|Cool surname map courtesy of National Geographic.|
This is the main reason most straight women give when they agree to take their husband's or fiance's last names. By that logic, the following must also be true:
- Women who don't take their husband's last names don't love their husbands; and
- Since men don’t take their wives’ last names, men don't love their wives.
“I want to have the same last name as my children.”
So if last names have nothing to do with love or the law, then what gives? Power and patriarchy. Don't believe me? Spend some time reading about family structure and patrilineality. The easiest way to explain patrilineage is that any society has to figure out a system for passing on property, how its children will be socialized, etc. Most societies have chosen patrilineality - this means that the property is passed from father to son, women and their children take on their husband's last names, leave their families of origin to join their husband's families and raise their kids according to the customs and traditions of the father's family of origin.
female filicide in China and India.
Patrilineality is a big part of patriarchy - which basically means "a system run by males, not females," wherein males are the heads of the household, have authority over women and children, and dominate the government and social and cultural systems. The United States and most countries/societies existing today are patriarchal systems, and this is the primary reason -- not love, not money, not law -- why women are born with their father's last names, trade them for their husbands' names when they get married, and give their children the husband's last name instead of theirs.
But before you get all panicky, readers: Just because you have your hubbie's last name doesn't mean you're a Bad Person perpetrating an Evil Conspiracy. The last name gambit is just one of many manifestations of the patriarchal superstructure undergirding our everyday lives - from seemingly innocuous activities like wearing makeup and heels to more insidious things like eating disorders, rape, wage discrimination and domestic violence. We all participate in patriarchy, whether we know it, or like it, or not. The best we can do is become aware of, and make conscious choices about, our participation. We should be able to assert a modicum of control over how - and how much - we kowtow to convention, although in an ideal world, we wouldn't have to at all.