The legal system through which these changes have to be made remains similarly archaic. The process is a logistical nightmare that often renders the applicant unsearchable online, to their personal and professional detriment.
But 70% to 90% of married women choose to do it anyway.
And, for better or worse, the semantics still matter. As sociology professor Deborah Carr recently pointed out to CNN, a shared family name eliminates a lifetime of little inconveniences around booking flights, enrolling in joint health insurance, and delineating who’s allowed to pick up a child from school.
On the JLo
It would be easy to excuse our fascination with celebrity surnames as an extension of our natural curiosity about the lives of the rich and famous. But there’s also an unspoken belief that these decisions mean something about a marriage and the people it comprises.
And society applies those value judgements to civilians as well as celebrities. Negotiating a prenuptial agreement, for instance, connotes bad faith, but forgoing one as Justin and Hailey Bieber did is considered risky and naive.
Taking your spouse’s name can be perceived positively as an act of devotion or negatively as a show of deference to outdated social norms. At best, women who choose to keep their maiden name like Mariah Carey and Diana Ross are lauded for their feminism and business acumen. And at worst, they’re questioned and criticised.
Opting to hyphenate, combine, or invent a new surname like newlyweds Brooklyn and Nicola Peltz Beckham could be framed as a mutually fulfilling means of self-preservation or an empty political gesture.
There is a financial incentive to keep your maiden name. Unlike Kim Kardashian, who shuttered KKW Beauty after leaving Kanye West, Mrs. Jennifer Lynn Affleck will never have to worry about distancing herself from J. Lo Beauty. But in the court of public opinion, there’s no way to win.
Scrutinising the lives of celebrities is a process through which we can reflect on our own choices, the ones we’ve made and the ones we haven’t yet. A hopeless romantic whose body of work is a monument to the radical potential of marriage, Jennifer has more than earned the right to have as many ceremonies and costume changes as she likes. Embracing the paternalistic tradition of taking her man’s last name after marriage shouldn’t be a knock on her legacy. Getting loud for love is her legacy.