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A rose by any other name… December 7, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in feminism.
Tags: , ,

This is the 21st century. I shouldn’t be writing this post at this point in a society that has had three waves of feminism, but I am.

Apparently there are people who still don’t understand the concept of a hyphenated last name.

One of my first experiences with this problem was fairly mild. When I was an undergrad, I got a divorce and changed my married name back to my maiden name. I got remarried the summer between finishing my bachelor’s degree and starting my master’s program. When I remarried, I chose to hyphenate my last name: maiden name-husband’s last name.

The first class I took during my master’s was from a professor who had instructed classes while I had both previous names. This professor had a curious habit of referring to people as “Mrs. Last Name” or “Ms. Last Name”. I thought it was peculiar, but I appreciated it because it created a more professional atmosphere in the classroom. However, the first day of class, as the professor was going through the roster, he looked at me and said, “What the heck should I call you now?” While I admit the name is a bit of a mouthful (and is best spoken with a German accent), it bothered me a bit that he didn’t want to call me by my married name when he would brave the ten-syllable name that the Indian grad student in the next row was sporting.

At University of Minnesota, the nice people in admin decided to put all of my files under my maiden name, despite the fact that I’d been married for several years before starting there and that my application materials were made in my married name. When I inquired about having it changed, they said I had to provide a copy of my marriage certificate. (I’m almost surprised they didn’t want the paperwork from my previous marriage, as well!)

Since then, the most frequent problem I’ve had is when I have to give my ID to a person who is trying to look me up in some sort of database. I don’t know why, but they look at the last name on my ID and ignore everything that comes before the hyphen. I can almost count out the timing as to when they’ll say, “But you don’t show up in our records!” That because you’re using the wrong last name, doofus!

And now I’ve just been exposed to another example: apparently one of my colleagues, who has left our organization, had been listing me in professional documents (such as design drawings) with my husband’s last name. In such documents, they usually list a first initial and the last name. This means that if anyone who comes in later or outside our group has a question about the design related to my work on it, they will probably call my husband and assume the first initial is a typo. Unless, of course, they also don’t get the concept of a hyphenated name.

My advice to women who plan to get married: don’t change your name. It really isn’t worth it.



1. Hannah - December 7, 2010

I hear you! I totally do not get the people who ignore everything before the hyphen in my last name. Do they think I have a middle name that ends in ‘-‘?

Don’t get me started on computer systems, like those of airlines, that don’t believe in hyphens.


2. FrauTech - December 7, 2010

The University system thing is probably because they are incompetent. I got married right after I returned to university. I didn’t have to provide a marriage license (I did at work, as well as to add my husband to benefits) they accepted a new ss card. But occasionally in old systems I still find my maiden name cropping up, it’s pretty weird.

At work my maiden name was on a number of documents. Sometime after getting married I got a phonecall from somebody who had a question about a drawing Mr. [maidenname] had done, and they were told I could help them now that Mr. [maidenname] was no longer with the company. I thought that was pretty amusing, like the technical proficiency was just assumed to be male. Overall though I’ve had it pretty easy. I know men who’ve tried to change their names or unmarried partners and the stuff they have to go through is pretty over the top. If you’re a heterosexual female, and you change your name, the path is much easier for you.


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