Just because something is tradition, does not mean it is the most effective solution.
For the majority of marriages around the world, it is considered customary for a wife to relinquish her maiden name, and take on the last name of her husband. For many of us, we take this for granted without a second thought. It's what we do, right? People do hyphenate their names after marriage after all, but very few men actually decide to take their bride's last name. "A man taking his wife's name — remains incredibly rare: In a recent study of 877 heterosexual married men, fewer than 3% took their wife's name when they got married."
It's thought the tradition of masculine name inheritance is biblical, although this isn't a fully supported theory:
"The tradition of a wife taking her husband's last name at marriage is not found in the Bible. In Bible times, most people did not even have last names. Women were often identified by where they lived (e.g., Mary Magdalene, Luke 8:2), by their children (e.g., Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Matthew 27:56), or by their husband (e.g., Mary the wife of Clopas, John 19:25)."
The important thing to notice here is that although it was not standard for a wife to become Mrs.Jesus instead of Mary Magdelene. It was still customary to refer to a woman in terms of her relationship with a man (either her Father or Husband). She was not considered an independent being, and the semantics of her name reflects that.
This doesn't sit well with me.
Let's take a moment to question this tradition.
All traditions should be scrutinized and questioned or else they become obsolete in the ever-changing socio-cultural tide.
Why is it male names are only passed on? Essentially, the verbal female line is obliterated in favor of unity under a male surname. This makes sense in a way: a singular family name helps bring everyone together as a unit. The use of the male name over the female name represents male ownership over both women and the family. It unbalanced gender roles in their very structure.
"the matter of a wife taking a husband's surname didn't surface in English common law until the ninth century, when lawmakers began to consider the legalities surrounding personhood, families, and marriage. Thusly (as they would say), the doctrine of coverture emerged – and women were thereafter considered "one" with their husbands and therefore required to assume the husband's surname as their own.
Under the concept of coverture, which literally means "covered by," women had no independent legal identity apart from their spouse. Actually, this "coverage" began upon the birth of a female baby – who was given her father's surname – and could only change upon the marriage of that female, at which point her name was automatically changed to that of her new husband." --Stephanie Reid Law
My mother always told me she never changed our names back to her maiden name after the divorce because she wanted to purport us as a family. In my opinion, a family with an absent father has no obligation to keep his name, as it had no obligation to receive it in the first place.
It may not seem like much as it is just technicalities, but technicalities govern the structure in which we present and define ourselves.
I do not wish to be defined by a patriarchal tradition even if it is as simple in a name. Think about it. A name is not as simple as it seems. A name becomes an identity. A name shapes our understanding of ourselves; if the tradition of male names being passed down continues every family will unwittingly submit to the standards of the patriarchy.
This being said, there is nothing inherently wrong with taking your spouse's name if that feels right to you and has been discussed freely between partners. Sometimes, your partner's last name may be the coolest name in the book and works perfectly syntactically. Sometimes, you may love your partner to death but his last name is Curtle, Assinger, or — god forbid — Smith. Today, we have a choice to keep our names, and as women, we should consider it instead of blindly accepting a name in the name of tradition.
There is a power and a peace that comes from sharing a name, sharing a goal. There are also restrictions and depersonalizing undertones to the tradition as well. Where does the "single woman's" identity go once they are bound to another? The single male identity doesn't change as their name remains untouched by the union.
Why not take your bride's last name? Would it feel emasculating because everybody else is doing the opposite? Why don't more couples hyphenate their names? Are we content with tradition even if it's based on the debasement and slavery of an entire gender?
"'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself though, not a Montague. What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O! be some other name: What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, Retain that dear perfection which he owes. Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name; And for that name, which is no part of thee, Take all myself." — "Romeo And Juliet," Shakespeare.
Unifying under one name as a family is a type of empowerment, but it also requires the sacrifice of one name. Typically the female name. This being said, keeping or taking back our names is another, higher, form of empowerment.