Saturday, 15 January 2011

Name dropping

A Japanese law says newly married couples must adopt a single surname - which in practice is usually the man's. Now five people in Japan are going to court to challenge the law.

One of the five, Kyoko Tsukamoto, says the loss of her maiden name has caused psychological damage and loss of self. She has never got used to having a different name and wants her old one back.

The five say the surname law violates their right under the constitution to individual liberty and equal rights as husband and wife.

There have been several previous attempts to change the law, always blocked by those who claim the change would undermine family life and children's identities. Surprisingly, almost half the population share these curious fears.

Although newly-weds in Britain are free to choose whatever surname they like, in practice they tend to follow the Japanese and take the man's name.

I wonder how many women are happy with the change of name and how many would secretly like to reclaim the old one? Do some of them feel they've lost a little bit of themselves and their family history? Or do they welcome the new name and all that goes with it?

Jenny has always kept her original name and shudders at the thought of changing it to mine. She doesn't want to be subsumed into my identity, thanks very much, quite apart from all the complications of changing every official record of her name in existence.

How very telling it is that practically every new husband expects his wife to adopt his own name. For him to adopt her name would be embarrassing, belittling, a loss of manhood. And a chap's manhood, as we all know, is alarmingly fragile.

Pic: Marriage Japanese style. Don't you just love that wedding dress?

32 comments:

Scarlet Blue said...

Slightly off-topic, but vaguely curious... I knew a Miss Grey who married a Mr White, then divorced and finally became Mrs Black. True.
Sx

WV: ketint

Nick said...

Scarlet - True you say. Sounds like a very tall story to me. I once knew a couple called Hill whose original names were both Hill. No problem for them.

Los Angelista said...

That law in Japan is ridiculous, but, as far as whether changing my last name would cause psychological damage...I don't know if I buy that 100%.

Then again, I never changed my name because I love my last name and yes, the paperwork to do so is a BIG hassle. At the time several relatives and friends were outraged, which made me dig in my heels even more about the issue.

Macy said...

The hassle continues after children. if you don't have the same surname as your child.. you will spend your life saying something along the lines of "Hi, I'm Macy McK, Cherub McWotsit's mum"

And irrespective of marital status, schools and doctors will immediately call you "Mrs McWotsit"

Nick said...

Liz - Exactly, you love your last name so why change it? Good for you resisting other people's pressure.

Macy - Mrs McWotsit, tell me about it. Jenny is frequently addressed as Mrs Nick-Surname, or the two of us become Mr and Mrs Nick-Surname. Even when we've told people several times we have different names. Even relatives. And even when Jenny has given them her own surname. Such gormlessness....

rummuser said...

I suppose it is all in the conditioning. My wife readily changed her name as did my sisters in law and sister. My ex daughter in law, changed hers and has now reverted to her maiden name at considerable inconvenience. I have three nieces, two of who have retained their maiden names. While there is no law as such in India, the paper work whether one changes the name or not is still an awful nuisance.

Nick said...

Ramana - Conditioning indeed. I think if you asked a lot of wives why they changed their name they wouldn't have a good reason apart from "Well, that's what a woman does". Why so much paperwork in India if your name stays the same? All I had to do was get a marriage certificate, end of story.

Megan said...

Well, here you can do what you like - keep yours, take his, or become a hyphenate (that one kinda bugs me) - but yeah, I'd bet that many women change because it's just "what you do" when you get married. And Macy has a point about the kids...

nursemyra said...

When I got married many many years ago I was delighted to be able to change my unpronounceable surname to my husband's. I no longer needed to spell it out for anyone, it was shorter and much more attractive and suited my first name perfectly. sometimes I think it might have been a contributing factor in why I married him.
We've been divorced for 10 years and I've still kept it. I love my name.

Wisewebwoman said...

Gee,
A term that still sounds so old fashioned to me is "maiden name". Why on earth don't people use "birth name?". I know several women whose husbands took on their wives' birth names upon marriage.
I still have my birth name.
My last fiance was willing to take my name as it didn't matter to him as long as we had the same name.
Also we need to consider gay couples in this whole debate. Gay couples often choose a new name which they both adopt.
As to children that is easily resolved.
XO
WWW

kylie said...

i still think of myself as being "a jurd" my maiden name but i wouldnt change back, i like having the same name as the kids

Nick said...

Megan - Hyphenated surnames are a logical idea but they're a bit of a mouthful. And very laborious if you're filling in forms.

Myra - All good reasons for adopting the new name. And keeping it. Clearly it isn't Ramsbottom.

Nick said...

W3 - "Maiden name" is very quaint, isn't it? And of course there's no male equivalent like bachelor name. That's unusual that you know several guys who took the woman's name. I don't know any at all. And I didn't know that gay couples often choose a completely new name. I think there are some countries where newly-weds do that.

Kylie - It must be a lot easier if children have the same name and you don't have the endless explaining that Macy mentioned.

Grannymar said...

I was glad to take my husbands name. My mother, both of my grandmothers and all the wives of my uncles on both sides had the same surname. Mind you even to this day some older family members introduce me by my maiden name.

Elly is a woman of her time and held onto her birth name. She is the last in the line on her father's side.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Do you mean it was confusing that you all had the same name? Or just that you wanted something different?

So Elly is hanging on to her name because she's the last in the line? Interesting reason.

Eryl said...

I changed my name happily because my old name (Gasper) was the butt of so many jokes, and I hated that. Eryl is bad enough and had I been able to change it to Jane with ease I would have. Psychological damage my arse! You know you're very privileged indeed when changing your name can cause you damage. That said, I agree that that law is stupid and pointless, why can't governments just leave people to decide what's best for them with such extremely trivial things?

Nick said...

Eryl - An unhappy name, I agree. Though I see the original meaning of Gasper is Treasure or Treasure Keeper. But I quite like the name Eryl. And yes, claiming psychological damage is pushing it a bit....

tattytiara said...

I haven't investigated the veracity of this, but someone once told me that if a woman adopts her husband's name, there's no charge, but if a husband adopts his wife's name, he has to pay to legally change his name. I think a big part of me resists investigating out of fear I'll discover it is true, because if it is it'll make me pretty darn queasy.

Nick said...

Tattytiara - If that's the case, it's absurd! I can't think of a single couple I know where the man took the woman's name. It just "isn't done".

Roses said...

Hah! I can tell you a tale of name changing.

When I married I changed my surname to my husbands, but insisted that my firstname wasn't his, which offended my mother, who liked to address letters to me as Mrs exH.

Upon receipt of my decree absolute, I hot footed over to a solicitor and changed my surname to one I chose for myself.

The whoo-haa from him and his family and from mine was quite Guy Fawkesian. There are still members of my family who refer to me by my birthname.

Everything works fine over here, but when Boy was wee, we went over to Canada. The travel agent had neglected to warn me that I'd need a letter from my ex-H giving me permission to travel abroad.

Canadian customs spent half an hour trying to assertain whether I was running away with my son and asked all kinds of ridiculous questions including, why we have different surnames. 13 years later, it's still not a happy memory.

Should Rober Downey Jr, fall madly in love with me and insist on whisking me away to Las Vegas for a shotgun wedding, I'll be keeping my present surname. It's who I am.

Baino said...

I fought long and hard to be a Bainbridge so I aint givin' it back frankly. Hyphenated names shit me as pretentious but don't tell anyone as for Kylie Jurd is a very old Aussie name her mob must have been around for a very long time. Either that or I know from whence she hails! I do however think it's unimaginative to be a "Jr" or "the 2nd"

Nick said...

Roses - Your ex-husband had to give you permission to travel abroad? Ridiculous. And how stubborn relatives (and others) can be about what name we want to use. Why is it such a big deal?

Baino - Hyphenated names are very pretentious. Junior and the Second seem quite insulting to me, as they imply you are just a lesser version of the other person.

Liz said...

My daughter's married name is a very complicated story involving a lot of grief from her mother-in-law but cutting it short she kept her own name for a few years then got fed up of having to convince officials she was married and having to explain it so she's changed her name now.

Liz said...

And I was quite happy to change my name from Williams to Hinds!

secret agent woman said...

I changed my name wen I got married because I wanted the same name as my children. When I got my Ph.D., I kind of regretted the change. Then when I got divorced, I very happily changed it back. Should I ever decide to remarry, I will NOT be changing it again.

But I never used that old Mrs. His-first-name, His-last-name thing. Recently an old high school friend of mine posted on facebook that she was engaged and wrote, "How does Mrs. John Smith (that wasn't the name) sound?" I wanted to say, "Like something out of the '50's?"

Nick said...

Liz - Why are these officials so bloody-minded? Isn't a marriage certificate enough for them? Crazy that she had to change her name because other people made life so difficult.

Secret Agent - Absolutely, Mrs John Smith sounds like a time warp. It doesn't sound like a separate person at all, more like John Smith with a wig and heels.

Roses said...

Apparently, it's all to do with child abduction prevention. But they had a hard time getting their head around the fact we both have different surnames.

My sister-in-law kept her birth name and she travels with copies of all of the documentation: marriage certificates, birth certificates. Even when she travels with my brother, immigration officials still give her grief.

Nick said...

Roses - In this day and age, why is it so hard to understand that couples have different surnames? It's just pig-headed.

Val said...

I was jolly glad to get rid of my maiden name (now that's an expression that should go! Though I wish I were still a maiden, in some ways...) as I hated it. I enjoy being Mrs Erde. I love the guy I married whose name I now bear, and I'm very fond of his family too. (There's something unusual, I suspect! Liking ones in-laws). I loathed the surname I was born with. Personally I can't see what all the fuss is about with changing ones name.

Nick said...

Val - There seem to be quite a lot of women who disliked their birth name and were glad to dump it! Indeed, why so much fuss over someone's choice of name? It's hardly a matter of life and death.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I hope the women challenging Japan's law win, but doubt they will make inroads in a very old tradition. I think the custom is absurd and treats women as chattel.

In the US, most women still take their husband's names. (My daughter kept her own when she married.) I like the idea of a woman keeping her own identity and do regret changing mine. When I was first married, I didn't realize I could keep my own, plus I didn't have a very good association with my father and by extension, my maiden name. On Facebook, I do use my own name plus my present surname, and believe that all women should keep their original names. We don't stop being people when we become someone's wife.

Nick said...

Heart - Some countries do things differently. In Italy for example it's normal for women to keep their birth name. It just occurred to me that one reason for women changing their name is that they can be identified as Mrs X and therefore married. And therefore "taken" so keep your paws off....