Women’s Power to Name

January 13, 2007

This kind of thing really fries me:

Mike Buday isn’t married to his last name. In fact, he and his fiancee decided before they wed that he would take hers.

But Buday was stunned to learn that he couldn’t simply become Mike Bijon when they married in 2005.

As in most other states, that would require some bureaucratic paperwork well beyond what a woman must go through to change her name when marrying.

Instead of completing the expensive, time-consuming process, Buday and his wife, Diana Bijon, enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union and filed a discrimination lawsuit against the state of California. They claim the difficulty faced by a husband seeking to change his name violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

“Diana and I feel strongly about gender equality for both men and women,” Buday said. “I think the most important thing in all of this is to bring it to a new level of awareness.”

Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU in Southern California, said it is the first federal lawsuit of its kind in the country. “It’s the perfect marriage application for the 17th century,” Rosenbaum said. “It belongs in the same trash can as dowries.”

Only six states – Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota – have statutes establishing equal name-change processes for men and women when they marry. In California and other states, men cannot choose a different last name while filing a marriage license.

In California, a man who wants to take his wife’s name must file a petition, pay more than $300, place a public notice for weeks in a local newspaper and then appear before a judge.

That is just plain RIDICULOUS

At one point, the couple tried the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a name change. But Buday said he was told by a woman behind the counter: “Men just don’t do that type of thing.”

Well, yeah, they do.  And good for them!

Laws giving women an easy choice of names were largely a byproduct of the feminist movement. A 2004 Harvard University study found that the number of college-educated women who kept their surnames upon marriage rose from about 3 percent in 1975 to nearly 20 percent in 2001.

I love that – “largely” a “byproduct” of the feminist movement.  What else would have brought this concept to the fore?  What could be more important to the establishment of gender equality than the concept that a woman can KEEP HER OWN NAME when she gets married?  That her identity isn’t subsumed into her husband’s?  That she HAS an identity?

When I got married in 1988, I kept my name.  It was my name, dammit!  MY IDENTITY!  None of this “you’re becoming a possession of your husband” bullshit. 

I thought that keeping one’s own name was a well-established practice by that time.  But no.  Even some ostensibly “liberal” people were taken aback by the idea.  One of my co-workers crooned, “But I think it’s so romantic when the man and woman have the same last name…. it shows their deep commitment, shows the world they’re a team,” etc. etc. ad nauseam. I said, “OK, what about if the man takes the wife’s name?”  Oooh!  Shocking concept.  She really didn’t want to think about that idea.

I recently changed my last name for professional reasons, and I chose my mother’s maiden name, to honor her.  I’d carried my father’s name around for a few decades and that was enough.  It was Mom’s turn now.  Amazingly, there were people who, when they found out, gave me odd looks and said things like, “Well…. what does your husband think about this?”

He’s fine with it, of course.  And what the hell does it matter what HE thinks of it??  It’s MY name.

I can’t believe that in this day and age, people are still having trouble with this concept.

H.R.H. Supervixen



  1. Even the benighted province of Alberta allows a man to automatically take or add his wife’s name.
    The only exceptions are,as far as I know,Newfoundland and Labrador,and Quebec,and in Quebec a woman’s name never legally changes upon marriage.
    A woman keeping her own name is automatically an option in every other province(including Newfoundland and Labrador.)

  2. See, that makes much more sense. Canada is such a civilized place!

    Though filled with polar bears and penguins 😉

  3. Who have nothing better to do but sit around drinking warm coca-cola!

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