What's In The Surname?

November 28, 2017 5 Comments

Married V/s Maiden Name: Conflicted Masculinity?

I was browsing through TOI newspaper and landed on an article wherein the author suggested that "men who let their wife use their maiden surnames even after marriage are more feminine and have less control in the marriage". 

I went like- WTF! like really? Just cause a cultured man who magnanimously let his wife keep her identity becomes a henpecked?

On the contrary, I believe that the men who amicably let their wife have a choice of the surname are rather more masculine and mature. After all, a man's masculinity and power is not in dominating a woman over her surname. Any matured man, who worth his salt would understand the struggle and the efforts that a woman would have taken to carve a niche for herself, or make a name of self. Such man would understand, empathize and respect but not enforce one-sided, regressive patriarchy on the person he calls life partner and aim to spend his entire life with her. I dunno the falling structure of the society but marriages [and not weddings] are still the sacred association and cannot be mitigated over concerns as tiny as this.

A woman is a living entity and not a house whose ownership can be transferred from the existing owner's name [her father] technically to the new owner's name [husband's] name. Give her a right to choose, right to co-exist, right to maintain her entity that she accepted from her birth till date. 

Woman and Surname Game

We are circa 2017, a world where we talk about gender equality. While am certainly not a feminist but it is undeniable that no matter how we have developed, in a country like India, women, at larger pockets are still considered as the weaker sex and often dominated in a repressive patriarchal society. I am not in favor of or against the patriarch or matriarchal society, for me, both tend to loom to a distant extreme and may lead perpetration of either sex. The man who wears a pant or the woman who wears a pant is such a cliche to me. Let me clarify when I say regressive or repressive patriarchal society, I clearly indicate the nonequality over the right of education, right of career, right of remarriage, right to freedom and life included.

Besides, there is no harm or feminity defamed in embracing your husband's surname, as long as it is an open choice and not an enforced culture.

Forget Surname, I have seen many women made [forcibly] to change their name post marriage. However, in Hindu law, so far as I know, that a woman has a right to continue with his name, a couple has a right to change their children's surname, the way they want to [including or excluding their family name, while creating a whole new surname]

Whether you accept or not, man or woman, our full name often acts as a unique identifier, irrespective of the fact whether it is a famous surname or the common one. 

Do we expect a man to change his surname his post marriage to a woman? So why only a woman has to change her surname?

How Does Changing Surname Guarantees Commitment?

There was another study published in express.co.uk that suggested that women who do not change their surname post-marriage are less committed.

Are you telling me that the couples who have changed their names post marriage did not have any commitment issues or separated? How about the husband who cheats on his wife in spite of her change in her surname? Or how about the wife who happily changes her name and surname post the marriage to the one given by husband yet cheat on him?

Born with a Surname; Married with Another, I am the Change that is not called development!

Before you jump the guns, this is not a personal upheaval but a general observation. If I have to further share my personal opinion, I was born with a certain surname which was not chosen by me. For a larger [and formative] part of my life, I was called "Khetan Fan". Mockingly as well just in a light jeer. If I had my way, I would have changed my surname to my Nana/Nani's as they were the people who did my upbringing and I was very fond of them.

There came a point when surname did not matter to me but a larger chunk of the population know me with my full name wherein my surname acted as a unique identifier. I was propositioned by guys with some interesting and popular surnames including a famous cricketers' name, a business tycoon-ish kind of surname but dude I was looking for a life partner and not a surname. I am a human being and not a cattle who is distinguished by her master. Nor am I Aishwarya Rai, the most beautiful woman in this world who can take the liberty of selecting any name and still be identified, irrespectively.

Jokes apart, no pseudo or bra-burning feminism here. But a gentle plea, to let the name be. Let it be an equal choice to select the name/surname you want to keep. I understand that in India a man and a woman are not just married to each other but respective families. But stop equating a girl's love and respect for a family by virtue of her surname. 

Another shocking study published at Daily suggested that it highlights a man's inability to take care of his family. Really? now you are generalizing this to disempowering of a man? Hostile sexism I must say!

The WCWD Rule

In 2014, the Women and Child Welfare Department (WCWD) gave the women in Maharashtra the option of using either their fathers’ or husbands’ names in all official documents. Children can now mention names of both parents or remove the father’s completely if they choose to. 

Why just option to choose between one? A woman can keep/drop both the names or choose a new random one. However, it is a fresh change and can be a precursor to some effective changes.

The Tricky Issue of the Married/Vs Maiden Name

Let's cut short this long tail and understand a basic fundamental right. Changing names is not an easy task and far from practical. You are not a Rapunzel living in an isolated, ivory tower where you just change your name and sing a happy tune in your newfound identity over the abandoned one. It is a herculean task and needs balancing entries in your educational certificate, passport, bank documents, aadhar cards, pan cards and so on. Imagine if you have an online presence wherein your name is your keyword in the Google Algorithm?

And if done forcefully, be ready to bear the brunt of the forced identity crisis that your woman may undergo immediately or years to come. There are better ways to ascertain your partner's commitment towards you and your family. Ways above not just changing the surname or adding the trendy new, regal sounding yet excruciatingly clumsy, hyphenated long names. Let's keep everyone happy, even if we sound like Rum Pel Stilt Skin or those hallucinated characters from Indian Soap Opera- Raja Rawal Rudra Pratap Singh or Anna Marie Joseph McNally [Whole generation in one name]

Ever wondered what Rum pel Stilt Skin meant? I love the sound of it though.

Concluding A New Beginning: Married NOT SOLD!

A woman who has left her family to come live with you accepts you/your family with all your moles and wart, takes care of them. But hey you, you just cannot accept her with her choice of name?

Once again, let it be a choice, a choice just like that. Rather than making it an issue of ego or control. Life is tough, look at the beautiful things, look at harmony.

Culture is about sanctity and sanity. Do not equate it with surname legacy.

Giving up on a name that you have nurtured for 20+ years at least is complicated and does not guarantee anything unless collectively included.

So save us from the epiglottis of long, tongue-twisting name or gender flaring researches. Be the rose, distinguished by the fragrance you emulate. Name is identity and not the ego.


The autor is half Human, half machine. Go Figure or just revel in what I write


  1. I completely agree with you. First of all, there shouldn’t be a question of a man ‘letting’ his wife keep her maiden name. It’s not like he owns her or has a position of control where he gets to decide what she can have or not have. Secondly it shows insecurity on the part of a man if he chooses to have a problem with his wife keeping her maiden name!

  2. There is so much patriarchal cliche in the world we live. Marriage is about equality and not control where a women leaves her home to stay with the man. It should be a relationship based on equality and let her bloom as a human being not seen as a woman, wife, DIL.

  3. Oh my goodness, yes! When I got married in 1996, I didn't want to take my husband's last name. I felt as if doing so would steal my identity in a way. Needless to say, my ex mother in law threw a fit, so I took it. When we separated in 2012, I immediately changed my name even though we were nowhere near filing for divorce. I didn't take my maiden name back, but I did take my mother's maiden name and put mine as my middle name. I can't tell you how powerful that was and how just changing a name can change everything about a person. I don't think I'll ever get married again, but if I do, the man is going to have to accept that I'll be keeping my name! Thanks for posting!

    1. I can totally understand your feelings here and so much heart it. Am glad that you shared it with me and even happier that you have overcome the trauma. I agree that a name gives you lot of confidence and why can't a man change his name post marriage?

      Thanks for sharing and I loved your blog too.Stay tuned.

  4. Nicely written Ekta ! I haven't changed my surname either but it didn't even seem to be an issue.


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