I am a strong believer in not praising men profusely for things that are simply expected of women, for things they should know to do without prompting or praise. Like parenting- men taking care of their children or changing diapers is not babysitting, it's the bare minimum. Or sharing household duties.
I married a good man. He is a better feminist than me at many times, and though he is not perfect I am grateful for all the ways he pushes our partnership toward greater equality. One of my favorite qualities about him is that he lives his life in ways that challenge norms and seek counter-cultural change, rather than just accept the way things have always been. He is totally comfortable questioning patriarchy and toxic masculinity without taking those conversations as a personal attack - an emotionally mature and rare stance. I know that changing your last name to your spouse's is something women have ALWAYS been asked or pressured to do - and so perhaps, I thought, not worthy of praise or a blog post, but- the sacrifice of this kind of totally unheard of, counter-cultural act meant that he had a lot more to give up.
I always intended to take my husband's last name someday. It was just the thing to do. I would imagine my first name with the last names of various boys, including imagining being Becca Davis when things got serious with Avery. My whole life, I've loved my last name- I love the spiritual metaphors it evokes, being God's little lamb. As the youngest in my family, being a "little lamb" has always been a sweet part of my identity. I don't have as much attachment or meaning to my first name, but have always thought sadly about the inevitable day I would leave behind the name Lamb. Until I met Avery.
Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."
I tell people it was Avery's idea to take my last name, because I had never thought about it before him. I was in a gender studies class freshman year that got into a quite heated debate about patriarchy and the passing of family names through men, with several women in my class saying they would never take a man's last name. I was skyping Avery, whom I had been dating for about 9 months, and told him about his, saying that I've always planned to take my husband's last name. He just calmly thought for a minute, and said to me, "I would take my wife's last name." It was so casually stated and I was incredulous- "You would? That's so weird. Well, I'm gonna take my husband's last name, I know it will be sad to leave part of my identity but it's just what I want." I didn't want to take a man's last name because I just didn't want my marriage to be a big political statement that I'd have to defend again and again.
As my feminism evolved and grew, Avery's thought stuck with me and more of my friends started to get married. Seeing wedding hashtags centered on a woman "ditching" her last name or bridal shirts, crowns, and various paraphernalia all centered around being "Mrs. Husbandsname" had me rolling my eyes. I'm never gonna be Mrs. Avery Davis, I thought. I didn't every want to give up my identity, becoming his property or somehow being subsumed into him. It's an icky patriarchal tradition, the passing of ownership of women from father to husband, and it no longer sat well with me.
I want to be very clear that every decision about this is so personal, and it is right. Not everyone will do this, and that's totally fine. I do not ever want to shame any woman for taking a man's last name, or for hyphenating, or for keeping her own. It just became clear to me that none of those options sounded great to me. I had a great last name, it meant a lot to me. It was unique in a way I've never felt my first name is. And, he had offered to do it years ago. So I brought those things into our discussion about our names.
It was important for us to have the same last name. It was important for us also to honor and keep the Davis name- Avery is the only male in his generation on the Davis side, and we will give our children Davis as a middle name. Our decision was one of bringing both families into our marital unit- while also subverting patriarchy. It wasn't a huge deal or big statement we find ourselves defending all the time- I think because to people who know us well and know how Avery chooses to live, it just isn't that surprising.
That being said, I do know that there are sacrifices Avery had to make and continually makes in this decision. His new name is professionally Avery Davis Lamb, which takes some getting used to. It's not something people expect for a man who is newly married. There are so many double standards and norms around this - Avery now has a
"maiden name" since men's names are supposed to last their whole lives! So I want to share what his doing this means to me.
Avery changing his last name to Lamb tells me that my full identity as a woman is valued. It means that he loves me and believes in me enough to change his social and professional identity in order to honor me and join my family as I join his. It means he believes what he says he does about equality and living in a way that changes norms. We didn't go half and half- he took my last name. He did for me the same thing women everywhere do for their husbands, without complaint.
It also has meant a lot to the women in my life- my friends who have reacted with such joy that he did this, telling me it gives them hope for finding a man like Avery someday. I know how lucky I am to have him, and I'm grateful for the true partnership we have, one that he is committed enough to tell the world about through being my Mr. Lamb.
"It was assumed that I had some power or privilege to lose in changing my name that my wife did not and that my masculinity rested in a continuing tradition of superiority over women in general and my wife in particular. But it does not. My masculinity, my own power and strength comes much more from standing up for what I believe in and demonstrating the strength of conviction." Rob Lore, Good Men Project
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.