Why I refuse to change my last name after marriage

A lot of things change in life, but one thing tends to remain constant in life: one’s name. We are given our name at birth and learn to respond to it. It becomes a part of us. When everything is moving too fast, our name is the one constant we can cling to in the hopes of being able to cope with change.

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However, in many cultures today, after marriage a woman is pressured into abandoning her last name and taking her husband’s name instead. My family is originally from India, a country with widespread gender inequality and unbalanced distribution of power between men and women. After my parents were married, my mom, like many others, took my dad’s last name.

To me, changing my last name is completely unnecessary, out of hand, and even slightly degrading. I love my name, and wouldn’t want to change it for anyone, even for something as big as marriage. Why can’t my children and future generations take the name my ancestors have proudly passed down for decades?

According to my mom, not changing your last name has nothing to do with feminism or being a “strong, independent woman.” To her, deciding to keep your name is just a simple convenience.

Coming from a very multi-cultural background, I decided to turn to a friend who also has diverse roots. This is what Paola García Soto (Syracuse University, CO’19) had to say about changing her last name:

“I just think it’s very submissive and you are taking away something that has been there with you since the moment you were born. It becomes part of your identity and changing it for your husband is just changing a part of who you are for him.”

I have a younger sister but no brothers, so if she decided to marry, our family name would end with us. Well, I refuse to conform to the social norms of my culture (and many others too). I will never change my last name because it is my identity. It is is my culture. It is who I have been my entire life before marriage.

Many may protest about how traditions are being violated, conflicts for offspring will arise, and that family life will not be as complete. Nonsense, I say. Family isn’t formed by name, but by bonds. How well you get along with your future husband should not be dictated by a mere name (and if it does, is this person even the one?). In terms of conflicts for offspring, they can take a hyphenated version of both parents’ last names, or use one last name as a middle name. Lastly, violation of traditions is inevitable in this ever-transforming world. We are breaking traditions with every new law for gender equality, more rights for individuals around the world, and our laws and policies. So don’t tell me that I’m the only one “violating traditions”.

In the end, women should have the choice to decide, rather than simply be placed in boxes of conformity. For some women, perhaps taking their husbands’ last name makes sense, and that’s completely fine. But if I keep my last name, I will know in my mind that I’m not changing my identity for marriage. I will embrace a new step in my life with part of me still intact.

Originally published at http://thetab.com/us/2016/05/27/will-never-change-last-name-marriage-6726