WOMEN, MARRIAGE, AND NAME-CHANGING.

A new study finds that 70 percent of Americans agree, either strongly or somewhat, that it is beneficial for women to take their husband's last name when they marry. And shockingly, about half of the 815 respondents to the survey said the government should force married women to change their names. USA Today reports:

Respondents who said that women should change their names tended to view it as important for establishing a marital and family identity, she says, while those who thought women should keep their own names focused on the importance of a woman establishing a professional or individual identity.

[Sociologist Laura] Hamilton says that about half of respondents went so far as to say that the government should mandate women to change their names when they marry, a finding she called "really interesting," considering typical attitudes towards government intervention. "Americans tend to be very cautious when it comes to state intervention in family life," she says.

My parents divorced when I was 14, and my mom changed her name back to her maiden name, which she had always retained professionally as a middle name. So I've experienced family life sharing my mom's surname, and not sharing it. I have to say, I never saw any downsides to having a different last name than my mother. If people assumed her last name and mine were the same, they were corrected. It was never a problem. And it hammered home to me that my mother's identities as a professional and as a member of her own family were just as important as her identity as a wife. She was and is the most loving and committed mother you could imagine. Who cares what her last name is?

Like Jessica Valenti, I have never seriously considered changing my own name, although I do plan on someday getting married. It's discouraging to me that in younger generations, the trend is toward women changing their names. I just never understood why marriage should entail one person giving up the identity they've held their entire life. That's hardly a building block for an egalitarian partnership.

--Dana Goldstein

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