Spain Pushes Gender Equality–Starting with Baby Names

What's her last name?

Spanish last names are famously long.  Traditionally, the father’s last name comes first, then the mother’s name. As a result, the mother’s name often gets dropped.   But the Spanish government has introduced new legislation which would let the mother’s name to go first, or, if the parents can’t agree, the names would go in alphabetical order.

It’s so interesting that the government of Spain is offering a solution to the problem of squabbling over last names! 

But what if the parents can agree, and they decide to go traditional, but the husband’s name starts with B and the wife’s with M?  Or they decide to go with the maternal name first but hers starts with A and his with S? Will everyone assume they really couldn’t agree?  Will disclaimers go out with the baby announcements?

The new Spanish government, led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, wants Spanish society to be more egalitarian, and not just in last names. He’s named a cabinet that reportedly has more women than men and includes a Minister for Equality (which sounds faintly 1984-ish to me, but maybe it’s a really good thing).

The thing is, even if Spain does decide to allow more flexibility in the order of last names — conservatives have vowed to fight the new legislation — it probably won’t matter much  outside of Spain.

I had a professor once whose wife was from a Spanish family.  The man knew several ancient languages and had written an authoritative academic commentary on the Book of Daniel, but when it came to his wife’s last name, he confessed, “I really can’t remember which one is her mother’s and which is her father’s.”

Sometimes, a name is just a name.

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