Why Are the Kardashians So Reluctant to Pass On Their Legendary Name?

Kim Kardashian & Kylie Jenner with their kids (courtesy of Instagram, @kimkardashian and @kyliejenner).

True Thompson. Stormi Webster.  Reign Disick. All children of the Kardashian-Jenner family and none of them with names to indicate it. When it comes to naming babies, the K-J clan are steadfast in their commitment to two things: unusual first names paired with the last names of their baby daddies. Convention clearly couldn’t be further away when it comes to the former, so why go so old-school with the latter?

The only married Kardashian, Kim, is happy to double-barrel her own name into Kardashian-West, but, for some reason, hasn't done so for her three kids. In fact, Kim and her sisters are now all part of the 18 percent of American mothers who have a different last name to their partners and children. The fact that even Khloé stuck with tradition, approximately three minutes after finding out her baby daddy is a big fat lying cheater, is reasonably astonishing.

So why are the Kardashians so reluctant to pass on their legendary name?

It goes without saying that children taking the last name of their father is a long-standing tradition, and the norm for most families. A 2015 BabyCenter survey found that only four percent of children take their mother's last name and a minuscule two percent take both parents' last names. But most families aren't the Kardashians, and most family names don't carry such a legacy. If your kid could be a Kardashian, with all of the inherent privilege and special treatment that comes with that, why would you want them to be a Thompson? Or a Webster?

Perhaps the decision is related to appeasing partners who have to live in considerable Kardashian shadows. Perhaps it's a way for the men in Khloé, Kourtney, and Kylie's lives to feel more powerful and more masculine, within partnerships where the women are more successful, more famous, and probably wealthier. Or perhaps it simply goes back to the most basic of basics.

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Political theorist and author, Jackie Stevens, told Salon in 2000: "Inheritance laws, political bodies, surnames -- it's all about compensating for men's inability to give birth. The surname remains the only way of showing legitimacy. Without it, there's no certainty that the kid has a legal father."

The problem is, because of their baby-naming habits, the Kardashian name -- a name that Kris Jenner and her famed attorney husband, Robert Kardashian, worked so hard to build into the behemoth that it is -- is basically going to disappear in one generation. As it stands, the only hope for name-survival rests on the shoulders of Rob's only child, Dream Kardashian. And if Dream follows the example of her famous aunts, the name will die out in no time.

This is something that remains surprisingly unconsidered -- and not just by the Kardashian-Jenners. In 2013, Rebecca Hardy wrote an essay for The Guardian about her decision to buck tradition and give her children her last name. Her husband was supportive. "Surely, more women want to carry on their family names? Surely, we don't hate them so much (do we)? Yet the truth is that when I took this route, I had no idea that I was socking it to The Man," she wrote. "History is important to me... It made me sad to think that hundreds of years of Hardys would come to an end... Then there was the stubborn part that thought, why should they automatically have their father's name? How sexist, how outdated is that?"

Not only is it outdated, it can also be deeply impractical. I have a friend who is a white single mother with a mixed race child. The two do not share a last name. My friend has been pulled aside at airport customs and immigration so many times that she now has to travel with her daughter's birth certificate to prove she is not a kidnapper. A quick scan of parenting forums and legal websites demonstrates that this is becoming an increasingly frequent problem.

My sister, unwilling to not pass our family name onto her child, convinced her partner to agree to it by giving their son his last name as a middle name. This is, however, apparently more common in our family's part of the world. One contributor to a British genealogy website notes: "This happens a lot in my family (in Wales). Gethin was my g[reat] grandmother's surname and has been used as a first and second name many times, including for my grandfather [and] father. An aunt had [the] middle name Norman which was a bit odd. This was her mother's maiden name."

Where you are born certainly influences how last names are passed down to the next generation. In Spain, in lieu of having middle names, children are given both their mother's and father's last names. When they themselves have children, they pass one of those names down to their child, in combination with one of their partner's last names. While, generally speaking, it is most commonly the paternal name that is chosen for continuation, it doesn't have to be. It's worth noting that Picasso was Pablo's mom's name, not his dad's.

As the picture of the typical American family changes and expands, it seems wise to rethink how last names are passed down. According to Pew Research: "The number of Americans living with an unmarried partner reached about 18 million in 2016, up 29% since 2007." Everyday Family notes: "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children born to unmarried women cohabiting with a male partner jumped to 22% in 2010, up from just 12% in 2002." Less marriage means less name-changing for women, and if children are still taking only their father's names, doesn't that also leave a symbolic gulf between mothers and kids?

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Of course, it is not the responsibility of the Kardashian-Jenners to start this conversation and put forth a new system that might catch America up to modern family realities. But it is disheartening to see some of the strongest, most successful women in the country, from one of the tightest, most well-known families, so willing to discard their own lineage for the sake of old-fashioned conformity -- especially when they're so willing to take charge in every other facet of their lives.

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