If you know me, even barely, then you know that I’m a huge Beyonce fan. It was never even an option for me to NOT attend her upcoming tour this year. When I saw that her 2013 world tour was titled “The Mrs. Carter Show” I immediately thought to myself “Oh they (you know who they* are) are not going to like this!”
I was right. There was a ton of furor and yelling about her choice to name her tour by her married name versus that name that brought her all her glory and fame. I found it all quite interesting and really a blip on the radar screen of things women need to be screaming about.
I believe that Beyonce and I have a lot in common (don’t laugh). I see myself as a progressive modern woman, but I quite often have some very traditional leanings. I consider myself a feminist**, but that doesn’t mean I have to let go of my traditional values. As a woman that’s currently engaged the decision to change my last name is fast approaching, but it’s one I haven’t given any consideration to at all.
Of course I’ll change my name. Matter of fact, I don’t even need my last name at all. Surprisingly my very traditional fiance actually offered that I should move my maiden name to my middle name, and after some slight consideration, I’ve decided against it. I love my father and my father’s family, but I’m just not attached to my last name. I love my future husband, I love his leadership, and I’d be honored to take his last name. That’s important to me.
I understand however that this is not the case for many women. I think with Beyonce I could completely understand if she chose to keep her name as her name is truly her brand. One could argue that her last name is inconsequential, but nonetheless her name is HER name. Other women choose to keep their last names or hyphenate as a means to honor their family and their fathers. Some do it because they just don’t want to lose their sense of “self” within their marriages. Some do it because Smith may sound better than Pornsak. All of these are completely valid reasons.
However when I come to work, and I see and network with hundreds of high-performing corporate women, I notice a trend. 1) The overwhelming majority are married (this may be a whole other blog in itself). 2) The overwhelming majority have taken their husband’s last name. 3) Many of them are the primary breadwinners in their homes.
Recently several top women in my company began endorsing Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” (review to come soon!) and hailing it as an excellent manifesto for women wanting a seat at “The Table”. This let me know that the women in my organization whether they say it or not, are very supportive of the cause for women. This was exciting and empowering for me, but it still made me marvel that given their progressive stance in the boardroom, they still chose a traditional outward expression of marriage.
Ultimately, my viewpoint is “what’s in a name?” Much like the engagement ring I lovingly wear on my finger, I see it as just a symbol. With or without it I’m still *me*, I’m still in love, and I’m still happy. I know many others do not see it that way, and I very much support that! I have several friends who are Dr. Someone Awesome, and they worked VERY hard for that designation. Perhaps to them it will feel somewhat cheapened to become Dr. Someone Else.
Whether you choose to change your name, hyphenate, keep your name, or create something completely arbitrary you should be completely supported. Besides why should anyone else care outside of you and the one you choose for life? Just know that either way, you are you, and you will always be you, and you will always carry with you all of your hard work and accomplishments. A name change will never erase your legacy.
So what are your thoughts? Do name changes really matter? For professional women should we put more care and thought into the decision to keep or change our last names? As more women become Fortune 500 leaders as well as the CEO’s of their families, does this change the game any? (so far my small sample says no)
JG* (but only for the next few months!)
*they are the people who take issue with any and all.
** I’m not an academic nor have I read all the many books, but my definition of feminism is that we ALL have equal access to choices and options. Thus I can choose to be a housewife, I can choose be a sex-worker (if legal of course), I can choose a life that suits me but does not harm others. I also believe that there’s NOTHING wrong with the “F” word (another blog on that later).