News & Opinion | August 3, 2021 10:59 am

Melinda French Gates Is Keeping Bill Gates’s Last Name

Keeping your ex-husband's last name? A flex.

Melinda French Gates seen on the streets of Manhattan wearing a green shirt, black pants and carrying a hand bag.
"Gates is my name now, bitch." - Melinda French Gates, probably.
James Devaney/GC Images

When I was in high school, my chemistry teacher went through a messy divorce, after which she held onto her ex’s last name. I assume she probably figured it would be easier to just keep going by her married name than to try to get a bunch of air-headed teens to call her by a different one, but I remember thinking this was really sad. After all, who would want to lug around their ex’s last name, a constant reminder of your failed relationship? It is only now, thanks to a certain Melinda French Gates — formerly known as Melinda Gates — that I can recognize refusing to give up your ex-husband’s name for the flex that it is.

Unlike fellow high-profile divorcés Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Bill and Melinda Gates have made relatively quick work of terminating their marriage, finalizing their divorce less than three months after they announced their separation in May — though reports suggest the divorce had actually been in the works for years prior. A judge for the King County Superior Court in Washington State approved the former couple’s divorce on Monday, the New York Times reported, ending the 27-year marriage. Since their three children are all over 18, there was no messy custody battle, and Melinda will not be receiving any spousal support. She is, however, holding onto her ex’s last name — though she inserted her family name, French, after announcing the separation.

There are many reasons Melinda may have chosen to hang onto her married name. For one thing, changing your name is an annoying legal process, and the effort and paperwork it requires is a deterrent for many women to even bother taking their husband’s name in the first place. Moreover, at 56, Melinda Gates has been Melinda Gates for nearly half her life. She’s built a successful charitable foundation under that name, raised three kids under that name, and generally lived a full, flourishing adult life under that name for 27 years. The name Gates is as much a part of her identity now as it is her husband’s; why should she give it up? Rather than giving her ex his name back, Melinda was like, “Bitch, this is my name now, I’m keeping it. You don’t want to be associated with me? Fine, you change your name this time.” Or, you know, something like that, probably.

And with that, Melinda French Gates has ushered in a new trend in post-divorce feminism. Refusing to take your husband’s name? Old news, your grandma’s feminism. Holding onto that shit and reclaiming it for your own is the new feminist flex.