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Women's (No) Naming Right under the Shadow of Patronymy: Changes in the Public Attitudes in Taiwan between 2002 and 2012



Patronymy is the norm by which children's surnames are based on their fathers' surnames; and/or wives' surnames are to follow their husbands'. Taiwan is one of the countries where the practice of patronymy prevails. Before 2007, it was legally required that children assume the father's surname, albeit with some exceptions. In 2007, the legislature passed a milestone amendment of family law that permits parents to decide the surname of the child through mutual agreement, but governmental statistics show that on average only 1.7% of all newborns in the past 9 years took their mother's surname. Whether people in Taiwan are indeed overwhelmingly dominated by patronymic thinking despite the legal amendment, or there is a disjuncture between people's attitudes and behavior on nontraditional surnaming as revealed by existing literature, is the main question that we want to probe. Drawing on data from the 2002 and 2012 Taiwan Social Change Survey, we analyze people's attitudes a decade apart, and the factors that influenced and differentiated people's attitudes. Based on binomial logistic analysis of the two surveys, we find significant impacts of demographic and socio-economic status on the naming practices in the family. While in general Taiwanese endorsement of patronymy declined after the law passed, men are significantly more likely to support patronymic naming than are women. Respondents with higher education and upper non-manual workers seem to be more flexible in bestowing children's last names. We also confirm that when people support gender equality and when women are better educated, families are more likely to accept the taking of mothers' surnames. To change the practice of patronymic surnaming, therefore, we suggest a more radical legal reform approach accompanying continuous feminist activism to empower women and change men's gender ideology, and to encourage the decision to give children the mother's surname.

Parallel abstracts



Almack, Kathryn(2005).What's in a Name? The Significance of the Choice of Surnames Given to Children Born within Lesbian-parent Families.Sexualities.8(2),239-254.
Augustine-Adams, Kif(1997).The Beginning of Wisdom Is to Call Things by Their Right Names.Southern California Review of Law and Women's Studies.7(1),1-35.
Brightman, Joan(1994).Why Hillary chooses Rodham Clinton.American Demographics.16(3),9-11.
Rebick, Marcus(edited),Takenaka, Ayumi(edited)(2006).The Changing Japanese Family.London:Routledge.