Wednesday, April 1, 2009

From the Vault: An Inconvenient Woman

[Editor's note: From time to time, I dust off posts from the blog's early days that current readers may have missed. Here's one from April 2008.]

For those of you who don’t know my real name, it is Tami MaidenName-MarriedName. Yes, I am one of THOSE women. I am a hyphenator.

After getting married back in 2001, filling out all the annoying paperwork and taking my new hyphenated name out for a spin, I quickly learned that women like me annoy the hell out of people. It seems that no one is without an opinion about what married women ought to do about their names, and the common opinion seems to be that hyphenators are a bad breed. I typed “women who hyphenate” into Google when researching this post and uncovered all manner of vitriol and advice:

What's with all these women that hyphenate their last names?
I can see someone doing it if they are famous (i.e. Chris Evert-Lloyd), and became famous prior to marriage--that helps avoid confusion. To the rest of you, why can't you either produce stools or get off of the toilet, to paraphrase an old saying? I would rather my wife kept her name than combined it with mine, if she wants to keep it so badly. Having both is just stupid, and makes for overlong, pretentious-sounding names. It isn't about feminism--but it's about time this idiocy stopped. Enough already! (From Yahoo Answers)
If there's one thing that annoys me, it's women who hyphenate their names. I'm a doctor and as such must create charts which are then filed away in alphabetical order.

So Mrs. Jayne Gorden-Vangeroffson comes in for an exam. She writes her name on my form as Jayne Gorden-Vangeroffson. So we file her chart this way and then attempt to file her insurance. But her vision plan has her listed as Jayne Vangeroffson and so the claim is denied. After several hours on the phone, my staff finally gets ahold of someone and they resolve the issue…

Please women, do not hyphenate your name. You will be creating nothing but problems for yourself and anyone who must deal with you. Doctors will not be able to find your chart. Insurance companies will not have you listed as a client. The list goes on.If you want to keep your maiden name, keep it. Just tack the new name on at the end without a hyphen. Who gives a fuck if you have three or four names? But please, no more hyphenated names!!!!!!! (From

“Hyphenation, in my experience, seems to be tapering off,” said Danielle Tate, founder of, which helps women with the legal process of altering
surnames. Tate, who gave up the name Rowlett when she married in 2005, observed
that many of her mother’s friends have hyphenated last names, but none of hers do. “In talking to brides, I feel like there’s almost a stigma with hyphenated last names. they’re a mouthful and difficult in travel situations,” Tate said. “We’ve had the whole feminist movement--we’re aware that we’re equal.” (From Columbia News Service)
And perhaps my favorite:

Are woman who opt for hyphenated names more masculine than traditional women?
I hate, hate, hate the whole hyphen thing. If I meet someone with a hyphen in their name, they automatically get one strike against them. They usually get the next 2 strikes rather quickly. It's like athletes who incorrectly shorten their name the Zach, I just can't root for them (I never see Michael shortened to Mich or Nicholas shortened to Nich, so Zach is obviously wrong). People that look like freaks with silly piercing and tattoos get the same treatment. (From
There you have it. I am pretentious, indecisive, stigmatized, masculine and terribly inconvenient.

When I got married, keeping my maiden name was a no-brainer for me. And after becoming immersed in researching my family history, I am even more convinced that the decision to keep my name was the right one, because I am witness to how women who give up their names can be erased from history. But also because I am the product of the parents that raised me and of all my ancestors’ struggles and triumphs. My last name embodies that. I can’t imagine giving it away. Also, I had established myself in my career with my maiden name and was loathe to damage my reputation by changing my identity.

As reformer, lecturer, editor, women's rights advocate and abolitionist Lucy Stone said way back in the 1800s, “A wife should no more take her husband's name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost.”

See, I viewed getting married as adding something to an already full life. When I took my vows, I wasn’t vanishing into another person. I was adding a wonderful man to my life, as well as that man’s very big and wonderful family.

Me + Loving Hubby = A Hyphenated Moniker

That’s just my decision. I don’t begrudge anyone else theirs. A name, after all, is about as personal as you can get.

Yeah, my hyphenated name is a little long and that’s a pain. Yeah, it may take the doctor’s assistant a second longer to find my file, but I am always sure to clearly explain that my name is hyphenated whenever I speak with someone, so that I DON’T cause unnecessary confusion. My hyphenated name may make some people roll their eyes, but you know what? My name is MY NAME and I like it just fine.

UPDATE: Check out these links from Jill Miller Zimon (another inconveniently named woman) about how women can be penalized for chosing to hyphenate their names.

The Political Side Effects of Being a Woman
Judicial Ratings Now Available
Jennifer Martinez Atzberger unable to meet petition deadline


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