What’s in a name: punctuation or patriarchy?

Bethany Bekas-Yarker Opinions Editor

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It’s not very often in life individuals can take time to reflect on the basic principles of the English language: how we address others, names, pronouns and titles. 

As some of the WC’s regular readers may have already noticed by my byline, the topic of names has been greatly on my mind. Last Saturday, while loads of new and returning students begin filing into their dorm rooms, I vowed to spend my life with my best friend and became a married woman.

As any newly married woman does, I was then faced with a decision on what to do with my last name. In the modern post-women’s movement world their seemed to be a slew of options and opinions. Ultimately, I took a middle of the road option and choose to keep my “maiden” name, but add a hyphen and my husband’s surname.

First of all, I do not think that all women should choose to hyphenate or keep their name. Like most options in life, I believe strongly in personal choice. This column is simply an attempt to explain the personal choice I made.

There seemed to be a lot of options available to me thanks to many brave women who had already blazed a path of nonconformity years before me.  I can’t help but to posthumously thank Lucy Stone, who, among a list of other achievements, was the female on record to have kept her name post-matrimony.

One path was to become a  “Stoner” and simply avoid changing my name. After discovering the mountains of paperwork that lay ahead, this option seemed the most appealing at first glance. 

The other option was to create a new surname. While I was supportive of this idea fully, my betrothed was not a fan of changing his name to, what he kindly referred to, as “some weird combined name that has means nothing to either of us.”

I tinkered with the idea of creating a combined surname created from my mother’s maiden name and my father’s surname, but ultimately I decided “Bonkas” sounded to ridiculous to ever be able to utter without laughter and the other suggested option “Betempo” would only be useful if I ever decided to become a rapper.

My husband and I had previously agreed our future children would carry on his paternal surname, simply due to the fact that his genealogy could be traced back to 1066 A.D. and neither of us were comfortable with shaking that family tree, but it left me with the awkward situation of possibly having a different last name than our posterity. 

Ultimately, the day of the wedding I was firmly undecided; that is until I was announced as Mrs. (My husband’s first name) Yarker. There was a niceness to sharing a name with a man I loved dearly, but something very unappealing about loosing a part of my own identity and becoming simply a “Mrs.”

Although I’m sure the mountain of paperwork I am currently struggling through will be nothing in comparison to the explanations I will have to give the rest of my life, I think it will all be worth it to be able to carry a name that I can be proud of and comfortable with. 

I can only hope women in future generations continue to question tradition rather than simply go along with the patriarchal norm. 

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