged, I think many of them began to find a problem with it. I once joked with an aunt that my husband would be called “Mr. Jasmine White” instead of the other way around. She didn’t find it funny and told me instead that I shouldn’t “disrespect the man’s pride like that.” I in turn wanted to ask her if that meant that I as a female had none.

Even in our modern times, there is still so much insistence on women conforming to this age-old custom. And if they don’t, they are seen as denying their husband some sort of right or respect. But I’d like to argue that really these women aren’t denying anyone anything, and instead it is the people on the outside of this relationship urging them to do something they find no value in.

My biggest reason for not wanting to change my name is simply because I don’t think there is a reason I should, and it baffles me that it is remains a general expectation for all women who decide to marry. Why should I have to change my last name just because I become someone’s wife? Why is that my duty?

One of the main reason females began taking on their husband’s last names in the first place was because it was assumed that when a man married a woman, he owned her. Obviously today most married people would agree that their husband doesn’t own them. So why do so many of us find it necessary to carry on a tradition that no longer carries merit in contemporary society?

I understand that a lot of couples feel that it’s the only real way to solidify their relationship as family, but if what defines your marriage is completely dependent upon namesake and labels rather than actual substance, perhaps you should reevaluate if that’s really the person for you.  Others feel that sharing a last name creates a greater sense of closeness, a response I cannot dismiss as each relationship has its own distinct dynamic. I, however, have never believed in the romanticized cliche of “two hearts becoming one.” My partner and I will never be “one.” Individuality is what I think makes a relationship exciting and what makes it work well.

I also don’t want to feel as if I have to give up part of myself and my identity just because I decide to get married to someone, and I don’t want my marriage to be what characterizes or brands me. I don’t want to be known as someone’s wife or someone’s mother. I want to be known as Jasmine White, the cool-ass chick who just happens to be a wife and a mother.

Perhaps I’m oversimplifying things here. I acknowledge that I know little about love or relationships because of my age and because of my lack of experience. But to me marriage has always seemed to be more about friendship than anything else. It’s about taking and giving. It’s about equity, and most importantly it’s about remaining steadfast in your promise to be faithful and amiable to a special someone. Why anyone thinks a woman choosing not to take on her husband’s last name would affect her ability to keep that promise, I do not understand.

However, I do understand that my view is generally not a popular one, and I respect that. So I also ask that other’s respect my decision to go against the norm. While I do hope to marry someone later on in my life, there is one thing I am sure of at this very moment. My name is Jasmine White, and that’s what it will always be.

Jasmine White is a freshman in the College. ’Bama Rogue appears every other Friday.

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6 Comments

  1. Women in the supposedly more patriarchal society of Korea don’t change their last names.

  2. What will your kids’ last name be?

  3. Chuck Fontaine says:

    You’re a freshman. Silence.

  4. It really doesn’t matter all that much either way. I’d much prefer to take a husband’s last name and also have help with real issues like unequal pay or employment prospects. Getting all caught up in microagressions when there are still plenty of macroagressions being perpetuated is counterproductive and silly.

  5. Last name changing never had anything to do with men ‘owning’ women. It actually derives from the idea that the family, not the individual, is the atomic unit of society. Men, women and children from the same family unit, would hold the same last or ‘family name’. In a patriarchy lineage is passed through the males, making them the ‘head’ of the new family unit, and thus their last name would be carried on to the new family as it’s family name. It’s not that complicated.

    And p.s: keeping ‘your’ last name *is conforming to this “age old” practice. It’s still your papa’s name.

  6. Thank you for your thoughtful article. I appreciate that you don’t attack women who choose to change their last names, but instead focus on questioning why we are expected to maintain the practice, and on debunking the notion that a woman is somehow selfish or less committed if she chooses to keep her name. An enjoyable read!

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