Of how men’s masculinities are connected to their wives taking their names.

Men (and women) in patriarchal societies are raised to believe it is natural, required, honorable, empowering, manly and but-expected for men to want to compete with other men and women, in a continuous effort to prove their ‘manliness’ (Just like women in patriarchal societies are expected to compete with each other for their attractiveness to men and their capacity to sacrifice for men) Almost everything they do is under scrutiny.

Not fitting into these molds can have repercussions. For men, taunts of being girly or being a Joru Ka Gulaam are used to ensure compliance.

One of the things required of the ‘real man’ is to expect and to ensure that the woman he marries takes his name (first name, last name, caste name, family name, village name).

Here’s how one man dealt with this.

Why I Changed My Last Name When I Got Married–Even Though I Have A Penis

It was common for Europeans to have one name 1,000 years ago. I’m Jonathan. Full stop. But last names grew to symbolize relationships with society over time. They stemmed from clans and class and titles and towns. If you met someone called Goldsmith, that person probably smithed gold.

But a problem appeared: Servants, slaves, children, and women were a white man’s property, so they fell under his family name. Now, generations later, a black woman somewhere in Alabama goes by the last name Chadwick after her great-great-grandfather’s slave-owner’s grandfather’s hometown in England.

Chadwick, by the way, means “Chad’s dairy farm” in Old English.

My parents hyphenated their names in the 1970s, for example. My mom was Camery, and my dad was Hoggatt, and I was born a Camery-Hoggatt.

Upside: Both families are represented equally.

Downside: This only works for one generation.

I married Rebecca Jones. If we hyphenated, we would have become the Jones-Camery-Hoggatts, and if our kids and grandkids hyphenate, they’ll have last names like Tutu-Smithersby-Rodrigues-Jones-Camery-Hoggatt, and that just seems irresponsible.

So we picked a new last name.

We wanted one that’s easy to pronounce and that fits well with our first names. Simple. That’s why, on our wedding day, we both took the last name Jackson.


One woman tried to insult me by saying that I must have a small penis. This struck me as odd for three reasons: First, I hadn’t considered correlating penis size with resistance to social norms. Second, each body is unique. I will never be insulted by comparisons to anyone’s body type. Third, my penis is probably bigger than hers. Sadly, sexism comes in all shapes and sizes. But her reaction wasn’t surprising.

Our society needs an overhaul, and this last name choice won’t make a huge difference by itself. We know that. It’s quiet. It’s subtle. But it still undermines small power asymmetries. In that sense, our last name has the potential to stand for something much, much bigger:

It symbolizes our relationship with society itself.

Please watch this Havells fans ad- Hawa Badlegi – Registrar’s Office. [Link shared by Anita Rao]

Hawa badlegi roughly translates to the winds (or the times) are changing.

And here’s one of the prize winning entries in the Joru Ka Gulaam Badges contest.

Created by Vikas Gupta, this badge was chosen by JKG Kislay for JUDGES’ SPECIAL MENTION AWARD

Related Posts:

Man’s Man? No thanks. – Cynically Engineered

Honor and Masculinity: How Patriarchy Warps Your Thinking – Cynically Engineered

Men do not compate with men the way women do?

Of girly men who fail to convert irresponsible women from liabilities to assets.

First name, Unwanted. Second name, Dad’s or Husband’s name.

Keeping her maiden name can save an Indian woman’s life.

So what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls?

Why I can’t take gender stereotypes seriously.


43 thoughts on “Of how men’s masculinities are connected to their wives taking their names.

  1. i just dont get it.. why does ANYONE need to change their name? why cant Shanti Pandit be married to Vikas Verma? We are not dead and reborn, just married. why should ANYONE have to change their identity?? at all? i wld have loved that ad if they had said, we are Vikas Verma married to Shanti Pundit.

    why mrs. so and so? why is Ms. not a universal address? why is it that when we say i m not mrs., i m Ms., ppl assume that we are either divorcees or spinsters?

    same names dont make a family. some love does.
    i have never understood the logic of having the same surname to indicate we are a family. duh!


    • I agree. I am just as uncomfortable with the idea of men changing their names as I am with women having to change theirs. Why couldn’t the ad have shown both the man and the woman retaining their own names? I guess the ad-makers wanted a dramatic ad which would grab eyeballs and get talked about.


    • I agree with you too. I have not taken my husbands last name and it has nothing to do with being pardesi. His mother didn’t take her husband’s last name and neither did chachi. It seems uncommon in their family altogether. It’s only a name, it doesn’t define anyone or anything. It doesn’t change who you are so it shouldn’t be a big deal.


    • I too agree.
      My mom did not change her name.
      I had no issues with my wife retaining her name after her marriage.
      My daughter retained her name after her marriage.

      It saved us a lot of trouble with regard to certificate, passports etc.


    • I love the idea of both the husband and wife keeping their own last names. But what last names do the children receive? I’m not trying to challenge the idea, I’m genuinely curious because I want to keep my own last name when I get married.


      • Well the child’s last name can be a combination of the parent’s first names. I dislike the idea of a family name. In many cases it is also an identity of caste. Best to do away with it. IMO Every person’s last name should be a combination of their parent’s first names.


    • That was the first thing that stuck me when I saw the ad for the first time. Why does ANYONE have to take anyone’s name? Why can’t they just retain their names? What a load of crap. In an effort to show that we’re becoming modern, sometimes we trip over ourselves and fall into the other extreme!


  2. Even if the wife shows a suitable haste in taking husband’s family name, she can be castigated, even 20 years after said marriage, if she does not chuck her job quickly enough, to move to the city where her husband is in residence at the time of marriage because, you see, she is not giving priority to mutual companionship. No matter that said job is tied in with the post-graduation that she was yet in the process of completing. Not only that, there can be, even after 20 years, a suspicion that she did not chuck all that up quickly enough, because she was probably having an affair on the side with some colleague. And that despite being a professionally trained post-graduate, she might get into an affair with the first person she might encounter outside of family if she starts working outside home. After all, isn’t a woman’s place in the home?


  3. Men competing with each other is natural trait rather than creation of patriarchal society.Sexual dimorphism features like men on an average 5-6 inches taller, twice upper body strength, stronger, thicker bones clearly indicate that men were fighting with each other from thousands of years and taller , stronger males always use to win and get females


    • Perhaps for ‘ancient man’

      Being smart is they key to survival in modern day times.

      Of course, neither has anything to do with taking someone’s last name, so I really don’t see the argument here.


    • A cursory look at most Indian men will convince the unbiased observer that its not as black and white as that. At 5 feet 6 ” I am as tall and well built compared to many men from the lower classes.
      My US born and raised female cousins are as tall as my brother, who was born and raised here.

      Many factors contribute to height and strength, including genetics, nutrition, environment and an active and physically fit lifestyle


      • This is not about I , me or my friend.Its about average.The scientists have all over the measured the heights and strength.An average man is around 5 inches taller in all countries.Infact according to science a son’s height is 2.5 incher taller and daughter 2.5 inches shorter than parents median height. Mean’s if father is 6 feet and mother is 5 feet 7 inches then median height is 5 feet 9.5 inches..So if they have a son then he should be 6 feet and if they had daughter then she should be 5-7 .But if son get around 5 feet 10 and daughter 5-9 then it means son is short and daughter is tall

        Similarly physical strength is also measured by scientists and they found that average physical strength in woman is 40-60% of a man


        • Yes, the average man is taller and heavier than the average woman, but only slightly so. As far as sexual dimorphism goes, humans are somewhere in the middle as far as primates go. Its not as pronounced as it is in chimpanzees, but not as mild as it is in bonobos
          Men being physically taller or heavier doesn’t justify gender-based discrimination or overt signs of power asymmetry.

          Also, what relevance does men’s average height have to the discussion at hand? Pray tell.


  4. I think this should be left as a personal choice of the wife. We really can’t belittle someone for changing his/her surname but yes, forcing someone to do so is absolutely wrong.
    People change their first names as well. This should be a personal decision and not something that is dictated by the society.


    • But women change their names because society expects them to. Or really, what kind of person would want to submerge their identity into a man’s identity? Because that is the crux of the matter. It is a really basic way to strip a woman’s identity after marriage.


      • This!

        I agree with Amit that ideally these are personal matters and women should be able to choose to change their first name/ last name or not. However, even in this age of choice feminism, why is it that so many women choose to change their names? Why is it that not nearly as many seem to want to choose to change their names?

        If the majority women from different backgrounds are making the same choice, which on face value is not favourable to their interests, then we must ask why. We must also ask if it really is a choice.


        • Exactly! I have heard a lot of women say that it is their choice to change their names. Never known a man to choose such a thing, in any of my acquaintances. Ditto for wearing sindoor / mangalsutra or ‘choosing’ to be the stay at home parent.


  5. Pet peeve of mine! I see red, purple and a rainbow of colours when I hear someone change their last name. When someone changes their FIRST name, I want to jump off the window at the utter disgustingness of it. I am not comfortable with a man changing his name either, but most women are forced and / or brainwashed to change names. I don’t understand what the point is.


    • I have a friend who just got married and yes, his family insisted the girl take on a new first name they choose for her.

      He had the audacity to ask ME to come up with names for her. O.o

      I told her “Tell her to choose her own name.”

      He ended up coming up with a list of names, of which she chose the one she liked the best.

      I will not be so diplomatic next time I am asked such a question, if I am asked at all. I will ask him instead if he also plans to change his first name after marriage!


      • One of my friends forced his wife to change her first name. I told him (and her) in no uncertain terms what it said about him. Suffice to say we are no longer on talking terms. I was honestly shocked that someone I knew and loved so well could act like such an asshole.


  6. In the Indian context, the whole concept of ‘khandaan ka naam aage badhaana’ is one of the key negative aspects of patriarchy, which in turn causes a preference for a male child, because girls are expected to take on their husband’s name after marriage. And we know all the horrors that prevail in Indian society due to the preference for a male child over a female child.

    I LOVE the idea of a married couple taking on a completely new last name. What a wonderful way to celebrate a new beginning in life together! I think that will to some extent make conservative, tradition bound people re-think generations old attitudes regarding having a male vs female offspring ‘to further the family name’. If both husband and wife take on a new last name, there’s no ‘family name’ to propagate – it will be one lesser reason to prefer a male over a female offspring. If for nostalgia sake the couple wishes their pre-marriage last names to play a role in their life, they could always make it the middle name.

    One other pet peeve I have is this – I never understood why a father’s or husband’s name has to be the middle name. If anything I would have advocated that the mother’s name be the middle name, since she was the one who went through 9 months of carrying the baby and then the pains of labor to actually give birth (hats off to Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who actually did that!).

    If not that, then what I suggested before – make your pre-marriage last name your new middle name and then get yourself a brand new last name! So for example: After Ram Kumar marries Seeta Singh, they both take on the new the new last name of ‘Gupta’ and become Ram Kumar Gupta and Seeta Singh Gupta!


  7. Why change names at all? With marriages getting later and later in life, people tend to have well established identities (brand recognition if you will). I have published papers, a passport, certificates etc from before I married. I didnt change mine, neither did my husband.
    With regard to our child’s name, we decided to stick with the husband’s name. Didn’t think much aboit it actually. Guess it is just a recognition that the child is his, while there is no doubt that the child is mine since I carried him.


  8. I think people will stop the name changing thing more now–the sheer amount of paperwork you have to fill in is ridiculous. Also, I can’t imagine the kinds of hassles people who are not well connected have to go through in India to get their names changed in all gov issued IDs. It took this lady I used to work with, three whole months to get a passport. Imagine someone waiting that long to get a passport only to have to file for one again because they got married.

    I’m eventually going to take my husband’s last name (which is his dad’s first name) because it’s way simpler than mine, and I won’t have to keep telling people how to pronounce it. And the way I see it, it’s technically my dad’s name, which is his dad’s name, etc, etc and so on. Choosing a new last name does sound really cool though!


  9. Unlike most part of India, in my place ie.. Kannur in Kerala ( am not sure about other part of Kerala ), we don’t take father’s name but mother’s khandani name. The whole ‘khandaan ka naam aage badhaana’ process happens through girls and not boys. My MIL who has 3 sons and not a girl is unhappy that she does not have a girl to carry forward her khandan’s name. My Granny who had only one daughter, my Mom is now expecting one of us grand daughters to have a girl to carry forward her khandani name. But even with the fact that its girls who take forward the khandhani name, patriarchy still exists strongly in our place. Yes, there is no female foeticide, all family need one girl child and then of course boys for ‘budhape ka sahara’.
    But now trend is changing and now people in my place are not taking any of the khandhans name but only father’s and after marriage husband’s first name. It is done for the convenience of paperwork. It is convenient when you add husband’s/father’s name, does actually emphasize the patriarchy prevailing in our society. I added my husband name with my first name as the last name for ease of taking passport which I took after marriage. And my khandani name was not easy to pronounce or spell for non-keralites. And my son took his father’s first name as his last name, because it was easier to get his passport and visa which is under my husband’s sponsorship. Once my son grows up, I have no issues at all, if he wants to change his name, add my name or my or his father’s khandhan name. It should be each individual’s choice and convenience and not dictated by society.


  10. I changed my surname 6 yrs after i got married, on purpose. I prefer my husbands name ( if at all i must have 2 names) and for passport purposes i must 🙂
    My husband could never understand it at first, the pain of changing everything financial was for him not justified, but i insisted, we sat down and i explained why and he understood. I’m my own person, yes i could have a last name i picked out of thn air, but i wanted to be aligned to him, or rather i did not want to have any connection to my birth family, it was my idea of a rebellion. most women in my birth family retain their last name. they do not change it. not a rule but that’s just evolved that way and i wanted to tell everyone ( at least in my mind) that i was not part of that family anymore. my way of cutting ties. at that time i was an angry young women for what they had done.
    my husband always tells me he thought once i got over that phase i’d revert to my own last name ( something i picked) and make him change everything again, but i’m comfortable int his name, i feel right inthis name. so i don’t see whats wrong in taking your spouse’s last name, both husband or wife should have the option to retain, take the others last name or find a new one.


  11. I wish we could just do away with last names. What purpose do they even serve? Even for legal/property purposes, there is the birth certificate, passport, etc. that can serve as identification. Caste/community was never a consideration for our marriage, neither will it be for our children. And regarding ‘preserving family origins’, we’re not exactly descendents of the Chanukyas or the Ming dynasty. And even if we were, so what? Who you are today is what counts, not what your ansectors once did.


  12. My friend recently moved back to India and is living in Mumbai. She went to get cooking gas connection for her apartment, and they kept harassing why she and her husband have separate last names, are they really married? Why would a north Indian marry a Marathi and so on and on, so frustrating…
    A guy expecting me to change my name is an absolute deal breaker, that is a signal for many worse things to come. I would call off the wedding if there was any such condition. End of day it is MY NAME and MY Identity in the world which is independent of any husband to be. I have worked incredibly hard in the past decade, built a professional network, traveled/worked in different countries, was awarded prestigious national scholarships that show up when I google my name. There is no way on earth I am going to change my name and throw out the window all my personal history and accomplishments for a mere “pati-parmeshwar”, he and his damn expectations of “my last name” can go to hell. Changing last name to me indicates back to the day when a woman’s life began only when she got married, anything before (or after) was inconsequential. I know I am incredibly lucky to be educated and financially independent to do this, but this makes it even more important to put my foot down and demand equality/respect for my choice.


  13. I want to add a different perspective here. Changing your name after marriage is mostly an anglosaxon tradition. I am Mexican and in Latinamerican countries we wouldn’t even think of changing our surnames ever. Children are registered under 2 surnames. For example, if I am Anilu Perez Garcia and marry an Amir Khan, our children would be Baby Khan Perez. Ok, it’s not perfect since only my father’s surname survives but it stops all these expectations of you changing your identity when you get married. Socially I wouldn’t mind being called Mrs Khan or ‘here come the Khans’ but never legally. My Indian husband (not really Amir Khan) is a Kannadiga and doesnt care about it since his dad made up his surname and he just took his dad’s first name as a middle name.


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