Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Gloria Mark

Gloria Mark grew up in a conservative town in Ohio. However, upon leaving and beginning higher level studies, she found herself in a new culture. She describes it in regard to naming as: “…it was a culture where women- you could be free to keep your name, in fact, if the woman took her husband’s name, that was even unusual. It was like, oh you’re not- you know- what are you, conservative?”

Although feminism, aesthetics, and the familial significance of her name all played a role in her keeping the name, “Mark”, ultimately she did so for professional reasons. When she was about to publish her first work, her professor asked her, “‘You want it to be Gloria Mark? You want it to be Gloria J. Mark?'” She remembers that “he was really precise because he was telling me the importance of what my name would be because once I stated my name on a paper that’s the way I would publish from that point on.”

She did not experience issues with this naming choice in these progressive areas she was living in, but this changed when she moved to Germany. Germans consistently referred to her as “Frau Kobsa” [Ms. Kobsa]. One time she tried making a bank account, but was denied. She explains,”..they would not give me a bank account and I couldn’t understand it and they said, ‘Well how do we know you’re not a drug dealer, you know?'”

Mark also gave her children the hyphenated name, Kobsa-Mark. She describes it as “when you have a hyphenated name, the name changes and it becomes a new name…[kind of like] when you give life to a child they’ve got your genes, but…they’re also transformed because they have someone else’s genes as well.” However, her children have experienced legal difficulties with fitting their name into forms. She describes this as, “a hyphenated name is an exceptional name. And forms are not geared toward exceptions.” She remarks that it is ironic that “the forms are kind of determining culture because if you can’t fit a hyphen into a form and if a form becomes a legal document then it kind of determines what your culture is going to be.”

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