In any event, I am very proud of my decision. I was born Mark Perry Harper, and I changed my name to Marc Harper Tyler, doing what a lot of women do by taking my “maiden name” and turning it into my middle name.
Mark H. Tyler
La Mesa, Calif.
Five years ago, I took my wife’s last name (Strandjord) when we married. It’s a mouthful of a name. But I love it.
I’m a lawyer now, working in Denver, and though I suppose there’s a stigma around taking your wife’s name, I have to admit, I don’t really feel it. The world is filled with more and more professional women in powerful positions, and it’s amazing the kind of progressive points you can rack up when you mention the fact that you took your wife’s last name. Not only does it make you look more open-minded, but in a world bombarded with hyper-male toxicity and sexual harassment, I like to think it acts as a signal to employers that you’re not going to be a problem in the office.
I could probably go on for pages and pages about this. But I do think there’s some hidden perks with taking your wife’s last name. And it’d do some good to see a piece exploring that aspect.
I guess before we ask this question, we should be answering the question, Why don’t more women keep their own last name?
Arriving in the U.S. in the my late 20s from India I was surprised by how uncommon it was for women to keep their names after marriage. To this day, I get asked why I have not changed my name; my answer is, “For the same reason that my husband did not change his.”
Cherry Hill, N.J.
Twenty years ago, as an undergrad at the University of Scranton, I took a course on late-19th- and early-20th-century Italian feminism.
Our professoressa was married and had taken her husband’s last name. It seemed strange that she didn’t keep her name, especially since the course focused on the patriarchy, with the ultimate goal of abandoning writing rules created by men. She had a simple response to why she took it, which was enlightening to me. She said she took her husband’s last name because if she kept her own she was still just taking her father’s.
Why no mention of the possibility of a couple choosing a totally new name for themselves and their children to be used after marriage? Might make record-keeping a bit trickier and challenge genealogists, but so what?
I am an academic who retained my original surname, and I enjoyed the article, particularly the overview of Powell’s new research. However, “maiden name,” used at several points in the article, is itself a pretty loaded term, one that reinforces the very norm that is under question in that research, reifying dubious notions of female purity and virginity. I’ve kept my original name through 30 years of egalitarian marriage; isn’t it a little absurd to call it my “maiden” name? “Original surname,” also an accessible two-word phrase, seems more precise, neutral, and usable for all genders.
Professor of English, Wittenberg University