Should a Woman Take Her Husband's Name?

One tradition in many Western cultures is that of the wife taking her husband’s last name upon getting married. However, there are many people who are challenging this tradition, as they see it as hetero-normative and outdated. I am one of those people. Let me begin by saying that there is nothing wrong with wanting to take your husband’s last name. It doesn’t make you any less of a feminist and it doesn’t mean you are playing into an antiquated system. It’s your choice to make. However, for some reason my desire to keep my last name should I get married is often met with an unusual amount of backlash.

I have heard every excuse under the sun explaining why I should make such a large change and, frankly, none of them have exactly convinced me. The one I hear the most often is “but it’s tradition to take your husband’s last name! It’s a part of getting married!”  

First of all, I’ve never been one for tradition. Second, traditions are not concrete. They had to start somewhere.

It is unclear where exactly the tradition of taking a husband’s last name began. Some speculate that is may be biblical and due to the influence of Christianity. However, nothing the Bible states this and many majority Christian nations, such as those in Latin America, do not follow this tradition.

Other people state that it’s simply easier to have one name on paperwork, which I believe is a flimsy excuse at best.

There are also those who believe that the woman taking her husband’s last name strengthens the family and makes them seem like one cohesive unit. If this is true (spoiler: it’s not) then there should be less divorce among families in which the wife took the husband’s last name. Turns out there’s no real correlation between the two. And if this did affect the family in some way, why aren’t more husbands taking their wives’ last names?

For me and many others, the biggest issue with taking the husband’s last name is the loss of individuality. There is nothing more powerful and truly individual than a person’s name. To give that up is like giving up who you are. For some, this move may give them more agency, like if they want change their gender presentation, remove themselves from an unpleasant familial relationship, or if they simply want to start anew. To me, though, my last name is who I am and I want to be in charge of whether that changes or not.

The fact that I want to keep my last name shouldn’t cause others to look down on me or judge me negatively. And there is no reason I should be pressured into changing something that I am happy about. It’s a personal choice and one that I am very comfortable with.