Even though we are living in the 21st century, sometimes it feels that our rituals and mindset are still of the 19th century. Even today many women have to justify, sometimes in conversation or in a fiery debate, why we didn’t take our husband’s surname after marriage. Though there are many reasons why women don’t change their surnames after marriage, sadly the biggest and the most forgotten reason is her personal choice. Sadly, our decision to retain our identity after marriage is more often than not questioned by so many people – from relatives to travel agents to our own family.
There are so many people who feel it’s their right to attack a woman for her choice to retain her identity after getting married.
Sadly, while women have to face so many unsolicited questions, no one asks any questions to the husband. Because in the end, nothing is expected to change for him after marriage. The only person who needs to carry the burden of adjustment and compromises is the wife, including giving up her name and adopting her husband’s name.
In the last couple of years since I got married, I have heard a lot of heartbreaking and sexist comments that shouldn’t have any place in the 21st century. But sadly, they do exist. Here are some of the things that I heard which made me wonder if we ever treat women as an equal partner in the marriage.
“Your brother is there to carry on the family name. Why do you have to bother?”: My Long Distance Relative
It is sad how my long-distance relative wanted me to know how it is not a woman’s responsibility to carry her family name. This statement wasn’t only sexist but also disappointing. I hope one day she will understand, that retaining your marital name doesn’t always have to do with “carrying on the family name.” Sometimes, it is just about your personal choice.
“Why are you not changing your name? Your kids won’t see you as one family. What surname will they take?”: My well-educated father
How could I expect the world to understand when my own father couldn’t understand the importance of retaining my marital name. I believe my husband and I will make sure our kids know that it’s not our surname that makes us family, it is our bond of love and care for each other.
“What people will say? What do you have against his name? Don’t you like it?”: My mother
Worried about what people might have to say, my mother relentlessly quizzed me on why I didn’t want to change my surname. She was quick to tell me how even she and my sister-in-law changed their surname and that doesn’t mean that they don’t love their parents. I wanted her to understand that how not changing the name was a personal choice and it isn’t always about parents’ love!
“The process to change name after marriage is so simple now. Everything happens online. Why wouldn’t you do it?”: My Father-in-law
My father-in-law assumed that it was because of inconvenience, I haven’t changed my name after marriage. It never occurred to him that even a woman can choose not to change her name out of choice. Being raised in a patriarchal society, he always thought that a good bahu changes her name to accept the family. My decision to retain my surname left him shocked and disgusted.
“Don’t you want to be a part of the family?”: My sister-in-law
Rather than appreciating all my attempts and sacrifices to become a part of the family, it is sad how my sister-in-law chose my surname as a benchmark of my desire to be part of the family! No, dear sister-in-law, my desire to retain my family name has nothing t do with being part of my husband’s family.
“Are you even committed to the marriage, my son and his family?”: Mother-in-law
I don’t know how much anger she would have felt to ask me this question. Sadly, she is blind to my everyday actions to make sure her son has a happy life. I wish she would one day realize how a woman’s name has nothing to do with her commitment to the relationship. She is neither your son’s property nor yours. She isn’t an object that needs to be rebranded once the transaction is complete.
But, that’s not it. There were many more: “Stop trying to be a part of the cool brigade or a rebel.”: my Friend; “You won’t be able to travel abroad together. No one will give you a visa.”: Travel Agent; “We need to see your marriage certificate to give you a room in our hotel.” Hotel Manager.
It is heart-breaking how even in the 21st century, women still need to justify the society and their own family why they chose to keep their name after marriage. The struggle to retain your name after marriage is just a reflection of how there are so many battles still left for women to win in India.