The Daily Telegraph
4 December 2007 12:00am
Labor ladies choose daddy in the name game
By Rita Panahi
Why is it almost every woman married to a Labor politician keeps her maiden name?
There is our new first lady Therese Rein; Stephen Conroy's wife calls herself Paula Benson; and Peter Garrett's wife Doris has gone down the hyphenated road with Ricono-Garrett.
Interestingly, these ladies are going against a new trend of modern women embracing the traditions of marriage.
Women are now more inclined to change their name after marriage, with some studies suggesting only 4 per cent retain their maiden name.
It makes sense to change.
Why would mothers want to have a different name to their kids?
And, really, how much of a statement about women's rights is made by choosing one man's name over another?
That is essentially what Therese Rein and others do; they choose their father's name over their husband's.
Then there are those who inflict hyphenated tongue-twisters on their kids - who hopefully don't marry someone else with a hyphenated surname, in which case their children could be called Jack Ricono-Garrett Lovett-Murray.
Worse still, some ill-advised New Age couples are choosing to merge names to create entirely new family identities.
The advantage is the family shares a name but any ethnic ties are lost.
We've come a long way since the 1850s when US suffragette Lucy Stone first began the movement for women to keep their maiden name.
Incredibly, some misguided women calling themselves the Lucy Stone League maintain a zealous dedication to what they call "equal actual frequency of name retention, modification and creation between men and women at marriage and throughout life."
If this lot had their way, none of us would know what to call ourselves.
It is little wonder most young women do not identify themselves as feminists.It's a shame that so many left-leaning women are obsessed with semantics and non-issues when there are real battles to be fought and won.
The unhealthy focus on maiden names is just another example of modern day feminists being hopelessly out of touch with what really matters.
Keeping your maiden name after marriage is hardly a statement of individuality or strength. All it means is that you are clinging on to your father's name in preference to the one shared by your husband and children.
Rita Panahi is a social commentator.