What’s in a name change?

Rich Lowry writes about the decline in the number of women who, after marrying, elect to keep their original last name. As it happens, the day before I saw this piece, a female law student who is working at our law firm this summer told me that in her family law class, the most controversial topic was whether women should adopt their husband’s last name. I found this quite odd since this seems like a purely personal decision, and one that raises no legal issues worth studying. But I was just being naive. According to Lowry, feminist Patricia Ireland has informed us that a woman taking her husband’s name “signifies the loss of her very existence as a person under the law.” I suspect, however, the real reason for the controversy is to be found in Lowry’s rejoinder that “women who want to get on with their lives and with their marriages greet that kind of old-school feminist call-to-arms with a decidedly 21st-entury ‘ho-hum.'” As the feminist orthodoxy loses its hold, it becomes a parody of its shrill self.


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