A note from Al:
This is a natural outgrowth of the corrupted version of egalitarianism that has enchanted modern Europe and now America. Its roots go back at least 150 years. See Paul Kengor’s Take Down: From Communists to Progressives How the Left has Sabotaged Family and Marriage for some of the intellectual and social history behind this radical egalitarianism.
Now a husband adopting a wife’s last name doesn’t spell the immediate end of Western Civilization. But it does tell us something very important: You cannot logically maintain customs when they appear arbitrary. They appear arbitrary because no one any longer remembers the reason underlying the custom.
The practice of the wife taking the husband’s name is based on a vision of complementarity between male and female rooted in Genesis. Man and woman share a common task to be fruitful and multiply and hold dominion over the earth. Men, generally, function in one way; woman in other ways. A radical egalitarianism sees no difference between male and female and therefore why shouldn’t a husband takes the wife’s name? (In fact, it is rarely done, on occasion, because of the wife’s family’s prominence.) They are interchangeable.
Once they are interchangeable, women serve in combat and die for their country and loved ones just as men have for all of human history. No longer do women and children get rescued first. No longer do men perform gestures of honor like opening doors or turning down the inebriated advances of a lonely woman at a party.
No longer is there any metaphysical theology underlying male and female participation in the marital act where the wife receives and nurtures the seed planted by the male. The obligation of the man becomes to protect, foster and provide for the woman and child. Today, that obligation is increasingly lost and women must be treated just like a man.
St. Paul that there is an egalitarian impulse between men and women. “In Christ there is no male or female, bond or free, Jew or Gentile” (Gal 3:29). However, there is, first, a foundational complementarity by virtue of creation. Humanity is made in God’s image and is differentiated into male and female who complement one another. The redemptive work of Christ restores the proper complementarity. St. Paul’s words in Galatians is an attack on the distortions of complementarity that had grown up in Roman and Jewish culture. He is talking about the original restoration of the divine image to both male and female. He is not eliminating any distinction between them.
– Al Kresta
American actress Zoe Saldana has responded to criticism following her husband’s decision to adopt her surname after marriage. It’s usually women who take their partner’s name – but are things changing?
“Why is it so surprising, shocking- eventful that a man would take his wife’s surname?,” asks Zoe Saldana on her Facebook page.
“Men, you will not cease to exist by taking your partner’s surname. On the contrary you will be remembered as a man who stood by change,” she writes.
More women are keeping their surnames, or hyphenating them with their partners’, but the patriarchal tradition of a man holding onto his prevails.
But times, and names, are slowly changing.
Ben Martin (ne Coghill) is one of a new breed of men, who are taking their wife’s surname.
The 32-year-old music promoter from Glasgow, Scotland, says he didn’t think anything of it.
“I really liked the sound of my wife’s name – Rowan Martin – and didn’t want to spoil that with her changing it.”
At the beginning, Ben’s sister had some concerns it would be the end of the line for the family name, but she was soon won over. “I explained to her, ‘what’s in a name’, it doesn’t really matter. It wouldn’t make a difference,” he said.
“It shows I don’t buy into this idea of patriarchy, and that I’m comfortable enough with who I am that I don’t see it as anything at all.”
It’s difficult to know how many other men are following Ben Martin or Marco Saldana’s lead because all of the research into married names focuses on a woman’s decision.
A 2013 survey of 13,000 brides for the wedding website topknot.com found that the vast majority (80%) of females still choose to take their spouse’s last name, although the numbers are falling as more retain their maiden name.
Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist who co-authored a 2004 study
“The reason for the decrease in surname-keeping in the 1990s is not clear,” says her report, “We can only speculate about the social factors that have caused surname-keeping to decrease… Perhaps surname-keeping seems less salient as a way of publicly supporting equality for women than it did in the late 1970s and 1980s,”
For the women who hang onto their surnames, the decision is often practical. Silicon Valley based psychologist Kathryn Welds says as more women work, their desire to retain a “personal brand” has grown.
But where does that leave the men who are changing? Welds says she only knows of two who’ve taken their spouse’s name. “In both instances these men had distant relationships with their fathers and didn’t feel positively towards them,” she says.
And like most things in marriage, there’s also the compromise option. Welds is also seeing more couples merging their surnames together to create a hybrid.
When BBC producer Andy Brown married Helen Stone, they became the Brownstones.
“Helen is one of two girls. Her sister was already married and had taken her husband’s name,” he says. “She didn’t want the Stone to disappear and the name Brownstone just seemed to work.
“Helen and I also liked the idea of creating a new tribe.”
into the subject, says her research showed a rise in college-educated women keeping their surnames from the mid 1970s onwards, corresponding to the rise of feminism, and as women began to make a professional name for themselves. In the 1990s the pace of change slowed down, as more women stuck with tradition.