Love stories: naming decisions and narrative in contemporary Britain

Thwaites, Rachel (2014) Love stories: naming decisions and narrative in contemporary Britain. In: Doing gender, doing love: interdisciplinary voice. Inter-Disciplinary Press. ISBN 9781848882737

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The practice of changing one's name and taking the husband's surname remains a marriage norm in Britain, despite the fact that other options, such as keeping one's maiden name or combining and hyphenating the two surnames, have become more common. In this chapter I present the findings of my doctoral research on naming practices and gendered identity formation. I surveyed some women who had chosen to change their names when they marriage, and some who had not, and carried out in-depth interviews to gauge feelings and emotions around naming decisions. By analysing their narratives, I discovered that this act encapsulated a number of normative operations. Firstly, it reiterated gender: name changing, a sole female responsibility, marked and bracketed femininity. Secondly, it reproduced normative ideals of love that burdened women with the responsibility of emotion work: it was a woman's duty to make a 'show' of her commitment, through a public display of love, the name change. And lastly, it masked the inherent inequality of the ritual of name changing, effectively hiding its patriarchal undertones. Women seemed oblivious to the gendered asymmetry of this supposedly neutral gesture of love: even though love was assumed to be an egalitarian emotion, they gave up their name, and thus part of their identities, without question. Giving up a part of oneself then, was a gendered token of commitment. Symbolically at least, a gendered hierarchy was immediately set up in these relationships: with the erasure and replacement of their name, these women prepared themselves to taken on an uneven amount of 'emotion work', while the name change was once again normalised as away to show 'proper' commitment and 'true' love.

Keywords:Name changing, Marriage, Heterosexuality, Normalised practices, Narrative, Gender
Subjects:L Social studies > L320 Gender studies
L Social studies > L300 Sociology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:31265
Deposited On:09 Mar 2018 15:41

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