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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?

The urban legends at least are that Big Daddy and John Wayne were given girls' names so they would learn to fight :/ Don't think that quite qualifies them as examples of feminist naming!

As Widowwoman says in Germany something in the name has to define gender, can be the middle name. I have never heard an explanation of why. Tbh I have a not often used but not really out-there gender neutral name and really hated it growing up. It has been mentioned on the thread in fact... Sometimes a gender neutral or other gender name will have the opposite effect and cause a child to feel they need to be more stereotypically masculine or feminine rather than less I think...

nailak Mon 25-Feb-13 01:32:15

the surnames are singh and kaur meaning lion/lioness

nailak Mon 25-Feb-13 01:31:27

Did you know the majority of Sikh first names are unisex, but traditionally gender is defined by surname?

like harpreet harjinder harjit
manjit manpreet manjinder

parmajit parminder


and so on

kickassangel Mon 25-Feb-13 01:23:35

I was having a conversation about this with dh for the use of ms etc. I think we should just use first name last name, no prefix. If writing to someone for business then use both parts of the name, or just use first name if you know them better.

I am very much in favor of getting rid if titles/prefixes, and have a very liberal attitude to names. Who made up the rules about how to spell them and who's allowed them?

EldritchCleavage Thu 21-Feb-13 11:35:14

The thing is that there are now so many people in the UK who are not of European origin and have names from their parents' culture that don't (to most of the majority population) identify their gender. And we manage with that just fine.

Where you need to add gender as part of the identification of the right person (e.g. some court documents and official registers), you can simply put the gender in brackets after the name. But mostly, people just don't need to know and do cope with not knowing.

TolliverGroat Wed 20-Feb-13 21:55:41

I don't like the connotations when someone gives their baby girl a strongly-identified-as-male (so not conventionally unisex) name and says that it's because they want her to have a "strong" name -- seems like it's giving her the message that men are strong and you can only be strong insofar as you emulate men.

On the reverse name trivia, I believe Douglas was originally a female name but you'd never hear it used that way now.

ThreeBeeOneGee Wed 20-Feb-13 21:41:18

The shortened version of DC1's name is gender-neutral.

DC2's name is usually used for boys in the UK but more commonly for girls in the US.

DC3 and DC4 have names that are only ever used for the gender that they are. I wonder if I used those names because they are b/g twins and I wanted them to be easily differentiated from Day 1 as I was keen for their individuality to be apparent.

MyThumbsHaveGoneWeird Wed 20-Feb-13 21:36:18

I know a reverse one. Ok it's a bit rare, but - Artemis. Definitely a girls name in origin (Greek goddess) but now often thought of as unisex or even a boys name.

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.

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.

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

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.

SolidGoldBrass Fri 01-Feb-13 23:00:23

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.

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

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.

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.

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?

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 01-Feb-13 21:24:45

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

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.

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.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NotGoodNotBad Fri 01-Feb-13 19:54:31

"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.

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

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

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