Musings on feminism and weddings

Guest post by MissDeeNee
and the bride wore combat boots
Thanks to Orbasm for submitting this shot to the Offbeat Bride pool!

In nine months I will be married. It doesn't seem that long ago I was sporting short hair, dockers, button-downs and ties and hitting the bars. Now, I have hair down to the middle of my back, wearing a f'ing Vera Wang wedding dress and participating full force in the bridal industrial complex. I'm currently taking a feminist studies class and it reminded me how I was when I first started doing my feminist/women's studies coursework for my MA: idealistic but still angry about how the world works. While I'd like to think that some of that rage is still inside me and I don't think I have become soft, I think I have become more tolerable and understanding of others and their beliefs.

There are some who may think that a woman changing her last name is “unfeminist.” To me this is a very tricky and personal decision for every woman who is about to get married. First, there is no one singular socio-political belief system known as feminism. There are multiple feminisms to reflect the diverse experiences of women around the world. However, the underlining goal of feminism is to improve the lives and experiences of women (and men) by ending gender oppression and injustice. Therefore, I find it difficult especially within this context to label the act of changing one's last name to her husband's as being “unfeminist.”

We currently live in a patriarchal country where surnames are generally passed down through men. Even if a bride were not to take her husband's last name she would still have her father's (or some other familial male member's) last name. There are multiple reasons why a woman may no longer want to keep her last name. Perhaps, she has negative associations with that name such as it is a constant reminder of an abusive or absent father or she may not like the way it sounds or more simply, she wants to mark this transition by changing her last name to her husband's.

Ultimately, this country unlike others, give women this choice. If a woman wants to change her last name then it is HER choice to do so. Now, if the future husband is a complete douche monkey and is forcing her to do this, or other patriarchal forces pressure her into it, then it is no longer a choice.

In some states men are allowed to change their last name to their future spouses, but in some they cannot. He can hyphenate it or they can combine their last names but he cannot take his wife's last name. Men should be able to be given the same choice for the same reasons I stated above. This is a deeply personal decision and I think it is unfair to judge or label women “unfeminist” if they make a conscious decision to change their name.

What have I decided to do? I'm taking on Mr. Nee's last name as an additional middle name. First, I want to honor my father and grandmother by maintaining my maiden name. Second, I have become who I am with this last name and I want to continue to do so. Third, Mr. Nee shares a last name with someone who is relatively well known in my field, shares similar research interests, and has a similar first name and I don't want to have to deal with the confusion that may spur from that. Finally, the most important reason is that I want to mark this transition in my life and show my love and devotion to Mr. Nee without losing me.

Weddings are a celebration of love and commitment. Not only between the two getting married but also for those in attendance, which is why, I'm having my father walk me down the aisle (at least part of the way). Yes, to some, this would seem “unfeminist.” However, for me, this is best way to honor my father and show gratitude. My father has been through a lot in life and in the last few years has seen little joy. I know that by doing this, it will make him feel happy and wanted. However, he will not be giving me away. I'm a person, not property. I'm not something to be given or received by anyone including Mr. Nee.

I definitely think it is possible to be a feminist and have a wedding, wear the white dress, have your father walk you down the aisle and take your husband's last name. It is about compromise and being open and understanding without forgetting who you are and what you stand for.

PS: I realize that this post is incredibly heterosexist and does not address the heartbreaking injustices that many LGBT-identified individuals deal with regarding marriage, name changes, and other basic human rights. It is so sad that in many places, marriage is considered a privilege. Everyone should have the right to be able to express their love and devotion to another person in a State-recognized union. If I had continued hitting bars in my younger days and found the woman/boi of my dreams, I would be denied this very basic human right.

Comments on Musings on feminism and weddings

  1. Yay I'm taking my partner/spouse/husband's last name as a second middle name (which leads to the double-middle-initial problem that grad students everywhere loathe: N.K.S. Barker). However, we just moved to Québec after getting married and as it turns out, Québec requires that a woman is required to keep her maiden name, on most official identification documents anyway, which is kind of cool…

  2. My partner/boyfriend will be taking my last name, out of honor for my father and also because he has no connection to his father/father's last name. Before I even had my feminist speech all built up he told me he wants to change his last name. I'm proud of him ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I agree that taking your husband's name does not make one not-a-feminist. Of course, I think that when we talk about women making choices in these areas (on topics that are particularly steeped in patriarchal customs), I hope we all recognize that what we think is pure free will is colored greatly by the society in which we were raised, and our 'choices' in some things are influenced so strongly by that society that, at some point, they may cease actually to be a 'choice.' (Just throwing that out there since you're a women's studies grad student, so I thought you'd appreciate the philosophizing and nuance!) Congrats on the nuptuals, of course!!

  4. Anyone can change their name, but if it isn't because of marriage it can be expensive and there is a different process, depending on the state.

  5. Love the idea! A guy I work with recently got married and they actually came up with a hyphenated version of both their last names so that they took on each others names.

  6. Mary, as someone who shares this point of view with the author and also identifies as a feminist, I don't find this to be a "standardized" point of view. Doing something that is considered "traditional" because you have put careful thought and consideration into it and made a decision based on your own feelings, beliefs, and situation is completely different than just doing something because it is tradition.
    You will find many, many opinions on here, even ones that seem traditional at first glance, because being "offbeat" is about being tolerant and accepting of each other's differences and supporting one another in a world that is not very tolerant of anything that differs from what is considered "the norm".
    Eek, not trying to get on a soap box here, just trying to explain what I love about this community. They accept and support everyone here, and that is what makes this site so awesome. Keep visiting offbeat bride, I promise you'll see lots of different (and all equally valid) opinions and beliefs. I love reading it all, and love being a part of such an amazing community ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Agreed — doing something just because it's against tradition is no better than doing something that's tradition but that means something to you. The point of being "offbeat" is being yourself, not just rebelling as much as possible for the sake of rebelling =)

      For me, I didn't have any good reason to change my name, so I didn't. My husband and I were more comfortable walking down the aisle together, so we did. I get annoyed by people who just do things solely because they think they're "supposed" to, but if someone has their own valid reasons for going along with tradition, even if it's not what I would do, then I fully support them.

  7. My first name is so common that I hesitated to change my last name when I got married because it sounded like a completely different person's name. My husband really wanted us to share a last name, though, and his first name sounded silly with my last name. To compromise, I added his last name onto the end of my name, unhyphenated, so I can mix and match which combination of last names to give out when it's convenient. I now have an extremely long legal name consisting of one first name, one middle name, and two last names. It works for us.

    I love the addition of your husband's name as a middle name. It seems like another great way to connect with each other and still honor the family that raised you.

    • You brought up a point I forgot to make earlier: sometimes it's inconvenient to have a different last name from your spouse. Part of the reason I'm using hubby's last name as a middle name is so that it'll be on my ID (when I'm back in non-Québec Canada), which makes silly little logistical things a lot easier. The second (and more important reason) was as a connection thing. Now what would have been ideal is if Kyle had added my last name as his second middle name… but he's a bit too traditional sometimes, methinks…

      • Yes, that's a huge reason why I gave in to tacking it on the end of my name. He's able to do little things for me now like pick up my prescription from the pharmacy and talk to the cable company because sharing a last name makes it obvious that he's not lying about being my husband. It's a bit silly that you have to share a last name to be taken seriously sometimes, but that's the way this culture is built right now. Also, if we ever get around to having kids, we don't have to choose a last name for them (and either one of us could pick them up from daycare or school without a signed affidavit).

  8. Thank you so much for this. I chose to take my husbands last name precisely because I lacked all emotional connection to my father and my father's entire family. But I have a strong, healthy, lasting relationship with my husband and his family. There were also other emotional reasons for my choice. I don't think that any family needs to share a last name to BE a family but simply because of my specific experiences, it resonates that way for me. I know that many of my fellow feminist friends have judged my decision without really knowing the reasons so I full appreciate that other feminist brides recognize how personal the decision is.

    That said, anyone who refers to me as Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname, will suffer a horrific tongue-lashing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That's exactly my situation. XD I see my last name as connected to my father, with whom I am not close, and plus I just like the sound of my first name with my future spouse's last name. Plus my father has all sisters – so my aunts, cousins, etc. (whom I love dearly) all have different last names anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think the Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname thing is silly. I watched the movie The Secret of NIMH (with the rats) the other day for the first time in years, and realized how weird it is that the main character is "Mrs. Jonathan Brisby" for the entire movie – like she doesn't have a first name! We never find out what her real name is. It was a bit irritating…

  9. My parents were born in 1974 and my mother didn't change her name – and then she gave it to me as a middle name. Just wanted to let anyone know who is contemplating what to do and are worried about future children's reaction – it was never, ever an issue. I thought it was normal – and as I get older I think it is SO boss that she didn't change her name. The only confusion came when I met my friend's parents and thought they were brother and sister – ha. Just wanted to point out that there are lots of people out there who do not have their father's or another male family member's last name as their last name. Lots of couples are having a discussion about which partner's last night they kids will have. In my relationship the pets get my last name and the kids will get his. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for writing about this MissDN!

    • Love that you thought your friend's parents were sister & brother – awesome! And seriously bonus points for use of the word BOSS! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I'm not changing my name – I like it, it's mine (not my father's – well, it is, but he doesn't own it, yeesh). When my FH and I have kids, we'll give one each last name. So, the first kid will have one of our last names and the second will have the other (we want two, so that's convenient, anyway).

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