J.Lo is now J.Aff, and it’s reopened an age-old debate: should a woman take her husband’s last name?
J.Lo has made the decision to change her name to Jennifer Affleck — but why has this personal choice evoked such a polarising debate?
It’s highly likely that you’ve already heard that the poster children for second chance romance Ben Affleck and J.Lo — Bennifer, if you will — have finally tied the knot.
Sealing the deal with a whirlwind ceremony in Little White Chapel, Las Vegas, the happy couple are currently enjoying their honeymoon all loved up in Paris. A relationship that’s been close to 20 years in the making, the pair were initially set to be married way back in 2003, but called it off and called it quits before anything became legally binding.
Ben and Jen went their separate ways, each getting married and eventually divorced before reigniting their flame in April 2021. Between paparazzi pictures, red carpet appearances and throwback posts on Instagram, these two kept us well fed over the past year. A story straight out of a J.Lo rom-com, we’re sure they’ll live happily ever after.
So, where does the controversy come into it?
All true followers will know that J.Lo has got her very own subscription-based newsletter — On the J.Lo — where she lets fans into her inner circle. Confirming that they had officially tied the knot, J.Lo wrote: “Love is a great thing, maybe the best of things — and worth waiting for,” before signing off, “With love, Mrs Jennifer Lynn Affleck.”
Naturally, the internet was quick to respond, and the reaction seems to be split right down the middle. Throughout their decade-spanning relationship, Bennifer have fallen victim to much scrutiny, and while a woman’s decision to keep or change her name after marriage is entirely her own, the personal becomes political when you are in the public eye.
By its very nature, the notion of taking your husband’s surname is rooted in a patriarchal structure. Dating back to the 11th century coverture laws, it was recognised that a married woman was effectively merged with her husband, and had no identity of her own.
In the wake of Roe v Wade being overturned in the United States, many have remarked that a woman’s sense of personhood is more crucial than ever. Others have similarly likened the practice to something akin to the naming process of the handmaids in Margaret Atwood’s Gilead, wherein women are considered nothing more than ‘of’ their commanders.
Changing your name makes very little sense to me, but makes ZERO SENSE AT ALL when your name is Jennifer Lopez and you are J-Lo, Jenny from the Block, and you rode the 6 day and night to grow that name but ok, Jen Affleck…
— Katherine Ryan (@Kathbum) July 20, 2022
In 2022, it seems as though this decision carries an immeasurable weight, but at the end of the day, the majority of modern brides opt to change their names. It is in no small part down to the legal framework and added bureaucracy involved in keeping your family name, but have the patriarchal connotations of marriage and traditional symbolism fallen away from the concept of marriage over time?
While it may feel like a simple satisfaction of social norms, there are some ingrained assumptions we cannot seem to shake. If a woman keeps her name, do we assume that ‘she wears the pants’ or loves her husband any less? If a woman changes her name, has that decision made her oppressed? Do these perceived biases have any place in the realm of modern marriage?
There are a number of traditions that make up a typical marriage ceremony, so where we draw the line is up to the individual. I’m sure that the act of a father walking his daughter down the aisle, to ‘give her away’ to another man could be seen as a crystal clear illustration of the patriarchy in action.
Feminism revolves around equality, and a woman’s freedom to make decisions as she sees fit. For celebrities like J.Lo, whose name is part and parcel of her personal brand and professional identity, going by Jennifer Affleck on paper isn’t going to be all that life-changing, but the conversation it has reignited bears thinking about.
Brooklyn Beckham became Brooklyn Peltz Beckham following his nuptials with his wife Nicola Peltz. In the case of J.Lo, if Ben Affleck became B.Lo, the ether would likely be filled with a very different conversation.
Photography by @chrisappleton.