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November 10, 2014 —

“Because I’m a man. The woman takes my name, not the other way around. Period.” 
Male respondent from the Frank About Women survey

Sorry … not sorry, but we don’t live in the 1950s anymore. The cultural assumption of taking the husband’s last name is a westernized idea dating back to when women were considered property. By taking the husband’s surname, a woman and her husband became one person under the law and her legal rights were subsumed by her spouse. Today people do not even consider this notion when they get married, but the idea itself is a little dated, not to mention sexist. In our modern society, what gives men the right to carry on their last name? What would happen if this custom were reversed? From the Frank About Women survey conducted, we asked 350 men and women their thoughts on naming conventions.

While the majority of respondents from the survey were liberal, the bulk of people were opposed to nontraditional last names, even hyphenating! 57% of males said they would not hyphenate their last name with their spouse. Some of the responses were less than positive, with answers like “too much hassle,” “extra paperwork” and “I would feel emasculated.” (Um, women go through the hassle and paperwork each time.) Forty-six percent of women were also opposed to hyphenating their last name. Their mindset was similar to males in that combining names can become cumbersome and make paperwork complicated, especially when children are involved.

Men were even less receptive to the idea of taking their wife’s last name. Only 3.5% of men who participated in the survey would consider taking their spouse’s last name. Most men had never even considered changing their name — and why would they? For American men, there is a deeply rooted belief in continuing their lineage and carrying on the family name. While the majority of men rejected the idea entirely, women had a different perspective on family names. Over a third of the women liked the tradition of taking their husband’s last name for the symbolic gesture of becoming one family unit. Twelve percent would not take their husband’s last name because they were established in their careers or did not want to lose their identity and their own family name. It is a personal choice that should be made mindfully.

Overall, both genders were largely opposed to straying from the traditional patriarchal last name. But is that because people are hesitant when it comes to change? Change is inevitable, and as the family dynamic becomes increasingly nontraditional our society will start to see more variations in naming conventions. There is no right or wrong answer, but this topic should be a conversation, not an expectation. There’s no doubt new traditions will arise, and marketing should meet women on their terms.

 To continue the conversation or learn more about Frank About Women, contact Chief Marketing Officer Shaun Stripling at 336.774.939 or by email.


Kristen Anderson About the Author
Kristen Anderson Former Media Planner

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