What’s in a name? A great deal if you are a woman in an evolving society like ours. Before marriage, a woman is usually known by her father’s surname and after by her husband’s. But the sisterhood is rebelling with more and more women opting to keep their rather politically incorrectly termed ‘maiden’ name. Those who can’t quite make up their minds go in for a double barrel surname. But when a powerful personage like Priyanka Vadra clearly requests that she be addressed only by her married name and not her father’s surname Gandhi, feminists are bound to be up in arms.
In subcontinental politics, being a good wife is a definite advantage. True the husbands may stay in the background, but barring a Mayawati, a matrimonial tag is an asset. In a way, Priyanka’s request shows the duality of modern India. You can be the scion of a powerful family, a person in your own right but at the end of the day, the social status that marriage confers on a woman cannot be done away with. In Indian politics, it pays to advertise your lineage, so perhaps Priyanka should have stuck to her father’s name. And we are not alone. Aspiring US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gave up all pretence of being liberated and dropped her maiden name Rodham, preferring to stick with her husband’s famous surname.
Maybe Priyanka could have made a forceful statement if she decided that she would cast aside both her father’s name and that of her husband. Indeed, she could have chosen a completely different name. This may have opened the doors for other women who wish to proclaim that they will not be bound by the shackles of patriarchy. But unfortunately, it’s a man’s world and not just in name.