Fellesskap og individualitet. Kjønna etternamnsval blant norske menn i heterofile parforhold
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Few Norwegian men change their surnames as part of a heterosexual couple. My aim was to understand the meanings men attach to surnames in heterosexual relationships by studying four central topics in men’s surname stories – family, continuity and tradition, gender equality, and individual identity. West and Zimmerman’s perspective of doing gender with their concept of accountability guided the analysis, as well as the concept of manliness/unmanliness developed by Ekenstam and Lorentzen. The main material I analysed consisted of the responses to two qualitative questionnaires – one open for all Norwegian readers and one directed at surname changers identifying as Norwegian heterosexual males. I also interviewed male surname changers. Under the topic of family, three subthemes were connected to the nuclear family. First, surname change functioned to separate marriage from cohabitation. Second, sharing surnames helped to create the nuclear family. Third, a divorce might sever the ties between husband and wife and thus surnames might be reverted. The next three subthemes dealt with the family of origin. First, for male surname keepers the previous generations were important and meaningful. Second, the ideal of carrying on the surnames, i.e. the family names, also played a part for changers, especially if there were no (male) heirs to their wife’s name. Third, there was a potential for conflict between male changers and their fathers. Male surname change invoked associations of betrayal or breakage of a gendered duty to carry the surname on. The seventh of the family subthemes dealt with negotiations of their relationship with the nuclear and the birth families through surnames. The second main topic was continuity with the past. The understanding that tradition equals patronymy, i.e. a practice where men keep their surname, women take the name of their husband, and children get the name of their father, dominated in the narratives. Most male keepers adhered to this understanding. Male changers opposed patronymy as tradition, either because they knew of older practices or because they felt that the past should not have authority over the present. Some male changers did neither. They spoke of alternative traditions in line with gender equality, while drawing on past practices, such as the idea of sharing a family name and carrying on a name from previous generations, also through female lines. The third main topic was gender equality. The men’s narratives could be divided into four categories. The first category included male keepers who described gender equality as a woman’s right to keep her name. The second category consisted of changers and keepers. They understood surname choice as relevant for men and women, meaning both birth names could function as a shared surname. The third category consisted of some of the male changers who saw their change as a way to counter the historical and cultural discrimination of women. The fourth category was by far the largest and consisted of changers and keepers who did not touch on aspects of gender equality in their responses. For the changers and some keepers, gender equality in the naming of the nuclear family was inherent. However, most of the keepers took the practice of patronymy for granted. The fourth main topic was individual identity, where four different approaches were followed in the men’s stories. In the first approach, the connection between an individual and their name was unbreakable. In the second approach, time played a part in the connection between the individual and the name, as some changers spoke of increased ownership as time passed. In the third approach, some of the changers displayed independence from their names. They argued that they continued to be the same individual even if their name changed. In the fourth approach some of the men changed their name because of what kind of person they saw themselves as. The connection between name and individual was here reversed. These men considered themselves as individuals with certain ideals and abilities that led them to think about choice in certain ways, hence they could change their names. In sum, the men positioned themselves within each theme on two scales according to how they did accountability. The first scale was between a nuclear family orientation and an individual orientation, and the second scale was between a gender equality orientation and a patronymic orientation. In addition, I used a quantitative questionnaire to understand the extent of male surname keeping and changing in the present-day Norwegian context. The quantitative research confirmed that women and men differed in naming actions. A total of 91.2% of the men and 47.2% of the women kept their surnames, while 4.2% of the men and 46.6% of the women took that of their partner. Around 2% of both groups used a hyphen to combine their surnames.