My whole life, my grandfather had had a couple of bad jokes in his comedy arsenal, often about growing up Italian in New Jersey. “I grew up in a rough neighborhood. Kids were named Spike, Killer, Butch… and those were the girls!” (Fortunately, he has a very successful job as a lawyer that generally keeps him away from open mic nights.) Lately, an element of this crappy joke has been echoed in a baby-naming trend I have seen: girls being given male names. Not unisex, mind you, but traditionally and/or intentionally masculine sounding names.
“What exactly is a boy name?” some of you ask smugly, pushing your Tina Fey glasses up the bridge of your nose as you think ‘Listen to this heteronormitive bitch: I can't wait to tell my gender studies professor about this!’ Mazel tov: you are very smart and have pointed out that gender binary exists. Here’s a cookie shaped like a vagina. Now let me answer: Noah is a boy’s name. So is Hunter. So are Kevin and Joshua. They are boy’s names because they have historically been bestowed upon penis-bearers who more often than not grow up to be men. More often than in the past, I am hearing those names and names like them given to girls.
To stand in solidarity with my smug, gender studies lovin’ brothers and sisters—in isolation this is nothing I take issue with. Names are always in flux and what we make of them ,and the idea of extending gender binary to names is silly. Maybe it’s even harmful. I don’t mind that being subverted. By all means, name your daughter Herbert.
Truth be told, this trend isn’t actually super new: the classic example is Ashley Wilkes from Gone with the Wind. Ashley was a boy’s name, now it’s all lady. Ditto Meredith, Stacy, Kelly, Shannon, and Courtney. Now let’s think of a name that was historically given to girl babies that we now give our boys. I’ll wait… … yeah, I got nothing, either.
So is what’s happening when we name our girl’s boy’s names? Is it really a subversion of gendered names? Or is it perpetuating the concept that being male is an upgrade? Would the same people who name their daughter Jeremiah name their son Isadora? Have you ever actually met a boy named Sue?
Want to be edgy? Name your son Victoria.