In Defense Of Pulling A Beyonce & Naming Your Kid After Your Own Damn Self
After months of obsessively refreshing our Instagram feeds and breaking out into hives whenever we got a Beyonce Google alert, the long-awaited Carter-Knowles twins are (allegedly) here. While they are (allegedly) still in the hospital with Beyoncé, (allegedly) receiving treatment for newborn jaundice, they (allegedly) have been named. And because it is not considered appropriate in police society to name your children God and God: The Sequel, Beyoncé's twins' names are (allegedly) Bea and Shawn, Jr.
Assuming early reports of the twins' names are true, it doesn't take a graduate student with an advanced degree in Beyoncé iconography to realize that those names sound, well, a little bit familiar. Shawn, Jr. is clearly an allusion to Shawn Carter, a.k.a. Jay-Z's real name, while Bea (pronounced "Bee") is a reference to Beyoncé's nickname. In short, Beyoncé and Jay-Z very well may have pulled a George Foreman and named the twins after themselves.
Not everyone is happy about this. In fact, many people on Twitter seem to believe that naming a child after yourself is at best unimaginative and at worst the height of narcissism. And yet, there is nothing inherently self-absorbed about naming your offspring after yourself. In fact, there's a long tradition of it in the African-American community — and there's some evidence that it can be beneficial to your kid.
When we think of kids who have a "Junior" after their names (this trend is, perhaps somewhat uncreatively, referred to as "juniors"), we typically think of a white, upper-class young man wearing an ascot, sipping a martini as he yells at his progyny to hoist up the jib sail, ho. Yet while having a junior or a numeral in your name used to be a hallmark of WASPiness, that's no longer the case. In fact, the trend is on the decline.
"I think that it's become more of a value for people to have every child have an individual name," Dr. Cleveland Evans, a professor of omnastics (literally, the study of names) at Bellevue University, told NBC News in 2009. "There's more emphasis on individualism, [and] there's less pressure to carry on family names than there used to be."
That said, there are a few communities where the tradition of naming a child after yourself is still going strong — and these are communities of color. Evans notes that Latino dads still frequently name their sons after themselves. A 2013 study from the University of Oklahoma determined that patronyms — a.k.a, male names with "junior" or a numeral after the name — are more common in the South, where Beyoncé is from. In this sense, Bey and Jay naming their kids after themselves can be viewed as a way to affirm their connection to their heritage, rather than a manifestation of their narcissism.
There's actually some evidence to suggest that naming your kid after yourself can be a good thing. Some people have reported that sharing the same name as their parent helps instill a sense of familial pride in them and reinforces their connection to their heritage. A 1971 study even found that kids with the Roman numerals II, III, and IV after their names were less likely to develop behavioral problems than kids who didn't (though the same study did find that kids with the word "junior" after their names were more likely to develop behavioral problems, so take that with a grain of salt).
That said, it's worth noting that the trend of naming your kid after yourself is pretty much exclusively limited to fathers and sons. Because giving your kid a patronym used to be a way to reaffirm the family bloodline, the fact that it's still considered a male-driven trend could be viewed as proof that the patriarchy is still alive and well.
There are a handful of historical examples of women naming their children after themselves, such as Carolina Herrera, Jr. (named after the fashion designer Carolina Herrera) and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Jr., the daughter of First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. While these cases are few and far between, they usually have one thing in common: the mother is a strong, empowered female figure, a description that certainly applies to Beyoncé.
Giving your kid the perfect baby name is a way to immediately communicate to other people what your own values as parents are. And if nothing else, Bey and Jay are masters of self-branding.
Every parent knows that what they name their kid is important: it's essentially the foundation off which other people's impressions of your child are built. But it's also just a question of good self-branding. Because at its core, giving your kid the perfect baby name is a way to immediately communicate to other people what your own values as parents are. And if nothing else, Bey and Jay are masters of self-branding.
If Bey and Jay did, in fact, name their kids after themselves, that's likely neither a show of narcissism nor a gesture to outdated patriarchal norms. Instead, it could be viewed as an affirmation of their heritage, or, in Beyoncé's case, an outright rejection or subversion of gender norms. Are Shawn and Bea as whimsical or poetically cryptic as Blue Ivy (or even as delightfully literal as North West?) Probably not. But don't for a second dismiss or underestimate them. Because as we've learned countless times with every new album release hint we've ignored or pregnancy clues that have been teased on social media, dismissing or underestimating Bey and Jay's self-branding efforts is never a good idea.