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Why Do We Care So Much When Women Change Their Maiden Names Like Amal Alamuddin Clooney?

14/10/2014 14:33 BST | Updated 14/12/2014 10:59 GMT

If you hang out with feminists (and by that I mean women who'd like to be paid the same as their male counterparts, don't view wolf whistles on the street as a compliment and empower other women), you'll know that discussing whether to change your name after marriage is one of the most divisive topics.

Amal Alamuddin Clooney has just accidentally reignited this great debate, after changing her surname.

Putting aside the usual dirge of how it's every woman's dream to be Mrs Clooney (it's not), she's a fantastic example of how a strong, successful female role model can change her name and it not mean that she is passively submitting to her husband's will.

When we studied Shakespeare in school and Romeo utters the line: "What's in a name?" I bet none of us ever thought this question would be fraught with so much tension later in life. Similarly when we doodled hearts on our notebooks with 'Mrs (insert name of whatever boy we were obsessed with at the time)'.

It seems to me that there is a feminist line of thinking that if you change your name, you are somehow betraying the sisterhood. That somehow, changing your surname negates the person you were before. And while I used to think like this, and never, ever wanted to change my surname because I believed it meant I was appropriated by a man, when I finally did get hitched, it was a no-brainer.

Here's how I arrived at that conclusion.

First, married or not, if I decided to change my name to Banana Pinkerton The Third, that wouldn't change who I am as a person. Post marriage, I still like to meet up with my friends, I don't assume my spouse is automatically invited, and I love my mates holidays.

Second, as one of my colleagues pointed out, if you are such an avid feminist, riddle me this.

Your surname is derived from your father's name, not your mother. And while the justification for keeping it is that it is your family's name, the whole point of marriage is that you are publicly and legally declaring another person as a member of your family.

I didn't change my surname because my husband asked me to - in fact, it was because he was so supportive and loves that I am a feminist that made me want to do it. Within that freedom, I felt able to properly explore what I wanted to do with my name.

Personally, I wanted a sign that we were married. I wanted something to mark the lifelong commitment we had made to each other and I wanted to honour him as being part of my family.

None of this felt like something I was giving up (except when I had to fill in the fifth piece of paperwork and fork out £72.50 for a new passport) and a lot of it felt like I was gaining something.

One of the biggest questions I was asked, was as a journalist, how I felt about building a body of work under one name, only to have it obliterated overnight by a completely different name.

But I think if you're going down that road, you may well ask yourself what will happen if you get divorced. And if you're going down THAT road, you might as well not bother getting married.

I understand where this fear comes from.

We labour under the illusion that marriage doesn't change our identity. We're so scared of it happening that we've confused it with maintaining everything in your life at an even keel, and that marriage needs to be something that fits in around our existing structure.

The bottom line is that marriage does change your identity - for better or worse, as they say - as you embark on a commitment together, through every single aspect of your life. If you didn't want that, then maybe you should've just got a dog.

What are we so afraid of, I wonder?

I don't think in this day and age, in a western society, our names defines us as women as it once did. We have women that prefer to keep their maiden names, women who ask their husbands to share their surnames and women who change their name altogether.

Surely feminism is about the freedom to choose, without fear of judgement that we're being duped by The Men?