There is no one perspective or experience that sums up this topic but every woman should be given choices concerning this issue of last name. A woman that chooses to be identified in a certain way by her name(s) or title should not be shamed for her choice. She deserves respect as well
In the preview of To Bee a Honey, I briefly interpreted my first name to English because the title of the book directly stems from it. Additionally, on the front cover of the book and the spine, I intentionally used my first name only, not just because of the meaning but my feminist and perhaps rebellious inspiration.
In my perspective with recognition of our societal norms, a woman's first name is the only name she owns. Until she gets married, she carries her father's last name, after she gets married, she switches to her last husband's name, if she divorces, she may change the last name again, if she marries again, the last name changes and the pattern continues. Now for the very privileged and well honored men who have this magic in lineage that I don't understand, the story is different. What triggers me the most is that even the "Mr." never changes so it is easy to get away with almost any negative effect that comes with name and title. Most men are not questioned about their marital status at interviews and no matter how many times they divorce, they may not experience shame because it is not obvious compared to the case of the woman.
Chimamanda Adichie mentioned this topic of names and marriage in her newest book "Dear Ijeawele, or a feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions." She mentions the stress that women go through to change their last names after the wedding. Many people don't think of how a married woman has to change her last name on the passport(s), bank card(s), credit cards(s), driver's licence, state or national I.D cards, declare a change of name in newspapers, at the workplace etc. Perhaps if the husband and wife can choose a new last name and go through the stress together there will be an awakening for this topic.
Recently, I was discussing this topic with my very lovely friend, Kanyin who is also a feminist. I explained to him that I feel that there is even a sense of property and ownership in this issue of last name. It feels like the women are the products and the men's names are the brands... We could think of it as an honor to take someone's last name but it does not always feel that way. For the most part of my life, especially in situations that involves anger, I have heard more men say that "you are my wife and you will do as I say or command" than I have heard women say the opposite. Besides the dowry and the wife moving into the husband's house, the last name also contributes to the ego that men may feel if they mistreat their wives.
There is no one perspective or experience that sums up this topic but every woman should be given choices concerning this issue of last name. A woman that chooses to be identified in a certain way by her name(s) or title should not be shamed for her choice. She deserves respect as well. We as women bear whatever magic it is in lineage, for goodness sake, we bear the children but it is unfortunate that it is and has always been a norm for maternal names to be set aside. This is not to shame or blame men but to make them aware of the consequences that may arise from changing last names.
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© Oyindamola Shoola 2020