Even before Dan and I got engaged, my friends began joking around about my name change. Mrs Brown. #TeamGB. Brownie. And to be honest, beyond the giggles, it did overwhelm me a little bit.
Take a step back with me for a second. The strongest thread that runs through my life and my work is a desire to see human worth upheld; I am at my angriest when people are exploited or treated as less valuable than they are, and my job is to tackle this happening in a particular way through managing an anti-trafficking charity. As it happens, a certain group of humans have been discriminated against for centuries, and the culture that I live in is particularly good at it.
Women and girls are treated as ‘less than’ in big ways and small ways – some more obvious than others. I’m concerned about how society accepts some of these, and am careful about not encouraging any thinking or behaviour that subordinates any human being.
I’m so thankful then to be in a marriage where I am treated as an equal to my husband. My thoughts and skills and identity have been valued since Dan and I sipped our first hot chocolates together. We wanted our wedding to reflect our mutual respect and the wonderful balance of male and female voices we have both enjoyed in our lives. So our vows reflected our desire to honour each other, we both gave speeches – it would have been weird for the public speaker in the relationship to sit back while the academic threw himself into an uncomfortable activity alone! – and our parents expressed their joint blessing.
In light of all that, I was very aware of the debate around name-changing after marriage. Was it anti-feminist to take on Dan’s name? An archaic tradition supported by and supportive of the patriarchy? An obliteration of my identity or individualism?
The following is a snapshot of the ping-pong game that played in my mind for a while. I share this with you not because I reached the ‘right’ decision – I don’t believe there is one – but precisely because it is important we recognise the validity in both ‘sides’.
Read about the ping-pong game here.