DEBATE: Is Taking Your Husband's Name A Dated, Sexist Tradition?

14 October 2014

Is Taking Your Husband's Name Sexist: Amal Changes Her Name To Clooney

Mr and Mrs Clooney [Getty]

Following the news that Amal Alamuddin has changed her last name to Clooney on her work website, Grazia HQ has been hotly debating - when it comes to getting married, is taking your husband's name a dated, sexist tradition? Or is it a sign of romance and dedication we need to revive? We asked two writers to give us their view…

‘I did and surely feminism is about everybody having equal rights?’ says Maria Lally

‘I was 28 when I married my husband Dan and I took his name without even thinking about it. For a start, I wasn’t emotionally attached to my maiden name. I’m estranged from my father, who moved abroad when I was 13 after my parents’ divorce. So, unlike a friend who got married and double-barreled her surname, I had no desire to “carry on Dad’s name”. Secondly, I wanted my children to have the same surname as me and Dan. And lastly, I rather liked the old- fashioned-ness of taking Dan’s name.

‘Because when I think about it, I guess it is old-fashioned. Rachel Thwaites, who compiled the study said: “There remains cultural and social pressure on women to change names.” I disagree. Dan didn’t insist I change my name. In fact, we barely discussed it and he would have been happy – indifferent even – if I’d kept my maiden name. Society didn’t expect it either – I doubt anybody, from friends and family, to colleagues or my GP would have cared either way.

Kim changed her surname to 'Kardashian West' after marrying Kanye [Getty]

‘As for the feminist argument, surely feminism is about everybody having equal rights? Therefore it’s my right to change my name because it suits me. Just as it’s another woman’s right to keep her maiden name or double-barrel both names. And a male friend of mine who is getting married is considering taking his fiancée’s surname. It’s your own choice. And?as long as you have that choice, it’s not a sign of weakness.’


‘I wouldn’t just because tradition dictates I should’ says Holly Peacock

My personal feeling towards marriage, or to be more specific weddings, is that I don’t want to do something without thinking it through. Instead of fantasizing about what colours I would dress my bridesmaids in, I think about how to make sure every part has meaning.  For example, I don’t want only my dad to answer ‘I do’ when the Vicar asks ‘who gives this person?’ because both my parents should take credit for how I’ve turned out.

On the other hand, not joining the men in giving a speech is fine with me. I would just cry, go red and end up hugging my Mum in an embarrassing display of gratitude. But I have thought about these traditions, which is really my point.

I’ve always thought that changing my name when (if?) I get married would feel like I was simply giving in to an archaic tradition. But, because of the fluffy love stuff I feel for my boyfriend, I once said I would CONSIDER taking his name if he felt strongly about it. However, later on in this conversation (which got pretty heated over a Wagamama table) I asked if he would consider taking *my* name. A simple ‘no’ was his reply. 

READ MORE: Can You Really Know You've Met The One?

And that, if I'm honest, is when the love mist faded and I started feeling angry. Not even a consideration? He explained he wouldn’t want to change his name because otherwise his family name might not live on and he would feel like he had turned his back on his dad (Yes, this does sound like a Game Of Thrones moment but fair point). So, what if the bride's family name dies out?

Cheryl is now Mrs Fernandez Versini [Rex]

What I struggle to get my head around is the expectation that to a woman her surname holds less meaning. I accept that a woman taking their partner’s family name is tradition. But so is a dowry and I don’t see my dad or any other father shelling out a couple of quid/cattle/rubies these days either. 

I’m not saying I wouldn’t be partial to a double barrel, a merge or even a full-blown opt out of my beloved Peacock surname but when I say my future name, I want to announce it with pride because it's full of meaning, not just because that’s what I’ve been lumped with due to an archaic default.

So, what do you think? Tweet us @Grazia_Live or join in the conversation on Facebook


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