Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Programme now available BAAL/CUP seminar

There are only a few weeks to go until our two-day seminar on Discourses of Marriage to be held in conjunction with BAAL and CUP at the University of Liverpool (14-15th September).

The event includes a plenary by Dr Lucy Jones from the University of Nottingham titled 'But think of the children! The ongoing salience of heteronormativity in UK discourses of marriage'.

We also have a film screening of Growing Up Married: A Documentary About Forced Marriage In Turkey followed by a Q&A session hosted by the film's director Dr Eylem Atakav from the University of East Anglia.

There are also ten papers from scholars around the globe looking at discourses of marriage in a range of national and international contexts. A full copy of the conference programme is included below.

Don't forget to register for the conference here: Discourses of Marriage Seminar Booking.

Day 1
10:30
Opening & BAAL welcome
10:45
Session 1: Fran├žois Labatut, Sorbonne-Nouvelle University
Is marriage really the gold standard? Contrasting metaphorical representations of ‘marriage’ during Obergefell v. Hodges in the US.
11:15
Session 2: Ursula Kania, University of Liverpool
Marriage for all (‘Ehe fuer alle’)?! A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of the equal marriage debate in Germany.
11:45
Session 3: Eric Ku, National Taiwan Normal University
“First in Asia”: A Linguistic Landscape Study of Marriage Equality Protest Signage in Taiwan.
12:15
Lunch
13:00
Session 4: Mark McGlashan, Birmingham City University
"Very well, Mother. I'll marry. I must say, though, I've never cared much for princesses": Negotiating discourses of sexuality and same-sex marriage in children’s literature.
13:30
Session 5: Jai Mackenzie, University of Birmingham
“Darling” husbands and partners in Mumsnet Talk.
14:00
Session 6 [Skype]: Mieke Vandenbroucke, University of California, Berkley
Legal-discursive constructions of genuine cross-border love in Belgian marriage fraud investigations.
14:30
Coffee
15:00
Film screening (followed by Q&A):
Dr Eylem Atakav, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, University of East Anglia
Growing Up Married: A Documentary About Forced Marriage In Turkey
16:15
Approx. finish

Day 2
10:00
Plenary:
Dr Lucy Jones, Assistant Professor in Sociolinguistics, University of Nottingham
But think of the children! The ongoing salience of heteronormativity in UK discourses of marriage.
11:00
Coffee
11:30
Session 7: Xing Wang, Loughborough University
How Neoliberal Self Encounters Marriage: Transformation and Discourses of Chinese Dating Shows.
12:00
Session 8: Pia Pitchler, Goldsmiths, University of London
I want it to be lively - like a white person’s wedding where everyone is laughing.
12:30
Lunch
13:15
Session 9: Sergio Silvero, Edge Hill University
A feminist poststructuralist discourse analysis of older never married women’s definitions of marital status and identity: The “Spinsters”, the “Singletons”, and the “Superheroes”.
13:45
Session 10: Clement Akran, Canterbury Christ Church University
‘Everything Has Changed Except Our Way of Thinking’: An analysis on reporting of non-monogamous relationships in British Newspapers.
14:15
Coffee
14:30
Round Table
15:30
Close


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Registration now open!

Registration is now open for the BAAL/CUP seminar on Discourses of Marriage!

More details HERE.


Friday, 5 May 2017

There are just a few days left to submit your abstracts to discoursesofmarriage@gmail.com and don't forget we have two student fee waivers
 
BAAL/CUP Seminar Series FINAL Call for Papers - Deadline 30th June
 
Discourses of Marriage 
University of Liverpool 14-15th September 2017 
 
Due to recent legislation changes in countries around the world, more people than ever before can now get married. Hosted in collaboration with the Discourses of Marriage Research Group (http://discoursesofmarriage.blogspot.co.uk/), this two-day seminar aims to encourage scholarly interest in how marriage is conceptualised, normalised, defined, rejected, adapted, and debated through language.
 
We invite submissions for 20-minute papers to discuss any aspects of discourses of marriage in relation to language, but particularly encourage submissions in the following areas: 
·         Historical and/or global perspectives on discourses of marriage 
·         Marriage and religious institutions 
·         The language of marriage and equal marriage debates across cultures 
·         Marriage and identity 
·         Discourses of (non-heteronormative) family structure and divorce  
 
Abstracts should be up to 300 words long and should contain up to five keywords. Abstracts are to be submitted as Word documents to discoursesofmarriage@gmail.com by the 30th June 2017. Submissions will be anonymised before review. Authors will be notified of the organisers’ decisions by mid-July 2017. We encourage applications from scholars at all career stages and there will be two fee-waived places for student presenters.  
 
The two-day seminar will be an opportunity to establish the state-of-the-art for linguistic research on marriage, marriage equality, divorce, etc. by bringing together researchers interested in this field. It is designed to spark discussion about discourses of marriage by acting as a networking event and we already have publishers interested in an edited collection of papers. For more information, please contact Laura Paterson (laura.paterson@open.ac.uk) or Georgina Turner (g.turner@liverpool.ac.uk). 

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Agency and victimhood in newspaper representations of those opposing same-sex marriage

Results of our latest study!

We've just submitted a manuscript to Discourse and Society journal, which contains our findings from our most recent Discourses of Marriage project. 
 
We've used corpus linguistics to work through newspaper articles from September 2011 (when the British government first announced that they would be holding a public consultation on same-sex marriage) to April 2013 (when the first ceremonies took place) - we had 2599 articles from the most popular newspapers in the UK as our data set, totalling 1,327,817 words!

In our analysis, we have identified the most ideologically salient keywords in our data, and then used discourse analysis to explain the impact of how these words were used in the context of some of the newspaper articles. These keywords included, for example: adjectives used to describe the proposals, such as 'controversial'; verbs used to talk about the government's behaviour, such as 'force'; and adjectives used to talk about the opponents of same-sex marriage, such as 'ordinary'. 

We quickly found that there were two significant themes in the newspaper data. Firstly, marriage was treated as a delicate but essential institution which could be damaged by 'dangerous' changes to the law (i.e. the extension of marriage to same-sex couples). Secondly, those opposing same-sex marriage were often represented - or represented themselves - as victims. We found the former theme to be entirely consistent with our previous analysis of radio debates on the same subject (van der Bom et al. 2015), and so focused in this paper on the theme of 'victimhood'.

In brief, what we've discovered is that opponents to same-sex marriage were represented as victims whose moral values, traditions, and civil liberties were being threatened by a ‘politically correct’ minority. This was achieved in various ways, but included the explicit foregrounding of 'ordinary people' as both those not part of the political elite and, more subtly, as those not in same-sex relationships. The notion of victimhood was particularly underlined in discussions of specific types of 'ordinary people'; this included parents, those with religious beliefs, and teachers who would potentially be 'forced' to teach children about (extraordinary) same-sex marriage. 

 The government, along with gay rights campaigners, are positioned in our corpus as having agency and pushing ordinary people - who have no agency - into something that is potentially dangerous and which goes against their free will. Furthermore, in the latter parts of our data set, when the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill had been drafted and was being debated, this apparent victimhood was heightened through the use of language which positioned the Bill itself as 'hijacking' and 'grotesquely subverting' the institution of marriage. The Bill, in addition to  the government, is therefore represented as agentive in comparison to its opponents (the victims). 

In sum, then, we have found a clear 'David and Goliath' message within the newspaper data. Importantly, by representing the opponents of equal marriage as fending off a large and unyielding adversary, it becomes possible for this opposition to be constructed as motivated not by homophobia but by the rather more admirable desire to protect tradition, civil liberties, and ‘religious freedoms’. Opponents can thus avoid any accusations of being bigoted or prejudiced and, we argue, communicate homophobic ideals in a much more implicit way.

The members of the Discourses of Marriage Research Group that worked on this article are:

Georgina Turner (@intweed)
Sara Mills (@sara4mills)
Isabelle van der Bom (@isabellevdbom)
Laura Coffey-Glover (@drlauracoffey)
Laura. L. Paterson (@langueonline)
Lucy Jones (@jones_lucy)

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Surname Strategies: The Results!

By Lucy Jones and Laura L. Paterson on behalf of the Discourses of Marriage research group

**UPDATE**
Our full journal article was published in 2017, and is available to download here.

We're finally able to reveal a small selection of the results of our 2014 survey into the surname choices of British people who get married - the full details and qualitative analysis will be published next year in the journal Gender and Language.[1]


THE NUMBERS

We had 1,000 people respond to our survey (questions reproduced below): 84% of respondents were women and 74% were heterosexual. As shown below, the majority of our participants were also in heterosexual marriages. (All tables and graphs adapted from a forthcoming paper focused on the quantitative results.[2])



We were interested in whether there seemed to be a general move, amongst those who had married, towards alternative name choices (such as blending two surnames together, or double-barrelling). The majority of our participants, however, either kept their own name or took that of their partner:



When broken down according to whether respondents were in a same-sex marriage or a heterosexual one (see below), it is clear that the majority of women in heterosexual marriages took their partner’s name, though a large number of these women retained their surname. On the whole, men in heterosexual marriages kept their own name; none took their wife’s surname, though three double-barrelled their name with hers. Women married to men showed a greater variety of surname choices (including double-barrelling) than the men did, whilst the majority of people in same-sex marriages or civil partnerships chose to keep their own surname. However, some of the women in same-sex marriages or civil partnerships did take their partner’s name (compared to none of the men).



On the whole, then, the results of our survey show that those in same-sex relationships are statistically more likely to keep their own name – as are men in heterosexual relationships – and that the most common option for women in heterosexual relationships continues to be to take their partner’s name.


THE COMMENTS

Many of the women in heterosexual relationships in our study did not take their partner’s name. The most frequently cited reasons for this were a desire to show their independence as an individual, and a belief that taking a married name was problematic. For example, one woman said:
“I chose to keep my own surname and my individual identity after marriage. As a modern feminist I believe the social 'norm' of the woman taking her husband’s name is outdated and sexist, as it originally indicated ownership.”
Women in this category often contemplated double-barrelling their surname with that of their husband, but many chose not to because of a concern that it sounded ‘posh’ or simply that it would make their surname overly complex and lengthy. Similarly, many of the women who did take the name of their husband considered double-barrelling but came to the same conclusion. In such cases, many women decided it was simply easier to take on the same name as their husband. Lots of the women cited the difficulties of not having the same name as their husband as the reason why they eventually decided to change their name, as in:
“We had several cheques made out to ‘Mr and Mrs’, which the bank refused to cash until I changed my name.”
Some of our lesbian respondents, interestingly, cited the administrative burden of a name-change as a reason not to do it – though, unlike the gay men who answered this survey, many had considered it:
“On a practical level, changing names, ID docs, bank docs would add another level of administrative faff to life!”
Though many women cited admin as a reason not to change names, the cultural expectation that a woman married to a man would share his name on official documentation was clearly evident. For example, a number of mothers felt that life would be more complicated if they did not share names with their husbands and children – commonly cited reasons for this included claims that it would be difficult when travelling through airports as a family, or if a family member was in hospital. In this sense, many respondents felt somewhat constrained by these norms and chose to take their husband’s name simply to make life easier for themselves and their family.
However, many women in our survey clearly explained that they were very happy to take on their husband’s name. For many women, this was to do with a desire for unity: they wanted to have the same name as their husband (and, for some, their children) because it allowed them to demonstrate to the world that they were now a family. In this sense, a name change for many women can be seen as marking a new chapter in their life, and some saw their decision as central to their identity as a wife (and mother):
“I feel as though the name is key to feeling a part of a new family unit of my own. I intend to have children with my husband and it is important to me that we all have the same name and feel completely a part of one another.”
Many of the female and male respondents to our survey commented on their perceived need for a shared name which showed their united identity and married status, and felt that this actually strengthened their marriage. It was interesting, though, that very few of the men had ever considered that they might change their name. On the other hand, plenty of the men outlined discussions they’d had with their wives whereby they felt strongly that it was her decision – many husbands were concerned about the possible pressure a woman may feel to change her name.

In fact, many of the female respondents did cite pressure to change their name – from family, from society, and sometimes from their religion. In a minority of cases, women stated that when they suggested keeping their own name, their husbands were upset or even ‘horrified’, so they chose to take the new name in order not to ‘rock the boat’. On the whole, though, most men completing the survey stated that it was up to the woman in the relationship whether she wanted to change her name.

For most of our heterosexual respondents who had married, a positive association with the traditions of name change were cited as the reason for the woman taking her husband’s name. Though there were some responses which suggested that it had never occurred to our participants that they would not take their husband’s name, or that they simply didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other, many of our respondents expressed that they were ‘traditional at heart’. For example:
“I am quite traditionalist in some respects and was perfectly happy to change my name to my husband’s without feeling that it affected my own identity/standing in society/strength as a woman”
Responses such as these also showed that many women had considered their own identity as a feminist, or as an independent woman, and had concluded that they could retain this whilst also taking on their husband’s name. For many, taking on a new name was akin to wearing a white wedding dress – a long-standing tradition that they wanted to preserve despite their awareness of the patriarchal connotations it might hold. Overwhelmingly, respondents who identified as non-heterosexual stated that they simply didn’t see these traditions as relevant to them.

Finally, we also asked our respondents whether they thought that same-sex couples had different options to choose from compared to those in opposite-sex relationships. Those identifying as non-heterosexual typically talked of a lack of pressure to conform:
“I think legally the options are the same, but in terms of social acceptability same-sex couples have more options simply because there is no norm or hierarchy to conform to”
Many of our heterosexual respondents, though – particularly the women – gave answers which suggested that they felt same-sex couples had more freedom compared to heterosexuals. Many suggested that same-sex couples could ‘do whatever they like’ because no expectations are expected of – or imposed upon – them:
“I suspect they’re the same options, but they’re not led down a particular route – e.g. there is no ‘default’ imposed on people”
Similarly, the assumption that same-sex couples are less likely to have children led to the assumption that fewer LGB people would be likely to take on a new ‘family’ name, though again this was often tied into a perception of relative freedom:
“It seems like they do not have the same pressure. Maybe because they are less likely to have children?”
These responses demonstrated to us that, although many respondents who did change their name cited tradition and family unity as a positive reason to do so, many also recognised that there was a degree of expectation and cultural normativity attached to this. Indeed, some of the straight women who had earlier stated that they’d have happily taken on the name of their husband commented that they ‘envied the freedom’ of same-sex couples, or that they were ‘jealous’. Of even more interest (and concern), though, were a number of comments suggesting that many same-sex couples don’t change their names due to some fundamental equality existing between them:
“Biologically, gay couples are more equal, so they are starting from a more equal position”
The assumption that same-sex couples have more flexibility because they are less tied down by cultural norms, and the idea that they are somehow more equal, is fascinating: it suggests that LGB people may actually be seen, by some, as better off than heterosexual people in this regard. The finding also suggests that, though tradition is often seen as a positive reason for name-change, many heterosexual people do feel somewhat constrained by expectation. Importantly, as well, it remains the woman rather than the man who may feel obliged to make a decision – to retain one’s ‘maiden’ name or change to something new – when marrying someone of the opposite sex.


-----
In addition to questions determining participants’ demographic and marital status, we asked the following questions as part of our survey:

  • When you married or entered into a civil partnership please state what you did with your surname/If you were to marry or enter into a civil partnership please state what you would do with your surname
  • What influenced/would influence your decision about what to do with your surname? If you are double-barrelled, whose name went/would go first?
  • [If relevant] What did/would you do with your child/children's surnames?
  • [If relevant] What influenced/would influence your decision about what to do with your child/children’s surnames?
  • Which title do you use to refer to yourself (e.g. Ms, Mr, Mrs)? Is this the same in every situation?
  • Which word/s (e.g. ‘wife’, ‘husband’, ‘partner’, etc.) would/do you use to refer to each other?
  • What have most of the married/civil-partnered people that you know done in relation to their surnames? Why do you think this is? Please state if you are referring to straight married couples or same-sex couples (and whether they have had a civil partnership or marriage).
  • Has anybody you know done anything you consider to be unusual in relation to their surname? If so, what? Please state if you are referring to straight or same-sex couples, and what their relationship status is.
  • Do you think that same-sex couples have different options when it comes to keeping or changing their names if they get married/civil-partnered? Why?
  • How important are these issues to you?

-----


[1] Jones, L., Mills, S., Paterson, L.L., Turner, G., Coffey-Glover, L. (forthcoming 2017) Identity and naming practices in British marriage and civil partnerships. Gender and Language. [2] Paterson, Laura L. (in prep.) But what will they call the children?: Factors affecting surname choices in marriage/civil partnerships and parenthood. Intended for Research Journal of Marriage and Family Research.






Sunday, 26 April 2015

Implied sexism in UK Deed Poll procedures

Who changes their name upon marriage/civil partnership? 

By Laura L. Paterson



I did not change my name upon marriage. However, it was interesting to see just how many people thought that they could question my decision and/or change my mind. Some of the most most surprising reactions to my choice came from loose acquaintances who assumed that they had some sort of say in my decision. For example, an (unmarried, female) extended-family-member-of-a-friend lambasted my husband for not making me change my name. 

There were also logistical issues: my husband and I had to tell our wedding guests that if they wrote us a cheque, it had to be made out to our existing surnames otherwise the bank wouldn’t cash it. Furthermore, when completing legal documentation for a family member’s will, my father asked me to spell my surname. Initially thinking that he was joking – we share the same surname and people consistently spell it wrong – I  began spelling out my surname letter by letter. He stopped me and said ‘no, no, no, how do you spell Mackintosh’? It turned out that, even though my father knew I had kept my surname, he assumed that because I was married I was legally ‘Mrs Mackintosh’. Based on these experiences, I decided to look at how entrenched the idea that a woman changes her name upon marriage is within UK legal procedures.

According to the UK Deed Poll service (2009), ‘Contrary to popular belief, a woman’s surname does not automatically change to her husband’s surname upon marriage’. However, whilst most surname changes in the UK are performed using a Deed Poll, for a woman to change her name to her husband’s does not require this process to take place, as it is seen as the woman choosing to ‘follow tradition’. A Deed Poll is likely to be required though when a woman chooses to double-barrel her name. But what is extremely interesting is that, if both husband and wife are double-barrelling, it is economically sensible for the husband to pay for a Deed Poll to change his surname before the wedding ceremony so that the wife can take this double-barrelled name upon their union without charge/Deed Poll: ‘the cost of a second Deed Poll (for your wife) can be avoided if you change your surname by Deed Poll to your double-barrelled surname before you marry’ (UK Deed Poll Service 2006). However, this practice does not work the other way around. If a wife-to-be double-barrels her surname before the wedding, her husband will still need a Deed Poll to double-barrel his. Thus, the legal system for name changes is asymmetrical. It is not set up for a husband to take his wife’s surname. Further evidence of this asymmetry is that the UK Deed Poll Service has web pages devoted to women changing their names upon separation/divorce/widowhood, but no corresponding pages for men. Thus, there is a clear assumption that men don’t (wish to) change their names.

The UK Deed Poll website harbours lots of assumptions about women and men. For example, it is stated that ‘most women are happy to take their husband’s surname upon marriage’ and ‘you will probably want to change your title to Mrs’ (UK Deed Poll service 2009). Taking the positions of ‘no I’m not happy’ and/or ‘no I don’t want to change my title’ is extremely difficult here as such statements reject the status quo established on the service's website. When discussing males changing their names, it is suggested that a man could take his ‘wife’s surname as one of your middle names’ (not as a surname) and that ‘Such a gesture may be greatly appreciated’ (UK Deed Poll service 2006). This construction of a name change as a ‘gesture’ suggests that a man would only change his name upon marriage to placate his wife who, presumably, has changed her surname.

In terms of civil partnerships (the UK Deed Poll Service has not yet updated its pages to address same-sex marriage), if one person takes the other’s surname, then no Deed Poll is needed (UK Deed Poll Service 2010). When double-barrelling, it is also advised that one person changes their name before the ceremony to avoid the cost of two Deed Polls (2010), although, for obvious reasons, there is no mention here of which partner is expected to change their name before the ceremony. At least here, the laws are gender-neutral. But it is still assumed that ‘Most female civil partners want to change their title from either Miss to Ms or from Miss or Ms to Mrs’ although it is noted that ‘Mrs is traditionally the title used by married women’ (UK Deed Poll service 2010). This presupposes that Mrs is not the only available title to lesbian couples, and implies that the label Mrs may not apply to them in the same way that it applies to heterosexual women. Again, there is no mention of men changing their names, reflecting the asymmetry in English titles (Mr vs. Miss, Mrs or Ms). 

Traditional patriarchal norms are enshrined in current UK surname change processes, with women presented as being much more likely to change their surnames and/or titles upon marriage/civil partnership than men. Such norms can lead to the assumption that all women will change their name upon union. Indeed, it was such as assumption that led to relative strangers objecting to my choice to keep my own surname, whilst not a single person asked my partner why he was not changing his. This related notion - that men do not change their surnames - is clearly reflected in the Deed Poll process. Any men wishing to change their surnames (with the exception of those entering into civil partnerships/same-sex marriage, as discussed above) will have more administrative work to do than women. Thus, there is clearly disparity in how the law treats men and women upon marriage/civil partnership.  


References

UK Deed Poll Service. 2009. A woman’s name change rights and options upon marriage. Online. Available at: http://www.deedpoll.org.uk/AWomansRightsUponMarriage.html. Accessed 10/03/2015.
UK Deed Poll Service. 2006. A man’s name change rights and options upon marriage. Online. Available at: http://www.deedpoll.org.uk/AMansRightsUponMarriage.html. Accessed 10/03/2015.
UK Deed Poll Service. 2010. A couple’s name change rights and options upon a civil partnership. Online. Available at: http://www.deedpoll.org.uk/ACouplesRightsUponACivilPartnership.html. Accessed 10/03/2015.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Name change debates around Amal Clooney’s change of name



An account of below the line comments on Amal Almahuddin's name change

By Sara Mills



Amal Clooney
The Discourses of Marriage research group have been investigating the views that are expressed about women’s surname changes on marriage.  This blog post examines the range of comments around the surname change of lawyer and activist  Amal Almahuddin, who changed her name to Amal Clooney when she married the actor George Clooney in October 2014.  We gathered together the below the line comments from articles in the Mail Online, theguardian.com and Huffington Post (links below) and have grouped them under the following themes.

Themes

This issue of surname change generated a great number of below the line comments, largely because Clooney stated that she would use her new surname at work, whereas many professional women retain their own surname within the context of work. The debates were fairly aggressive, particularly on the Guardian story, where the issue of a woman’s right to choose was debated and became an attack on feminists. Fraser (2009) has argued that feminism has split into feminism as a social movement and feminism as discourse, with the latter having 'gone rogue'.  The feminist movement now is 'increasingly confronted with a strange shadowy version of itself, an uncanny double that it can neither simply embrace nor wholly disavow' (Fraser, cited in Carter, et al, 2015: 27). This is particularly true of this data where the feminist slogan 'a woman’s right to choose' is used against feminists who are questioning why Amalhuddin took Clooney’s surname.  Here, rather than being an issue of patriarchy, taking his surname is framed as a question of free choice.


Surname change is a feminist issue

Some posts framed this as a feminist issue, however, saying that it would be more newsworthy if men’s surname changes on marriage were reported. One said: 'Victoria Coren is now Victoria Coren Mitchell, but David is still just "Mitchell". Why? This is a feminist issue'.




This is a trivial issue

Others, however, commented that there were too many articles about this issue and that it was not important.  They accused her of turning into another Kim Kardashian. One stated sarcastically: 'Please, please do keep us updated on every trivial thing these incredibly brave people do'.


Mockery/humour

Some posters stated that she should change her first name or that he should change his name to hers. There were some posts which stated that they would use the name Clooney all of the time if they were married to him.  One post stated they 'would like to live in a society where couples can choose a third party name when they get married like "divisionator", "skelebomb' or "wheeled-deathmachine".' There were quite a number of mocking posts like this.


A woman’s right to change her surname

The main focus of the below the line comments seemed to be those who posed it as about a woman’s right to choose her surname (viewing this as part of a feminist history, whilst at the same time attacking feminists), and those who asked questions about whether that choice was in fact feminist at all, in that it was a tradition. In the Guardian piece 'Amal Alamuddin took George Clooney's name? Oh please – put your torches and pitchforks away', there was an indirect attack on feminists for bringing up the issue of surname change. And one poster said: 'why would she not take his name? leave her in peace now to do her job and get on with her life'. Posing this as an issue of simple choice, one poster said 'I don't get why people would go nuts because she took his last name. Surely the point is that it was her choice whether to or not?' Another post said 'I thought the business of naming was entirely a personal choice? And if it is somehow 'offensive' to keep referring to [Chelsea] Manning by a male name, why is it not similarly offensive to fail to acknowledge the woman's right to change her name?'.  One post drew attention to gay friends: 'I'm friends with a gay couple who recently married and they decided that one of them would adopt the other's name purely because it was a much nicer sounding name. No angst, no guilt'.  Other posts argued that the change of a surname should not be subject to scrutiny: 'Some of the most successful women I know changed their name when they married without, as far as I could tell, giving much thought at all to it. I believe to them it is simply a practical matter. I guess that's the thing about successful women (and people): they can make their own decisions and get on with things without viewing everything in life as an attempt to victimise them'.


Indirect attacks on feminists

Several posters took this as an opportunity to attack feminists: 

So much hate from feminists when women do things that they disagree with. Such bullying. People have the right to do what they wish, and you have no right to comment on it. The world is full of different people with different needs than the hard core feminists. The hatred spewed by feminist groups against women who live their lives in ways they disagree with is disgusting. A woman taking a man's name, or staying home to raise children, is not weak, subjugated or backward. Just as the feminists are, these women are well thought out and making decisions they should be respected for, regardless of what other think about it. Feminists need to stop the hate.'

 Other posters defended a feminist position: 

You do realise that by telling feminists (as if they're some homogeneous group) to focus their attention on "more important things" you're doing precisely the thing you're railing against: telling women what they should do. I'm quite entitled to see Amal Clooney's adoption of her husband's name as a really strange thing for an educated, "liberal, middle class" (your words), respected professional woman to do. It strikes me as a coy buying into of romance, a stroke to the male's ego. Given that full equality still doesn't exist, it would've been more interesting if you'd interrogated why women still feel the need to turn their husbands into protectors and themselves into damsels enfolded in their men's last names. Could it be that women are the final stumbling block to full equality, because they cannot let go of those final bastions of male privilege?
Another post stated: 'Yes funny that, what an amazing array of choices that women have, and how most of them still seem to choose the option invented for them by men'. To counter the notion that it is a woman’s right to choose, another poster stated: 'I think the debate here refers not to women's right to change their names, but to their tendency to stick to the patriarchal status quo rather than asserting their individuality'. 

Thus, overall, the issue of a celebrity woman changing her surname to that of her husband seemed to be viewed as fairly trivial.  The debate in the below the line comments largely seemed to construct the issue in terms of 'a woman’s right to choose'  (a feminist slogan) as being under threat from feminists.

We are considering these perspectives, and more, in our analysis of responses to our survey on surname choices following marriage. We'll report back with our findings when we have them!



Sources

Mail Online 15th October 2014

theguardian.com 14th October 2014
theguardian.com 15th October 2014

Huffington Post 14th October 2014



References

Carter, C., Steiner L., McLaughlin L. (eds) 2015. The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender, Routledge: London

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