Your name must make your gender clear

(58 Posts)
AmandaPayne Fri 01-Feb-13 14:49:40

I was interested in this news story from Iceland. Authorities decided that a girl had been given a 'male' named and denied her official use of it for her entire childhood.

It got me thinking. For all our increasing obsession in the UK with pink bumbos, blue nursing covers, do you think we are becoming more comfortable with unisex names? And is it a good thing for feminism that you can't always judge someone's gender from their name?

mum47 Fri 01-Feb-13 17:40:37

Our son has a boy's name, but there is a girl a few years older than him with the same name - her mum told me she knew it was a boy's name but liked it and used it anyway, it is quite unusual round here. DS goes to high school this year which the girl goes to(they went to different primaries), and I am stupidly worried that everyone will tease him for having a girl's name.

kim147 Fri 01-Feb-13 17:41:21

Interesting grin

TeiTetua Fri 01-Feb-13 18:54:32

See how it happens. One eccentric parent gives a girl a boy's name. Then someone else with a son becomes "stupidly worried that everyone will tease him for having a girl's name". And anyone else who has a baby boy in need of a name thinks, no not that one, it'll cause trouble for him. And so that name become lost to boys. Never the other way around, though.

WidowWadman Fri 01-Feb-13 19:05:59

German rules are that children with a neutral first name must be given a gender-defining middle name. And you can only give a child a name if you can prove it's a person's name and not something made up.

drownangels Fri 01-Feb-13 19:13:58

Both my sons's names have been used as girls names. However I have only come across them being used as girls names in celebrities and don't know anyone in real life with it as a girls name. In fact a know of a couple of boys with the same name. No one has ever passed comment on it in 17 years.

To be fair one of the names is commonly used as a male Irish name and the other is a Welsh male name.

duchesse Fri 01-Feb-13 19:19:19

I know of a lady called Peregrine. Her father was drunk when her went to the registry office really liked the name.

LesBOFerables Fri 01-Feb-13 19:20:07

John Wayne's name was actually Marion.

NeedlesCuties Fri 01-Feb-13 19:47:54

I have a Latvian friend who told me that there all female forenames must end in a vowel. Also her married surname is a 'feminine' version of her DH's, spelt slightly differently to end in a vowel.

TheonlyWayisGerard Fri 01-Feb-13 19:48:58

Writehand
Someone I know has just had a baby girl called Dylan, so they are definitely around.

"And is it a good thing for feminism that you can't always judge someone's gender from their name? "

I think so, yes. Particularly when pretty much all studies on exams, job applications etc. show that when a person's sex (and race, too) cannot be determined the results are not the same as when the sex/race is obvious - disguising the candidate's details sadly makes women and minority groups more likely to get higher marks/get a job interview.

kim147 Fri 01-Feb-13 20:00:16

I have a name that's gender neutral in real life. Only took a bit of altering but still pronounced the same.

<Still used to Kim though on here>

WhentheRed Fri 01-Feb-13 20:17:52

In my experience, there are few gender neutral names. I have found that if the name is assigned to a female, it becomes a girl's name. It may not happen right away, but over the course of a generation it will change. People are reluctant to give boys the name a girl might have.

AmandaPayne Fri 01-Feb-13 20:59:04

Sorry, started the thread and wandered off.

Yes, Icelandic surnames signify gender anyway. I am still struggling to work out why it should be so important that it is enshrined in law that your forename signifies your gender.

I do agree that names seem to migrate male to female but never the reverse. Because it's ok for a girl to be identified with something male. But god, the earth would stop spinning if someone tried the reverse.

bringmeroses Fri 01-Feb-13 21:01:38

True; I know two female Lesleys but no males; only Les Dawson and Mr Strictly of course. I would be surprised to hear of a baby boy being named Leslie these days but I expect it'll come back round. If all names eventuallly become female, what will we call our baby boys in many years to come?! grin

Thanks for the Marion/John Wayne feedback, I'd forgotten. No wonder he had to go and be so impressively manly on film.

Nothing much to add, just finding this a really interesting thread. smile

kim147 Fri 01-Feb-13 21:27:00

There was a boy called Sue.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1BJfDvSITY

But I don't think he liked that name. grin

Vitalstats Fri 01-Feb-13 21:30:11

I'm surprised by this. Iceland is one of the most feminist countries in the world so why don't they just let people have any name they want instead of making a gender-based fuss over giving a girl a name that sounds like a boys?

Ouroboros Fri 01-Feb-13 21:35:53

My DD and baby DS both have unisex names, when I tell people DS's name quite a few then ask about 'her', sometimes even if I've already said he's a boy. But I'd only heard of one man with the same name when we decided to name him, and we've heard of a few more since. My DD's name is truly unisex.

DameHullyFanny Fri 01-Feb-13 21:40:09

I've got a male name - rare in this country anyway, but traditionally male in Europe. I'm sure I've had job interviews from CV submission that I wouldn't have got as a female, even though the skills and experience were a match.

duchesse Fri 01-Feb-13 22:34:23

DH has a very standard UK male name, yet US people he collaborates with (who don't know him) think he is a woman. He is Dr X Y. Different countries view the same name differently apparently. fukcit fed up with trying to beat about the bush he's called Adrian

I like gender-neutral names and quite often refuse to state my gender on forms, etc, when I don't think it's relevant. TBH, a person's gender is only really relevant (outside of special-interestgroups) if you want to have sex or, more importantly, children with that person. My own'real' (ie the one on my passport) name is one of those that was gender-neutral but is now mostly considered female; my professional name is gender-neutral (IMO) but often considered male.

sashh Sat 02-Feb-13 08:13:50

Yes its a good thing, IMO for job applications as much as anything. I would guess that some employers, wrongly!!! still favour men because of the pregnancy issue.

TV Dr Hilary Jones once said he was interviewed for medical school and the interviewers had assumed he was female. They had a quota system at the time and were interviewing women.

As a child Ashley was a boys name, I never met a female Ashley until I was 13.

What about Shirley? Big Daddy was called Shirley, you would never see it as a boys' name now.

ThingummyBob Sat 02-Feb-13 13:17:39

I have both female and male friends called Alex and Sam. Neither Sam is shortened form and both were given it by 'right-on' thinking parents in the 70's.
The Alexs are the diminuitive for the gender based Alexandria/Alexander although neither is ever known by the full name.

Trying to avoid gender stereo typing when naming dcs has onbviosly been going on a long time grin

Fwiw, I don't think either of these names are seen as bad because they are used by girls as well as boys iyswim. Maybe because most peole will assume that a boy Sam/Alex is a shortening of Samual/Alexander and is therefore 'ok'? hmm

FellatioNels0n Sat 02-Feb-13 13:31:27

Many boys' names are given to girls in Canada and the US, and they become unisex by osmosis. Dylan and Cameron seem to be the latest contenders. The same happens in the UK to a lesser extent, (we eventually copy everything that happens in north America but it generally takes us about 10-20 years) but weirdly it never seems to happen in reverse. I don't know any girls' names that become boys' names, in the English language. And then some name have just always been unisex. But not many.

I can't imagine it would make much difference from a feminist perspective if we were unable to tell someone's gender by their name alone. That already happens a fair bit anyway, with foreign names and weirdy names thrown into the mix. It might work on a CV for a job application for example, but if the interviewer was dead against employing a woman in a particular role they would just find a reason to dismiss them after a face to face interview instead of before it.

BaresarkBunny Mon 11-Feb-13 13:11:24

Kelly, Kim and Kerry are typically female names which are also boys names. The men I know with these names are Welsh, so i don't know if the masculine version of these are typically Welsh.

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