"It's Been Always Clear to Me That We Actually Take My Husband's Name": (How) Do Heterosexual Couples Negotiate the Determination of Their Surname at Marriage?
Keywords:gender relations, marriage, intimate relationship, de-institutionalization, individualization, emancipation, hegemonial masculinity, egalitarian relationship, narrative joint couple interviews, coding, sequential analysis
The evolution of gender relations illustrates both a growing equality between males and females and, yet, a persistence of male dominance. Marriage is therein ascribed perpetuating effects. The choice of the surname at marriage allows the analysis of the interplay between patriarchal structures and individual action patterns. Choosing a surname is neither solely bureaucratic nor merely a matter of personal choice. Not only have restrictive regulations been loosened, the egalitarian relationship between male and female has become an ideal as well. However, gender equality is not established: 75% of German couples choose the husband’s last name as their surname. Based on narrative interviews with couples, I scrutinize the reasons for the continuity of this inequality. I reconstruct couples' negotiation processes and the underlying rationales. Although a change can be ascertained, the dominance of hegemonial male practices become apparent. For the majority the couples interviewed, reality was shaped by the limitedness of the choice, despite the easing of regulations. Women in particular were faced with a higher legitimization pressure and the challenge of coping with the effects of a changing identity due, in part, to the fact that men are not faced with the same pressure.
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Copyright (c) 2020 Michael Wutzler
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