I have two last names in Mexico. The first in order comes from my father and the second one is inherited from my mother’s family. It has created some issues with my children because in this country nobody “recognizes” the mother’s last name therefore I currently do not share any surname with them.
There was an old custom in my country -now becoming obsolete, of using the husband’s name after the first and last name attached to the word “de” as if automatically the husband would be in possession of the wife (i.e. Maria Lopez de Tejeda would literally mean Tejeda’s Maria Lopez)
I never used it because I concluded that I was nobody’s property and I had the right, at the very least, to own my whole name. Sadly, after I went through a lot of thinking and research, what I considered once a female surname is only an illusion because there are none within a patriarchal society.
The reason to develop a system that included lasts names originated from the need to differentiate oneself in a crowd -and having two last names makes it more specific –although many countries did not adopt it until the 1930’s (i.e. Turkey).
Last names were given according to occupations, ranks, classes, father’s names, physical and geographical characteristics, and regions depending on the culture. It was only logical to pass them in a patrilineal way since men were the ones doing the occupations. Even though women are the ones giving birth, the credit through the labeling and the packaging has always been “all man made materials”. If there are no matrilineal inherited names, is it worth it to fight preserving a paternal last name after all?
By 1979 a UN convention, CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) already considered this and proposed that wife and husband should have the same rights to decide the “family name” –unfortunately the United States is the only developed country that has not ratified it yet but, ultimately, how would that be advantageous?
If I thought that the United States was less fair than Mexico in regards to acknowledging women, I would have to conclude eventually that in the latter is only a delayed effect because my children will lose my father’s surname in the next generation just like my mother already left her grandfather’s behind anyway. Even though women are the ones giving birth, the credit through the labeling and the packaging has always been “all man made materials”.
Nevertheless, when females get married it is a hassle to change all the paperwork notwithstanding we are not required by law and merely do it following a tradition. After all the trouble defending it, one does not even choose the first name but, maybe is not about picking one and more about owning it with the gained respect gathered through life.
Native Indians used to have all sort of names and the kids would not get an “official one” until reaching a certain age. There were no last names either but they did not need them since population was small.
Perhaps it could be a good thing to design an elaborated name changing ritual once in a lifetime –that would resemble those majestic eagles renovating their feathers, when a profession has been decided but, what would happen with the people that switch careers later on? Should they also change their name?
Recently some couples have found a way to resolve this by forming their very own family name with parts of their last names –but the woman was only carrying her father’s and is an abbreviation of the Hispanic version that eventually will dilute exactly the same way through a delayed effect. Nonetheless a great majority seems to continue holding onto the old tradition. Even though women are the ones giving birth, the credit through the labeling and packaging has always been “all man made materials”.
As for me, if I never changed it before and I do not have intentions of getting married ever again, having resolved my pseudonym, why trouble myself with this trifle?