real life

"I am irrationally annoyed by Amal Alamuddin changing her last name".


I woke up this morning irrationally annoyed by news that international lawyer Amal Alammudin is taking her Hollywood husband’s George Clooney’s surname.

The litigator will from now on be known as Amal Clooney. Her name has been officially amended on the website of her law firm, Doughty Street Chambers. (The website has since crashed, because fame).

Let me provide some context for my illogical frustration at the perfectly reasonable decision of a woman I have never met nor am ever likely to meet. I am getting married in December and won’t be changing my surname.

This decision has prompted a whole range of responses when I’ve explained my choice to those who inquire. But the general gist goes like this: “Such a shame! It’s tradition!”, “Don’t you want your children to have the same name as you?”, “Oh that’s right, feminist!” “I suppose people know you by your current name” and “But then you’ll never get to be a Mrs!”

Here’s some pictures from Mr and Mrs Clooney’s wedding. The post continues after the gallery. 

The reaction has annoyed me because I thought that in the 21st century, keeping your own name was a sensible and even normal thing to do. I’ve been quite surprised that the very vast majority of my married friends and colleagues change their surnames after marriage. To me it feels antiquated; a throwback to time passed.

And so, when this brilliant, famous lawyer who wears excellent frocks changed her name, I felt genuinely disappointed. I thought she was definitely a player for Team Keep Your Name. But I was wrong. How does it affect me? Not in the slightest. Do I care all the same? Abso-damn-lutely.

And with that, I invite you to take a look inside the rambling and slightly hysterical mind of Me, Earlier This Morning.

Disclaimer: The following paragraphs are likely to be confusing, poorly argued, contradictory, hypocritical and nonsensical.

Me: Why would Amal change her name? Why? Why? Why? Here she is, international refugee and human rights advocate, speaker of about a billion languages (well, three, but that’s a lot when it comes to languages) and winner of all sorts of awards. And she’s going to let herself be defined by her husband and his name.

Other Me: Well, hang on a sec. Changing her name doesn’t take away from her many achievements under her old name. Amal still represented Julian Assange, she still learned to speak Arabic, she still passed the New York Bar – whether she’s called Clooney or Alamuddin.

Me: But why change? The world knew her as Alamuddin before she married Clooney and became the ‘wife of a heartthrob’. Why wouldn’t she want to keep the name under which she accomplished so much? This feels like she’s just accepting a life as Clooney’s partner and giving into the tabloid reporting where he is the one to be admired and adored, rather than her.

 Jamila – debating with herself.

Other Me: She’s in love! She’s excited, she just got married and probably thought it was romantic. Stop nit-picking.

Me: It felt like an achievement for smart women everywhere when Amal married George Clooney. It seemed that someone in Hollywood was finally saying: You know what? Looks and glamour are all very well and I won’t say no to them, but what is most important in a partner is a brilliant mind.


Other Me: How on earth does Amal changing her name make her mind any less brilliant?

Me: It’s the feminist principle of the thing. I thought she was this arse-kicking-feminist-litigating-sartorial-genius who showed the world what women can do without a man. She didn’t marry until 36, waiting for the right person and not giving into the idea of ‘being left on the shelf’ and that sort of crap. Now I feel like she’s sort of betrayed that. I wanted her to be feminist perfection.

George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin arrive in Venice. Via: Getty Images 

Other Me: Okay. Now you’re being demented. First, stop trying to tell other people how to ‘do feminism right’ and second, what the hell has it got to do with you anyway? You make your choice, she makes hers. That’s feminism.

Me: Why doesn’t he change his name then? If changing your surname has nothing to do with gender, then why does the woman always change?

Other Me: Your surname – the one that you’re being all high and mighty about – came from a man too, you know… You’re just choosing your father’s name over your future husband’s. Patriarchy wins both ways.

Me: I’m not trying to be judgemental.

Other Me: Uhuh…

Me: I’m not. I respect her choice. It’s her’s and she gets to own it. But if feels like the pendulum is swinging back the other way and now women are choosing to take their husband’s names rather than proudly keeping their own. Our feminist foremothers fought for us to remain independent from men and now we’re saying ‘thanks but no thanks, I want to be a Mrs’.

Other Me: How does this affect you and your life? Seriously, get over yourself. You will never meet these people, why do you care?

Me: I’m not sure, really. I think it’s because she made me proud. I felt proud that the world was paying attention to a beautiful woman for reasons other than her beauty. I liked that her professional accomplishments were being touted, rather than just her slim figure or pretty face.

Other Me: Do you honestly think the media would have been as interested in Amal if she’d been conventionally unattractive?

Me: Well, probably not. No, they wouldn’t have been as interested.

Other Me: So let it go. This woman represents nothing more or less than what she is. Someone who fell in love, got married and decided she’d like to have the same name as her husband and perhaps one day, as her children.

Me: Look, you almost had me but then you brought up children. Seriously – Amal, if you want the same surname … I strongly recommend him taking yours. George Alamuddin will move more mountains than George Clooney. Humph.

Here are a few celebrities who  DID take on their wives’ surnames:

For more George and Amal, try:

Did Amal change her name? The wedding placecard says Yes!

How much did George and Amal’s wedding cost? 

First pictures of George and Amal’s actual wedding.

Feeling inspired by Amal’s amazing wedding pants? So are we. 

George and Amal’s first red carpet appearance together.