My husband and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary back in March.
In the 14+ months of our marriage, there is one question that I have received countless times. One question that no one bothers asking my husband.
Why didn't you change your name?
Why didn't you want to take your wife's last name?
How does your wife feel about your decision to keep your last name?
No one has thought to ask my husband about his decision to keep his last name when we got married.
Not a single person has asked him any of those questions above. But strangers are quick to ask him why I kept my last name!
Not intimate friends or immediately family members. Strangers.
Strangers feel entitled to know why I made a choice that doesn't affect them in the slightest.
I know what some of you are thinking...
Um, Brita? Didn't you start the conversation with your satire? Don't you always ask for comments and questions?
Surprisingly, not that many people responded to my satire by asking me why I kept my last name. If anyone did, that didn't bother me, because it was relevant to the post.
But people have been asking me this question long before I had my 15 minutes of fame, and they still ask me, even without having read my satire. Like I said, even strangers feel comfortable asking my husband why I didn't take his last name.
For the record, misogyny and sexism are not the same thing. You can have the best of intentions and be the nicest person in the world and still be sexist.
Asking me why I didn't change my last name is sexist.
You are asking me a question that you would never ask my husband. That's practically the textbook-definition of sexism.
But that's not the only reason why asking me about my last name is sexist.
There is an awful lot of entitlement in asking an individual to explain a personal choice that does not affect you. This entitlement pops up a lot when a person with privilege demands an explanation from a person without privilege.
Frequently, the problem isn't so much the question itself (but it's still sexist), but how the question is asked. Rarely is it a standalone question. Usually it is followed by one of the following:
- Do you not love your husband?
- Are you planning a future divorce?
- Why did you even get married if you didn't want to change your name?
These questions just drip with condescension.
Apparently my personal and individual choice to ignore a tradition steeped in patriarchy could possibly tear apart the social fabric holding America together. Or something.
I do feel like feminism has made some progress here. Like my friend Kelly pointed out in her own post on the subject, the fact that people ask her if she's changing her name or not is a win for feminism... Even if they're not asking her fiancé the same question.
Until we take a few more steps forward, I'll keep innocently explaining that my husband didn't feel like taking my last name. It's amazing how people react when I say that!
But hey, if you're still dying to know why I kept my last name, I'll give you a hint as to one of the many reasons.
Google "galaxy Brita Long," and yes, you'll need those quotation marks in the search bar.
Would you give that up, just for the sake of "tradition"?