For majority of the world, it’s tradition for a woman, once she gets married, to adapt her husband’s surname. It’s a sign of partnership, of continued family name, of commitment to the marriage, of love till death do them part.
But in the 21st century, is this practice still relevant? For this one couple, not so much. In fact, they are eschewing the practice altogether, even going so far as giving their child the surname of the mother.
In his Mama Mia article, Ari Sharp details the reasons why they decided to defy this popular marriage convention.
He says: “Melanie and I have a very equal relationship. From finances to housework to decision-making, the two of us each enjoy equal benefits, and bear equal responsibilities.
“So when we got married in 2014, it seemed natural to us that we would retain our existing family names rather than have one of us relinquish our name. (It was, perhaps, a reflection of the fact we were both in our 30s and had established independent lives, with our own names, when we got married.)”
For the couple, they’ve always found this tradition of a wife taking his husband’s surname as possessive, a trait that is so “out of tune with their desire for individual identities.”
At one point, they even considered taking a hybrid name, combining their last names to form a new one. This didn’t work because, as Ari says, it relies heavily on two good family names sounding good together, which wasn’t the case for them.
“We had long been fond of the idea of children taking on the family name of their same-gendered parent, so a daughter takes on the family name of her mother and a son takes on the family name of his father.
“This approach is a more equal one, giving both parents a chance to pass on their name and not privileging one parent over the other as the head of the household.”
So when they found out that they were having a daughter, they knew which name to give her.
Some fathers make take this as an affront to their masculinity, but Ari found himself completely all right with the decision.
“Many men, even those who consider themselves progressive on social issues and those whose wives have kept their own family names, are keen for their children to take on their own family name,” he says.
As a father, Ari will take pride in her daughter for her personality and her accomplishments, not from her family name.
On the other hand, he also says that he understands where the reluctance comes from, but if we are to see some significant changes in gender equality, such decisions have to happen.
After all, women have been losing their family names for generations.
Ari is aware that there are a few challenges to their approach. If they have a son in the future, say, he will have a different surname to his sister. And some people may be unclear as to what they should call them as a family unit.
"There are a few risks to our approach. If we have a son down the track, he would have a different family name to his sister. Some people may be unclear on what to call our family as a collective unit.
“For Melanie and I, our family as a unit will probably become known by a double-barrelled interpretation of our two names, which is easy enough for people to understand. There’s also the prospect that people wonder whether I am in fact my daughter’s father if we don’t share a name.
“But that’s their problem, not ours. So that’s how we came to name our daughter the way we did. Of course, the name is hers, so she is free to do with it what she wishes—to keep it, to modify it or to replace it with something entirely different.”