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?

ouryve Fri 01-Feb-13 14:51:57

We have some very old names in the English language which at least sound unisex, even if the spelling is different. I'm not sure that there's that many that are popular at the moment, though.

AmandaPayne Fri 01-Feb-13 15:04:24

No, true. But we do have a lot of the 'surname as first name' unisex names. Bailey and the like.

Writehand Fri 01-Feb-13 15:18:51

During the previous debate about transgender people, I linked to a transwoman whose DD isl called Dylan. I've never come across Dylan as a girl's name but when I checked on the Mumsnet Baby name finder it came up as unisex. Has anyone come across a girl called Dylan?

5madthings Fri 01-Feb-13 15:21:38

Not in RL but on atv program yes, american family. Have also seen a girl called Elliott.

My ds3 is Dylan so to merits a boys name but I woukdnt find it odd as a girls name.

5madthings Fri 01-Feb-13 15:22:08

To me its a ..

Jux Fri 01-Feb-13 15:38:21

Hilary
Valery
Vivienne/Vivian

Those are unisex names which surprised me when I first came across them. Old as the hills, very traditional.

We have a long history of names being used in whatever way takes our fancy, it seems. I even know a girl called Pullan ..... poor thing was horribly ribbed about her name all her childhood, but it's a family name and had been used for generation after generation.

CailinDana Fri 01-Feb-13 15:47:19

I have a unisex name, albeit one that is spelled differently for each gender. It's never caused me any problems except that people always spell it the male way.

What's interesting is that unisex names that are popular for females tend to stop being male names over time as though by being associated with female contaminates it as a male name. For example, where once Hilary and Evelyn were unisex names, the tendency for them to be used more for girls means it's really really rare to hear them being used for boys any more. Yet when there are two distinct versions of a name for each gender - eg Michelle and Michael, they tend to both survive. My name is one of the few unisex ones where there seems to be more men with it than women.

What's the justification for needing to know a person's gender from their name?

FloraFox Fri 01-Feb-13 15:48:27

There seems to be a bit of a trend for girls to have male names like Dylan, Elliott but not for boys to have female names.

tethersend Fri 01-Feb-13 15:48:43

It wouldn't be a problem if being identified as female didn't single you out for discrimination.

tethersend Fri 01-Feb-13 15:51:09

Don't Icelandic surnames signify gender anyway?

My name is a female name in Britain, but a male name in several Eastern European languages. I've never had any problems with people mixing it up.

Schooldidi Fri 01-Feb-13 16:08:25

There are a lot of kids at school where i have no idea whether they are a boy or girl until I meet them. Sometimes I don't even know then as they are all wearing the same uniform and their hairstyles can be quite unisex too. All I can do is wait for clues from the other children and hope i get it right if I need to know their gender for any reason (not very often).

I know quite a few Ashleys, which I'd only known as a girls name before I moved here, there are a few surnames as forenames girls and boys around as well, before I even get started on the names I didn't think were names.

I don't know whether it's good or bad to have your gender identified by your name. It's more whether people treat you differently based solely on gender, that definitely IS a problem.

AbigailAdams Fri 01-Feb-13 16:09:57

Men are the default Flora. Women can aspire to being men but not the other way round. Tis shit.

TeiTetua Fri 01-Feb-13 16:19:03

Cynical me says, unisex names are usually male names in the process of becoming female ones. "Being associated with female contaminates it as a male name" seems all too true.

But I thought the case in Iceland was about the use of a name that wasn't on the official list of approved names, not because it was a boy's name rather than a girl's one. If that's what it was, the government there is fighting valiantly, and apparently failing, to keep parents from stealing all the boys' names to give to girls.

The writer Evelyn Waugh was married (temporarily) to a woman also named Evelyn. Their friends used to call them "She-Evelyn" and "He-Evelyn".

5madthings Fri 01-Feb-13 16:22:21

My dd is merryn it is used as a boys name as well but spelt Merin or merren and there is a boy at my elder sons school called this and my ds3 was told that his sister couldn't be merryn as its a boys name. She is and I think its a unisex name but we like the spelling with a y.

bringmeroses Fri 01-Feb-13 16:24:23

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. angry

As others have said there are now so many new names around from our increasingly diverse population that I wouldn't expect to know someone's gender from their name alone the way people may have done 200 years ago.

My name has always been female in Britain, always male in Eastern Europe. I don't know if the names have a common root or developed separately and just happen to be spelt the same IYSWIM.

bringmeroses Fri 01-Feb-13 16:27:30

flora Hillary? Lesley? Alex, Charlie, Sam, Dannie, Eddie, Frankie, Jamie, Jude, Chris etc etc. Who can say whether they were first male or female names? I was looking at this site

usefulenglish.ru/vocabulary/unisex-names

bringmeroses Fri 01-Feb-13 16:28:30

I don't think I've ever met a male Marion. Anyone expecting? grin

TeiTetua Fri 01-Feb-13 16:32:14

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wayne - Cached - Similar
Marion Mitchell Morrison (born Marion Robert Morrison; May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979), better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film ...

FloraFox Fri 01-Feb-13 16:49:57

I agree Abigail It's interesting that Iceland has among the highest rates of female participation in politics and business of any country. I don't think taking male sounding names is going to do much for women.

badguider Fri 01-Feb-13 16:56:10

In iceland the majority of people have a patronym instead of a surname so gudmundsdottir or gunmundsson so gender is immediately obvious anyway.

vesuvia Fri 01-Feb-13 17:38:09

I've heard that German first names must, by law, enable people to easily tell the gender of the person.

vesuvia Fri 01-Feb-13 17:40:11

Andrea and Nicola are boys names in Italy.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now