What’s the Feminist Solution to Surnames?

My 12-letter, four-syllable surname is Gottesdiener. Its German translation–“servant of God”–is quite beautiful, but the name itself has given me my fair share of trouble. In elementary school I was the last student to learn to spell her name, and in middle school there was the familiar taunt “Laura’s Got-a-steamer! Laura’s Got-a-steamer!”

These days, the name gives me trouble for another reason: feminism. If I marry, what’s a Gottesdiener to do? Abandon the name my young self worked so hard to spell? Hyphenate with my partner’s name? Combine the two into one? In the event I marry my current partner, my name would become Gottesdiener-Stein. Or Gottesdienerstein. That’s a bit … long.

The simplest feminist answer would be keep your own name. OK–but what if we become parents? What do we call the kids? Do we hyphenate, combine, reinvent … throw our hands in the air?

We at Ms. spent the day brainstorming feminist solutions to the surname predicament, using traditions from around the world. Let us know which is your favorite!

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Photo by Flickr user kaatjevervoort under Creative Commons 2.0.

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Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She is a former Ms. editorial intern who is enjoying exploring and writing in the Big Apple.