Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's in a Name?

We've discussed The Last Name Thing here before, more than once, and the really interesting bits are in the comments.

In most such discussions, two main suggestions are made:
  1. It's purely a personal decision, which shouldn't ever be examined in a larger context, and
  2. It's all so over, anyway; people can just do whatever they want.
In response to both suggestions, I'd like to point out a "Campaign 2008" article from the March 31, 2008 issue of Newsweek (as usual, I'm reading a couple of weeks behind) called "Hillary: What's in a Name?"

Many of us have heard talking heads comparing the politics of "Hillary Rodham" vs. "Hillary Clinton" and "Hillary Rodham Clinton" as though they're separate people, and this is 2008, folks. It's so not over.

In 1980, Arkansas voters were unapologetic about the fact that Bill's wife keeping her own last name after their marriage was a problem for them and a legitimate reason not to re-elect the young governor.

Hillary became Mrs. Bill Clinton, and in 1982 Bill won a rematch.

In 1993, a significant majority of national voters opined that new First Lady Hillary should be known as "Hillary Clinton" rather than "Hillary Rodham Clinton." As if it should matter! But it did, it did matter.

It does matter, and Hillary is still getting grief from both the left (notably the NYT's virulently anti-Clinton Maureen Dowd) and the right for what's she's called herself, both recently and long ago. Are there no actual substantive issues we can discuss?

It's so not over.


Orange said...

This thread touches on the "taking his name" issue a fair amount.

I never liked my maiden name (gawd, what a terrible term!), but you know what? Eighteen years out, I really wish I'd kept it. But now that there's a book out with my married name on it, it seems impractical to change names.

Amanda said...

I never even considered keeping my own name. It was before I finished college and earned my certification, so it's all in my married name. However, should I publish a novel it will definitely be under my "maiden" name. Even if it's considered a pen name, why should his family name be on my creation.

Regardless, a name does not change who someone is.

Kristi said...

It was important to me not to lose my last name when I got married. Instead, I lost my middle name (which I never liked anyway), and shifted my last name one slot to the left. When I sign my name, I sign all three. Some databases have "Maiden Married" down as my last name, some manage to mark "Maiden" as purely a middle name. Makes no difference to me (until they're hunting for a hotel reservation in the wrong part of the alphabet).

Charlotte's legal middle name is my maiden name (we unofficially added a second as her baptism saint). When Trystan came around, he got my MIL's maiden name as a middle name, along with his baptism saint, and this time we remembered to put both on his birth certificate (poor kid's name was bigger than he was). That's kind of a family thing--my husband also has 2 middle names, one of them his mother's maiden, and his twin cousins have similar middle/maiden name combos. Confused? It makes more sense written down (I think)

Kristi Sue (Lang) + Merl Damian (Jones) (Smith) = Kristi Lang Smith

Charlotte Angela Lang Smith

Trystan Gabriel Jones Smith

Clear as mud, eh?

Sarahlynn said...

Orange, yeah, I have been known to create awkward sentences just to avoid that terrible term. Thanks for the link; I missed that post at Bitch, PhD. (Paul totally made the cut on the naming issue, which I should probably post about some time.)

Amanda, plus, there are the privacy considerations. But I sort of disagree about the name not changing who someone is.

It's sort of true, sort of not true. Studies have shown that babies as young as 12 months react strongly to various people or items based on the sort of name/emotion others provide for the person or item.

And names definitely affect the way we think about things - including ourselves - hence the constant rush of politicians to try to define their opponents.

So, on one hand, a rose is a rose. But on the other hand, while that's true scientifically, it doesn't hold up in practice.

(Calling yourself a loser all the time can be a self-fulfilling prophecy; lots of people swear by stuart Smiley-style positive mantras.)

Vertigo said...

For the life of me I can't understand the need for a woman to change her lastname when she gets marry. :/

Sarahlynn said...

And yet, both of my sisters changed theirs. And both of my sisters are liberal, one even moreso than I!