Gender Equality In the Context Of Marital Namechange

by Tanya Thomas on Aug 18 2009 8:17 AM

Gender Equality In the Context Of Marital Namechange
Is gender equality a myth? Answer this question once you're through reading this. A survey has revealed that 71 per cent of Americans think that it is better for women to change their surname upon marriage, while only 29 percent disagree.
Researchers from Indiana University and University of Utah say that those questioned during the survey even split fairly evenly in their support of government regulation requiring name change.

They say that these findings come despite a clear shift to more gender-neutral language, such as "chairperson".

"The figures were a bit sobering for us because there seems to be change in so many areas. If names are a core aspect of our identity, this is important. There are all these reports and indicators that families are changing, that men are contributing more, that we're moving toward a more equal family, yet there's no indication that we're seeing a similar move to equality when it comes to names," said Brian Powell, professor of sociology at IU Bloomington.

Presenting the findings at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting on Tuesday, Laura Hamilton, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington, revealed that the survey tapped 815 people and asked both multiple choice and open-ended questions.

Hamilton, a co-author of the study, said that almost half the people surveyed said it would be "OK" for a man to change his name to that of his wife.

However, for respondents, male name change was so implausible that they off-handedly or hesitantly agreed it would be OK.

Powel revealed that one man laughed as he responded: "Sure, why not. Hey in America, anything goes!"

Others said that it was OK because: "Sure, a man should be able to do it because he's a man."

Advocates of women changing their names emphasize a family and marital identity for women, indicating one family name makes more sense from a family and societal point of view. They rely on religion and tradition as the authority in this area.

Name change critics focus on the importance of women's independent identities, and to the ways they benefit individually, such as professionally, by keeping their own name. They also think the decision should be left up to the women.


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