Being Woman

Last month, as I watched my Facebook news-feed filled with reminders that it was women’s history month, I thought how timely it was that I had picked up The Confidence Code for my spring/summer reading. The book, written by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, journalists and authors of Womenomics, describes how even the most successful women are considered one step behind men, mainly because of their lack of internal confidence. This obviously hits home for many who are career oriented, partly successful, and think of themselves as no less than men. Naturally, my first thought was to deny the statement altogether, because I never thought I lacked confidence to speak my mind. But as I continued to read the book, I realized how true that statement was.

Yes, working women today are educated and more qualified than ever before. Yet still, men predominate high positions in society and family. Yes, women have come far from the old days, but let’s be honest, we still have mileage to go. Why is this still true? It is probably because we are going through a cultural shift of sorts in today’s society, in our homes, and at our workplace…….where women are slowly taking charge….but we are not at the finish line just yet. Thankfully, this is vastly different than just a generation ago and will be different than what the next generation may experience.

Every woman in my immediate circle is confident and successful, but I do see that our society doesn’t consider us equal to our men yet. I believe it is because what has remained during this cultural shift is what the book was trying to point me to. That there is still a lack of eternal confidence among ourselves. True, outwardly we are powerful, strong, and shoulder to shoulder with men and can bring the same things on the table that men do. We walk through a room and we can own it…….because we know we can make a difference. But, when we sit down with friends, coworkers, and family and begin a conversation, or when we sit in a corporate meeting with executives and leaders………a tiny voice inside of us tries to pull us back. Be it a conversation about corporate marketing strategy, or be it a mere conversation about home or family, we feel that we need to filter things and either say them in a “right manner”, or not say it at all. We may bring equal or more salary home, or have a same position as the next man on that corporate table, but we think that if we voice our disagreement on something, we will be seen as harsh, or critical, or rude. In a same situation, a man would more likely be considered as being constructive, or witty even. See, men don’t prejudge themselves, and instead say things as a “matter of fact”………..whereas women ponder how others may perceive their every sentence.

Why do we as women second guess ourselves? Why do we want to please everyone and be the BEST all the time but yet, time again we feel we are nowhere close to being good enough? What is it inside of us that make us feel vulnerable? Why do we listen to that tiny voice that says “you must continue to fit in in the world of men”?

Like any woman I know, I have asked these questions to myself multiple times and found varying answers. At times, I feel it’s the society that always puts men high up on pedestals and tells women “don’t you say or do things that way as a woman”. May be because we were taught that is not how a lady would behave. And, may be it is wired in the genes of women to overthink and over analyze everything. Whatever the answer may be, Kay and Shipman do have a point. That, we modern age women, still hold ourselves accountable to the standards that were set forth by a patriarchal society hundreds of years ago.

I don’t intend to offer answers to the above questions here, as I am no expert in the field. But in my personal experience what I’ve realized is that, at times we don’t help our own kind. We judge the woman who speaks her mind more critically than the woman who always says the “right thing the right way”. True that the overall society needs to continue empowering women, but women themselves need to support and lift each other up.

Celebrating women isn’t about making strong women-centric claims on social media platform for one day. It is about continuously uplifting women around us, being happy for them, celebrating their success, empowering them, supporting them, and standing next to them……………….not against them. Here is to all of those who celebrate women and women empowerment even after Facebook stops reminding us. May we be them!

Until I wander again……

 

Is your last-name YOUR last-name?

Few months ago, I saw a hashtag “#MarriedNotBranded” that was used by the wife of a famous Indian film actor. She was responding to someone on Twitter who had questioned her decision to not change her last-name even after being married for over 15 years. It resonated and reminded me of days when people questioned my decision of keeping my birth name. Although, changing my last-name has been a thing of a past, since I have been married for long time and people around me have come to accept it, I still get asked every now and then on why it differs from my husband’s. So, with a thought that I should feel guilty about it, I give my explanation, while feeling guilty for not feeling guilty about it. But I know I shouldn’t feel that way. After all, my husband and his family don’t think it is an important issue (and I am lucky that way). I think the feeling comes from an inherent place that reminds me that I am breaking a norm of sorts. Majority of the married women take their husband’s last-name, and until recently not doing so was looked at disparagingly.

In a society where men are considered high on the totem pole, it is hard for people to understand the concept, even though our society has come a long way. We “almost” had a woman president this year. While our country is still recovering from a heated political season, we can all agree that most of us were in awe to see a female candidate on that ballot.

Today, women are walking shoulder to shoulder with men in all aspect so the name change should be a decision, also at par on both sides. Would a man change his last-name after marriage? After all, marriage is between two people, so why should only one member be pressured into changing the name? What is in changing the last-name? Does it somehow make us more married?

“Doesn’t it feel weird?” someone asked me after I had a baby. To be honest, I had thought that once I have a baby, I may want to change my last-name as I will not want to be the only one without the “family” name. But my feelings stayed the same. Just because I was having a child, I wasn’t changing who I was fundamentally, so why should I change a part of my identity?

For me, my full name is my identity, something I was given at birth, even though my name is one of the MOST common/generic one (thanks mom and dad!). I have degrees and certificates on this name and I am known personally and professionally with it. To change it to something else, meant losing a part of an identity that I had worked hard to create. And I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t connect to the person who had my first name and my husband’s last-name. She felt alien to me, even with a hyphen.

When I was working as a graduate program assistant in college, one of my responsibilities was to enter potential students’ information into a system. Which meant, sorting through piles of faxed/mailed applications, degrees and certificates. Sometimes, it felt like a scavenger hunt. The particular program was a teaching program, so (somehow) it meant more female applicants. For the same person, application forms came with one last-name, undergraduate degree came with another last-name, and certificates with another last-name (if they had remarried/divorced). It was frustrating to find the matching documents! I had taken the decision then to keep my last-name forever!

Let me be clear that I do not judge those who change their last-name. Heck it’s a norm AND a choice they made. Some do it because it is a tradition, some do it because it is important to their husband and so on. Whatever the reasoning may be, it is a normal practice to go through after marriage. I am sure there is a lot of thought that goes into their decision as well. I admire them, as I feel like that requires self-assurance, as in “you won’t feel lost with your new name”, kind of self-assurance. I am the opposite, I felt lost and used to get annoyed even if someone addressed me as “Mrs. Hislastname”, until recently.

Although I still don’t connect to “Mrs. Hislastname”, it bothers me slightly less after my son started his school and his teachers addressed me with his last-name. Few years ago, I would have corrected them…….today I don’t. So who knows, I may or may not warm up to the change eventually. But…….for now my last-name remains my last-name……except with few teachers of my son’s. 🙂

Until I wander again…..