Greek way(Memo)

Heather Long “Should women change their names after marriage? Consider the Greek way”


Young Greeks in their 20s and 30s today accept it as the norm. They think about names and identities a lot differently than most other countries do. Boyfriends don't ask their girlfriends about their surname intentions. Violet Tsagkas grew up in Athens, came to the US for graduate school and now writes for Fem2.0*3. As she told me: "It never occurred to me that [Greece] was unique until I started interacting more with foreigners, particularly after I moved to the US."

Overall, Greeks have had very few problems with the new system. Occasionally, it causes confusion. One Greek woman who helps administer a school told me that it can be challenging to call up students' parents, especially the mothers. She has taken to simply ringing them up and saying something to the effect of, "Are you John's mom?" No one finds that offensive.


The other issue that has arisen for some Greek women is traveling abroad, especially to the Middle East. Greek couples show up with different last names in their passports and some conservative societies don't believe they are actually married. It's not a widespread problem though, and it could be easily solved with a simple marriage certificate that Greek couples could carry abroad if needed. But the conservative government in 2008 used it as justification to change the law slightly so that spouses can decide if they want to add the other spouse's last name to their own. Women (and men) still have to keep their birth name, but they can have both last names now. Data are hard to come by on how many women have taken this option.

Yes, the name issue only goes so far to help women. Iran, for example, has had a similar system to Greece for about a century, yet Iranian women continue to struggle for many rights. Narges Bajoghli*5, a scholar on Iran, says that one benefit of Iran's system is that women still have a clear connection to their birth family, which has been valuable to women who find themselves in abusive relationships or other troubles and want to leave their marriages. The flip side, however, is that it has made young girls' "honor" an important part of family life.


*1:Elle Griffiths “ 'I was never going to change my name to Kate Rocknroll!' Pregnant Winslet on why she decided not to adopt her husband's moniker”

*2:See eg. Jane Martinson “Would you, did you, change your name after marriage?”


*4:Jill Filipovic “Why should married women change their names? Let men change theirs”