Many people name their children after their ancestors or even themselves, but for those looking for feminist baby names, public figures are another good source of inspiration. There are so many feminists in pop culture, politics, literature, and everywhere else who deserve to be memorialized but often aren't because, you know, sexism.
Names inspired by popular and historical figures, especially the more unusual ones, can spark discussion about what led you to choose the name — and that's when your kid gets to boast about their namesake's contributions to women's rights, because what's cuter than a first grader explaining feminist theory to unsuspecting classmates?
Another cool thing about deliberating over your child's name is that every appellation has a meaning in some language or another. So, when you name your child after a feminist, you're really giving their name two meanings: one that reflects the values that the person stood for and one contained within the name itself.
Here are some notable feminist icons who you can name your kid after if you want them to be that smarty-pants student explaining social justice to their peers — and who you should probably know about regardless, since they're pretty kick-ass people.
1. Simone de Beauvoir
"Simone" means "heard" in French, and the French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir definitely has been heard and read all over the world. Combining feminist theory and existentialism, Beauvoir famously declared "one is not born a woman" back when the concept of gender as a social construct was still foreign to most people, and her book The Second Sex is said to have heralded second-wave feminism.
2. bell hooks
The pen name "bell hooks" was inspired by the author and feminist theorist's grandmother. You don't have to adopt the lowercase letters with which she stylizes her name, but her reasoning is pretty cool: She wanted to literally deemphasize her identity and put her readers' focus on her work, which presents feminism in a complicated but accessible way through books like Communion: The Female Search for Love. Another plus? "Bell" means "handsome" as a French name and "good-looking" as an English name — a quality most people don't mind being associated with.
3. Allison Bechdel
This one should be especially popular now that Bechdel's graphic novel Fun Home is also Tony-winning Broadway musical. The book and musical tell the gripping story of a woman coming to terms with her lesbian identity shortly after her gay father commits suicide. If you've ever heard of the Bechdel test, which determines how sexist a movie is based on how much screen time female characters get without talking about men, she invented it. Her first name is pretty awesome, too, though: Allison is a Scottish name that means "noble."
4. Zora Neale Hurston
Aside from being a creature in the Legend of Zelda series, "Zora" means "dawn," and author Zora Neale Hurston was present at the dawn of several movements, including the Harlem Renaissance as well as feminism. Her gorgeously written novel Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of a black woman from the American south finding her independence, and her seminal essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" sheds light on the complexity of racial identity in the United States soon after slavery.
5. Gloria Steinem and/or Gloria Anzaldua
I couldn't pick just one woman for this name. At age 81, Gloria Steinem has kept up with the times and remained an influential feminist leader dedicated to intersectionality and inclusiveness. Speaking of intersectionality, Gloria Anzaldua is a writer and feminist theorist whose famous collection Borderlands/La Frontera explores lesbian chicana identity. Whichever Gloria you're referring to, the name means "glory" in Latin.
6. Sheryl Sandberg
While criticisms that Sandberg's pivotal book Lean In blamed victims of workplace sexism and spoke from a privileged position are valid, Sandberg has also used her privilege as COO of Facebook to become the face of workplace equality. From her campaign to ban the word "bossy" when describing girls to the "lean in circles" she has started for women around the country to support one another's professional goals, she made "women in the workplace" and "women in tech" into buzzwords. It's appropriate, then, that Sheryl means "charity."
7. Rowan Blanchard
Rowan Blanchard is the kind of person who makes me really excited about the rise of the generation below mine. At only 14, she has used her status as the star of Disney Channel's Girl Meets World to advocate for feminism. She has spoken about why feminism should be for everybody, written about why women don't need to apologize for their existence, and called for queer representation on her show. She also introduced many of us to a name we'd never heard. Rowan is a gender-neutral name and the word for a tree also known as mountain-ash, which sounds pretty badass if you ask me.
8. Amandla Stenberg
Along with Blanchard, Stenberg was named one of the Ms. Foundation's celebrity feminists of the year in 2015, and for good reason. She has spoken not only about gender but also about the appropriation of black culture (see the video above) and the struggles of being bisexual. Appropriately, "Amandla" means "power" in Zulu and Xhosa and was chanted in rallies against apartheid. Because the word has African roots, people without these roots themselves should probably avoid it since, as Stenberg mentioned, the appropriation of black culture has all sorts of problems.
9. Roxane Gay
Author, professor, and blogger Roxane Gay has had something important to say about nearly everything feminism-related in American culture, from sexual assault on college campuses to Magic Mike XXL.The name "Roxane" means "dawn," an association Gay has in common with Zora Neale Hurston.
10. Lorelai Gilmore
Lorelai is Rory in Gilmore Girls's full name, as well as the name of her mom, who in turn was named after her grandmother — a feminist way of naming in of itself. The show is also known for multidimensional, strong female characters who buck gender roles. Accordingly, in German folklore, a Lorelai was a siren of sorts who sat on a rock luring sailers to death with her song — definitely not a name for the weak of heart.