'Changing your name after marriage is a choice – but I wish Jennifer Lopez hadn't'

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Photo credit: Rich Fury - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rich Fury - Getty Images

Some 19 years after calling off their much anticipated 2003 ‘wedding-of-the-century’, Ben Affleck and Jenifer Lopez made things officially official over the weekend, tying the knot in Vegas’ Little White Wedding Chapel.

But, whilst nineties babies celebrated Bennifer 2.0’s big day, feminists across the world – including myself – let out a despondent sigh when news broke that JLo had legally changed her surname to Affleck.

The singer signed off her On the JLo newsletter on Sunday night (17 July), with: "With love, Mrs. Jennifer Lynn Affleck.”

Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed watching these two rekindle their fairytale romance – after all, we’ve needed some positive news these past few years – but did Jennifer really need to change a defining element of her identity to prove her love? Especially since she’s literally spent the last three decades building her JLo brand?

I'm not so sure... and neither are her fans.

"I can’t believe JLo took Ben’s surname wtf?" one person tweeted, with another adding: "Jennifer Lopez really changed her surname omg she didn't even bother hyphenating it." A third fan chimed into the conversation with, "Why the f**k isn't he changing his name to Ben Lopez??"

Photo credit: KMazur - Getty Images
Photo credit: KMazur - Getty Images

And it wasn't just fans who were feeling confused, but fellow celebrities as well. "Changing your name makes very little sense to me," tweeted comedian and actor Katherine Ryan. "But makes ZERO SENSE AT ALL when your name is Jennifer Lopez."

Of course, the flip side to this argument is that true feminism means each and every woman has the freedom to make her own choices – JLo included. But, it's not her autonomy in deciding to change her name that's up for debate here, it's the deeply patriarchal society that has made this sexist tradition the norm. Brief history lesson incoming...

The practice of a wife taking her husband's name dates back to the 11th century, when women were seen as property to be owned by men. Under the law of coverture, a woman's identity was "covered" by her husband meaning her identity was essentially wiped out. Not only that, but under English common law women had next to no rights and husbands had total control, both legally and financially.

But it wasn't just way back when that such parameters were placed on women. In fact, up until the 1970s, women in the UK couldn't apply for a passport, driving license or even register to vote unless they took their husband's surname. Although in 2022 the tradition of taking a man's surname no longer prohibits a woman from owning her own property (among other things), I can't shake the idea that the core message still remains: her identity is no longer her own.

Of course, JLo is such a huge star that it's unlikely her celebrity cache will be negatively impacted by this change (although, what do we call her now – JAff?). But it sends a seriously questionable message to her female fans – one that contradicts with the feminist ideals we're so used to associating with her.

Photo credit: Rich Fury - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rich Fury - Getty Images

And no, changing your name to your husband’s doesn’t make you a ‘bad feminist’, but rather it spotlights the husband, who has continued to benefit from the structures of patriarchy. Personally, I think Ben Affleck becoming Ben Lopez would have made quite the positive declaration of love and support that women need now more than ever.

When asked by a TV presenter back in 2003 if she would become JAff upon marriage to Ben, Jennifer replied: "It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but you’ve gotta make sacrifices!"

And sure, life is about making sacrifices – but isn’t it funny how for some reason those sacrifices, more often than not, end up being taken by the woman?

Cosmopolitan UK has reached out to Jennifer Lopez's representatives for comment.

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