Would You Take Your Wife’s Last Name?

Above: Zoe Saldana's and her husband made headlines earlier this week when it was revealed that her husband Marco Perego took her last name

Tradition has always dictated that when a couple gets married, the woman would take the man’s last name, and their children would carry on his name to the next generation. But marriage is changing (no matter how hard some people try to fight it), and the question of last names no longer has an obvious answer. Now, women aren’t expected to change their last name when they get married, and many don’t. No one thinks twice about a married couple with different last names, but there’s another trend starting to gain some steam— the man taking his wife’s last name.

It’s not hard to imagine why this was never an option in the past. Men were always considered the head of the family, and it was their responsibility to carry on the family name by getting married and having kids. But with the growing importance of gender equality in the last couple decades, the last name debate has shifted to favour the right to choose over tradition. It’s widely accepted now that a woman will choose the last name that works for her, but while men never had a decision to make regarding their last name in the past, now they do.

Recently, Avatar actress, Zoe Saldana and her husband, Italian artist, Marco Perego announced that he actually took her name when they got married in 2013. Saldana told InStyle,“I tried to talk him out of it. I told him, ‘If you use my name, you’re going to be emasculated by your community of artists, by your Latin community of men, by the world.” Her husband responded, “Ah, Zoe, I don’t give a sh*t.” So even the most traditional of gender roles aren’t set in stone anymore.

Some people have questioned Marco’s choice, saying he only wants her name because she is more famous than he is, and he’ll be able to use it to his advantage. But isn’t that what women have been encouraged and expected to do for centuries? Marrying into the right family, and having the right name was almost the entire point of marriage at one point, so now that women can be just as powerful as men, why can’t their names have the chance to be carried on as well?

There are plenty of reasons for a family to want to share a last name whether they are sentimental, practical, or both. Another option is switching to a hyphenated last name. When actor Aaron Johnson (star of Kick-Ass), and director, Sam Taylor (director of 50 Shades of Grey) got married, they both changed their last name to Taylor-Johnson. Hyphenated last names are a compromise that allow both people to keep their identity, while also taking on their partner’s at the same time. Which is kind of a metaphor for marriage in general. But that option isn’t for everyone.

There are various reasons why a lot of men would never even consider taking their wife’s last name. No man wants to appear weak, or submissive to a woman, and they know going against the crowd on a tradition like last names will invite a lot of scrutiny and judgement. Taking someone else’s last name is like saying you’re willing to put your identity aside in favour of theirs, which is something women have always done.,

Men are taught to protect their masculinity at all costs, but the qualities that make a “real man” are shifting. These days a real man is considered one who is not afraid to stand up for women’s rights and gender equality as a whole. He doesn’t blindly follow tradition because it’s what everyone else is doing. A real man can’t be emasculated by the arbitrary opinions of other people, because no one else gets to dictate his identity but him.

Your name can have a lot of power over who you are, or no power at all. In the end, the decision is yours. Whether you take your wife’s last name, choose to hyphenate, or stick with the name you were born with, a name on its own means nothing. It’s your job to make it what you want it to be.

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