Classic gender roles should not dictate changing last names

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I’m both impressed and amazed by the number of articles I’ve seen over the last few weeks about high school girls playing football. When I was in middle school, I was denied trying out for the wrestling team because it was “inappropriate for young ladies,” in the words of the school counselor. That is something I will never forget.

But times have changed. Or have they? In spite of the progress society has made in giving women more fair and equal treatment, there are still several things that bug me about being a female. Especially the expectations society has placed on women when it comes to marriage and families.

As a woman, I am expected to get married and, preferably, relinquish my last name to the man I wed. I find this concept old-fashioned and a little insulting, but not everyone does.

When my best friend got married three years ago, I asked his new wife if she felt strange giving up her last name, and she told me, ‘No, not really.’ I found it strange she felt no strong affinity to her family name.

My father has no sons to carry on the family name, and yet I’m met with disapproving looks and carefully constructed comments when I tell people I will never change my name for a man. What’s so wrong about that? I’ve always been an Ingram. I’m proud to be an Ingram, and I can’t fathom being anything else. It doesn’t seem fair for a woman to give up her name or butcher it with hyphens so her husband can carry on his family’s name.

One of my uncles took his wife’s last name, which is somewhat common now, but unheard of in the late 70s when he did it. This was a rather daring move, but I see nothing wrong with it. It reflects his open-mindedness, which I am rather proud of him for, and he had a brother, who kept his name when he married. He now has a son, so the family name has been carried on without my avant-garde uncle’s help.

There is no easy answer to either side of the argument. The way the system works is somebody has to give up something. Somebody’s family name becomes effaced by someone else’s, sooner or later, and there’s no middle-ground that satisfies both parties.

Hyphenated names, for example, are the most preposterous middle-ground solution I’ve ever encountered. What are you supposed to do when two people with hyphenated names want to get married? Keep all four names? Pick one from each side? Ridiculous.

And what about the children? Give the boys the husband’s name and the girls the wife’s name? Alternate based on birth order? Make up a totally new last name for them?

In the end, I guess it comes down to how attached people are to their names. If you don’t particularly care about passing on names, take your spouse’s name. If you can’t see yourself being a Jones because you’ve been a Smith all of your life, keep your name. But don’t expect women to do it because it’s traditionally believed they should do so. After all, there are other Jones families in the world.

Karen Ingram is a junior in English. Please send comments to edge@spub.ksu.edu.

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