This is what's getting me hot and bothered: The Daily Beast reports that Facebook finds that a vast majority of women are now taking their husband's last name—confirming a steady trend that's been documented in other studies. Facebook looked at "14 million married females, ranging in age from 20 to 79, who are currently active on Facebook" and finds this result:
Facebook determined that 65 percent of women in their 20s and 30s changed their name in marriage. The percentage continues to rise for women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s—to 68 percent, 75 percent, and then 80 percent. While the data does not account for those who change their names legally, but not on Facebook (and vice versa), it reflects that for the married female population, keeping your maiden name is so last decade.
Did you hear that—"keeping your maiden name is so last decade"?! I guess that makes me officially stuck in the 20th century. And you know what else? I embrace the F-word: feminist. So, yeah, I'm a total dinosaur.
Honestly, I don't get why a grown woman would take her hubby's last name. Yes, I know the usual reasons. I covered them in a past post:
The "family unity" argument—that it's nice for family members to share the same name. And the "practical" argument—that it's easier to fit "The Drapers" or "The Cleavers" on the mailbox.
After seeing so many of friends divorce over the years, I'm not too impressed by these "family" reasons. (I have a friend who's been married three times, and she keeps all her ex-husbands' names for the "sake of the children.")
Indeed, the women interviewed by The Daily Beast offer some pretty lame reasons about why they changed their names. One 30-year old woman says it was unavoidable: "It's part of the transition from 'me' to 'we,' " adding, "I was proud to take my husband's last name."
Another 25-year-old woman gushes:
It’s exciting! I think women like taking a new name because it is a new start. I get to take these new years of my life to define who I am as "Mrs. Julia Hunsaker Martin." It’s a different Julia than the one before.
Unfortunately, only women seem to buy this silly idea that marriage (along with the name change) is magically transformative—something akin to marrying Prince Charming and getting instantly zapped from a shabby parlor maid into a beautiful princess. I can't imagine a guy saying the same thing.
I see this name-change trend as playing into the larger retro phenomenon. (How many times have we heard the warning that women will regret it if they fail to nab a husband in time, pop out some babies, and put the brakes on their careers when home conflicts with career?) Despite all of women's achievements, there's still a large pull for women to hew to the traditional path—and that extends to affluent, well-educated women too.
So back to the basic question: Why are bright young women taking their husband's names in the 21st century? Dr. Christina Lucia Stasia, president of the Lucy Stone League, tells The Daily Beast: "It’s not that women aren’t smart enough. It’s that they’re conditioned from the day they were born to think that, as women, it’s their job to take their husband’s last name."
I think Stasis is right: Women are conditioned to look up to men as the leader of the pack. We all do so in varying degrees.
But, really, shouldn't we know better by now?
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