What’s in a name?
A whole lot if you ask me. Or maybe, not a lot is more accurate of an assessment. I had a conversation today with someone who is a self-professed feminist. She is highly intelligent, ivy league educated, raised in an affluent neighborhood by well off parents. She and I have had many conversations that I’ve leaned into only to decide to lean OUT of 10 minutes in. Today was no different. This is how it went :
Her: Did you hear Kim & Kanye had their baby?
Me: Yep and I read somewhere today that they named her Kaitlyn Donda West.
Her: She gave the baby his name?!
Me: Uh yes, he is her father.
Her: And? Kim has a name.
Me: (with a dumfounded face) But you do know she didn’t make the baby alone right? Oh is this because they aren’t married? Because I know they plan to get married so may as well.
Her: N o it has nothing to do with that. Kim has her own name so her baby should have her name. My kids will have my name.
Me: Well that’s no surprise since you got married last month and didn’t take your husband’s name, not even for the “I now present you Mr. & Mrs. part.
I knew I needed to stop there. But I didn’t. I proceeded to combine my love for the bible with my Game of Thrones obsession and said “You are supposed to leave one house and cling to the other once you get married.” You know what they say. Even the devil can quote scriptures. OK so I’m not a biblical scholar (as clearly the scripture says “cleave”) but my point was, you got married and you want to have no association with your husband. Even if I can get with that, meaning you don’t want to take your husband’s name, you also don’t want your child to have his name either?? Everyone is welcome to their opinion and by all means do what works for you. I know from reading her blogs and being in close quarters with her that she believes a woman loses all identity by giving up her name and that it is an antiquated patriarchal practice that she grew weary of watching her own mother marry, divorce, and remarry. And luckily she found a man who was okay with that. Lord knows I don’t have one and my father is clear that he cares nothing about me keeping his name because the man who marries me will have to PAY for me for the rest of my life so he deserves to give me his.
But it opened up a whole school of thought about last names and more importantly, the naming of children born out of wedlock. In the few hours since this conversation, I’ve interviewed several of my closest friends. Some replied the child should always get the father’s name, regardless of the parents’ relationship status. Others said it depended on where the relationship was going. One friend, who had a child while still in high school, told me she knew when she was pregnant what kind of man her child’s father was. He had even suggested she get an abortion. So she knew that child would have a labored (no pun intended) relationship with her father (which 16 years later, she does) so she did not give her his last name. In Kim Kardashian’s case, she is finally divorced (as of June 4th), and planning to marry her child’s father. So if she wants to give her his name, who really cares? I could be flip and say if Kanye is buying diapers the baby should have his name. But it’s not really about that. I guess my frustration came from the idea that Kim K, or any woman at all, ceases to be who she was because she takes on her husband’s name or gives her child her husband’s name. The person I had the conversation with was clear that her children would have HER name or perhaps some hyphenated version of she and her husband’s name. And to that I replied well I think children with hyphenated names are inherently confused. I should’ve stopped talking. I was speaking out of emotion. I was being flip. But I was honest.
If I can disappear into the series of letters that become my surname then did I really exist before I pledged to join my life to another? It is my belief that once I am married, I have pledged to another to be MORE of myself by growing, refining, polishing, becoming a better me. And he will inherently do the same. Becoming a better, stronger, more refined version of himself. There is no loss in losing a name or adding another’s name to yours. And there is certainly no loss in bestowing it upon a child of that union or relationship.
I guess I don’t get it. I’ve never felt like my name was something that defined me in any way, so having that much of an attachment to it kinda confuses me. I really don’t care what anyone else chooses to do…if your friend thinks keeping her name and giving her children her name makes some bold statement or fights against antiquated traditions…well, ummm…ok then. I would think the energy could be directed toward doing things that actually make an impact for women and don’t see how this does anything at all, but do what you want.
Where I’m having the most trouble, though, is with the children. Taking children born to parents who aren’t married out of the mix (only because I totally get the complications in choosing which name they will get depending on the situation), what is the argument for your children having your name over your husband’s when you’re married? This is where I’m getting hung up on this one. I can’t think of how that conversation even goes. What is her reasoning behind being so adamant on her children having her name? Sounds to me it’s just to prove some point, but I imagine she has a more intellectual answer to that?
Her answer, as I read in one of her blogs on a project she has undertaken related to this very issue, is that the kids are no more of him than they are of her and so to be equitable they should have both names (hyphenated) but then there would be the issue of whose name goes first (pre-hyphen). So the compromise would likely be no hyphen, just keep her name. I’m with you….uh ok. As long as your other half “gets’ you, that’s all that matters I suppose. A lid for every pot as the elders say!
So basically it’s like I thought – just trying to prove a point. To me if you even have to discuss which name goes first like it’s some kind of prize your priorities are off. But that sounds kinda judgmental so I guess I shouldn’t say that.
I added my husband’s name to my own, I have 4 names now. Even if I had kept my “maiden” name, it would have been my father’s surname. If I had chose to take on my mother’s original surname, it would have been her father’s last name. Unless you create a new name all together, it is still a patriarchal system.
I agree with you, do whatever makes you and your spouse happy. My spouse would not have been happy had I not taken his name.
In my husband’s culture, your name means a great deal. It is your history, it represents every ancestor who carried that name. I was honored that he chose me to help him carry on that lineage. I took his name, our children will carry on his name. It didn’t detract from who I am.
We have so many names in our house, it has become a family joke. I didn’t take my ex-husband’s name, but it is our son’s name. However, my son used my maiden name for years by choice. When I remarried, I hyphenated so that I would keep the connection to the name my son was using and to the name on my college degree. Then, my husband had to take a stage name because some other actor with his same name had gotten into SAG, and SAG only allows one actor for a given name. Then we had a daughter, and she has my husband’s last name (legal name not stage name.) Then my son decided to start using his legal name again. So that’s four names under one roof (five if you count the hyphenated name as its own beast.) Ah well… A rose by any other name…
LAWD!!! Good thing you don’t have a family dog with a last name! LOL! Thanks for your comment!
Names are very important…but disbelief that someone gave thier child the daddys name? That’s crazy. There was a huge uproar because Beyonce is touring as Mrs. Carter Tour. Feminists about died. I am proud that she is so secure in her yourself and proud of her husband that she called it that. Isn’t that what feminism is about?
And I heard the name was Kaidence Donda West?
I heard that too.
I don’t have a dog in the name fight…but I hate the spelling of Kaidence if that is really the name. But Kim and Kanye can go ahead and karry on in their lives…:)
I was glad to take my husband’s name. My parents were divorced before my father died, and my mom still uses his name. I’m still a separate person from my spouse.
Sorry to be a latecomer to this. When we married I took my wife’s last name. We now have two children and of course that is their last name too.