An Inconvenient Woman: Hyphenating After Marriage

by Tami Winfrey Harris

You can tell by my byline that I am one of those women. I am a hyphenator.

After getting married in 2001, filling out all the annoying paperwork, and taking my new hyphenated name out for a spin, I quickly learned that women like me annoy the hell out of people. It seems that no one is without an opinion about what married women ought to do about their names, and the common opinion seems to be that hyphenators are a bad breed. I typed “women who hyphenate” into Google when researching this post and uncovered all manner of vitriol and advice:

What’s with all these women who hyphenate their last names?

I can see someone doing it if they are famous (i.e., Chris Evert-Lloyd) and became famous prior to marriage; that helps avoid confusion. To the rest of you, why can’t you either produce stools or get off of the toilet, to paraphrase an old saying? I would rather my wife kept her name than combined it with mine, if she wants to keep it so badly. Having both is just stupid and makes for overlong, pretentious-sounding names. It isn’t about feminism, but it’s about time this idiocy stopped. Enough already! (From Yahoo Answers)

If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s women who hyphenate their names. I’m a doctor and as such must create charts which are then filed away in alphabetical order.

So Mrs. Jayne Gorden-Vangeroffson comes in for an exam. She writes her name on my form as Jayne Gorden-Vangeroffson. So we file her chart this way and then attempt to file her insurance. But her vision plan has her listed as Jayne Vangeroffson and so the claim is denied. After several hours on the phone, my staff finally gets ahold of someone and they resolve the issue.

Please, women, do not hyphenate your name. You will be creating nothing but problems for yourself and anyone who must deal with you. Doctors will not be able to find your chart. Insurance companies will not have you listed as a client. The list goes on. If you want to keep your maiden name, keep it. Just tack the new name on at the end without a hyphen. Who gives a fuck if you have three or four names? But please, no more hyphenated names!!!!!!! (From Sciforum.com) [http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=66012]

“Hyphenation, in my experience, seems to be tapering off,” said Danielle Tate, founder of MissNowMrs.com, which helps women with the legal process of altering surnames. Tate, who gave up the name Rowlett when she married in 2005, observed that many of her mother’s friends have hyphenated last names, but none of hers do. “In talking to brides, I feel like there’s almost a stigma with hyphenated last names. they’re a mouthful and difficult in travel situations,” Tate said. “We’ve had the whole feminist movement; we’re aware that we’re equal.” (From Columbia News Service)

And perhaps my favorite:

Are women who opt for hyphenated names more masculine than traditional women? I hate, hate, hate the whole hyphen thing. If I meet someone with a hyphen in their name, they automatically get one strike against them. They usually get the next two strikes rather quickly. It’s like athletes who incorrectly shorten their name the Zach. I just can’t root for them. (I never see Michael shortened to Mich or Nicholas shortened to Nich, so Zach is obviously wrong.) People who look like freaks with silly piercings and tattoos get the same treatment. (From Ask.com)

There you have it. I am pretentious, indecisive, stigmatized, masculine, and terribly inconvenient.

When I got married, keeping my maiden name was a no-brainer for me. And after becoming immersed in researching my family history, I am even more convinced that the decision to keep my name was the right one, because I am witness to how women who give up their names can be erased from history. But also because I am the product of the parents who raised me and of all my ancestors’ struggles and triumphs. My last name embodies that. I can’t imagine giving it away. Also, I had established myself in my career with my maiden name and was loathe to damage my reputation by changing my identity.

As reformer, lecturer, editor, women’s rights advocate ,and abolitionist Lucy Stone said way back in the 1800s, “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost.”

See, I viewed getting married as adding something to an already full life. When I took my vows, I wasn’t vanishing into another person. I was adding a wonderful man to my life, as well as that man’s very big and wonderful family.

Me + Loving Hubby = A Hyphenated Moniker

That’s just my decision. I don’t begrudge anyone else theirs. Keep your name. Take his. Smoosh them together. Not my business. A name, after all, is about as personal as you can get. But the fact that only five to 10 percent of American women chose to keep their family names in 2009 surely says something about how we view the power balance in heterosexual relationships.

It says something that men in the public sphere aren’t judged about how they refer to themselves. See the saga of Jennifer Martinez Atzberger or the former Hillary Rodham Clinton . Yahoo reports about the Secretary of State:

Clinton retained her maiden name after her marriage to Bill Clinton in 1975. Her husband became governor of Arkansas in 1978 and lost his bid for re-election in 1980. Frank White, the Republican challenger, made it a point to inform voters that his wife went by the name “Mrs. Frank White,” while he chastised Clinton’s professional independence. Citizens in this conservative state were, in part, uncomfortable with Clinton’s use of her maiden name, and it was found after the election that her husband had lost up to 6 percentage points in the polls due to the name issue.

And it says something that all of the legitimate reasons women give for hyphenating or changing their names are almost never made by men as reasons to change theirs. How often do you hear a groom-to-be say, “My name sounds funny and my fiance’s is much better. I’m taking her name?” Or, “I have a difficult relationship with my dad, so I am shedding my last name to make a break from the past.” Men don’t usually say these things upon getting married. Why? Because society’s general assumption is that a woman’s identity (and name) will be absorbed by her husband’s at marriage. In fact, a 2009 study found that 70 percent of Americans believe a woman should change her name at marriage, and 50 percent believe women should be legally mandated to do so.  It is not a masculine thing to give your name away and so men are never asked. And men who take their female partner’s name (as the husband of a childhood chum did) get snickered at.

My hyphenated name is a little long and that’s a pain. Yeah, it may take the doctor’s assistant a second longer to find my file, but I am always sure to clearly explain that my name is hyphenated whenever I speak with someone so I don’t cause unnecessary confusion. My hyphenated name may make some people roll their eyes, but you know what? My name is my name and, inconvenient or not, I have a right to it.

  • 726

    I don’t plan to ever get married, but if I did, I would not change my last name.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    hyphenating should be outlawed. it is a public nuisance.

  • 726

    I wouldn’t hyphenate either.

  • Tenneil

    I have been hyphenated since birth and yes it is the most frustrating thing ever. The first half of my surname just gets dropped off, but that shouldn’t be my fault. Just because my name is longer it shouldn’t be ignored other people need to figure this out. And if I wasn’t already hyphenated I most likely would when I got married.

  • TrulyPC

    The “traditional” idea of a woman leaving behind part of who she is to become an “us” is a terrible message to send out. It is completely absurd for a woman to be EXPECTED to change her name after marriage. In researching my family history it has been very difficult to trace different maternal lines due to women losing their family names after marriage. Completely deleting your family name after marriage is something that definitely should be up to the individual. But to me retaining your family name signifies where you come from and should be seen as a historical marker of your life and not as a denouncement of your new one.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    “70 percent of Americans believe a woman should change her name at marriage, and 50 percent believe women should be legally mandated to do so”

    NOT in a million years!! I am not dropping my family name in favor of my husband’s, let alone adopting his and hyphenating mine. This is not a feminist move, I’ve always maintained pride of my last name, it’s long, conk, full of history and very unique.

  • YB

    Imma hyphenate my already hyphenated long ass Yoruba last name just to piss these people off.

    >:-)

  • LN

    I have to admit that hyphenating is kind of annoying (ONLY because it makes the new last name so long) which is why I kept my last name after marriage. I’m still LN and he’s NB. We’ve been married two years and keeping my last name has really made me think about male ownership in today’s society. Because even though I don’t have my husband’s name, I do carry my father’s name. And my relationship with my father is very difficult. So, I’m basically a woman in the 21st century with no name of her own. I’ve considered creating my own last name, but I don’t know that I’ll follow through on it. I’ll stay LN until I figure something out. But I am concerned about my future daughters. I don’t want them to pass between men like chattel, taking a father’s name then a husband’s. There has to be a better way than this.

  • OMSS

    I’d quite happily keep or give up my last name. It is just a name. I have my father’s last name, but I have a total of 11 aunties and uncles, and 30 cousins who still have that name! There are enough people to carry on the name- is it even important anymore??? I know as a woman I’m expected to think otherwise, but I don’t feel that way. Taking my man’s name (supposedly losing my identity) doesn’t make me less of a feminist- I will be the same old independent me who adores my family! But, I will always defend the right for women to decide. Anyway, I find the whole traditional idea that women alone should wear engagement rings to show they are ‘unavailable’ or ‘taken’! I don’t know…

  • Kam

    I love my last name, I will most likely be hyphenating if the hyphenation sounds good. Honestly if someone’s last name makes you so angry you need to find a hobby. I’m a college instructor and have had to deal with plenty of last names from plenty of cultures and ethnicities, short and long and I’ve yet to have one that caused me one iota of annoyance.

  • http://changecomesslow.wordpress.com Nikesha

    i dropped my last name. still getting used to the change.

  • MommieDearest

    I chose to make my maiden name my middle name and took my husband’s last name. I really don’t care if a woman hyphenates or keeps her last name after marriage. Whatever works for her and her husband.

    The only thing I wonder about is their children. If the wife keeps her last name, will their chidren have her last name or the husband’s? if the wife hyphenates, will their children’s last name be hyphenated too, or will they have the husband’s last name?

  • Apple

    I hate my last name so I’m not hyphenating

  • http://jaydasworld.wordpress.com Jayda

    The only reason I’d consider hyphenating is because my last name starts with an A, and my most likely guy-to-be’s last name starts with a W. Life is so much easier when you’re first when things go in alphabetical order!

  • Synai

    Honestly, I would gladly take my future husband’s last name… I hate mine.

    The real problem is when a woman gets addressed as Mr. & Mrs. Tim Wayne. UMMMM….. I’m NOT TIM. I still have an identity.

  • Flash

    I would NEVER marry a woman who did not want to take my last name!

  • http://gravatar.com/protestinginheels Sarah

    And I, along with most feminist, independent women I know, would never marry a man who wanted me to take his name. Marriage is not a property deal—I do not become property upon marrying, so why would I want to give up my name?

  • 726

    Exactly.

  • LocsandJoy

    Sometimes I really do feel that certain feminists take it to the next level. It’s just a name and if you don’t want to “lose your identity” by taking his name then just keep your name. Also your name probably already belong to a man (your father) so you’re still getting your identity from a man. Why would it be fair for your kids to have either of your names? They should just be able to decide for themselves when they get older because they shouldn’t “lose their identity” by taking your name. Instead of making this big deal just decide who’s name to take and take it or keep the same name you always had and confuse your kids. Those hyphens are ridiculous. And yes… I am a woman.

  • OMSS

    Oops! I find the whole idea that women alone should wear engagement rings to show they are ‘unavailable’ or ‘taken’ a little off to me IMO!

  • OMSS

    I totally agree with the last thing you said! A married couple should be united equals. Wives should not become another ‘self’ to the husbands many ‘selves’. They should be able to retain an identity equal to their husbands. Same name(s) or not.

  • Sue

    If you would like to stop using your surname, why not use your middle name as your last name. I know that sounds odd, but if you think about it, some men don’t actually use their father’s last name. Their “last name” is actually the middle name.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    I’m a feminist and I approve this message!

  • OMSS

    Co-sign. I will be definitely doing this in future.

    It is just a name. Family names no longer have significance as it did in the past. That is why I will not feel as if I am losing a part of myself or feel as if I am going against feminism if I choose to take ‘his’ name.

  • ayomidejpw

    I took my husband last name, went from the middle of the line to the end of the line and his name is long to write. I never felt I lost my identity at all. I am still a Hunter and I am a Washington I don’t need my maiden name to give that connection to my family. I love both my families.

  • http://gravatar.com/motrenaissance motrenaissance

    A thread full of unmarried women & will stay that way. Long live the patriarchy

  • jamesfrmphilly

    yall done gave up everything else and now you gon get uppity over a name?

  • MimiLuvs

    My chosen profession is in medical billing for a hospital, so in regards to the hyphenated name, I really hate it. And sometimes, I hate dealing with the women patients as well, because they make the process of closing these claims difficult. All they are doing is giving their insurance companies an excuse to not pay their bills.

  • Pseudonym

    What’s your last name?

    For me, it all depends on the person I marry and how much they care. I don’t have a US black last name (a-la-given-by-the-slavemaster-that-owned-your-family or chosen-by-your-family-but-still-named-after-white-men last names), so I would hate to give up my own non-slavery-remnant last name for some white slave owner’s surname. However, am I going to fight with the man I want to marry and possibly break up over it? No. But I will definitely present my case if I end up engaged to a black American.

  • Cree

    Funnily enough, I had no choice in hyphenating my last name. My husband’s family’s name has been hyphenated going back generations upon generations. I have a hyphenated name without even having my own maiden name involved, lol.

  • http://gravatar.com/alpsheidi lizzie

    Those who refuse to take their husband’s name are usually just putting one *man*’s name above another’s – i.e. their father’s.

  • Lo

    I’m one of those women who daydreams about how my name would sound with my boyfriend’s last name lol. I completely understand when women keep their own names particularly for professional reasons, but I don’t understand the hypen.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    I’ am keeping my last name for work because I like my last name and it rings with my chosen profession *the commercial really writes itself…lol* so most likely if I get married I’ am going by two names, my maiden name in my profession and my husband’s last name everywhere else. It has nothing to do with identify but how I would like to be address because I’ am going to be “binks” no matter what. And if a man thinks that is a personal strike against him or his masculinity than that says more about him than it does the woman IMO. For example, when the whole rumor with Jay Z taking Beyoncé’s last name got out a lot of people was flipping out, of how emasculating is or how he was acting like the wife than the husband, etc. etc. so people views on what is consider proper in marriage is still very traditional

  • http://gravatar.com/worshipandpraise JN

    a-ahh- Your wahala is too much! LOL

  • http://gravatar.com/worshipandpraise JN

    +1

  • http://gravatar.com/marloweovershakespeare marloweovershakespeare
  • kaye

    lol at people who think their opinions on my name registers even an iota of weight with me. hyphenated and not a single **** is given for 5 years now.

  • JT

    Exactly. You have a bunch of women talking about how they won’t take a different last name here. But click on the next link and listen to them complain that it matters that you go from Ms. to Mrs. in a relationship. Don’t let some man change your title from Ms., ladies. Be the strong, independent, nontraditionalists you clearly are :-)

  • FunkyHairChic

    I plan to make my maiden name my middle name and take my husband’s last name. Simply bc my father has no boys and I want to keep that part of my identity. However, I won’t be hyphenating, slashing, etc. I believe in the biblical concept that in marriage you become one flesh, one body. My husband’s name will be my last name.

  • http://www.womanist-musings.com/ Renee Martin

    When my partner and I discussed this, I simply told him that I am not cattle to be branded. I think everyone should make their own decision as far as what name they go by but after spending so much of my time investing in who I am today, I don’t see why I should change any of that because I happened to fall in love with a man. What I find interesting is that all the women in my generation in my family are either keeping their names or hyphenating. I think it is because we have been raised to be proud of ourselves, our heritage and our families of origin.

  • Flash

    @Sarah – If your supposedly a feminist and independent then why would you be getting married in the first place seems a bit oxymoron dont ya think??

    REAL feminist, (not you part-time tin pot phoney feminists), think marriage is slavery for women, and as for property deal I guess you wouldn’t be accepting engagement rings as well as that has “ownership” connotations tied to it, as someone above pointed out in their post.

  • cabugs

    Accidentally reported this! Sorry. Clutch, I did not mean to report. I was just scrolling down.

  • Flash

    @pseudonym – I don’t give a damn whether my last name is do-wop-doodoo if I’am getting married the lady in question has to take my last name. We are either going to go through all steps of getting married or not bother at all.

    This is a funny subject because my “feminist” girlfriend and I was discussing this a while back and she remarked quite confrontationally & strongly that she was keeping her name. I told her that’s fine I’am getting a pre-nup and I guess you wont be needing an engagement ring too….The fight went out of her reeeeal quick, it got silent, never even heard a pin drop, she never mentioned it since.

    If people want to back out of certain specific aspects of marriage for whatever reason…then I can too.

  • http://yosoylamala.tumblr.com la mala

    some couples give each kid a different last name (went to school with a family like this) while others hyphenate their children’s names.

    different strokes for different folks.

  • kc

    +1 Yes, girl! “Oh no, my name is inconvenient for internet thugs and medical professionals. What should I do?” Please!

  • kc

    You sound like a wonderful, amenable person.

  • mamabraxas

    #straightgirlproblems

  • NewLook

    I am either keeping my maiden name (so my kids will have a hyphenated name) or hyphenating and I dont care if it annoys anyone. I’m from Ghana and my boyfriend is Irish, I will NEVER let my (future) kids think they are 100% irish. Ghanaian first, Irish second.

  • NewLook

    You know she probably got quiet because she realized she was dating the wrong guy right?

  • http://www.getfiercestyle.com MJ

    When I got married I took my husband’s name and I didn’t feel like I was losing my identity. If I were an only child I would’ve done like the hispanic side of family does traditionally – make your maiden name your middle name so you can still trace the family line. There are two boys in my family so they can glady carry on the last name.

  • Jessica

    “If your supposedly a feminist and independent then why would you be getting married in the first place seems a bit oxymoron dont ya think??”

    what the fuck?

  • Jessica

    ok.

  • Jessica

    haha, for real.

  • http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2012/07/an-inconvenient-woman-hyphenating-after-marriage/ Mimi

    This may sound silly but my mother and all of her professional friends with hyphenated names have tumultous marriages. In my mind, I always associated it with them never truly becoming one flesh. Oh well do whatever floats your boat :)

  • Pseudonym

    hahaha! Seriously! and what does an engagement ring have to do with a last name? Somebody’s still heated from that argument with his “feminist” girlfriend.

    It was just a questions and explanation of my point of view which can be unique to the argument within the black community. If my last name were Jackson, I wouldn’t mind trading it for Johnson, but since I don’t have that type of last name, I’d prefer to keep my own. There’s something nice and empowering in not having some white man’s last name who you are not related to, but who enslaved your ancestors. Since I am fortunate enough to have that, I’d rather not buy back into that system. Just my opinion/point of view and nothing more.

  • beautyishername

    Though I do not plan on hyphenating my name when I get married, I completely support women that do. My mother chose to hyphenate her name for very noble reasons. Because my step-father had a different last name, she chose to keep her maiden name (my last name too) so that I would always feel included in the family. Even at 22, 15 years after their marriage, I am forever grateful to her for hyphenating her name . Now men with hyphenated names, that’s another story!

  • moemiel

    If it was only just a name then it wouldn’t matter if i kept my name. Its so easy to tell women to just change their names, pick up ur husband’s name. Asking a man to do the same thing is not acceptable. I mean even with the hyphenated names who hyphenates, the woman. why don’t they both as a different entity from either family hyphenate their last names and then give their children a new legacy.u don’t c men hyphenating their names bc as a patriarchal society its still the women who have to “give” sumthin up.

  • Jinx Moneypenny

    I wanted to keep my name, because it’s fairly uncommon; I’m not as attached to it anymore after some deep thinking and discussion. I thought about hyphenating as well, but my first name is already hyphenated so that’s no longer on the table. The most favourable route right now is taking his, so as a family we will all share the same name and less questions will be asked lol.

  • lola_z

    To hyphen, or not hyphen one’s name after marriage. That is the question. lol!

  • lola_z

    *hyphenate

  • 726

    As someone who has worked in the banking industry and customer service, it was rare to see a man with a hyphenated name.

  • moemiel

    thats what i mean…even when ppl get married the woman still changes her name. she becomes mrs chandler-bing, whie he remains mr bing. if it wasnt a big deal men wouldnt have a problem changing their names.

  • Jenn

    Don’t believe a word this guys says. He’s just trollin.

  • Jenn

    My fiance and I have talked about the last name issue a few times. We’re both kind of ambivalent to the whole process. He doesn’t like his last name and I’m pretty meh about mine. Neither of us has a desperate need to “represent our lineage” or any of that noise. The problem is we both have boring last names. When you hyphenate two boring names you just get one long boring last name. We’ve also discussed him taking my name or simply creating a new last name and making a new family unit. We’re still discussing all our options.

  • Sav

    My last name has a hyphen as my mother chose to do it because she wanted to take my fathers middle name and last name and mold it into one. However I get more compliments than complaints about my last name (most people think its posh while others don’t mention anything about it).

    I decided to give my last name to my daughter because her father was not apart of her life until recently so until I get married we both are hyphenated. However when I’m married I will take my husbands name and loose the hyphen not because I’m not proud of it but because it would unite us as a family.

    But everybody has their own opinions and reasons to why they have a certain name whether its the first; middle(s) or last name(s).

  • Essence_Girl

    I agree with everything you’ve said LocsandJoy. As an independent thinking woman, I always worry about what surname my children will take if I keep mine or decide to hyphernate. I prefer having the same name as my husband and children, we are a family after all.

  • http://twitter.com/sheriseology Sherise Alexis (@sheriseology)

    Absurd. I will probably hyphenate because I WANT to. It’s MY name and MY identity rather than the convenience of a person who will see me once or twice. I care very much about my own identity and I want to recognized the union of the marriage. So if I want to do that by hyphenating, that’s my business. Get over it.

    Perhaps it’s because I am from Miami, and Latino names get pretty long anyway and I don’t mind taking an extra second to type in an accent to make it accurate which take more keystrokes than a dash. So it doesn’t really phase me. Plus, things are computerized these days look it up if you aren’t sure.

    Names that change spelling depending on who translate them are hard to file, but I don’t bitch at the international students in my office over their names. Not everyone has a name that is pleasing and simple to you.

  • http://twitter.com/sheriseology Sherise Alexis (@sheriseology)

    Just what I was thinking. If they are having trouble filing over a hyphen, they clearly must not deal with a lot of internationals or different cultures.

    I get to file a lot of international student paperwork at my school and it is certainly an adventure! But I don’t mind, it’s really not a big deal.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    Oh snap!! LMAO @Ghanian first, Irish second!! You go girl

  • http://gravatar.com/nissmarie08 aqualitymess

    My mom hyphenated her name when she got married because she wanted to still have part of the same last name as me. I always knew I’d hyphenate my name because I plan on doing big things in life and I want to still have a part of myself but a part of my husband also.

  • jazmin

    Some women have found alternatives for keeping your ‘identity’ while embracing tradition that are worth noting here. My grandmother gave all the women in our family her middle name so we have a way of identifying ourselves as her children that doesn’t involve our fathers’ or husbands’ names. That’s a tradition we plan to continue.

    Hyphenation is fine for those that prefer it, but there are other ways women protect their identity and their name that should be brought to light.

  • helena m.

    I don’t fully understand the feminist angle around hyphenating instead of just taking your husband’s last name — as you’re just fighting to keep another man’s name: your father’s.

  • Humanista

    Exactly!…the only small difference being that you actually would have neither your identity nor life without him…

  • kaye

    I loled. Hard. +1

  • LemonNLime

    I don’t think it has to do with the fact that it is another man’s. It is that fact that your last name is your family name and those women don’t want to give up that connection to their family.

  • LemonNLime

    I don’t understand why this is an issue. It’s your name, do what you want with it! And that goes for men too. If I were ever to get married, big if, I would keep my last name but I would hyphenate it only if it is a cool or interesting last name. I already have a plain last name, I don’t want to go through the paperwork just to have another plain last name. Now I would do the paper work to add a “de Luz” or “Tangherlini” something else different.

  • http://energy7.com Erica

    But what if your husband had an already hyphenated name? That’s the case with two of my friends, she’d have to have a triple-decker name. And what name will your kids have? Hyphenating just puts off the problem for a generation.

    How about: women keep their mom’s name, men keep their dads. Siblings wouldn’t have the same last name, but that’s the only way to keep both last names alive.

  • http://www.theloversrocque.com Mrs. Rocque

    It’s silly that this is a thing. I got married in January and we both changed our surname but that’s a long story (one that means something to us) that we explained on our blog. Anyway, whether for professional reasons, to be pretentious, feminist reasons or because it’s Tuesday, hyphenation is that woman’s prerogative.

  • http://gravatar.com/blackandabroad2010 Carolyn

    Love this topic! I decided to hyphenate right before I got married 9 years ago. Guess I had a last-minute identity crisis. I do find that my long name gets in the way, mainly because my married name is Dutch. I get so tired of spelling it it’s not even funny! Half the time I just use my maiden (American) name, and the other half I use my husband’s name. Anyway, what an individual woman decides to call herself is her business, which other people should stay out of (LOL).

  • Mademoiselle

    That last example from Ask.com irks me.

    My last name is hyphenated because it’s a non-English compound word grammatically spelled with that punctuation (similar to self-evident or x-ray or co-owner). I’ve had a couple people incorrectly assume that it represents two names–it actually irks me when people write my initials as 3 letters instead of 2 since hyphen or not, my last name is still only one word. The Ask.com commenter sounds like s/he walks around waiting for people to show him/her their hyphen so s/he can pass out these strikes. It’s a name. Get over it.

    That said, I’m going to be sad to give up my last name when the day comes because I get lots of compliments for it. It’s a beautiful last name (in any language) and I’ve enjoyed the reactions I get from the people who can read it. It’s just a name though, and I’m not so attached to it that I need to figure out how to rework it into some new configuration post-wedding. If when that day comes I find that I am that attached, it’ll just take the place of my non-existent middle name, but my kids will be take their father’s name.

  • K. Michel

    “When my partner and I discussed this, I simply told him that I am not cattle to be branded.”

    Dramatic, no? I’ll play devil’s advocate here.

    How is changing your last name comparable to being branded like cattle? You’ve never chosen your last name to begin with (as it was handed down to you). So, if you were to make this metaphor, you (all of us, actually) would’ve been branded since birth.

  • http://twitter.com/MaxineShawEsq Maxine Shaw (@MaxineShawEsq)

    They totally deserve each other. The best thing my ex ever did for me was say the same thing. He’s my EX for a reason, and I’m on my way to graduate school.

  • Zie

    Well my mother is a Black Hispanic and she had both of her parents last name, so she had a total of 4. Now that she is married she dropped her mothers last name and hyphenated with my fathers last name. I only have my father’s last name.

    I’m going to keep my last name and add on my future husband’s name. It has nothing to do with me not wanting to be “owned” I just like my last name. I really don’t think it’s that deep what you want to do with your name. Heck, if I want to change my name to X I can.

    Geesh. I probably won’t hyphenate it though I’ll just add it so that I have four names

  • Sanura Rose

    I agree. That bothers the heck out of me

  • Stella

    Having a hyphenated name can be trouble for the name-holder (yes it annoys other people, but who cares, it’s not their name). 25% of the time people either get confused about whether I’m telling them my middle and last OR instead of a hyphen they put an apostrophe. No joke. APOSTROPHE. That one has been baffling me for years.

    And for some reason Chase can’t handle that there’s a hyphen in my name, so my credit card has it as one word.

  • GoHyphenation!

    I once had a male professor who hyphenated HIS last name at his wife’s request. He was my favorite!

  • Ohemaa85

    Why?

  • Ohemaa85

    I believe in that concept, too, so why can’t your husband take your last name? He can make his last name his middle name, or your last name his middle name? Do you see where this is going…?

    Being a Christian is no excuse for lazy logic.

  • Blue Devils

    When I first looked ianto my fiancé’s eyes, I mentally changed my last name then.

  • Rhea

    I’m probably not going to change my last name should I get married. My name goes together pretty fantastically, and I already have monogramed Ralph Lauren towels!

    JK (sorta…) about the towels, but really, I love my name and I don’t think most last names are as cool. If I changed it I’d get rid of the hassles I have with people who think there’s a space in it, or who remove a capital, or who just think I’m foreign, but my name is my name.

    I do really dislike hyphenation though. It just looks silly. My brother’s last name is hyphenated, resulting in an 18-letter long monstrosity that he’s had to deal with since birth. A family I’ve known since I was 3 has a hyphenated Lebanese and French last name. It’s shorter than my brother’s, but insanely difficult to spell. I’m not really so down with that.

    One solution I do like is a changing of middle names. It’s an option for those who want the maiden name, but reject hyphens. My mother’s maiden name became her middle name. For a non-marital example, some adoptees I know have done the same. But a middle name can be important to people. My mother had her mother’s name for it, and I know she misses it. I know I’d miss mine.

    A major issue, especially for WOC, is having one last name for the whole family – hubby, wife, and kids. There can be strange situations with schools, foreign travel and other parts of the government when the kids have a different last name than one of the parents. And, with all of the extant stereotypes about WOC having children out of wedlock, many women who do have children with a married partner want to show the world that. Last names are an efficient demonstration.

    It’s also just not that big of a part of the feminist struggle. There are obviously way bigger issues, and, crucially, for most women, not taking on your husband’s name just means keeping your father’s instead. It’s less of a rejection of the patriarchy and more of a selection of who the patriarch is going to be in this case. Even if women are choosing to keep the last names of their mothers, their mothers probably got those names from a man.

  • http://gabandgraffiti.wordpress.com marloweovershakespeare

    Ooooh:-)

  • moemiel

    actually unless u n ur dad dont hv a relastionship, it isnt just sum other man’s name. even feminists love their fathers.

  • Shào

    People who know me love my last name and I do to. It’s not as common and it’s fun. I’ve often been called nicknames that include parts of it. If I go into academia I will keep my last name. If not, I’ll hyphen it. But it’s mine and I love it.

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ Rose Kahendi

    There are numerous naming systems in the world, and they’re not all about preserving patriarchy or feminist subversion. Frankly, it surprises me that Americans, who hail from so many different nations, have the prevalent view that there’s a single traditional way of naming. There honestly isn’t. Try talking to people outside your immediate circle of friends and family and you’ll soon have evidence of that.

  • http://gravatar.com/backtobalanceblog Jolee Mann

    Great point! I’m always offended when I receive mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. My Husband’s Name.

  • http://gravatar.com/backtobalanceblog Jolee Mann

    I kept my name and my husband kept his name. Our children have both our last names, although without a hyphen, and we did it in ABC order so my last name comes first. It’s not a big deal,it’s a source of family pride from both sides.

  • Samantha

    This discussion is interesting. My mom technically hyphenated her name but socially and pretty much everything else goes by my dad’s name. Legally though her maiden name is hyphenated with my dad’s last name. So all this supposed confusion when someone hyphenates is laughable to me. People can make their own choices but women dropping their last name is a strictly Western concept. In older civilizations the woman retains her name even now so our “tradition” doesn’t go back that far and only applies to Americans and maybe Europeans (the ones who even make it to the altar.)

    I plan to do the same as my mom just because when I marry, there’s a good chance my career will be launched and me all of a sudden dropping my name will cause it’s own confusion. Plus I’m one of 3 daughters and I love my last name, it’s part of who I am. Keeping it symbolizes how I look at marriage: I’m not absorbing myself into someone else, I’m adding to it–combining my life with someone else’s.

  • Samantha

    I like that. :)

  • Samantha

    Exactly how I feel.

  • Samantha

    LOL, exactly. It’s one of life’s mysteries.

  • Samantha

    I know BW married to Asian men with kids who do the same. It’s a way for their kids to know both sides of where they come from. It makes perfect sense to me.

  • Samantha

    Exactly how I feel and my mom did the same thing.

  • Samantha

    I knew a guy who said when he gets married he was going to change HIS last name to his wife’s. IMO totally cool.

  • Samantha

    What have we given up? I haven’t given up anything. Please explain.

  • Samantha

    Good for you. There are tons of women who will happily oblige. Some of the women here, just aren’t some of them.

  • http://gravatar.com/backtobalanceblog Jolee Mann

    I’m married and kept my own last name, didn’t hyphenate. I’m proud of my family and my ancestry, and my husband is proud of his, plus it is a pain is the ass to go through the name change process. Our kids have both our last names, with just a space, no hyphen, and they can be proud of both sides of their family. If you google the history of women changing their names with marriage, you’ll find many, many cultures that do not do this, and some of them are cultures that many people consider to be more archaic than ours. People should do whatever feels right to them, and respect the choices that others make. However, if you are a person who changed, or will change, your name with marriage, consider your reasons for doing so. Although women are no longer considered the property of men, that is how this tradition started. Even after women were not “property”, they were still expected to give up their dreams, aspirations, and identities in order to support their husbands dreams and aspirations and identities. Many people say they changed their names because it’s important to them to share a last name with their husbands, but there are more important things to share, like a home, and children, and goals and values. No one gets divorced because they don’t share a name, but plenty of people get divorced because they don’t share the same goals, values, and financial habits! To finish up,my first husband changed his last name two days before our wedding. He was estranged from his father, and as a traditional Latino man, had both his father’s and mother’s last names. He took off his father’s last name and kept only his mother’s last name. Later, when I decided to keep my own name, he had a problem with that. I left his cave man ass.

  • http://theburningbush Nehemiah53

    Please do not get married because marriage is not for selfish people, selfish people are immature and should never get married or have children.

  • Down south transplant

    S

    So true i picked my fathers name over my man and ONLY my in-laws address me with his last name they refuse to acknowledge that i will never change my last name to theirs

  • Down south transplant

    my mother has a double life professionally her maiden name and socially her married name and she seems to be able to move flawlessly from a Proff. to a Mrs. with no problem:)

  • Down south transplant

    I have kept my name he kept his but our children have his last name and i pick the middle name to represent my culture or my parents names depending on the child gender. I love my last name it is my fathers middle name.

  • Moniker

    LN, I think your reading too deep by saying you have no identity because you have your father’s name. Remember your husband also has his father’s name too. I guess we would feel better if we took our mother’s name as women, which is why I’ve always advocated names being passed down based on gender. My husband and I are NM and CB and our daughter is AM-B. But once she hits 18 hopefully she would take my name and become AM, passing down her maternal line. If we have a so he would be DM-B and hope he will become DB to carry on his paternal line. I wish everyone adopted this. Hyphenated names make sense to me on children but not grown-arse women.

  • Moniker

    Good cause I would never marry a man who would require a woman to take his name (I found my wonderful husband instead).

  • Jen

    My mom’s maiden name is one of my middle names

  • Jen

    All those who gripe about taking an extra few moments to deal with a hyphenated last name should should consider the inconvenience of a woman either having her published writing and professional reputation mixed up, or having people question whether she’s her children’s mother.

  • Jen

    Good point. I learned through a little social faux pas a while back that Iranian women don’t take their husbands’ last names. Having an Iranian women be shocked at my sexist westerner ways really made me think.

  • Kendra

    I utterly can not comprehend the brainless comments of shallow-minded people who say “You’re only fighting to keep another man’s name: your father’s.” Excuse me. This is no longer simply my father’s name. This is MY name! I’ve had it since I came out of my mother’s womb (thanks, Mom! :-D), and where do you get off thinking that the boys in the family are forever entitled to their father’s name–to proudly claim as their own until they draw their last breath–but that we women have no such entitlement . . . merely because we’re female? Do you hear yourself?! What century are you living in? I am no feminist either and largely disagree with a lot of feminist ideals (though I do agree with and understand the need for some). I value traditional family values, etc. But since I’ve gotten older (and am divorced with my maiden name restored–THANKS, Dad!!), I have had much to deal with when considering ever taking another man’s name again. Why should I cancel out my own identity and be completely obscured in HIS, only to quite literally melt from my own family tree? Men do not realize how traumatizing this can be to a woman, and–if nothing else–how crucial it is to us that we preserve our OWN identity! How in the world dare they demand a “requirement” of us they would never make for us themselves in a lifetime . . . regardless of their love for us?! My father’s name was not lent to me upon my birth to temporarily identify me until something else came along. IT IS MY HUMAN IDENTITY and I feel as strongly about it as any man does about his. Does this make me masculine? Hardly. It makes me an INDIVIDUAL. I have a human right to be identified by the same means and methods as the shallow-minded males who are peeved at my desire for individuality–while they embrace theirs with their lives. What is so hard to understand about this?!

  • JM

    Hello!
    So, I’ve recently married and am struggling with the name change question. At first I thought it was romantic to change my name to my husband’s last name but now I feel like I’m abandoning my name and family in some way. Because I changed states to live with my husband, I had to go to the DMV to update my license where I impulsively changed my last name completely to my married name. Then reality struck and I’m not sure I want my maiden name completely erased. Do I hyphenate my license and leave the rest of my documents with my maiden name? Is that legal (SS, Passport, Bank, professional licenses to remain maiden name while driver’s license is hyphenated) and use my maiden name professionally? Any advice, wisdom would be much appreciated.

  • Pseudonym

    Can you just let go of your middle name and make your maiden name your new middle name and then make your husband’s last name your last name?

    Ex. Monique Ann Brown married Marquis Peyton, so she changes her name to “Monique Brown Peyton.”

    You still have the unity of having the same last name as your husband and family, but still can have the name to link to your own family.

  • http://twitter.com/gennatay Gennatay (@gennatay)

    My dad paid for my wedding. Part of the agreement was that I hyphenate my last name. I rarely use the hypenated portion and only use it on legal documents and anything formal, like my degree. Other than that I use my married last name.

  • Andreus

    Just keep a family tree so you don’t forget. The fact you put this article together makes you a pretentious snob about the whole thing.

  • Hyphenated Victim

    What happens to children of hyphenated last name couples? What about the absurdity of double hyphenated names where 2 folks get together and already have hyphenated names? LOL. When will the insanity end? Just keep your maiden name.

  • http://gravatar.com/hammer77777 hammer77777

    all chicks should jus take their man’s name. I made my wife do it. I wouldn’t have it any other way…tradition, baby

  • rolanda gabhart

    Just hope she does’nt divorce and remarry where she will change her name again and people will still question. We will never be equal until we are truly equal. My 2nd husband worships me and loves the fact that when I married him I took back my maiden name. We have 3 names in our household and have for 10 years and there is absolutely no confusion and noone questions who my childrens mother is and besides who cares. I have a neighbor who has been married 8 times. My dad says women take on men’s names like trophies. Time to stop the madness. What is the point. It makes no sense to change one’s name under any circumstances.

  • Hello

    Or, you want to make sure people know you are married, for whatever satisfaction can be derived from that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/erika.hagarty Erika Danielle Hagarty

    but then you’d still be giving up a part of your name. I wouldn’t want to do that, my full name is the name I’ve had since birth. I wouldn’t want to erase part of it like that

  • Big Jack

    If you expect a man to submit to God in your marriage, why would you not submit to your husband. Other than it being inconvenient this is about legacy and birthright. Your sense of entitlement is for your brothers NOT for you.
    Why do you think that men are supposed to ask the father for their permission? Its because he is asking that woman’s father if he can take his place as her protector and provider.
    With respect to your belief system, I disagree.

  • TKC

    Apparently there are some 18th century European aristocrats trolling the comments here..

  • Spike

    i think that name hyphenation is completely pretentious and egotistical. nobody but you cares what your name is. either keep your maiden name or take your husband’s name. just do the rest of us a favor and don’t hyphenate. working with hyphenated names is frustrating in many capacities. on top of that, some people with hyphenated names don’t care if you say the full name, and others completely flip out if you don’t acknowledge every name in their lineage. not to mention the fact that as time passes people with hyphenated names will marry other hyphenated names and their kids will have double hyphenations and so on. why don’t we just go back to the medieval times when we introduce ourselves; i’m chris, son of dave of nottingham, who was the son of bob of westchester, who was the son of john the great of morristown….the only person that cares about your family history is you. spare the rest of us the trouble and just keep your original name.

  • Me

    I would generally take my husband’s name unless I really hate it or it doesn’t fit well with my name. But in that case, I’d probably just keep my maiden name and not hyphenate.
    Or in the case of me marrying an Asian, with an Asian last name (it doesn’t fit well to my name), so I’d probably hyphenate. xD

  • Matt

    I just think you’re a stupid c*nt

  • Dave

    Do us a favor and get your balls out of your wife/girlfriends purse before you attempt to type next time

  • Katherine

    Thank you. I plan to hyphenate as I will be slightly older when I marry and cannot give up my adult identity but do wish to have the same last name in part as my child. Works for me.

  • James

    I think it’s pretentious to hyphenate, here’s why. Taking his name has always been a sign of commitment, hyphenating it gives the impression of no intention of following through with the commitment. It is a symbol (IMO) that further affirms the divorce rate levels we are currently experiencing, the rules have changed and only the feminine gender seem to understand the new rules…. because they wrote them, without any consultation. Why? Because its their bodies and life and should be able to do what they feel with it. Agreed to some extent, but they forgot to look at what they are compromising. Hyphenating a name to a man of tradition means non acceptance. Here is a little fact everyone knows and forgets, when you get married all the vows you say from engagement to the alter is an affirmation of acceptance and dissolution of independence. Married folks are not independent they depend on each other. Households with marriage are full of “requests” and presentation of “unity”. The writer here says her name is her Identity, I disagree, your name is your name, Shakespeare put it into context. The point is when you get married doesn’t your identity change as well? Don’t you consider yourself as a person transformed? Society does and so should you. Your candid responses below

  • Nicole

    Really, all this over a name? Commitment has little to do with a name. Change your name to Optimus Prime, I don’t care. Commitment is Commitment is Commitment. I dont need to have my husbands name to prove I am commited to him. I dont need to prove to ANYONE that I am commioted to him, except to him. And he already knows that. Suck it up. A woman not taking your name or adding it to hers does not mean she is not commited. What does it say that you feel the need to have her change it to yours? Do you need to feel like you own her? Like shes yours? You sound posessive; This explains your written above. While your lives are joined, you stay as individuals joined together in love. If you are not divorced, I assure you will be some day. The REASON people get divorced is they lose themselves. Lost in all of the stresses in life. If you give yourself up, who are you? To say you dissolve yourself into a marriage is ignorance. Thats the struggle with life, love, and anything else; Becoming a part of something that is larger than yourself while still maintaining and being true to you as an individual. A wife can accept that her husband is traditional yet still stay true to what she wants to do by keeping her name. And if a non traditional woman marries a traditional man; He must not mind at all because hes marrying her isnt he? He already knows. This isn’t the 50′s. Men are just angry because we don’t just stay in the kitchen and give them babies anymore. We actually stand up to them and they don’t like it and have their panties in a hike. Quit cryin already.

  • Nicole

    Also; To all you whiney asses complaining “Oh I have to do more work because someone hyphenated their name” The world does not revolve around you, people do not soley act to make your life or your job convenient, do your job, get over it. We have to purchase a lot more headache medication and anger management classes living in a world full of people like you. Did Mommy do everything for you? Are you angry she doesn’t help you? Do you want me to hold your hand? Not that complicated. Get used to the fact that people make choices that are best fro them every day, and don’t think twice about your blubbering butt. Don’t expect that to change. Learn to communicate effectively with the general population, ask for clarification on the name, take the time to gain KNOWLEDGE something you clearly lack. If it “doesn’t matter” what your name is (–The Rock) or “Nobody cares” then WHY. Are you bitching about people who hyphenate? Hmmm? I guess someone does care! Whiners…Get a real hobby.

  • James

    Thank Nicole for your response,

    Your words carry some weight as well as some distasteful wishes, However to skipping the negatives and focusing on your positives. Yes this is not the 50′s and men don’t literally pick women from their fathers doorsteps anymore to a life of wedded bliss. Women have their own identities to protect as well as engaging careers. I also agree with your point that marriage does not mean each person losing themselves for that will surely be disastrous for both partners.

  • Liz

    The name change back in the olden days meant that you were no longer part of your Father’s clan and that you now belonged to your husband. This is no longer the case, to me marriage is now about being an equal team and compromise. Hyphenating isn’t about non acceptance, its about compromising and recognising that there are two people in the marriage.

  • steven

    james I agree with you 100
    %

  • mnperson

    If what you say holds, then in these modern times surnames should be just as much an issue for both parties in the marriage (i.e. it would be expected for everyone in the new family unit to have the same surname – regardless of who changes – meaning a husband could take his wife’s name just as easily, or they could both hyphenate in the same way). If it’s all about a presentation of unity, it doesn’t matter if it’s the woman or the man (in a hetero relationship) or both who change their name, as long as they match. Somehow I don’t think you’d agree with that.

  • James

    Depends on who was asked and who said yes…

  • Jase H

    The author is a douche; specifically, the type with iodine. I can’t begin to find words to describe how irritating women with hypens in their name make normal people like me feel. The author clearly states her name meant all that special intrinsic value due to family struggles, and professional successes; I’ve got an idea, keep your last name, shit! It’s so pretentiously douchey to add on another one with a damn hyphen. Oh God, it just irks my soul. May all your insurance claims get denied because of non-matched cardholder ID rejections. YOU’RE A PRETENTIOUS DOUCHE!!!!!

  • Christine

    When I was married, I had a hyphenated name. In truth, I wanted to keep my last name. But my ex was so vehement he stamp his name on me somehow, like ownership. Really should have been my first clue. I compromised by hyphenating my name. Had my ex not been such a child and thrown a tantrum about me keeping my maiden name, I’d not have hyphenated. So all those idiots out there who think hyphenation is purely a woman’s desire, it is not. Men more often than not force the issue.

    I never really responded to my ex’s last name when people would try to address me by it. I only responded to the hyphenated name, or mainly, my own maiden name. We had worked out a compromise, that boy children would receive his name, girl children, mine. Thankfully we had no kids, though. When I got my divorce, It was easy for me, my name was only reduced, not changed. And I am content this way.

    I personally feel marriage is BS. It is not required for two people to love each other, nor is it required for fidelity or having kids. Marriage only ever was a legal arrangement, until recently, people rarely ever married for love, as they had little choice. Marriage by itself has nothing to do with love or bonding, as two people who do not like each other, or know each other, can get married. However, two people can’t for a relationship without mutual affection and desire.

    I find cohabitation, if desired, to be preferential, although personally, I would rather live on my own. I’d definitely never marry again. And ladies, no matter what, if a guy makes a big deal of, or throws a fit about, keeping your own last name or hyphenating it, that’s a clear sign to get the hell out of that relationship. When a man is dead set on inflicting his last name on you, regardless of your own personal desires, it is because he sees you as a sort of property or territory he must mark, or as little more than a legally bound uterus to spit out his offspring. You will not be a true partnership. You are something for his ego, his needs, his wants, your own be damned.

    Staying unmarried is a lot safer for women, as well as being better for us in the long term. Men benefit far more than women from marriage.

  • Ashley

    Why do people care so much about what others do? If the author or anyone else wants to hyphenate their name they can.
    I just got married and my husband is the one who asked me to hyphenate my last name. I was planning on just taking his but it is a cultural thing for him.

  • http://clutch djr hpr

    Maybe keeping Winfrey as part of her last name may land her in the front row of Oprah’s show or possibly get her more attention which she was probably seeking in the first place. But wait, maybe she’s just a feminist author that wants to keep throwing her double last name around cyberspace to put a wrench in Google’s search engines…..just saying….

  • Chuck

    How can there be so many comments on a non-subject? You get married you take your husbands last name and make it into a family. Do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.

  • The Truth About Hyphenating

    To all you EMPOWERED women with these so-called “wonderful” politically correct husbands who are so accepting. Guess what? You either married a COMPLETE WUSS which you will either cheat on or divorce – OR – he will cheat on YOU after growing tired of your faux feminist wannabee shannigans b/c that’s what happens to ALL women who try to have their cake & eat it too.

    If you want to keep your name & be so independent, DON’T GET MARRIED. Be independent & keep getting used for what’s between your legs. B/c at the end of the day, guys know that’s ALL women are good for these days.

    The REAL women are gone. We are left with delusional, brainwashed, Tyra/The View, mindless pea-brains. So keep it up ladies. Like I said, your “wonderful” husbands will either cheat on YOU – OR – you will cheat on them for being wusses.

    You know it’s true….divorce rates skyrocketed b/c of so much of this b/s the other is further propogating. So go right ahead ladies….hyphenate and show the world what an a brain poisoned ass clown you really are.

  • Destry

    Tammy Winfrey Harris, thank you for the fantastic article! I’ve always loved my last name, and my husband could tell I was hesitant to dismiss it completely, so he suggested we hyphenate our last names together. Marriage can be a beautiful thing when two lovers are committed to each other and are willing to fully communicate.

    I’m sorry about the vitriol in the comments section– it produce lots of heat but little light. Thanks for spreading the light!

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