To the Editor:

I read Jasmine White’s “Why I Won’t Ever Change My Last Name” with curiosity … and indignation. I am a Class of 2014 alum and have been married a whopping five months. So clearly, I have lots of life experiences to speak to some of the issues in White’s article.

I must first say, Jasmine, that I completely respect, even admire, your decision to keep your last name, and I also apologize for the pushback you may experience in doing so. However, to condemn with such assuredness the large majority of married women who have changed their names is mistaken because you don’t seem to realize the commitment a marriage entails.

When I changed my last name (from Reavis to Volz), it felt like a sacrifice. My name is no longer my own. But, you see, my husband’s name is no longer his own either, but ours. A committed relationship does not require a name change, but it will have to change you in some way, which you don’t seem prepared for: “I don’t want to be known as someone’s wife or someone’s mother. I want to be known as Jasmine White, the cool-ass chick who just happens to be a wife and a mother.” Marriage and parenthood are not checklist items.

But why should you be prepared to let go of some of yourself? Georgetown culture is a breeding ground for love of the name, love of self and love of branding. Who are you wearing? What internship do you have? Which famous politician is in your profile picture? Do you do things because you are genuinely passionate about them, or are your passions a facade that simply makes for a good resume under your name?

There is an aspect of Georgetown that speaks the opposite: Jesuit values. College may be a time for the self, but our university encourages being selfless by committing your education and endeavors to others, something that I found to be incredibly applicable in the realm of marriage as well.

For me, marriage has been a valuable lesson in learning to live life for something besides yourself. I still have personal aspirations, but I am so extremely fortunate to have another person in my life to both encourage and humble these goals. And I do the same for him. We critique and celebrate each other, and come out stronger.

So, go, Jasmine, go. Yes, embrace your feminist side. Yes, claim your name as your own. Yes, explore your individuality to the fullest extent. But, don’t be afraid to try giving some of yourself up sometime. Volunteer. Donate. Serve others. Realize that changing your routine, changing your focus, even changing your name can be the good kind of scary.

Amy Volz
COL ’14

10 Comments

  1. I too am a member of the Class of 2014. I respect your decision to change your last name but I have to say, I don’t think that you necessarily have a strong argument here.

    It is complete bullshit that you think that your husbands last name has changed at all for him. You are the one who has to change your name on all legal documents, social networks and job applications (since we did just graduate).

    The idea that women are consistently encouraged to give up their identity in 2014 seems outdated and I do not feel that your opinion needed to be published. Just another example of someone following the age old tradition of women giving up way more of themselves than men, which is an unfortunate reality of our society.

    • necessary: Thanks so much for your comment. I’m sorry you don’t feel this deserved to be published, but you can take that up with The Hoya and not with me. For what it’s worth, I definitely agree that there are far more important issues facing women today (equal pay, reproductive freedom, access to education, and fair representation in decision-making seats) than name changing. I am a feminist after all.

      However, to address the rest of your comments: I find it hard to believe you understand what my changing my name meant for my husband and how he views his own name. Yes, I did have to fill out some extra paperwork. But we Both moved to a new address, opened a joint bank account, created subscriptions, and made lots of other decisions about how our (no longer just his) name would be used and where it would be listed. I didn’t give up my identity, but I did make a commitment to another person — a commitment that has really changed me (for the better I would say).

      Again, you don’t need to change your name to make that commitment. But for me it was a useful symbol. Doesn’t third wave feminism allow me to make this choice?

  2. Yes. This is so correct and beautifully put

  3. Thank you for this Amy. You are absolutely correct.

  4. This is really cute of the author to think these cute little thoughts!

  5. You could do better than this says:

    I can imagine any number of reasons why a woman might choose to take her husband’s last name. Your article did not defend any such reason; nor did it express any pride in your own choice, but a pride in being the kind of person you suggest that Ms. White is not. In your second paragraph you switch from anything that might be considered a defense of your choice to a direct address to Ms. White, belittling her understanding of what a serious relationship entails. She expresses as caveats the possible effects of youth and inexperience aptly in her own piece, yet you immediately start out mischaracterzing her argument as a condemnation by someone who cannot possibly have as valid an opinion as someone like yourself, admittedly only married five months. She wrote an opinion; you wrote a condemnation of Ms. White’s character. Your fourth paragraph, suggesting that she’s not the kind of person willing to make sacrifices, comes across as childish and defensive. Pretty much outright saying that she doesn’t treat marriage and children as seriously as you? Your words: “Marriage and parenthood are not checklist items.” If anyone were in doubt, your final paragraph assures it: you have no intellectual opinion to express, but only a need to talk down to Ms. White, and lecture her to “try giving up some of herself sometime”, implying that she is not the kind of person who would “volunteer,” “donate,” or “serve others.” You have no reason to assume that of her, and frankly, you say nothing of substance in this entire piece to defend your own choice. There is no reason to feel ashamed or defensive about changing your last name, although judging by the defensive tone of this piece, it’s hard to imagine any other impulse drove you when writing. If you feel as defensive about a name as you come across, perhaps you should read Ms. White’s article more carefully. There are so many reasons a woman might choose to take her husband’s last name, and it is a choice that deserves to be defended well. All you accomplished in this piece was to indicate that you think you know more about sacrifice and relationships than Ms. White.

    • “You could do better than this”: Thanks for your comment. Looking back, I honestly don’t know if I would have sent this exact article in if I had given it a little more time and editing.

      I read White’s article and did have a reaction, so I clicked the link at the bottom of the page and wrote my reaction and sent it. I felt I needed to open up the dialogue by including the view of a married woman who had changed her name. I’m sorry you feel I didn’t do that well. I would love to read how you would structure the argument. Although I will admit I wasn’t looking to make a scholarly argument, but rather give the issue a real face and some personality, just as Jasmine was.

      Yes, I used the second person to address issues; it was an effective rhetorical device. I was interested in making the point that sometimes strong-hearted feminists (such as White) make the mistake of excluding women from the fight whom we could really use (like women who choose to change their name and/or decide to stay at home with their children as their occupation). Jasmine, if it was you or a friend that wrote that comment, I’m really sorry that this seems to have affected you very negatively. My apologies and I would love to have an open dialogue sometime, not behind screen name where we feel we can berate each other. As a friend of mine said: up with love, up with equality. Again, I’m sorry you felt this was a personal attack.

      • Intellectually dishonest says:

        Not Jasmine — though it’s interesting you would assume that disapproval of a careless, emotional backlash must have been more of the same — but a fellow alum in disbelief that what you wrote passed muster for publication.. Your article disappointed me solely and utterly as a feminist. Your “indignation” got the better of you, and there is no room for interpretation here: whether you intended to or not, what you wrote was a personal attack. The phrase you’re looking for is not “effective rhetorical device” but ad hominem, and feminism as a cause needs and deserves better than that. It’s a little disheartening that someone with a Georgetown degree could read an article and misunderstand it so completely. In no place does Ms. White suggest that women like yourself should be excluded from the fight. There is no cultural pressure against your choice. Your choice is not controversial. Ms. White’s is, and she did quite successfully “open dialogue” without ever once resorting to a dismissal of the other point of view, or calling into question the character of those who express it. A person with adequate reading comprehension skills would have realized on a second read that Ms. White never once made any comment directed against women who make your choice. She merely called into question why your choice is still so widely accepted, and why the choice she intends to make is so often met with reactions not unlike your own. If it is so important to you that women who take their husbands’ names be included in the feminist fight (I assume it is), and if you feel that your choice in some way causes you to be excluded from the feminist fight, that’s an interesting idea and one well worth discussing. That’s the article you should have written. Ms. White’s personal feminism should have played no part in explaining your “pride” in your choice. I would think that someone so passionate about Jesuit values would have taken the time to reflect on why Ms. White’s perfectly innocuous article caused them to feel indignation — indignation I imagine you felt because you (still) seem to believe that Ms. White suggested your decision is anti-feminist. If there is another explanation for your reaction, I’m sure it would make for a compelling addendum.

        (As an aside, If someone has a reaction so strong that they take the time to type it and submit it for publication, I should hope they would be prepared to defend it. Reason over rhetoric, I’m pretty sure that’s one of those Jesuit values we were supposed to pick up along the way.)

        • This will be my last comment, but feel free to respond. I don’t believe my opinion piece was careless (Yes, I wrote it in reaction. But I spent a couple days processing that reaction and then wrote what I felt to be an appropriate representation of said reaction. Like I said, with further editing I may have realized the flaw you so adequately describe.)

          I am feeling very poorly that my piece can be viewed as a personal attack (the flaw you mention and the reason I wanted to ensure that it was not the actual author who was writing your comment). Again, this was not my intention. I stand by my explanation of the second person as a rhetorical device (from my well-deserved bachelor’s degree, I understand that a rhetorical device is a use of language, a technique, that intends to have an effect on the audience – to make them consider a topic from a perspective they are not necessarily used to). But I also understand how you took it purely as an ad hominem argument.

          So, congratulations “intellectually dishonest”/fellow alum, you have humbled me and enlightened me to another way in which the piece could be viewed. Although, pulling my entire undergraduate education into question I am going to choose to disregard as merely vitriolic. I thank you for the rest of your words, as hard as they are to read; they have been very useful for me and I will continue to think about them.

          I’m being very honest when I say this: please add me on facebook or email me ([email protected]). If you are already my facebook friend, then message me. I really would love have this conversation more with you, but comment sections aren’t necessarily the most civil place to do so.

  6. GU Student says:

    I know this piece was published in November, but I was discussing this issue with a friend via text, and he directed me to this piece and asked for my thoughts. Well, my thoughts “sounded more like a short paper than a text message,” so I thought I’d contribute to this discussion.

    I find Volz’s response interesting and I respect her decision to change her name. I also agree that relationships do change both people. However, this op ed did nothing to convince me that there is value in WOMEN specifically changing their names.

    Volz says that changing her name “felt like a sacrifice” and that “her name is no longer her own”–Ok. Then writes says that “[her] husband’s name is no longer his own.” I completely disagree. Yes, it is still his name. He did not let go of anything. Meanwhile, she changed her name, she has to change it on all of her legal documents, and, as she says, “it was a sacrifice.” I see no sacrifice on his part, no loss of identity. Perhaps his name holds new significance, but this is ADDED signification to something that he already had; this is very distinct from what she had to do: give up a part of herself (i.e. something was taken away). There is nothing egalitarian about this concept.

    Next, Volz describes their name as “ours.” However, it is “theirs” only because she and her husband now happen to have the same last name–not because SHE as a woman specifically sacrificed her name instead of him. If he had changed his name to hers, they would have the same last name, and if they had hyphenated or combined their names, they would still have the same last name. In other words, this statement could be used as an argument for sharing a last name, but not for the woman specifically changing her name to attain this objective. Though I respect the author’s decision, I still maintain that this practice is sexist and unequally demanding .

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