I might lose my feminist cred with this one.

What's in a (sur)name? To first wavers, there is the burden of millenia of patriarchy. Their symbolic gesture of response was keeping their own. Translation: I am my own woman, marriage is not a transfer of me as a piece of property from my father to you. Later on, feminists took the whole "joined by the bonds of matrimony" literally and hyphenated, thereby afflicting legions of spawn with their unwieldy double names.

Well, Germany is fighting back. That's right, in the name of efficiency and compassion for poor unsuspecting offspring, Germany has made the use of hyphenated names illegal. From the Wall Street Journal,
why no hyphens? Dr. Eichhoff-Cyrus, who hyphenated her own surname after marriage but is not allowed to pass it on to her children, explains that the concern is hyphenation multiplication. If a double-named boy grew up to marry and have children with a double-named woman, those children could have four names, and their children could have eight, and their children could have 16. The bureaucracy shudders.

Wish you could read the whole thing, as it's purty funny. They actually have local registries (Standesamt) that have to approve your child's name. Mostly they check for gender indication. L & B, you'd be ok because you have a gender-specific first name.

I don't know about that part, but I support the antihyphenation clause. The kid used as an example in the article would have been Leonard Matthias Grunkin-Paul. Now that's just cruel. Certainly I am in favor of equality; moreover, naming is a personal matter in which the government really should not have much say. But single-word surnames seem a kind of public good.

So I guess I'm still on the fence as far as feminism's reconciliation with society is concerned. But what about me? What would I do for myself? Funny, the (two, count them, two) women economists in my section were discussing this with me a while back. First one's advice was to take his name if I married before I had published (professionally, in an academic journal), keep my own if I marry after. Simple enough, and I suppose professional recognition is its own kind of self-affirmation. Second's advice is slightly more complex. Those of you who know me know that I go by a dimunitive of my middle name. She said I should take the unabbreviated middle name as my first, maiden name as middle, and husband's name as last, a la HRC, except she's always been called Hillary. Any EconLit search for either maiden or new last name would produce all articles. But hey wait a second, I'm still essentially bowing to patriarchal tradition, and I kinda like the name I go by. I've never known any other, and my identity has been constructed on this name, complicated as it is. Her argument was that the nickname was juvenile, the middle name more professional. I still like it. Hmph. Got out of the conversation by telling her I wasn't even dating anyone. Decision delayed.


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At 13/10/05 00:47, Blogger la lawyer said...

I took his name, then went back after we got divorced. It never felt quite right and it was nice to go back to my "real" name. Not planning on getting married again, but if I ever change my mind, I'm definitely sticking with my name, and not just for professional reasons. You can always just refer to yourself by husband's name when it comes to stuff with the kids if necessary.

At 14/10/05 16:20, Blogger Josh Craft said...

You're a crazy blogger these days! I can't say I have much credibility at all on this question, but it's cool to see the intellectual struggles of a feminist pushing through the work world.

At 24/10/05 22:16, Blogger grammar lammer said...

what people could do is not always what they will do. i seriously doubt that two hyphenated people would marry (and form an em dash! sorry) and stick their kids with four names. plus, there are those we've heard of who have eight names anyway (pipi longstocking, children of vain parents) regardless of family history. it's lame to legislate the hyphen away because people might abuse it (happens enough in nongeneological contexts), especially since you can just legislate the abuse away, and not the involved punctuation.

which is why i say be completely superficial and pick the name that fits yours best. born a schnorkelflub? use your spouse's name and move up in the world. marrying a schnorkelflub? keep your own. proud to be joining the schnorkelflub clan as a dingleflub, but you have professional credentials, and hyphenation would be a little silly? you best pick your favorite, and, while you're at it, reevaluate your threshold for ridicule.

really what we should be focusing on here is outlawing double first names that are repetitively generic and overly syllabic. no one needs to be named sarah jessica or sarah michelle when either would suffice. these people are the vain ones, not the parents who want to give both family names to their children.

At 1/11/05 03:09, Anonymous Hyacinth R. said...

Kiddos, I speak as a Schnorkelflub (or, ok, as a Meal-burger in the worst of all possible pronunciation and spelling collisions) who fully intends to keep her name. And all I have to say is that it is hard to imagine a journal article written by our KT above which the nickname did not seem eminently professional by reason of its context. Oh, I really resent the colleague's comment, since the toddlers we were when we acquired our nicknames remain the conditions of possibility for our present professional identities. I haven't noticed Ms. Cokie Roberts taking much heat for her constant invocation of a cute little past!


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