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Unisex names


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#1 Fez

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 12:08 AM

I was wondering... what makes a name unisex for you? Many of the names that are considered unisex were originally boy names that started to be used on girls. So, does it mean that when a boys name is used for girls it becomes unisex? And why isn't the other way around? Because I've noticed that to name your daughter Ryan is more accepted than to use Cassidy on a boy.

#2 Kate

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 05:08 AM

This is a tough question... for me, a unisex name is one that 'feels right' on bith boys and girls. That said, I bet that 'feeling right' is different for everyone, which is why I'd never consider Ryan a girls' name, even if a million girls had it.
It seems that once a boys' name has been taken over by girls, it's very hard to get it back. A boys' name used by girls is suddently feminised, and people don't want others to think their boy (who must be strong, masculine, tough, etc.) has got a girly, feminised name, which would be the embodiment of tradionally female qualities (delicate, elegant, soft, more fragile-looking, and so forth). I don't see why, really. I agree that someone's name may play a part in developing that person's personality (loving the name, hating it with a passion, anything goes), but ultimately it's our choices that define us, not our names. A boy named Madison could be teased whilst growing up, but he could become a professional wrestler or something like that and then nobody would think he's got a girly name. Unfortunately this whole thing is still based on traditional gender-roles and stereotypes.

If I offended anyone whose child is named something which is more often used for the opposite sex, I apologise, for that wasn't my intention.

#3 scarlet520

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 08:26 AM

I couldn't have said it better my self.

#4 Liz

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Posted 27 April 2008 - 02:35 PM

Very few names are truly unisex names. Most are boy's names by origin and somehow started being used on girls. A lot of the older "unisex" names don't have very strong or masculine sounds, so people heard them and though they sounded more feminine and therefore gave them to their daughters rather than their sons - Vivian, Evelyn, Meredith, Ashley, Kelly, Tracy, etc. With the newer names that have crossed over, that distinction seems to have been lost. I guess Riley and Avery still aren't the strongest or manliest sounding of names, but things like Addison, Madison, Emerson, and Ryan all sound very sturdy and masculine to me. They also all have very masculine meanings - SON of and little KING. Many unisex names are also surnames -Taylor, Morgan, Cassidy, Quinn. The lines are a little fuzzier with surnames because everyone gets a surname, but most of the names assimilated into our culture came from patrionomic societies where surnames were handed down from the father's side, so they tend to be male by origin also.

Our society is has some very complex and confused gender issues. Males and females are NOT the same and are never going to be the same. Biology gets in the way. The world needs both males and females. Yet it seems that being female is still seen as the "lesser" sex. Females should want to be more like males, but males need to run the other way when anything feminine comes their way. It's okay for a girl to do anything a boy does, but the same does not hold true for boys. No one bats an eye if a little girl wants to play with trucks and wear t-shirts and jeans, but if a boy wants to play with dolls and makeup and wear dress, people call him gay and a sissy. Women can go to work outside of the home, but a man who wants to stay home with his children is still looked down upon by many. A girl can have a boy's name, but heaven forbid a boy should have a name that sounds girly.

Some people seem to think that giving a girl a masculine name gives her some kind of advantage in life. Presumably people will read the name at the top of her resume and assume she's a guy, thus getting her the job. If someone is prejudiced enough to only want a man for their position, then they probably aren't going to hire the person anyway once they find out she's female. If anything, I suppose it could hurt the girl's chance of getting a traditionally female job like a preschool teacher. It's almost as if some people think being female is a disadvantage. You can be named Isabella or Lucy or Jane and still be a strong, influential woman. You can be a boy named Cassidy, Morgan, or Taylor and still be a truck driver or a professional football player. Names don't define who we are, yet every name comes with some stereotypes and preconceived notions. People will treat others based on these notions, and children grown up having had those notions practically wired into them. Your name does kind of influence who you are, or at least who people expect you to be.

I grew up with a unisex name (Liz, well Elizabeth, is my middle name), though it's more common on females of my generation and younger. I have not had too many experiences of people assuming I'm a guy, but it has happened. One of my college professors called me Mr. Lastname the entire semester, even after I corrected him several times. I've gotten mail addressed to Mr. Lastname. It would be even more annoying if I had gotten assigned to the boy's gym class or been coded incorrectly in the insurance company's computer system.

So, those are my disjointed ramblings. You can probably tell that I am not a fan of "unisex" names.




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