Women forced to change surname: Name. The first brick of the edifice of identity, the first word that brings a person closer to themselves, the first meaning that defines the purpose of life. But in the case of women, along with their dresses, careers and choices, they cannot own their names? Why? Our names are changed, once we are married or our surname is replaced with that of the husband whose name alone is enough to ensure the financial and social security of the woman?
But is this fair? Why are women in our society forced to change their name or surname after marriage? Do we even understand how changing the birth name affects a person’s sense of self? Why can’t women carry their family name forward when men get to do it?
In older times, women were expected to not only change their surnames but their birth names also. Once they leave their paternal house, they were expected to leave behind all the identities, memories, dreams and relationship that they weaved in the courtyard where they learnt to walk and speak. But that was the time when women had to be dependent on others for financial and social support. Yes, it was wrong even then to compromise a woman’s self-respect just because she couldn’t support herself. But what logic explains the prevalence of this belief even today when women earn and own their houses and life choices? Why even today they are expected to sacrifice their body, mind and identity to the expectations of patriarchal marriages?
When women forced to change surname : Why can’t women carry their family name forward when men get to do it?
Even though today, the practice of changing the name of a married woman is thankfully obsolete, but the change in the surname is still the norm. It is not just about remaking the adhaar card but about reforming an entirely new identity on ruins of the former sense of self. And mind you, the change is not so much a symbol of starting a new chapter in life as it is about imposing the idea that the name, fame and reputation of a man and his family are more important than that of women. It also reinstates the idea that a woman’s identity gains its value when it is assimilated with that of a man but vice versa never happens.
Change in the surname is equivalent to a change in lifestyle, caste, class, clothing and behaviour because it is a known fact that every caste and class has a certain way of disposition in society. It is also a sign of who gets to inherit the family name, its history and business and carry its legacy forward. With women being forced to lose their parental surname automatically signifies their uprooting in their families’ legacy.
However, it is important to note here that some women willingly choose to change their surname after marriage by either removing their family name or connecting it with their marital surname.
And not only women but men too adopt the surnames of their wives symbolising a relationship based on mutual respect and equality and not on power dynamics. So the point is, changing surname after marriage should not be a necessity but a choice of a woman. It should be a symbol of love and devotion and hence a two-sided commitment in which it should normal for men too to adopt their wives’ surname.
The parental family in which a woman was raised, the name and surname with which she identified herself for the first time and the dreams that she envisioned for her future are as much important as her happy marriage. Nothing should force a woman to change her identity unless she really wants to. Women forced to change surname must question such a concept.
A marriage that demands a woman to give up her freedom, choice and name is a dictatorship and not a relationship. And to be honest, there is much more that is required to sustain a healthy and happy marriage than aligning the names and surnames. So dear married men, stop obsessing over surnames of your wives. It is their own possession to preserve, change and discard. Your marriage cannot “look” happy with same surnames. It needs mutual love, respect and equality. Think about managing this alignment now?