In traditional Japan, if a couple had only daughters, there was a custom whereby the son-in-law would be adopted by his in-laws and would take his wife’s surname. A prominent example is physicist Hideki Yukawa, born Hideki Ogawa.

Similarly, I remember my favourite teacher in high school, who was also my Japanese teacher, surprise, surprise, who said that she didn’t take her husband’s surname when she married. I know some professional women, such as doctors and lawyers, will be known by their birth surname professionally, and their husband’s surname personally. My gastroenterologist didn’t change her surname when she got married for the first or second time.

Today, I read an article about Australian men changing their surnames to those of their wives, and it brought out the usual suggestions that those men were not men. The tradition of a Western man asking his girlfriend’s father if he could marry her came from a time when a man was asking if he could take a daughter from his father-in-law’s home to the new home that he was making. And a woman taking her husband’s surname was part of making her his goods and chattels.

I remember watching a show where an Englishwoman wished to return to England, having emigrated under the assisted passage scheme (they paid ten pounds to emigrate to Australia and provided they stayed for two years minimum, they didn’t have to reimburse the Australian Government) but couldn’t because her husband controlled her passport.

If Australian men wish to hyphenate their surnames or take their wives’ surnames, they are not anti-masculinity, and nor are they lesser men because of it. Nor are they being submissive to their wives. The idea that a woman should be a man’s property and be moved into his home is patriarchal.

I see a marriage as being two people moving into each others’ families.

And just whose business is it if a man wishes to change his surname? That’s right, his and his partner’s.



Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.

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Peter Wynn

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.