Why do married women retain maiden names?

2013-10-13
VANGUARD Newspaper



In the past, a surname change naturally followed every wedding, particularly in this part of Africa. In fact, the name change was anticipated by every single-lady because it was considered the most cogent emblem for one’s status.

However, recent discoveries have revealed a deviation from this tradition as a growing percentage of new brides now prefer to retain their maiden names! Their daddies’ names, simply put! While some are opting to hyphenate their last names with their husbands’ after marriage, some are outrightly keeping their maiden names without taking up their husbands’ at all.

Most men are however grossly opposed to this trend as only a few months ago, a 36-year-old Nigerian civil servant asked a Lagos customary court to dissolve his two-year-old marriage over his 35-year-old wife’s refusal to change her surname to his.

“She always tells me she is comfortable with her father’s name and that she cannot change it,” the petitioning husband told the court who had no choice but to dissolve the union in spite of the woman’s claim that she still loved her husband.

A July 2013 survey carried out by Facebook also confirmed an increase in the proportion of women who retain their maiden names, revealing that most of them happen to be in their 20s.

“Unlike in the past when every newlywed bride signed for a surname change, just 62 per cent of that age group now chooses to use their husband’s family name. For those in their 30s, the number rises to 74 per cent and for women in their 60s it stands at 88 per cent”, the survey which analysed the names of women on the social media site who said they were married – and compared them to their husbands’ profiles, revealed.

Though the alternative of hyphenating last names with husbands’ has reigned amongst older women like screen-diva, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke, Lola Abiola-Edewo, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and more, most men still object to it, tagging it ‘double-barreling’, hence the total disapproval of the latest trend- outright neglect of husbands’ names. Foremost sprinter, Mary Onyali, also stuck to her maiden name until recently when she hyphenated her husband’s family name, Omagbemi.

Why the trend?

Investigations by Vista Woman, VM, uncovered reasons ranging from fame to profession and family background. For women like Lola Abiola-Edewo who retained maiden names despite marriage to influential families, Mr.Ike Ikeson, an educationist, identified ego and family pride as reasons for ‘double-barreling’.

While most men attributed the trend to feminism, a few however averred that a surname change might pose difficulties for some women professionals who had achieved quite a lot before marriage.

“I don’t expect a well-published female author to ditch her maiden name because readers will be unable to identify her with her works. That would be suicide!”, a Lagos businessman who said he didn’t mind the trend said.

Barr.Femi Abiodun, a legal practitioner, however has a different view. He believes the trend is typical of women who are married to men of equal or lower social, economic, educational, or political status. The others, he says, are women from notable families but married into regular families.

To Ifeanyi, a young man preparing to walk the aisle, it shows who is at the driver’s seat of the relationship.

“When a married woman keeps any name outside her husband’s, she is simply bossing and/or oppressing her spouse. I am yet to see a woman retain her maiden name in any way, shape or form if she is married to a man who belongs to a higher status than her”, Ifeanyi stressed.

“I don’t blame women who keep their fathers’ names or hyphenate both names. If your dad’s name could open doors or even break walls and you got married to someone whose name does not even ring a bell, what would you rather do?”, Mrs.Titi Babalola, a designer, said.

The question:

As a man, will you let your wife ‘double-barrel’ under your roof? What if she chooses not to bear your name at all? If God blesses you with a successful, achieving and famous daughter, will you be pleased or sad to watch her toss your name alongside that bouquet of roses? What the heck is in a name, anyway?

 

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