Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Lindsay Marie McAllister. Lindsay works for an anti-poverty non-profit agency as the Program Coordinator. Lindsay currently lives in a small town in Northern Ontario in Canada with her two dogs and partner. You can follow her on Twitter @LindzMcAllister.
Some of you may have read my first guest post on my attempt at planning a feminist wedding. Although some of you may remember it being posted under a different name, my maiden name. I got married approximately a month ago and since that time have heard quite a few comments and questions regarding the change that followed. That’s right; I made the choice to take my husband’s last name.
I use the word choice here because I think that is exactly what it should be, a choice for each individual and couple to make on their own. There are many options; couples are regularly choosing to hyphenate their names, often with both people in the couple making the change, sometimes only one person does so. A less common option in heterosexual relationships, at least in my experience, is for the man to take the woman’s last name, which is still a viable option.
Interestingly, there may be legal barriers to it becoming a new trend, since most states in the US require laborious and costly legal changes, while the woman can easily assume the married name. In Canada, either partner can assume the name of the other or choose to combine the two names with a hyphen, using the marriage certificate as proof. However, in Quebec, in order to increase gender equality marriage alone is not a legal reason for a name change; either party can change their name but must provide a significant reason for doing so and go through a separate legal process.
The route I took may seem like the traditional option, but for a feminist it seems many people feel that I should have kept my maiden name. In my case, the change was not about living up to expectations, primarily from people who do not identify as feminists, of what a feminist SHOULD do. I changed my name to more accurately reflect how I feel about the new family I have joined. My in-laws are amazing people and I am thrilled to be joining their family, they have welcomed me with open arms, accepting me for who I am. They have treated my mother and my sister’s family with the utmost respect, welcoming them during the holidays and always treating them as equals.
There were three other reasons that also lead to me making the name change. The first reason was that it was important to my husband as he is very close with his family and his heritage. Unfortunately, the same is not true for me, especially in recent years, however, I don’t feel appropriate detailing those private issues in such a public manner. But basically, I don’t feel a strong connection with my maiden name and he does, out of respect for him I certainly considered his feelings on the issue when making my own choice.
The second reason is for personal safety and increased privacy since I will continue to use my maiden name at work; this will allow me to keep my personal and professional lives separate. My partner and I have also discussed having children at some point and have realized that us both having the same name will make it easier for them, especially at school and when we are traveling as a family. Although hopefully, society will eventually adjust and not assume that a child’s last name will always match the parent or guardian’s last name, eliminating the resulting issues.