As a feminist, I am for choice. If Jes-sica Grose '04 wants to change her surname upon marriage because it is a "sweet" thing to do, great ("A Sweet Decision," Alumni POV, May/June)!

But her essay fails to delve into the complexities of naming practices. Just as a previous article in the same BAM mentions a speaker's lecture on slavery and its long-term societal aftereffects, so too does women's prior lack of independent status linger in the relinquishing of "maiden" names.

Nowhere in her piece does Grose mention her husband's offering to exchange his name for hers. Nor does she explore the mess she'll find herself in with different professional and personal names in this post-9/11 world.

I could go on and on about the inequality that women fought in order to keep their birth names, and the frustration I feel when a woman decides to go back to an old practice to accommodate, to be sweet.

Susan J. Behrens '84 AM, '86 PhD
Brooklyn, N.Y.


Don't do it, Jessica! I read with dismay Jessica Grose's conclusion that changing her name when she marries would be a "sweet" thing to do. Sweet is whichever spouse wakes first and brings the other coffee in bed. Changing your identity is not.

There are both subtle and overt forms of sexism. An example of the overt is that women make seventy-seven cents for every dollar men make; subtle sexism is when a couple becomes Mr. & Mrs. Him. Compare the difference between a couple being introduced as John Doe and his wife, Jane, to John Doe and his wife, Jane Johnson. The former implies that the woman is an extension of her husband, while the latter implies she is a woman in her own right.

Keep your name, Jessica! Take a stance toward putting to bed this archaic practice. Let's have the next generation of little girls grow up imagining themselves married someday with the names that their parents so carefully chose for them still intact. Now that would be sweet!

Wendy Lapides '77
Barrington, R.I.
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I found Jessica Grose's POV oddly disturbing. It feels at first like a review of how far women have come by allowing her final, post-feminist decision to look like a real exercise of choice. But for this kind of post-feminism to have any traction as a form of genuine equality, the author should have considered the possibility of a husband taking a wife's name. Without this, the article looks less like a statement about how lucky we are to have all that behind us, and more like a ritual of dispossession: we didn't want that liberty anyway.

Julia Flanders '91 AM, '05 PhD
Smithfield, R.I.


That Jessica Grose even has the choice to take her husband's last name or keep her own is due to the efforts of the women who came before us. One important lesson these women taught us has been forgotten in this post-feminist age: the personal is political. The small choices we make every day actually do matter.

I do not think it's "narcissistic" of Ms. Grose to wonder if her decision "affects the whole of womankind." It does. Every choice we make presents us with an opportunity. We can do our part to help create the kind of world we want for our daughters, the way our mothers did for us, or we can convince ourselves that feminism is irrelevant and the decisions we make in our personal lives affect only us and hope for the best.

Amanda Biers-Melcher '89
Burbank, Calif.

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Comments (2)
As a spouse of an alum (Victoria Kaprielian, '81), I feel I must comment on this subject. 
When she and I were going through all the logistics of getting married we decided that, due to her profession, she should keep her name to simplify things for her. 
We know how difficult it is to change names because we were both divorced. The process of her reverting her name legally back to her maiden name took literally years and almost an act of congress to accomplish. 
After 14 years she still gets mail on occasion in her former married name as well as all of the aliases associated with it. 
She was more than willing to take my name in marriage as is traditional. We considered changing my name to hers which would have been just as complicated. I get an occasional phone call asking for Mr. Kaprielian and I have to say I am honored in a way. 
While I understand the entire issue, I cannot believe the tone of some of the letters in response to Ms. Grose's original letter. I think the attitude of the responses leans toward overreaction on this issue. 
To me, it is a symbol of my wife's or my willingness to share our entire lives together as partners, no matter which name we choose to have. 
It isn't a matter of giving up one's individuality even though the very sensitive may see it that way. 
If feminists feel a need to take a strong stance, they should come to in North Carolina (and other such states) where, by law, we had to go to the register of deeds just to get a marriage license. The process felt as though I was registering her as my property. 
My advise to Ms. Grose is that if she feels it is important to her to take her fiancee's name, do it to show you want a real partnership for life, not just to be sweet. 
Otherwise, why bother? It could cause her problems in the future.
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I grew up hyphenated (mom's-last-name-hyphen-dad's-last-name) and spent years pondering what I would do if and when I got married; this past summer, I got married (to a lovely man with a brief, Anglo-Saxon last name) so we had to decide. I support and promote the idea of women and men keeping the names they were born with; however in my case I thought it would add an extra level of confusion to have a last name with two parts, neither of which was the surname of my spouse. But I knew that changing one's name is a prolonged, aggravating process; and I (selfishly) refused to go through with it unless my husband did the same. It took us probably a solid month to get through all the accounts: driver's license, passport, banking, every frequent flyer program ever... each of which required a different set of documents, phone calls, faxes, scans, and signed mailed letters to complete. The complexity of this process is FAR higher than it was for our parent's generation, and that is probably as strong a factor as feminism in a woman's decision to keep her own name. 
Facetiously -- I keep thinking that any woman who goes through this by herself is not engaging in a "sweet gesture" -- she's engaging in an act of martyrdom. Maybe hubby can make it up to Ms. Grose by hosting and giving birth their babies?
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