‘Marriage Refs’ think woman is wrong to keep last name. Huh?

It makes me want to pull my hair out that it is 2010 and so many people still do not understand why or believe a woman should keep her maiden name after marriage. Case in point: the NBC show The Marriage Ref.

On The Marriage Ref, three celebrities judge arguments within marriage, trying to influence host/comedian Tom Poppa on how he will “rule.” Sometimes it’s a husband who has his motorcycle in the garage, or a wife who constantly makes green bean casserole that looks like sludge and the husband never eats.

This week, one of the arguments was between a husband and wife about the wife changing her last name. The wife wanted to keep her maiden name — at least for five years — and the husband wanted her to use his last name in nonprofessional settings.

I thought this was a done deal — the panel consisted of Demi Moore, Jim Brewer, and Kelly Ripa — Moore and Ripa both seem like powerful, independent women who would totally be on the woman’s side. Instead, they both chose the husband because — and I quote — “he’s allowing her to keep her name professionally,” said Kelly Ripa.

First of all, since when are we back living in the times when husbands give permission to wives if they want to do something? Sure it might be a poor word choice, but it says it all, as if it’s a compromise that she uses her maiden name professionally.

But compromise is about sacrifice — she gives up her maiden name, and what does he give up? Absolutely nothing. The entire argument is about controlling her actions and her name, and it’s seen as a compromise that she is permitted to keep her lifelong name part of the time. The husband is seen as a saint for allowing her this luxury, so the entire audience booed when Poppa tried to give the argument to the wife.

Seemingly, although everyone thought it was admirable that the husband was going to “allow” her to use her name professionally, the audience turned when Poppa suggested she be able to always use her maiden name. He eventually changed his answer, which really pissed me off. He gave all these great reasons, that she was her own person — then he flip-flops, essentially saying she isn’t her own person, she’s actually still his person.

Moore and Ripa both admitted they go by Mrs. Kutcher and Mrs. Consuelos, respectively, outside of the spotlight, because they “are proud of who [they] are as married people,” adding that the wife would “be doing [her] man a real props” by taking his last name.

Huh? How about doing yourself real props by keeping your identity because it’s what you are comfortable with, and marrying someone who prefers you be comfortable with yourself to being uncomfortable as someone else? Why is it OK for the professional world to know her with her maiden name, but outside that world friends and family need to know she has his name?

I’m not arguing that all women should not change their last names after marriage — I’m not going to change my last name, but it’s each woman’s personal choice and every woman has different reasons. The point is that every woman should have the opportunity and choice to do so, yet this woman on The Marriage Ref was completely and unnecessarily criticized, and told she was wrong, for wanting to keep her own name and identity for the time being.

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4 Responses to “‘Marriage Refs’ think woman is wrong to keep last name. Huh?”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    Very well said! Why is it the woman’s responsibility to stroke her man’s ego? Her husband appears to be threatened by her success. My husband doesn’t like that I didn’t change my name, but he did not have the power to permit me to keep my maiden name as it was not his decision to make.

  2. Kyle Grantham Says:

    “The wife wanted to keep her married name — at least for five years — and the husband wanted her to use his last name in nonprofessional settings.”

    I think you mean maiden name there… otherwise this makes no sense…

    To be honest with you, I really don’t see the big deal with this. Personally I don’t see it as a control issue from the guy’s side. As a guy, I don’t want my wife to take my last name because I want everyone to think I have some control over her. For me it’s the tradition of it. I would want my wife to take my last name to carry on the tradition that’s lasted for centuries. If she didn’t want to I certainly wouldn’t fight her on it, it’s her choice, but I would feel kind of odd that she didn’t want to.

    To a guy it kinda feels like a slap in the face, like your name isn’t good enough for her or something. It’s not necessarily a control thing, but it’s an accepted traditional practice through the vast majority of the population that a wife takes her husband’s last name, so when your wife says she doesn’t want to, it feels like there’s a reason your name isn’t good enough, to the guy at least.

    I will completely grant you that Rippa and Moore’s justification’s in their argument were stupid and made them look that way. Just coming from a guy’s perspective, it’s like a slap in the face that you’re not good enough, especially when it goes beyond the professional setting that she wants to use her maiden name.

    Using your maiden name in a professional setting makes sense, that’s who people know you as so obviously you don’t want to confuse them or miss out on your name recognition, but to say all the time you don’t want to be associated with your husband’s name just feels like a slap in the face to the husband.

    • cathyjwilson Says:

      Ooo good catch! Yeah that makes no sense without saying “maiden.” It’s interesting to hear your perspective as a guy, but I guess my qualm is that not all traditions should continue simply because they are traditions — just because people have done things a certain way for years doesn’t mean they should keep doing it. I don’t think men should take it as a slap in the face, in fact I think guys should consider what it would be like to take their partners name and changing your entire identity — plus the roots of it, though they may not be a guy’s intention today, are because women used to be seen as their husband’s property — not the best foundation of a tradition that I want to continue.

  3. Natasha Says:

    Great argument! Moore and Ripa definitely gave off as idiots. I definitely see how the husband would see it as a “slap in the face” cause it’s been a tradition for so long, but cathyjwilson, you summed up my feelings about that perfectly. I’m 23 and have NEVER planned on changing my last name after marriage.

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