Men Should Consider Changing Their Last Names When They Get Married

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An ethicist explains why he and his fiancée rejected this centuries-old tradition.

More than 50% of Americans think the woman should be legally required to take her husband's name in heterosexual marriages. The reason typically given is that having the same name increases a sense of family identity.

Making it into a legal requirement would be bizarre, but I agree such identity is important and sharing a name helps in its creation. Even on its own, marriage is, among other things, a way of tying yourself to the mast: deliberately making public declarations, taking vows, and arduously organizing an unnecessarily expensive party, all in order to increase your investment in each other, and make it more difficult to end the relationship during future difficult phases. Having the same name is one more way of making public and concrete your intention to stay together for the long haul.


But why should that mean that the woman takes the man's name in heterosexual marriages? Why should the man not take the woman's name or, as my fiancée and I have chosen to do, both choose a new name? (We've gone with "MacAskill", her maternal grandmother's maiden name. When I tell people I'm changing my name, I've met raised eyebrows, confusion, or aggressive questioning. No one's batted an eyelid when she's told others the same.)

As with so many gender-biased traditions, this one has pretty disturbing roots. The legal concept of coverture came from England and caught on in 19th century America: the idea was that a woman, upon marriage, becomes the property of her husband. She had no right to vote or take out a bank account because she could rely on her owner to do that for her. And, of course, she couldn't be raped by her husband—because she was essentially her husband's property, and he was free to do with her what he wished.

We've made progress on these issues (though some remarkably late). But the tradition of taking the man's name remains and, given its background, it seems to me it's simply bad taste to carry on with it, in the same way that it would be bad taste to put on a minstrel show, no matter how pure the intentions.

You might say that we need some rule, and that taking the man's name is as good as any other. But is this true? Why not go with whichever name sounds better? Or which name is associated with the coolest people? (MacAskill clearly beats my birth surname "Crouch" on both counts, having a better ring and being the name of both Giant MacAskill—a forebear of my fiancée's who has a claim to be the world's strongest ever man—and Danny MacAskill, a trial-biking legend who, also being descended from Giant MacAskill, must be a very distant cousin.) Or any other choice made by both parties.

In general, we are happy with the idea of molding our self-image in a whole number of ways, including how we dress, look, and talk. And having the right name is a big deal—affecting expected grades, likeability, success at job applications, and likelihood of having your Facebook friend request accepted. So why the double standard when it comes to marriage?

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  • Why did sleep country change their name Richard Carson / Reuters

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Floods cause greater property damage and more deaths than tornadoes or hurricanes. And Houston’s flood is truly a disaster of biblical proportions: The sky unloaded 9 trillion gallons of water on the city within two days, and much more might fall before Harvey dissipates, producing as much as 60 inches of rain.

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More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

O ne day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”

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A professor who shares a name with an alt-right leader became witness to his radicalization, and to the evolution of a movement.

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What Does It Mean for North Korea to Fly a Missile Over Japan?

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    What does it mean when my cat changes his sleeping location?

    Why did sleep country change their name

    Have 3 cats, (all age 5 and under), and only one of them (Cowboy) always sleeps in the bed with me. But not for the last week or so, he has been sleeping somewhere else. He has also changed his other "favorite" laying spots around the home.

    *There have been no other changes in diet, no illnesses etc.

    I don't think there is anything up with your cats change of heart as to where he sleeps.

    Comments for What does it mean when my cat changes his sleeping location?

    Initially,I had the same thought as you have,but it is part of a feline "conservative" nature and from my experience,as cats get older female cats tend to be bossy if they are nursing or about giving birth.

    They usually don't allow the Male to venture near their litter,at times act aggressively if the male cat by chance gets close,even to the point of chasing them out doors.

    Currently,as am typing this,Junior is having a lovely nap at my neighbours,and won't see him till nightfall when he comes in for his usual evening snack.

    So,no fear..he will return once the female has decided to.