What is in a name?

Apparently there has been a little upswing in the number of women that have decided to go back to taking their husband’s name upon marriage.
“Adopting a husband’s last name remains an entrenched tradition that is on the upswing, despite a temporary blip in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s where many young women tended to want to hold on to their birth names,” said UF linguistics professor Diana Boxer, who led a series of studies. “I think it reflects how men’s power continues to influence American society despite the fact that women have made great advances economically and socially.”
The exception is highly educated women in academic and professional positions, said Boxer, whose research was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.
The survey involved 134 married women ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s who lived in various parts of the United States. Boxer found that only 24 — 18 percent — had kept their own names, compared with 107 — 77 percent — who took a husband’s name. The rest used hyphenated or other names. Family unity was the most frequently mentioned reason.
“Taking on my husband’s last name was an outward sign of our union,” explained one woman. “It served to make me feel that I was ‘really married’ and that we were forming a brand new family.”

This is interesting, because many women have said that to me, “What is in a name?” I think naming is important, it is strategic and it does serve as a symbolic representation as to who is in “charge” of the particular union. Language and names are a very socially mediated system of symbols and what you choose to name yourself does reflect certain values of society. In this case, women are choosing to be defined in name by there husband and that is very much connected to patriarchal control. That doesn’t mean that these women don’t have agency, voice etc, but it does serve as a symbolic representation.
The researchers found that many women felt they should take their husband’s name because it would be good for their children and would represent the union of their family. Quite frankly, it does take more than a name to create a feeling of family union. Sometimes these lies force women to be complicit in their own oppression in ways that are conscious and unconscious. This is how patriarchy thrives.

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