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Title: Women, marriage, and selfhood : how names impact upon gendered identity
Author: Thwaites, Rachel
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2013
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In Britain the naming norm of one name within a family continues to hold powerful sway. Women change their names to that of their husband in large numbers (Valetas, 2001: 2) and the expectation that they will do so remains, despite women’s changing position within society. This, set within the context of individualisation and sociological ideas of the ‘pure relationship’ (Giddens, 1996: 6) and less commitment from couples (Bauman, 2003: 34), may seem anachronistic, yet the popularity of the name change remains. My aim in this thesis is to investigate what women in Britain do with their last names on marriage (name changing and name retaining) and how this impacts upon their sense of gendered identity. I explore the ideas raised by the individualisation theorists in relation to these naming decisions to assess their relevance for the actualities of women’s lives. I also analyse love, commitment, family ties, and explore narratives of selfhood and accountability. The empirical work took the form of an open and closed question online survey, responded to by 102 women (75 changed names and 27 retained names), and 16 in-depth interviews. I asked for British, heterosexual women to take part to explore the institution of marriage, within one cultural setting. Though name changing has a historical connection with women as lesser than men and as property given through marriage, this history was rarely mentioned by name changing participants who focus instead on love, unity, creating a family, and creative and adaptable selfhood to justify their actions. Those women who retain their names focus on linear selfhood, feminism, work, and the private nature of marriage. Justifying one’s actions is generally the preserve of the ‘deviant’ (Scott and Lyman, 1968: 62) and the disparity between those who must account and those who must not will be explored.
Supervisor: Jackson, Stevi ; Skinner, Christine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available