Amal Alamuddin Clooney in Greece
Amal Alamuddin Clooney arrives in Athens to advise the Greek government in its battle to repatriate the ancient Elgin Marbles statues from Britain.PT0M43S 620 349
Oh Mrs Clooney, say it isn't so! Is it wrong of me to be so disappointed? After all, it makes absolutely no difference to my life whatever names a celebrated lawyer goes by.
And yet, I am disappointed. Well that, and somewhat perplexed. Why would someone as successful as Amal Alamuddin want or need to take her new husband's name? Yes, I'm fully aware "it's her choice." But putting something down to "choice", especially the long-standing and problematic tradition of women changing their last names upon marriage, is not a magic salve that automatically negates underlying issues.
Regardless of how we individually feel about the practice, there is no doubt that the tradition is a relic from a more patriarchal time. A simpler era when, upon marriage women were literally transferred into the possession of their new owner, who also went by the title of "husband."
Amal Alamuddin Clooney, who has changed her professional name to Amal Clooney, arriving in Athens, Greece. Photo: AFP
Before you object to this assessment, please consider that men were also called the "husband" of their animal flock and, that slaves were also given their new owner's surname upon purchase.
Truth be told, I have reservations writing this because I've previously deliberately stayed silent on this particular issue. This is not because I don't have an opinion on married names versus "maiden" names but because I realise that, despite its inauspicious history, there are many reasons a woman will decide to take on her husband's name.
I recently wrote on how Australians with Muslim last names often change their names to avoid discrimination.
Spectacle: George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin. Photo: AFP
Then there's the fact some women may simply not like their last names, or perhaps they don't like their fathers very much, so changing their names is a way of wiping the slate clean.
However, despite my public silence, I've always privately thought it bizarre that the practice is still so widespread in the "enlightened" west. I'll admit to feeling a slight shock (and yes, even a glimmer of annoyance), when I see newly married female Facebook friends update their profile to reflect their new last name (please don't unfriend me, ladies).
I used to think that women who married young changed their last names so readily because they just hadn't had the chance to identify to their names, or to establish themselves professionally. But some of these friends include women who got married a little later in life and who have already made a name for themselves in their chosen professions.
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin Clooney arriving at Venice city hall for their civil ceremony on September 29.
Which brings me back to Amal –ahem- Clooney.
I am not going to criticise her. I don't know what process led to her to this decision. Nor will I make grand claims about how this spells the 'death of feminism' . There is far more to feminism than women's names. But I will admit to feeling perplexed and (perhaps unfairly) even let down.
First, as someone who is actively working to challenge assumptions and stereotypes about Arabs, and Arab women in particular, I deliberately put my name in the public sphere. Now, that Amal's Lebanese surname is history, it'll be all so much the easier for the western media to sweep her cultural background under the carpet.
Second, perhaps it was simply misguided of me to have assumed that a woman as successful in her career would not choose to do something as traditional as call herself "Mrs Clooney." But, given how so much of the media had already, during that famous courtship, glossed Amal Alamuddin's own achievements in favour of subsuming her into the identity of her famous fiancé, I admit to not seeing this coming.
Clearly I am not alone in having feelings about this. When her law firm, Doughty Street Chambers updated their website to reflect the new moniker, it gathered so much interest the site crashed. Every media outlet from Vanity Fair to CNN to the ubiquitous Daily Mail has announced the decision. All of which goes to show a measure of surprise across the board (and perhaps in some corners, glee).
In a way, the name change shows a measure of confidence on Amal's part. We've already witnessed her own formidable achievements eclipsed by her spouse's celebrity, and the way that this fame was used by some to undermine her professionalism and demean her.
Although officially going by the name Amal Alamuddin Clooney, to choose to shorten this to Amal Clooney in a professional capacity could surely give ammunition to those detractors looking for any excuse to diminish her.
But none of this eases my own confused disenchantment. Choices don't happen in a vacuum. This "choice" for women to change their names upon marriage wouldn't even exist if not for the millennia of patriarchy.
So while the decision of other women to take on their husband's surname doesn't affect me directly, the fact that it's even something that women still so often do, does feed into the perception that women are "complements" to men; that our identities are ultimately malleable and can be moulded around the solid, unalterable male persona. And that is something that affects us all.
Vale Amal Alamuddin. We hardly knew ye.