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Songwriter Claims That Women Take Their Husband's Last Name Because They Hate Their Fathers

Photo: @murphy_music | TikTok, Billion Images, Konstantin Postumitenko, ธนารักษ์ วรการเดชา's Images | Canva
Songwriter, singing about women taking husbands last name

A tradition that has been in place for over a thousand years and is still very common today takes place in the sacrament of matrimony. Women typically take their husband's last name once they are wed, and although many people have probably forgotten why, it has become much more common to have a discussion about it before tying the knot.

A Queer Soul Pop singer/songwriter named Murphy recently uploaded a video in which she sings some lines from a song talking about why women take their husband's last names today.

She believes women take their husband's last names today because they hate their fathers.

The lyrics go: “Women take their husband's names because they hate their fathers, but then those husbands pass that plague right back down to their daughters. We’re subtly surrounded by surnames of men, so can I ask what were our names before them?”

Aside from her magnificent singing voice, Murphy also tackles a very antiquated tradition, forcing people to think about the question she’s asking and maybe even why women continue to take their husband's last names.



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In the old days — we’re talking about 500 to 1000 A.D. — names and last names weren’t exactly a requirement to function in society. Populations were small, and so first names were often enough to run around with. As time went on and populations grew, certain customs came into play and last names became more common.

Because the patriarchy has existed since the dawn of civilization (actually 8000-3000 B.C.), men, of course, had familial names and — when they were wed — would pass their last names onto their wives to show that they were under his "protection and authority,” according to Oxford Language. This was called coverture.

We do not live in the Dark Ages anymore, but the practice of taking the man’s last name has not slowed down much. For over a thousand years, women have been taking their husbands' last names because, to answer Murphy’s question, they literally didn't have surnames of their own — but it’s more of a philosophical discussion anyway, one that begs the question of freedom and independence.

Women have constantly been treated as property, under the control of their fathers, or once they are wed, their husbands, and that’s exactly what she means. Women who have bad relationships with their fathers might take their husbands’ last names in order to separate from that family name. 

When will women be free from the control of men? Truthfully, who knows, but many women in the comments as well as surveys online reveal just how much this tradition has changed over the years.

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A majority of women still take their husbands’ last names.

A Pew Research Center survey found that 79 percent — nearly eight in 10 — of women in heterosexual marriages continue to take their husband’s last name. Another 14 percent kept their last name, and 5 percent hyphenated both their name and their spouse’s name.

On the other side of the fence, 92 percent of men say they kept their last name. Only five percent took their partner’s last name, and less than one percent hyphenated both.

However, when asking women who have never been married what they thought, the numbers were a little more balanced, revealing how much the idea has changed over time. 

Only one-third of women — while still the majority — said they would take their husband's last name. 24 percent of women were unsure, 23 percent said they would keep their last names, and 17 percent said they would hyphenate their last names.

This could be for any number of reasons, and many women in the comment section for Murphy’s video shared how they acquired their last names, while others speculated what they were planning should they marry. 

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There are so many ways women go about handling their last names in marriage today.

Some identified with the lyrics in her song, saying “I need help thinking of my own last name because of this exact reason!”

“Me and my fiancé picked out our own last name so it's something that's ours,” someone else wrote, “can't wait to have my new last name next month.” Others shared that their husbands actually decided to take their last names out of respect for how they felt about it.

Simon Duncan, a professor in family life at the University of Bradford, UK, has been researching the long-standing practice of taking the man’s last name and spoke with BBC Worklife in September 2020 about some of his findings.

“Some men still insisted on it — the reproduction of that sort of patriarchal assumption from the past,” says Duncan. “Some women go along with that or internalize that. So, we found people who say they are really looking forward to being a ‘Mrs’ and changing their identity to that of their husband.”



Another core concept comes from societal perceptions and expectations. There’s this idea that a “good family” will see the wife having the same name as her husband and kids, who would likely take the father’s last name in that same patriarchal way.

According to Forbes, a feminist named Lucy Stone was the first woman in the U.S. to marry without adopting her husband’s name in 1855. “A wife should no more take her husband's name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost,” she wrote in a letter to her future husband. However, because of the laws in the United States (some of which still exist today), she could not vote without registering under her husband’s name.

It’s an archaic rule, so the decision today should be decided after a conversation with your partner. What’s right for both of you? Are you both keeping your names? Does someone want to take the other person’s? Maybe you can even pick or create a new one together. There’s no right or wrong answer, but the historical context is important to consider when trying to make an informed decision.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is an Assistant Editor for YourTango who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics.