Last week I read a piece by Jill Filipovic on the Guardian about how women should stop taking men's names when they get married. Instead, she argues, men should be taking our last names.
Her column came about after seeing a bunch of women with names she didn't recognize on her Facebook account, and her getting frustrated with seemingly not knowing who any of these women are anymore:
You got married, congratulations! But why, in 2013, does getting married mean giving up the most basic marker of your identity? And if family unity is so important, why don't men ever change their names?
She lists stats about how few American women nowadays keep their name, and common excuses women use as why they supposedly decided to switch to their husband's name ("It's easier to spell," "I want everyone in our family to have the same name," etc.). She calls bull on all of them.
Instead, she says our birth name is our identity and by taking our husband's name, we're giving up our identity for a man. (Nevermind the fact that our last names came from our father, but I guess that's a patriarchal argument for another day.) This is a detriment to women at our very core:
It lessens the belief that our existence is valuable unto itself, and that as individuals we are already whole. It disassociates us from ourselves, and feeds into a female understanding of self as relational - we are not simply who we are, we are defined by our role as someone's wife or mother or daughter or sister.
She urges women to stop taking their husband's names. If your children must have a common last name, make it the wife's. Heck, while we're at it, men should be taking our names.
Sorry, Jill. I consider myself quite progressive. Heck, I'd even go so far as to call myself a feminist. But I can't back you here. When my fiancé and I get married, I'll legally become Sarah Foster.
I admit, things are a lot tougher for us women in the digital age. I mean, changing our Facebook name is easy, but what about everywhere else? After all, I blog at SarahMillar.com. And SarahFoster.com belongs to a woman in Virginia who is an insurance agent.
And don't even get me started on my Google juice as Sarah Millar.
These were things I always prepared for. After all, I began my professional writing career at 17. As soon as my bylines in daily newspapers began, I knew that unless I got married young, I would be Sarah Millar forever -- in print anyways.
Digitally, there's much more to consider than a simple print byline. I have to laugh at how afraid I was as a young writer to be willing to change my name because it would be so hard to explain having two names to editors who had obviously never worked with a woman who got married before. But the Internet is beyond hard. It is for that reason that while I plan to change my name personally to my future husband's, I will remain Sarah Millar online.
As for my choice to change my name? It's just that -- my choice. When my fiancé and I get married we won't be presented as man and wife or as Mr. and Mrs. Foster, we'll simply be presented as married. My marriage will be a partnership. He doesn't own me any more than my father does.
I'm taking my future husband's name not because it's easier to spell or suits me better or so my kids all have the same last name (we're not having kids, but that's a blog post for another day), but because I want to.
Does it mean I lose my identity? Not in the slightest. Heck, with the digital footprint we create nowadays, Sarah Millar will never go away, or be hidden. If anything, she'll be able to be a bit more anonymous in real life with her new name.