Why Don’t Men Typically Change Their Names

With the recent uproar over women’s rights—from the Supreme Court’s decision to take away abortion rights to Jennifer Lopez’s decision to give away her last name—society loves to debate about what women should and shouldn’t do. But, let’s turn the tables and talk about what men should and shouldn’t do, and let’s start with married names.

Lopez, like all women, has the right to choose whatever name she wants when getting married. But how about the men? What about Ben? We’ve heard practically nothing from him about the couple’s married name. Is he happy she took his name? Did he expect it? Did he offer to take her name? Probably not. If he’s like most guys, he took a passive role in the name change decision.

Our society didn’t teach men to change their names when they marry, and that needs to change.

Men need to be willing to come to the married-name negotiating table on a level playing field with their future wife and explore all options available, including him taking her name.

Men, and for that fact women, change their names outside of marriage all the time for many different reasons, or for no reason at all. Some people change their name to sound more or less ethnic, to get rid of an embarrassing name, to match their gender identity, or to align with, or away from, family members.

Many well-known personalities have altered their names to be more star-like. Jamie Foxx was born with the name Eric Marlon Bishop. Bruno Mars was born Peter Gene Hernandez. Heck, even Ben Affleck doesn’t go by his birth name of Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt.

So, when it comes to marriage, why shouldn’t men consider giving up their names and taking on her name? Sure, we all know the patriarchal history behind the tradition–wives had no surname except “wife of X” and the wife, up to the late 19th century, was the husband’s possession and ceded all property and parental rights to their husband upon marriage—but this is 2022, and those rules and laws are no longer in place.

Guys, a little advice. If you have one of these unfortunate names, like Grossweiner, Niswonger, Meth, Cocksmith or Dingle, do your kids and society a favor and don’t pass it on. And, if you and your wife both want to keep your own names, give your kids her name.

Although Lopez chose to take her husband’s name, a woman keeping her maiden or doing something creative with it is not uncommon. Gender equality has come a long way in the last 50 years, although it still has far to go. When the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, married women couldn’t apply for credit cards or bank accounts without their husband’s signature. Only 11% of women had a college degree. More than 80% of women of childbearing age (15 to 45 years old) were married and had children. Of that age bracket, 55% of women did not have a paid job.

Today, women are getting married later in life because they have more control over when they will start a family and establish their career. In 2020, 41% of women had a college degree. Only 43% of women of childbearing age (15 to 45 years of age) were married, 48% had children, and only 27% of women in that age bracket did not have a paid job. But gender equality still has a long way to go.

Men choosing a married name together, equally, with their partner is an area where men can really step up and make a difference. Although some men have evolved past the mindset that their wife has to take his name, a whopping 70% of women still drop their maiden name and take on his name when they get married. This is often due to pressure from fiancé, family, and friends, or the desire to make life less complicated with one family name. An unproportionate, 3% of men change their names, which may include hyphenating his with hers, creating a new name, or taking their wife’s name.

Men who understand that gender equality is a benefit to our whole society may feel they are being supportive of their future wife and whatever decision she wants to make about her last name. Whether she wants to keep her maiden name, hyphenate it, or something else like changing her middle name to her maiden name and adding his as her last name. But, again, the burden is on the woman to choose between her own identity and the cohesiveness of a family name. It’s like a man saying, I’m going to live in this house with our kids, but if you want to live in a different house, I completely support you. What choice does she really have? Of course, she is going to sacrifice her own wishes and choose her family.

Even these men who feel they are supporting gender equality need to evolve further and be open to the option of taking the woman’s name and/or giving the children her name.

Gender equality is not just a women’s fight. We all need to take an active role.

Peace, Love, and Choices!

Melanie Joy

One Response

  1. I completely agree that we all need to fight for gender equality. That’s interesting that Ben Affleck changed his name too!

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