Social and Professional Suicide

As many of my friends know, I consider myself to be something of a feminist. What confuses me no end is that so many of my colleagues and friends do not. I often wonder if it’s because the word has lost its meaning, or gained unwelcome connotations. To me, though, it’s simple. I advocate equal rights (social, political and economic) for men and women. I personally believe that anyone who does not follow that principle is out of date.

Women, in Britain at least, have more rights than ever before; perhaps this is why some are so apathetic. Would they remain so blasé if they had yet to win the right to vote, or keep any money they earned? I hope not, but I really don’t know anymore.

In my team at work one woman got married last month and another is getting married in August. I queried whether either of them had considered not changing their name after the wedding. The former had not even considered it. The latter gave the excuse that her husband had a “better” surname (ever heard a man use this line?). I’m not suggesting that there’s a perfect solution, just that unthinkingly assuming your husband’s identity when you marry is somewhat archaic.

What about the quasi-feminists, who keep their own name, but give the children their husband’s? That offends me even more. A woman has to go through the hell of monthly periods to even be able to get pregnant. Not forgetting carrying a baby for nine months, having a complete body transformation, giving up drinking and pushing out the equivalent of a watermelon through her vagina. Then there’s the likelihood that being a mother is going to be a hell of a lot more detrimental to a woman’s career than being a father is to a man’s. And him? He gets to orgasm and give the baby his surname as a reward.


I want you to imagine that I am good at my job (tough, yes, but just go with it…). Imagine that I’m a graphic designer, or a barrister or an author. My name is my identity; it is my brand, my reputation. All of my professional life has been completed under this name. Now imagine that I change my name. Search for me online and my great reputation won’t be there anymore. Former colleagues or contacts looking for me might stumble at the first attempt, and give up. It would take a brave (or stupid) man to contemplate such social and professional suicide.


Fortunately in our post-feminist world we have a choice, and the ability to intellectually defend that choice. I am within my right to keep my name, and to pass it on to my children if I so wish. I also have the option to change my name. In this age, I am lucky that I am able to make this decision.

Unfortunately in our post-feminist world many people don’t consider this choice. As I say, I don’t have an answer to the problem, but it infuriates me that it doesn’t even get considered most of the time. A woman is rarely questioned for giving up her identity; it would be shocking and emasculating for a man to give up his.

2 thoughts on “Social and Professional Suicide

  1. I so agree with you – your name is part of your identity, is an indication of your lineage and that you are an independent individual in your own right. Ever tried to do a family tree? It gets difficult to work out the ancestry of many females because they assumed their husband’s name and lost their identity.
    I consider myself a feminist too, and it was in my readings about Islam that I discovered that women should not change their name, are not a chattel of their husbands, and that when they get married their husband has no rights over their property or possessions, but should provide for them! 
    Also what happens if she gets divorced, or her husband dies, and she marries another man? Will she keep changing her surname every time she marries another man? I am who I am!


  2. Interesting argument (hi, by the way, long time no see!). I agree with you to a large part that many people – unfortunately I have to say perhaps more so in Britain – just don’t question gender roles much.

    However, I still feel somewhat motivated to comment, especially considering that I actually did choose to change my name and I don’t agree that this is necessarily unfeminist or damaging. Apparently a lot of people (including my husband) found my name-change surprising, since I am also seen as ‘quite the feminist’. And my argument was, just like your friend’s, that my husband’s was quite simply more interesting. The reason for MY ease in shedding a name is that in Sweden, until very recently (my grandmother’s generation), people received their surname from the first name of their parents (e.g. Matsson/Matsdotter). Additionally, we barely use surnames in Sweden; if I met the prime minister I’d call him ‘Fredrik’. Because of this, I don’t really place any identity in my surname, but rather in the family stories and places. My husband’s name actually has a history of its own, which is cooler as a historical curiosity of sorts. Additionally, my name is now far more unusual, which makes me much easier to find, for better or worse.

    What I am saying is that I don’t think everyone places the same value or identity on surnames, so shedding one isn’t really an issue for some people and a huge issue for others. The reasons for either can be so deep-set that people have never truly understood why someone would think another way. So they can’t justify their own reasons well or they have no interest in doing so. That is a right and a freedom in itself.

    As a point of interest, I actually do know a fair few men (including two uncles) that changed their names for a family name on the woman’s side because it was ‘better’. All of them Swedes though…!


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