Is giving a child their father’s surname a “relic” of a bygone era that is rooted in sexism and patriarchy?
Family law barrister Charlotte Proudman posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that the name of a child is “an important issue” and women should not assume the Dad’s name takes priority.
“For far too long, it’s just been assumed that the baby would have the father’s surname without giving any real consideration to the maternal identity or heritage,” she told Lunchtime Live.
“This is really a relic that [goes] back centuries.
“Ask yourself when you’re registering that baby, why is the father’s surname more important than yours?”
A message to pregnant women — please give the baby your surname.
You carried a baby for 9 months, gave birth, and will be responsible for that child for the rest of your life. When you’re registering the baby ask yourself: why is the father’s surname more important than yours?
— Dr Charlotte Proudman (@DrProudman) August 9, 2023
Previously, a woman not taking her husband’s surname upon marriage would have been considered scandalous - whereas now it is normal, perhaps even mundane.
Dr Proudman said a similar societal change when it comes to naming children would “send a message” about equality to the next generation.
She often comes across the issue of children’s names in her work as a lawyer and meets many women who wish they had given their children their name.
“Normally, it’s in the context of mothers feeling coerced to give children the father’s surname - or regretting it in later life,” she said.
Evoke.ie Content Editor Sarah Jayne Tobin gave her son his father’s suname but feels a woman passing on her name would be a good way to recognise all the extra work they do.
“You spend nine months carrying a baby,” she said.
“You do the bulk of the physical birthing of a child and all that kind of jazz.
“To be fair, whether we like it or not, in the majority of cases, the Mum does have to take the bulk of the responsibility - particularly when the kids are very small.”
Research in the United States found that 96% of children born to heterosexual married couples were given their father’s name.
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Main image: A mother and child.