Why I’ll keep my maiden name

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Blogger’s note: Before what I’ve written below or my headline makes you angry or uncomfortable, please give it a read. It’s good to see through other lenses, and learn new and different perspectives. Also, know that what I’ve written below are views of my own – I have no judgments against those who don’t agree or those who have done things differently.

“It’s traditional.”

“It’s disrespectful if you don’t take his last name.”

“Which name will your children take?”

It’s always the same – every time I tell someone I’ll keep my last name if I get married.

And it’s upsetting. They simply don’t get it.

I am an advocate for all women’s rights and for all women to be treated equally – that’s what being a feminist means to me.

For me, feminism isn’t wanting to be better than men. I’m not an insane person who wants to burn my bras and leave my children. I’m not. Feminists aren’t.

Here’s three reasons why I’ll keep my last name.

  1. I’ve been published with my full name and my career matters.
  2. I’m not traditional.
  3. The historical context of ownership behind the concept is pretty oppressive.

Let’s break it down.

I’ve chosen a career in journalism

My byline has 13 letters – Hannah L. Strong. It’s so readers know who researched, interviewed and wrote the piece they are about to read. And so readers can call you to complain, or know who to send hate mail to.

Those 13 letters define who I am in the career I’ve chosen. Those 13 letters are attached to the work I’ve done. Those 13 letters have to be brave. They have to be published on hot topics and difficult stories to tell.

I’m no famous reporter. Chances are I’ll never be. But I’m doing work I want my full name stuck to.

I’m not traditional

No part of me feels the need to be seeking a husband so I can get married, settle down, have kids and be a stay-at-home mother.

It’s not me.

I hurt for the women who feel they have to get married very young. The ones who aren’t taught to be independent or ever encouraged to work hard for their own dreams.

I know all stay-at-home mothers aren’t miserable. And not all women who are married young regret it.

Getting married young doesn’t mean you can’t reach your dreams.

My grandmother was married at 15 and stayed married to my grandfather for 58 years before she died.

I understand it. I respect it. It’s just not me.

History

Two years ago, I’m reading No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle B. Freedman for a class at Winthrop.

I’m sitting and feeling sad for the women whose families were actually making, what seemed like, a transaction. A father giving away his daughter to another family. The merger of two families, which money played a huge role in.

I learn these women – most of the time – had no choice in the transaction.

They had no choice to keep their last name.

And I read in that book what it was like in Europe in the 1700s: “Influential commentaries on English common law emphasized that in marriage the husband and wife became one legal entity, represented solely by the man…A married woman had no right to her own property or her own wages.”

Living in coverture – the law that gave the husband all the power – gross.

And then I read an 1849 poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson the book cited: “Man to command and woman to obey; all else confusion.”

I do want a marriage, but I don’t want to play into a system where one spouse is held higher than the other.

My name matters. It’s who I am. That’s how it’ll stay.

Follow Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter and Instagram @HannahLStrong

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