23 March 2010

Changing Names

Apparently, women who keep their last names are still really, really, really freaking radical. Newsflash for me! Some background before the point of my story:

I grew up with a mother who had kept her "maiden" (father's) name for personal, not political, reasons. There were hassles trying to explain the different last names, and hassles because her father refused to acknowledge that her legal name did not match her husband's. However, overall it was mostly a non-issue, and I liked the sense that I was part of a forward-thinking family. Also, because she didn't go by my father's name, my mother couldn't be called Mrs. and that gave me an early respect for Ms. as my honorific of choice.

Now that I'm getting close to getting married myself, I started to think about whether or not to change my name. I assumed that simply keeping my (father's) name was not political enough, since it's still a man's name rather than my own (see Godard's Weekend). I contemplated creating my own last name, seeing if my fiance would want to create a name together (no dice there, he likes the connection to his father, and fair enough), or whether I'd change my name for the ease of having the same last name. Because we're post-feminism, right?

I was literally rendered speechless in a critique class last week when I showed a rough cut of a film that includes my maternal grandfather, my mother, my brother and myself. Grandfather and mother share a last name, my brother and I share our father's last name. Obviously my mother simply didn't change her name, right?

In comments from about 4 classmates and a professor (~5 out of ~16) there was a disturbing consensus that:

1.) it was confusing that my grandfather and I have different last names (what?)
2.) it was extremely confusing that my mother and I have different last names (even though it was clear that my mother and my grandfather have the same last name)
3.) it was really distracting, they didn't know what to think about it, and assumed that some deep family dysfunction was at the root of all that craziness.

So I guess I'm keeping my (father's) name when I get married. It's still apparently plenty radical for a woman to simply not change her name.

What century is this again?

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