Name change puzzle

Lots of feminists think it’s really problematic for women to take their husband’s names after marriage. (Though many who view this as problematic still don’t think women should be *blamed* or *criticised* for doing it.)

But there’s also a good case to be made that it’s important for same-sex unions to get all the trappings of heterosexual unions– marriage ceremonies, certificates, etc.

What, then, should one think about Portia DeGeneres’s new name? (Not that we should necessarily think anything! But people who do have quite general views on name changing post-marriage might want to think about whether these views apply to same sex marriage as well.)

(Thanks, E!)

12 thoughts on “Name change puzzle

  1. *all* the trappings? unfair distribution of domestic work? one-sided control of finances? surely no one thinks that married same-sex couples should embrace the bad stuff…do they?

  2. This is a bit puzzling. It looks as though we are supposed to form a judgment about her decision, but we don’t know why she made it.

    The word “heteronormative” does come to mind, but this is a case of a woman taking a woman’s name. I think there might be reasons for getting rid of the male names one has, even if it involves taking the name that Ellen got from her father, or so I assume.

    Still, one might look at other and more matriarchal traditions and see what they do.

  3. Wikipedia has some interesting stuff on matrilineal name change customs in antiquity. They cite Herodotus on the Lycians and Robert Graves on the Celtic Mab.

    Unfortunately, kinship was a bit of a weak spot for me. All those circles and triangles that Claude Levi Strauss designed to keep track of different family structures left me totally cross-eyed.

    From what I remember, matrilineal societies are a tiny percentage of the world’s societies and they tend to be agrarian and peaceful, which means that most of them have been invaded and colonized. So they’re rapidly changing. They are also located in widely diverse parts of the globe, which means that diverse resource bases will effect culture types, making it difficult to pin down general rules for how the different cultures organize their social structures, including kinship and naming practices.

    But if there’s a better social scientist out there who’s better at comparing apples and oranges, or Hopi and Trobrianders, I’d love to hear it.

  4. On Portia DeGeneres, I don’t mind it. It’s kinda catchy and it speaks to Ellen’s role as the greater spotlight holder in the couple. I won’t comment on who’s more qualified to hold power based on achieved as opposed to ascribed status, because that’s their business, not mine.

    But the name change may be Portia’s way of deferring to some legitimate authority that she allows Ellen for the sake of running an efficient household.

  5. I’m currently reading Hrdy Mother Nature, which I keep plugging. One of the things she points out is that ‘matrilineal’ shouldn’t be confused with ‘matriarchal’. ‘Matrilineal’ means tracing a child’s parentage through the mother. This doesn’t necessarily, and in fact doesn’t coincide with women having the main sources of power in that society in a way that mirrors patriarchy. Apparently, whilst there are and were some matrilineal societies, there is no evidence for there ever having been any matriarchal societies. (Not that I’m saying anyone here has mixed them up. Just thought it might be a helpful addition.)

  6. Yes, Monkey. That’s the first thing we learned in our intro classes. “Matriarchal” is a misnomer that’s out there. I suspect JJ probably just used it more as a colloquialism, like saying “snark” instead of “rudeness” or whatever oher cumbersome multisyllabic words could be used instead of “snark”. Sometimes it’s just easier to grab the familiar, rather than something that’s technically more appropriate, but awkward.

    We learn the difference early on because there are “granola feminists” (fruits nuts and flakes) out there that read Starhawk and others’ absurdly speculative interpretations of the fossil record, and believe that there really was some Matriarchal Utopia that we should aim our nostalgia at and daydream about in some weird incense burning masturbation ritual. Whatever gets them off. But that stuff should not be confused with REAL science. Nor should an ideal that’s as unjust and skewed as patriarchal domination be confused with WORKABLE and attainable power sharing arrangements that we would do well to strive for.

  7. My friend’s husband took his last name. I’m not sure why. I was actually thinking about asking earlier today.

  8. ive decided, after years of serious thought to ensure my motives were true to me and not some knee jerk reaction, that next year i will change my name

    this is because i feel my name (more emphasised on my last name, but first name is tainted also to some extent) is so heavy with a traumatic past that it felt like a lead weight everytime i think of it/write it/have it said to me…also, should i ever decide to marry (highly unlikely but worth consideration) i’ll be damned if i am taking on a mans name – this is my opinion and in no way would i pass judgement on others to do this

    at first, i thought that i would change my entire name but years of reflection has made me decide that when i was born my parents gave me that name through pure love for me and each other…so i am keeping my first name and changing my last name to Hope – i thought this was apt.

    In this modern world it shouldnt be such a big deal how or why our names are changed, we all develop and change – so it is strange that our only constant is the name that is hundreds of years old, like all that history plonked onto you for you to bear…..i reckon the only pain in the ass is the bureaucratic pen pushers who make it quite difficult because they want to keep track of you in the easiest way possible..

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