When someone asks you – “Who are you?” or when you ask yourself- “Who am I?” How do you respond? Ms OR Mrs? Sorry, if you think I am asking you a lame question that is taught to us in nursery these days. But, the answer is confusing. We (boys and girls together) as toddlers were taught that our personal name and surname is our identity. Except the fact that girls were specially taught that their names would change after marriage.
I remember one of my friends asking me this- “Would you change your name after marriage?”
Up-to-the-minute I came up with this answer- “No. Would you change yours?”
He stammers and replies, “What? Why am I supposed to change my name!?”
“Exactly!” I replied obnoxiously.
Why did I say ‘exactly’? As and when maturity started teasing my thoughts, and when I learned the presence of gender inequality and politics all around in the society, the decision of mine to keep my name after marriage got cemented. It is unarguabaly sexist to ask or rather demand the change of women’s name after marriage. One of the reflective bride says, “I am not cattle that needs to be branded with my owner’s name.” as simple as that, period.
Women- Name- Identity
When you talk of a married woman, apart from being someone’s wife, daughter-in-law and a mother, We forget that She is a strong and independent person first. Her name is a part of who she is which could not (rather should not) be changed after the sacrament. Her name is backed by her career, her work, experience and her individuality. You can call it her pride or ego to carry forward her own name and truly, if you see, this ‘tradition’ of changing name does not sound ‘manly’! It is pragmatic of a woman to put herself ahead of marriage.
A teacher named Sudha Das from one of the renowned schools did not change her surname after she got married. “It is my work experience of all these years that identifies me. I cannot afford to lose my identity”, says Ms Das. She is also grateful to her husband and In-laws who ‘allowed’ her to keep the surname.
But are all women really that lucky enough to be supported by a loving and understanding husband and in-laws? Not always. Women, are beaten, ravaged and treated nothing less than a cattle in several parts of the country even today. Asking their demonic husbands for the right of keeping their names unchanged, might just add a bit more fuel to their already burning life. We need to understand here, that women are strong contributors of the society, and their identity does make a difference.
Hyphenating your name with his last name or vice versa would change the identity of both so, this possibility gets ruled out. When someone asks you – “What about your children? They, by default will have your husband’s last name. But for a woman, “After bearing her child for nine months in womb and nurturing him/her once s/he is born is enough to qualify her as a part of the family.” Also with logic that I would still be feeling- I am someone’s child since I carry my parent’s surname. This will be convincing.
A Senior Research Fellow and a committed wife, Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere opines, “My views are very simple. I believe that in this matter, let women have the choice and let them not be bogged down by any social, religious or cultural custom which compels them to adopt a new identity. If they are ok with changing their surnames, then also their choice must be respected. If they are not, they should not be judged by the parameter that society sets for them. For someone like me who chooses to keep two surnames, I am comfortable with this new identity and at the same time do not wish to give up on my old one. Let me have the freedom to decide who I choose to be.”
I do not intend to hurt the ladies who take up their husbands’ name. It would mean a lot to take up his name as long as she loves him. Look at Prachi Patel, a well known dancer who completely changed surname to Rao. She is Prachi Rao now. She strongly feels that by changing her name she feels dedicated to her marriage. “Changing my original surname to that of my husbands’ will help me become part of their collective identity which will increase the proximity and strengthen our bonding”, says Prachi.
Today, things have evolved in a more ‘unbiased’ way. At few places, especially in the education system, mother’s name is to be filled before that of the father’s; earlier, it was not even asked! (As if she did not play any role in her child’s life and the child is not part of her). I have also met a few ladies who do not take up husband’s surname but his name, as they believe that taking up his first name would identify her, more intimately with him rather than his surname. Well this is an individual’s choice though.
Anyway, change in name would not give you a higher level of commitment. A married man should respect his better half’s individuality and not run behind the tag of ownership. Change of name is solely women’s decision and not of men’s. One is attached from heart to the other, and there is no need to show this to the society that how attached are you to each other that you took up his/her (usually his) name.
So ladies, you are not combining yourself with another person, you are joining him in equality. In your name, there is your history and heritage that keeps you connected to your roots. You are the best judge of yourself and now, the ball is in your court so decide wisely.