When a man and woman leave their parents’ homes (well, in most cases) and join together in a union, there are many traditions which are observed. This will depend on the cultures where the Adam and Eve hail from and it is true to say that sometimes some of the traditions expected just come out of the woodwork – it is likely that both the Adam and/or Eve may not have heard of them before but suddenly they are compelled to comply in order for their union to be recognized by society. While society evolves and things are said to change, it is such occasions as those when unions take place that time seems to stand still, time even seems to turn back.
One of those long-standing traditions is the bearing of names. You may ask what’s in a name but when it comes to matters matrimonial, a name swings the weights in a homestead. In many a culture, it was and still is tradition for Eve to leave her maiden name and take up her husband’s name; in the same vein, children will inherit their father’s surname (and will probably only use their mother’s maiden name when they are of age and need to use it as an answer to a security question at the bank!).
It is obvious that names are very much a part of one’s heritage and identity, regardless of whether one is a woman or a man. What is also obvious is that in many instances, assuming one’s husband’s name takes care of a lot of hassles that would otherwise arise – having the same surname legally makes it easier to be acknowledged and recognized in society and relevant institutions. Whilst societal expectations may tend to remain the same, the laws in many countries are becoming flexible and allowing couples to either keep their own names, or to use both the husband’s and wife’s surnames, to use the husband’s surname and even in some situations, to use the wife’s surname.
Now, that latter situation does not happen to be the Kenyan situation. You can imagine the shock on the faces of relatives and guests if the newly-weds were announced as Mr and Mrs. HerLastName at Paradise Gardens or one of those popular wedding locations in Kenya; I imagine the geriatrics would go into cardiac shock! There would confused silence, people exchanging looks, with the mouths agape, not sure if they’d heard right.
In Kenya, it is not uncommon to find Eves who take up their husband’s names but keep their maiden names for professional purposes; in many instances, Eve will have built her name professionally and would not want to lose the recognition or to bring any confusion in her professional life due to the change of names. It is even more common to find Eves carrying both their maiden and married names, mostly by hyphenating their names (any Adams out there of Kenyan descent out there who’ve done this at the risk of being considered not to be of sound mind ;)?) . A good friend of mine looked forward to getting married to the Adam she had fallen in love with; she was undecided about whether or not to give up her maiden name and take up her husband’s name. Unfortunately, her family lost her father before the wedding; it was a tough time for her but one thing seemed to be reinforced – she wanted to keep her father’s name as her surname. She could not imagine losing the identity that she had gained from her late father’s more than titular heritage and so she decided to adopt her husband’s surname as her second name and keep her father’s name as her surname.
Unsurprisingly, there is a feminist school of thought out there that reiterates that the notion of women giving up their maiden names to take up their husband’s is emasculation of Eve. The argument goes that it is a woman’s prerogative to (use and) change her mind and the same argument is advanced for changing her name.
Some argue that taking up a husband’s surname is a symbol of showing how committed one is to being in the union and to honoring one’s spouse. However, it is also arguable that bearing a man’s name does not necessarily mean that the commitment expected in the union will be forthcoming; life is never quite that simple. Jose Bergamin quoted that “tradition simply means that we need to end what began well and continue what is worth continuing”. There is a lot of significance on matters relating to name-bearing and it is important to appreciate and understand what that significance means for both Eve and Adam.
What’s in a name for you (except if it is Schweinsteiger or Gyan ;)?
Have your say.