Marital name change has been a topic of fierce debate in social settings and has received some attention from academia, but largely scholarship on marital name change focuses on female choices and their rationale. Using a combined in-depth qualitative and autoethnographic approach, I sought to understand the connections between name and identity. I interviewed 11 heterosexual, married women and men about their marital name choices to explore the possible name-identity connections. Choosing a surname requires some type of pre-choice negotiation, either individually or with a partner, and several post-choice negotiations, such as with family members and the process of changing your name. On a daily basis we use our names, and we do not often think about everything our name does and says for and about us. If our names are brought to our attention, such as when we experience self-perceived gaps between our names and our identities, we begin to see the connections they have to other aspects in our lives. Names often cease to become merely a label and begin serving other functions. Group affiliations, relationship status, and gender performance are all characteristics I found implicated in marital name-choices my interviewees made. When individuals made unconventional name choices, such as the man adopting the woman's surname, they may face negative perceptions from others. Through the influences our names have on our views of ourselves and our perceptions of others, our names influence our identities. My research found choosing a marital name can be an empowering action giving name-choosers a sense of agency over their identities. Given the potential for agency, both women and men should be able to make their name choices without fear of social retribution.


Kristen P. Treinen

Committee Member

Sachi Sekimoto

Committee Member

Richard Liebendorfer

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Arts and Humanities

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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