Feminism in Baby Naming

This is probably too broad of a topic, but I think it’s a very interesting one. What are everyone’s rules for coming up with a feminism-friendly baby name?

([name_m]Even[/name_m] though it always ends up being very controversial, but hopefully people can be nice and not start critiquing eachothers’ marriages or lack thereof. Most people agree at this point on treating women as equally valuable and as important as men, but that that’s not always what our culture defaults to. Or maybe it’s never what our culture defaults to, depending on who you ask.)

Mine are:

I feel conflicted about all the years I thought my name was cooler because it wasn’t really a girl name…so even though I wouldn’t apply this rule to others, my daughters will get names that are unambiguously feminine.

I think my family and my mother-in-law’s family should get priority in terms of honor names, since the last name is my husband’s.

I like traditional given names more than surname names for both boys and girls, because I feel like given names are more “equal” somehow.


I don’t really get what you mean about “feminism-friendly baby names”. I think you could argue that virtually any name is “feminism-friendly”. For example, some people feel that boys names on girls is anti-feminist, but you could argue that naming your daughter [name_u]Hunter[/name_u] is offering her more opportunities than her more femininely named counterparts and is, therefore, feminist. Likewise, you could argue that naming your daughter [name_f]Priscilla[/name_f] is feminist because she’s owning her gender. You could equally make arguments against both of these names. So…I’m not really sure what you’re asking here.

That’s my point exactly. You COULD make any of those arguments, but which ones, if any, ring true for you personally? I don’t think anyone sets out to pick a name that devalues women (except for those horror stories you hear of parents who think it’s ok to use their daughter’s name to express their disappointment in not having a son), so I agree that basically every name is “feminism-friendly” to the person who chooses it. But this is obviously something that some people around here think about a lot, and sometimes base decisions for or against a particular name on. For example, what really sold me on [name_u]Evelyn[/name_u] is that even though it has a history of use as male name, its origin according to Behind the Name is the surname [name_f]Aveline[/name_f]…making it a rare example of a surname based on a woman’s name rather than a man’s.

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For me, a feminism-friendly baby name must be a unisex name (for both boys and girls).

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I really don’t see how a name can be feminist at all.

If someone chooses a name solely because they believe that it is “feminism friendly” I would think they were either using their child to make some kind of a statement or that they were severely overthinking it.

However, feminism is not something that is very important to me, but it obviously is important to others. So if someone believes that their child will feel more equal with one name over another then that’s their choice and I have no right to judge.

Feminism isn’t about women and men being the same. At least not modern feminism (third wave feminism), the women I know who consider themselves feminists wear high heels, short skirts, lingerie from Agent Provocateur and make-up, so definitely not unisex names. Or boy names on girls. Maybe back in the bra burning times (second wave feminism) that would be considered feminist, but now feminism is about your rights as a woman, not to be the same as a man. It’s about being accepted and respected, to be allowed to be female. And feminine. To be treated as a human being, not a plaything. To be taken seriously, to have the same opportunities.

I’ve never thought about names in this sense before, but my first thought would be names that honour great women and men who’ve done wonderful things/spoken up for women’s rights, or women who were plain awesome in some way.

[name_f]Alice[/name_f] [name_u]Walker[/name_u]
Amantine [name_f]Lucile[/name_f] [name_f]Aurore[/name_f] Dupin ([name_m]George[/name_m] Sand)
[name_f]Ana[/name_f]ïs [name_m]Nin[/name_m]
[name_f]Angela[/name_f] [name_u]Carter[/name_u]
[name_f]Ani[/name_f] [name_f]Di[/name_f] [name_m]Franco[/name_m]
[name_f]Aphra[/name_f] Behn
[name_f]Carol[/name_f] [name_f]Ann[/name_f] [name_u]Duffy[/name_u]
[name_f]Emmeline[/name_f] Pankhurst
[name_f]Eva[/name_f] Peron
[name_u]Hilary[/name_u] [name_m]Clinton[/name_m]
[name_f]Jane[/name_f] [name_u]Austen[/name_u]
[name_f]Marie[/name_f] de [name_f]France[/name_f]
[name_f]Sylvia[/name_f] Plath
[name_f]Tori[/name_f] [name_m]Amos[/name_m]
[name_f]Virginia[/name_f] [name_m]Woolf[/name_m]

[name_m]Alan[/name_m] [name_f]Alda[/name_f]
[name_m]Jeremy[/name_m] Bentham
[name_m]John[/name_m] [name_u]Legend[/name_u]
[name_m]John[/name_m] [name_m]Lennon[/name_m]
[name_m]John[/name_m] Stoltenberg
[name_m]Joseph[/name_m] [name_m]Gordon[/name_m] Lewitt
[name_u]Joss[/name_u] Whedon
[name_m]Kurt[/name_m] Cobain
[name_m]Marc[/name_m] Feigen Fasteau
[name_f]Marie[/name_f] [name_u]Jean[/name_u] [name_u]Antoine[/name_u] [name_m]Nicolas[/name_m] de Caritat
[name_u]Michael[/name_u] Kimmel
[name_m]Stuart[/name_m] [name_m]John[/name_m] [name_m]Mills[/name_m]

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I don’t think of it so much in terms of feminism but I do believe that girls should have solid, versatile names that would work well in a variety of settings. Naming a daughter [name_f]Bambi[/name_f] will influence her opportunities. having to put that name on applications and resumes, will close doors by people who make assumptions based on the name. On the other, if you are dying to call that little baby [name_f]Bambi[/name_f], naming her something like [name_f]Barbara[/name_f] solves the problem.

I tend to try to restrain myself from commenting on these kind of threads because it is a subject I feel very passionate about and discussions as to whether or not feminism is important never fails to aggravate me (I know I should be able to contain my temper, but alas, concerning this subject, I can’t), however, I will try and give it a go:

To me, kickass (female) namesakes are important in my girl combinations as well as my boy combinations (but perhaps even more so in my girl combinations because today’s society seriously is lacking badass unsubmissive female role models for little girls).

As for giving boys names to girls, I don’t see the point of it. There are so many beautiful girls names, why not use some of them? I also think it’s double standards that it’s so widely accepted to give little girls boys names, but frowned upon to give little boys girls names. I’m not going to go too far into the other debate about giving cutesy names to girls and strong names to boys, because I’m generally opposed giving girls cutesy names just for the sake of it. I would absolutely HATE being given a cotton-candy name just because I’m a girl. [name_m]Just[/name_m] like I absolutely HATE being treated like I’m weaker and somehow more fragile than my male counterparts. And giving girls cutesy names because they’re girls is and boys strong, masculine and professional names because they’re boys is just plain sexism.

I don’t know if this made any sense whatsoever, I’m currently writing this and taking notes to my Danish lecture at the same time, lol.


I consider myself a feminist, but never considered picking a name that reflected that, though I do think that it shows myself in every other aspect of my relationship with my daughter. I do love sweet cutesy names. Like literally as sweet & ott cutesy as [name_f]Bunny[/name_f] & [name_f]Honey[/name_f]. I would never use those name, though I would use [name_f]Barbara[/name_f] or [name_f]Honora[/name_f] to get there. I guess that decision comes from not wanting to limit or trivialize my child. I believe in picking strong names. I did pick a name that’s a feminization of a male name, but I didn’t feel like that compromised my belief system.

I am also a feminist who took my husband’s name after marriage :slight_smile:

I feel like most names can come from a feminist kind of view.

I do get the unisex idea, I do get the “strong and very feminine” idea.

But I do think there is one kind of name that ist just very anti-feminist,: Over the top cutesy names like [name_f]Bunny[/name_f], [name_f]Bluebell[/name_f] and [name_f]Honey[/name_f]. Usually people here want to give these names to girls not boys and I do believe this kind of shows the idea of “pretty, cute” girls, not smart and strong ones.

So yes, at a feminist it bothers me to think of women named Darling or [name_f]Bluebell[/name_f]. Apparently these moms wish that their daughters become lovely, cute, pretty and all those things but don’t think of them in a business environment or as strong, not so princessy women.

That’s just not my idea of the girl I want to raise.

These names will always, always give a first impression of “oh, cute”. Is that an impression that is always appropriate? I don’t think so. At work I don’t want to say my name and make everyone think “Oh, Darling, how cute”.

Exactly this. I always refrain from posting on these kind of threads because they tend to get too heated for my taste, but this is exactly how I feel about most names that directly honor the parents’ belief system. I feel the same way about things like [name_m]Christian[/name_m] and [name_m]Lucifer[/name_m] (just as examples, I have nothing personally against religious names of any kind).

I’ve never really considered myself a staunch feminist, I just believe everybody should have equal opportunities and rights no matter their gender/orientation/color/religion/socioeconomic status/et c. But I guess my girls’ names do fit into what most people are saying, since I tend to like distinctly feminine names that still convey strength and character over being “cute” or having a meaning like “pretty”. And as a counterpart, I like my boys’ names on the softer side as well. I don’t consider it feminist to do this though, it’s just a personal preference. Why can’t you be a feminist and still name your daughter [name_f]Daisy[/name_f]?

tararyaz: I actually really like the name [name_f]Birdie[/name_f] for a girl, so I can see where you’re coming from. I think it’s hard to categorize one sort of names as “strong” and another sort as “frivolous” when they have a history of use on actual people who you may not know…maybe somebody’s kick-ass namesake, the grandmother who was the first woman in the family to get an education, was named [name_f]Bunny[/name_f].

alwaysben & greyer: I can see where you’re coming from too. There does seem to be a point at which giving a child a name that’s too much a reflection of your personal agenda as a parent comes across as ignoring the fact that your child is an individual who will have their own views someday. But I don’t think anyone who has commented on this post has come anywhere close to that point yet. I’m not sure you can separate thinking about values and what’s important to you from the process of sifting through thousands of possible names and picking just one for your child. Maybe feminism/women’s equality/valuing and respecting women (or whatever the heck you want to call it) isn’t in the forefront of your brain personally when you think about baby names, and I’m not saying that it should be. I just think it’s interesting hearing the different approaches that the people who do think about this take.

I’ve really enjoyed reading this thread, but I find it curious that the discussion is geared solely to feminine names. [name_m]How[/name_m] do you folks approach feminism in naming when it comes to naming sons? Does your attitude change? Is it more feminist to name your son something unisex or traditional? Or is it more feminist to just be more open to naming choices for boys?

I’m not really sure, but it was a question that I found myself asking as I was reading.

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Ahh on the subject of boy names, I think it’s important to consider the idea of names “going to the girls” and that frightened feeling a lot of berries have expressed in other posts about names like [name_u]Elliott[/name_u]. Why is it scary to think of your son [name_u]Elliott[/name_u] in class with a girl [name_u]Elliott[/name_u]? I am a big fan of the name [name_u]Sidney[/name_u] and my husband was adamant that it was a girl’s name. He thought the same of [name_u]Morgan[/name_u]. I think it’s important to think about how boy parents let go of names like [name_u]Whitney[/name_u] & [name_u]Ashley[/name_u] to the point that they’re extremely rare on males today. I personally don’t feel like [name_u]Sidney[/name_u] or [name_u]Morgan[/name_u] are unusable for boys because they have seen female usage.

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So long as it’s not a boy’s name on a girl, I think any naming method can be viewed as feminist.

I don’t choose my names on how “feminist” they are.

teacherma: Good question! Obviously, there’s the huge controversy over whether it’s anti-feminist to rule out a boy’s name because it’s “going girl” or “sounds girly.” I know that’s one I struggle with. I agree in theory, and would definitely go out of my way to correct my children for ever thinking it’s ok to make fun of a boy for having a girl’s name…but probably would feel like naming my own son [name_u]Evelyn[/name_u] would cross that line into using my child’s name to make a statement. ([name_u]Sidney[/name_u] and [name_u]Morgan[/name_u] on the other hand, wouldn’t feel like a statement to me at all).

Another thing I wonder about is cross-gender namesakes. [name_f]Do[/name_f] I think the same people make equally inspiring namesakes for both a son or a daughter? I’d definitely feel confident about naming either a son or daughter after the aunt who’s known for her sense of humor and adventure…but I have other female relatives that it only feels natural to name a daughter after. Am I being sexist towards my future son by assuming that he won’t have the same appreciation of traditionally feminine virtues, or just realistic?

I’m also really curious what it means when a son is given the exact same name as several other men in his family. Can that feel like a loss of individuality and autonomy for some boys? Does the fact that it’s much less common for girls to be given a family name mean that in some sense they’re assumed to have more freedom/less obligation to their families?

Hmm, interesting. I don’t think we’ve ever thought about it in our home, but I suppose if there were a rule it would be that we use the same criteria for boy and girl names. Almost all of our names are from mythology or literature, with some nature names as well. I don’t think we’d ever use a name to make any sort of statement, although I suppose it’s impossible for a name not to somehow reflect our world view, isn’t it? Neither of us is really all that interested in family honor names. [name_m]Forest[/name_m], Wildrose and [name_m]Ward[/name_m] are the only family names on our top ten list, two of which are from my side, and one of which is from SO’s side. We’re not trying to make a statement with the family names being mostly from my side, it just worked out that those are the family names that fit with our naming style. I think we are using more obvious nature names on the girls side. [name_f]Willow[/name_f], [name_m]Forest[/name_m], Nightingale, [name_f]Snow[/name_f] and Wildrose, as opposed to [name_f]Sparrow[/name_f] and [name_m]Peregrin[/name_m] on the boys side, but [name_m]Hart[/name_m] and [name_m]Bjorn[/name_m] are also nature names, just not obvious ones. It’s good to think about these things. Like I said, we’re just attempting to use the same criteria for boys and girls.

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I think that a feminist naming perspective would be one that leaves your daughter and son with a name that can fly in whichever path of life they choose.

It’s not technically possible, but something versatile.

It’s more important to get things aside from their names into them. So you called your child [name_f]Honey[/name_f], doesn’t mean you won’t emphasise education and pass on good morals and encourage them to explore the world. It doesn’t mean that they won’t have a good career and life. It doesn’t mean they won’t become a future president. People can make their name work for them or change it.

However naming your daughter [name_f]Honey[/name_f] may well imply to some that you had no aspirations for your child, because no one would call their daughter [name_f]Honey[/name_f] if they thought about her becoming a [name_m]Doctor[/name_m] or a Politician.

Now in a truly equal, including feminist society, it wouldn’t matter, names seen as lesser because they’re seen as super-frilly and flimsy wouldn’t matter, because no one would judge by the name.

There are more powers at play than male vs. female here. There are class issues, racial issues, probably a touch of homophobia.

but this is about feminism so …

I think you’re bringing up something very important. Feminism can really take you in two different directions with girl names. There’s the idealistic approach: “Who cares that the patriarchy has decreed that it’s more dignified to be named after battle gear ([name_m]William[/name_m]) than a pretty flower or a cute animal, the idea is to break down the assumptions of the patriarchy and all of the negative aspects of our culture that it’s created!” and the pragmatic approach, “I hear girls with names like [name_u]Logan[/name_u] more likely to get into law school.” Earlier in this thread, we’ve gotten different people saying both that the only names that count as feminist are unisex ones, and that the only names that don’t count as feminist are unisex/boy names on girls.

And then yes, there are the class and other issues on top of the gender questions. We might have two pragmatists disagree whether you’re actually better off naming your daughter [name_u]Logan[/name_u] to get her into law school, or something like [name_f]Ruth[/name_f]. Or maybe law school isn’t even the goal…

There’s also the question of how much does a name affect a persons upbringing?

Like how much difference to a girls life would there be if she was called [name_u]Logan[/name_u] vs. [name_f]Daisy[/name_f]? Presumably the parental influence would stay the same, it’s the outside influences and wider society that is the problem.