Thursday, December 30, 2010

How About a Gender Neutral Baby Name?

A Canadian professor reports a rise in gender-neutral names.

Though the top baby names in Canada this year are the solidly gendered Ethan and Olivia (according to the National Post), Canadian studies professor Paul Stortz says that over time naming has begun to "de-emphasize the component of gender." A peek at's most popular baby names of 2010 reveals this may be a trend outside Canada as well. Addison/Addyson and Bailey/Baylee were both in the top 10 for girls, and gaining in popularity, while Riley/Rylee climbed the charts for both boys and girls. In a lot of ways, this seems like good news — it would certainly be nice if we didn't treat a person's gender as so obviously the most important thing about them.

Unfortunately, gender-neutral naming doesn't usually go both ways. Naming your daughter Charlie supposedly makes her ballsy and can-do, but naming your son Ashley can lead to ridicule. Dr. Lisa Wade of Sociological Images has a helpful explanation:
Femininity is just for chicks. When men do feminine things, they are debasing themselves. Masculinity is awesome and for everyone. When women do masculine things, they're awesome. This is sexism: Masculinity rules, femininity drools.
And then of course there's the phenomenon of women encouraged to use gender-neutral names or initials in order to be taken more seriously in their publishing or professional lives.

Are you considering a gender-neutral baby name?