May 5, 2010

Change your name and pay?

I recently read a post on Weddingbee that referenced this article about women taking their husband's names. According to a recent study, "women using their husbands’ last names are...judged as more dependent and less ambitious than women who keep their maiden names — but also as more kind and caring. More alarmingly, members of the Mrs. league earn nearly $1,500 less per month."

I'd really like to know what kind of people were involved in this study. Growing up in a smallish town in Indiana, I encountered few women who had kept their maiden names and was a teenager before I even realized that some women go back to their maiden names after they divorce. For me, changing my name when I get married was never something that needed to be debated. I want to have the same name as my husband and children. I realize sometimes husbands take their wives' names, and other couples create a new name, but the traditional method works for me. 

I'm really not worried about the negative impact that it could have on my career. I'm not a doctor or lawyer and have only been out of college for a year, so it's not as if I've built that much of a name for myself. Also, if I were to make $1,500 less a month than what I currently make, well, let's not even go there.

The only thing I'll miss about my maiden name is how unique it is. All but one of the Google results for my name are actually about me; my name is literally one in a billion. But I also don't necessarily like how easy it is to find information about me. When I was a freshman, a reporter for my college newspaper randomly asked me questions, and you can still find the quote I gave her. No one needs to read that.

I think I'll take my chances and change my name. If that makes me less ambitious, I'm fine with that. And if the only thing employers look at on my resume is my name, then I'm not sure I want to work for them.

Is/was whether or not to change your name a big decision for you?


  1. This is an interesting issue. When Jeremy and I got married, I knew I wanted to take his last name, but I also really wanted to keep my maiden name as my middle name...because I liked it. Also, so it could be passed down through the family. (There is only one male child in our branch of the family who could still pass down the name.) However, I discovered that - while you could change your last name for free - changing any other names, even at the time of marriage, would cost a boatload of money! So...I opted to just go the traditional route. Disappointing, but cost effective.

    It's been a long time since I've looked into it, but do you know if the reverse is true? Can men change their last names for free at the time of the marriage? If not, then I think that certainly says something about the society we live in. And I don't exactly think that's fair.

    That said, in my opinion, names are less about who wears the pants and more about unifying the family. I didn't really want to confuse my children someday by having multiple family names. (That is not meant to slight blended or multi-name families - it's just not for me.)

  2. 1. In answer to the above poster's question about men changing their names for free: I think it depends on the state. I know for a fact that in Georgia (I got married in Georgia) both the male and female get a free name change.

    2. I've found that it's not inevitable that a woman wishing to follow tradition changes her name. In the Middle East a woman always keeps her maiden name. This is her family name and since you can't change your family, how can you change your name? Family and family lineage are important over there. The kids get the father's last name.
    2b. Also I found out that it's traditional for Hispanic families to have both their mother and father's last names. This is why you often see Hispanic people with hyphenated names. I believe it is the father's name that comes first. I forget what happens when a woman marries, whether she keeps her names or drops one and takes on one of her husband's names. I had this friend explain it to me, but I don't remember the details.
    2c. I was also told that Filipinos don't take their husband's names. I've only had one Filipina friend that got married and right after the wedding she seemed to be using both hers and her husband's name. I don't know if she'll continue to do that or go back to using hers.

    So you see, there's a lot of different traditions around the world. If you follow the logic of that study you mentioned: women who take their husband's names are more dependent. Women who take their husband's names follow tradition. Therefore women who take their husband's names (don't keep their own) are more dependent. So I guess following that logic, women of other cultures who keep their own names by tradition are more dependent (because they're following tradition) or not more dependent (because they're keeping their names)? I don't think they can have it both ways. Whoever did that sounds like the kind of person who thinks our tradition is the only one. I hate it when people are so narrow-minded like that.

  3. I'd say that the study failed to address the fact that those who are a "Mrs." also tend to have children. I'm not screaming conspiracy theory over here, but it's pretty well understood that if job applicant A and job applicant B are the exact same, but one of them has a child, the other will likely get a job. Mothers are the ones who tend to stay home with their children if they're ill and, unfortunately, that paints any woman with a child as notoriously late and/or absent. You can blame this a little on fact and little on how some mothers use their roles as a crutch.

    If you and I had to go to an open house, I could easily get out of it by saying, "I don't have a babysitter." What would you say though, bar any funerals or serious illnesses. A lot of mothers, especially single mothers, use this to their advantage at least once. If anyone tells you differently, they are lying.

    I'm sort of rambling now, but my whole point is that the data is skewed because employers don't care if you're fact, that might make you look more responsible. They do care if you have a germ-infested, attention-needing snot-nosed little child at home. (Their description, not mine.)

  4. You've all brought up good points. Thanks for the comments!

    @Katie - I had no idea that there would be a fee to change your middle name when it's free to change your last name. My middle name is the same as my mom's though and I like it, so I actually feel more attached to that than my last name.

    @Rachel - Thanks for bringing up the naming traditions in other cultures. I was aware of the Hispanic tradition but didn't realize that Filipinos don't change their names at all. This study clearly didn't have a diverse enough sample, which is why I hate how the article makes it sound as if this principle applies to everyone.

    @Jenna - I understand your point, but how does the employer know that Applicant B has a child unless she volunteers this information? Have you actually had employers ask this during an interview? I'm just curious here; my former boss asked an applicant if she had any tattoos, so I know some people do ask questions that should be considered inappropriate.


Let me know your thoughts on this. I love reading all my comments!