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What’s in a (maiden) name?




Hung-Chieh Chiang of Chinese Taipei shows their engagement ring during press conference on September 21, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan.
Hung-Chieh Chiang of Chinese Taipei shows their engagement ring during press conference on September 21, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan.
Ken Ishii/Getty Images

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Earlier this month, a Tokyo District Court dismissed a newlywed female teacher’s request to use her maiden name at work.

The context here is a society in which a Meiji-era law, upheld by Japan’s highest court in 2015, dictates that all married couples share a surname. In practice, this translates to 96 percent of brides taking their husband’s last names.

Many Japanese women continue to use maiden names in their professional lives, but the Tokyo District Court’s decision undermines this practice. Some in Japan see the decision as a win for traditional values, while others see it as an obstruction to gender equality.  

Meanwhile, in the U.S., an estimated 1 in 5 women keep their maiden names. The reasons why women change or don’t change their surnames are as varied as they are nuanced, and involve negotiating issues of heritage, feminism, identity, convenience, tradition and children, to name just a few.

We want to hear from you. Why did you make the decision to change or not change your surname? What were the subsequent challenges and benefits of your decision? Or did you take an alternate route, like a hyphenated or compound last name, and how did that work for you?

Guest:

Laurie Scheuble, Senior Lecturer of Sociology at Penn State, whose research interests include marital naming and parenting