Changing your name
I went to see Laurie Anderson perform her latest work, "Delusions," on Thursday night. It was fantastic.
There's a really nice review of it on the Straight website. You can also read a Q&A with Laurie Anderson on the official Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad website.
One of the funniest parts of the performance was a little section that dealt with names. Women's last names in particular.
I can't remember the exact wording, but she pointed out how women lose half of their name as they marry, divorce, and remarry. And the funniest: your mother's maiden name is so secret, so unknown, that you can use it as a security question for banking.
I've always been confused by the tradition of women changing their last name to their husband's when they get married. My mother did it, but I also knew women who kept their last name. As a man, I would just find it strange for someone to change their last name to my last name. I mean, what does that imply? That I own my wife? That I have subsumed her family identity into my own?
I recently learned that Chinese tradition is that women don't change their last name. My mother-in-law has the same name in Chinese that she was born with, but her last name in English is her husband's last name. Of course, more of her life is merged into her husband's life, whereas here in Canada it seems that the taking of the last name is more symbolic than anything else.
I'm still surprised when anyone I know changes their last name after marriage. I wonder if it is becoming less popular to change your name or if it is the same? And what does it mean to the people who do change their name? Do men feel somehow emasculated by a wife who refuses to change her name?