My good friend Lori Clayton is now Lori Lowry. She’s really been Lori Lowry for more than a month now, but it’s still a hard concept to grasp. We’d had this debate before she even met her fianc/-now-husband. How important is it that she takes the last name of her husband as her own?
Lori was opposed to the idea that women would even consider not taking on a new name. It is, after all, tradition. I was frustrated at the idea that women would want to change their name and, in essence, a part of their identity. Watching her, however, walk down the rose petal-sprinkled aisle, her candle-lit face so nervous and excited it could not contain her grin, I realized that for her, becoming Lori Lowry was not a matter of surrendering her identity as much as it was sharing it with her husband.
The wedding was beautiful. There is no denying that. The love and respect they had for each other was blatantly apparent. And even if the idea of taking on your husband’s name dates back to when women were considered property and slaves were forced to take on the names of their masters, there is something to be said for the choice that she made.
You see, what this matter, and most matters deemed “feminist,” really comes down to is choice. I am happy for Lori that she is pleased with the decision to change her name. It may not be the choice that I make, but as long as she, of her own free will, is happy with her decision, I am too.
Choice, however, is a relative matter and to freely choose one must have choices. In other words, alternatives must be made available. If the only acceptable action when you get married is to change your name, there is no choice.
1n 1980, Pam Taylor married Steve Jackson. She made a conscious decision to keep her name.
“I wanted to keep my maiden name. My name was who I was. I meant no offense or disrespect to my husband,” Jackson said.
Her name is now Jackson because of the social pressure she felt to change it.
“I felt like I had to constantly explain myself and defend my choice.”
An insurance agent once told her she couldn’t have her maiden name on her husband’s insurance plan because, “We don’t want people in the main office thinking you’re shacking up.”
She eventually changed her name. Jackson’s ultimate decision is not all that uncommon. Many women do take on their husbands name out of convenience, not choice. It is important to respect and recognize that there are alternatives. Today, women often keep their last name or hyphenate names, but why not offer more? If the union of two people is so special that one name is necessary, why not adopt the bride’s name, or perhaps create a name that reflects both of you?
There is room in this world for everyone to express his or herself particularly in how they are identified without feeling pressure to adapt. Both Lori Lowry and Pam Jackson should be respected for their choices. And whether I’m Marika Krause, Marika Krause-Damon or he’s Matt Krause in the future, I hope I am free to make my choice without scrutiny.
Marika Krause is a technical journalism senior. She’s well on her way to passing math and turns 21 this weekend.