Thursday, May 3, 2012
[Antara] The Last Name Project
In this new series co-hosted by from two to one and The Feminist Mystique, we will be profiling an array of individuals and couples about their last name decisions upon marriage or what they expect to choose if they marry. The goal is to explore how individuals make decisions about their last name, and to highlight the many possibilities. We will be posting profiles periodically and encourage you to stay connected via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you would like to participate in this series, email Danielle at danielle [at] fromtwotoone [dot] com or Shannon at hill [dot] shannonp [at] gmail [dot] com.
The following post is by Antara, who is from India.
Although India itself is still a fairly socially conservative country, I was brought up in a particularly progressive family. Therefore, when I was growing up, I never thought about whether keeping my last name could be a matter of choice – it seemed to be such an obvious fact of life that the idea that I could do something differently never even occurred to me.
When I got married, it was to an American with a last name that was not exactly linguistically compatible with my first name. But since I never consciously evaluated my options on this front, this was not a factor in my “decision”.
At that time, I worked with a set of fairly conservative colleagues who kept asking me whether I was trying to be a rebel by refusing to take my husband’s last name. This was shocking to me, not only because I never felt that I was making any sort of decision (let alone a rebellious one) but because even if I were to consciously make such a decision, I would be quite far from being a pioneering trail-blazer on this issue.
Constant interrogation from various people and several people’s (often innocent) attempts to force my husband’s last name on me in holiday cards and wedding invites left me frustrated and forced me to think about why keeping my last name was such an easy and obvious choice.
I realized that there were two primary reasons: first, my last name gives me a sense of identity. It is the only last name that I have ever had and it is the name that forms the basis of all my memories. I cannot imagine myself with a different last name. But even more importantly, I would never take any man’s last name simply because the tradition represents an asymmetry that is rooted in sexism and I will not be a part of that.
When my husband and I had our first child, we gave him a hyphenated last name that contained both our last names. This was very much a conscious decision and we receive a lot of patronizing questions about it. Yes, we understand that our child’s last name will not be the most common last name in his school. Sure, it may not roll off everyone’s tongue so easily. And if and when our six-month old child eventually has his own child with a partner who also has a double-barreled name, they can make their own decision about what their child’s last name should be (but we thank you for your extremely forward-looking concerns). In the meantime, we realize that there may well be days when he gets a little annoyed with his complicated last name. But we hope that when he grows up, he will think its kind of cool that he carries the names of both his parents. And if he does not, he always has the choice to change his last name. It is a free country after all.