Nothing for a woman and everything for a man, it would seem.
Most societies around the world are patriarchal and one spouse's name is used as the whole family's name. So a woman who marries a Mann also becomes a Mann and her children are all Mann. There are a few notable exceptions. Among East Asians (most Chinese and Koreans, for instance) a woman retains her family name after marriage. Her children, however, receive the father's family name. There are also a few matriarchal societies where the husband takes on the wife’s family name (the Khasi of NE India are one example). However, as these matriarchal societies have “modernized,” many are adopting the custom of taking on their spouses name (if they are female) or retaining their own name (if they are male). It is strange that this asymmetry in naming exists across most societies. Most families even resign themselves to the fact that their family name will die out without a son and many will, therefore, try and try and try to make sons. I feel this gives people another reason to cherish sons over daughters.
Whatever the reasons behind the various naming conventions, they are outmoded and do not necessarily hold water anymore. If someone freely chooses (and I emphasize freely) to change their names to their spouses’, it should be a deliberate decision and not a default. But I know very few women who have retained their family names (ok so these names come from their fathers mostly, but c’mon, we have to start somewhere) and I know of only one male friend who changed his name to his wife’s, for reasons he clearly articulated to me. (Hats off to you Schua!) I also know another friend, whose family (himself, wife & 2 adult children- daughter & son) decided jointly to change the family name to include both parents’ last names. This was more than one-score years after the marriage, when the wife felt she should be able to retain her family name. How proud a moment for that whole family when everyone agreed and participated in that re-naming ceremony acknowledging both parents! (Go Jeanette and Tom!)
Women are achieving a lot today and deserve to be acknowledged entirely as individuals. If they choose to change their names to their spouses, then great, but by that same token, we should see more men choose to do the same. Or perhaps, we can entirely avoid name changes. After all you fell in love with the person, not the name (only, hopefully).
As for progeny, I agree with Marilyn vos Savant that kids should get both their parents name. Her solution however, is not a hyphenated name. She suggests that the male children get the father's last name and the female children get the mother's last name. There are many other such distribution rules that one could employ to ensure that both parents' names are given importance. That would be one more step towards creating a more equal society.
[Picture shows Schua with his son, Erik, at a Buddhist conference in London, 2005.]Here's a response from my dear friend Trini:
Hey Rad great blog, I've finally been tempted to contribute my 2 pence worth! I'm pleased to say that for a society that coined the term "machismo" the Spanish approach is probably the closest to gender equality that I am aware of. Everybody has two surnames. Women (and men) keep their surnames unchanged when they marry, and all the children get a new surname based upon the first part of each parent's surname. So, e.g. when Ms Rockerfeller Skank marries Mr Busta Rhymes, all the children have the surname Busta Rockerfeller! There's still a slight inherent machismo even in this system, because the fathers name always makes up the first half of the surname, and because the children take both of the first halves (names they have essentially inherited from their grandfathers on both sides) then after a couple of generations the maternal lineage is lost to obscurity. Perhaps a fairer system would be to take the first half of the father's surname (thus emphasising the paternal line in the father) plus the second half of the mother's surname (emphasising the maternal line for the mother). I think the Icelandic system is pretty much like the one you suggested ie. male children get father's name and female children get mother's name, except its the mother's & father's first name that gets incorporated; thus men have a surname ending -son and women -dottir, eg. Magnus Magnusson is "Magnus, son of Magnus" and Bjork Guomundsdottir is "Bjork, daughter of Guomund" presumably. Actually I just looked that one up and it seems that although the mother's first name can be used, most of the time it is the father's name for both boys and girls. Shame. Basic strategy is a good one though.