Friday, March 23, 2007

Names, Names, Names

This week, I've coincidentally seen a bunch of stuff on the web about American surname customs. My wife blogged about her eternal regret at adopting my rather difficult last name (and the silliness of my toddler trying to spell that last name), Carleton College's alumni magazine ran an article on the changes in the idea that women should adopt their husbands' last names, and the USA Today just looked at the growing (but not novel, despite what they say) trend of men adopting their wives' last names. (One member of this blog's team knows all about that rare but very cool (and even kinda subversive) practice.)

I can't see even a shred of legitimacy clinging to the idea that women "should" adopt their husbands' names. Holding that out as the norm strikes me as the worst sort of empty, precedent-worshipping conservatism - one step away from creationism. On the other hand, it's hard for me to see the alternatives - a woman keeping her own name, a man adopting his wife's name, a couple coining a new joint surname - as much more than a convenience and a token of affection. None of them seem like "statements" about equality, patriarchy, or anything else. What am I missing?