10 Cool Baby Names That Defy Gender Norms
Growing up, I was obsessed with names that defy gender norms — probably partially due to the fact that I read Little Women 100 times and wanted to be Jo March. Accordingly, I often wished I had a name like Jo or Sam, a name that at the very least bent traditional gender mores with its androgyny. Because, let's be real, fierce women rarely conform. Having a name that doesn't immediately signify gender seems quite logical. After all, names exist to identify a person, and a person is more than their gender.
Having been raised in the South, though, I grew up in a place where there were very clear parameters when it came to choosing baby names. Classically masculine names like John, David, James, Robert, and William were the standard for little boys, while overtly feminine names like Delilah, Tiffany, Belle, Jessica, Marie, and Maggie were chosen for girls. Occasionally, you'd come across someone with a name whose gender connotation had blurred over time — like Ashley, which was historically a male name until it flipped to a chart-topping feminine pick in the '80s.
Nowadays, however, names that defy gender norms are definitely on the rise. Thanks to celebrities and other public personas opting to name their little girls names typically reserved for boys (and vice versa), society is coming around to the idea that — as with pretty much everything else in life — gender shouldn't be used to put anyone in a box. All names are fair game, and these gender-defying picks are too badass to pass up.
Although this name — which means "oak wood or clearing" — has been a relatively steady boys' pick since the late 1800s, Oakley is on the rise for girls, too. And, if we're being honest, I love it. It conjures up images of sharp-shooter Annie Oakley, which makes me think any little girl with this monikor is destined to be fierce AF.
Am I the only one who finds it surprising that this super-cute name is being bogarted by little boys? There are so many reasons to love it. From the stunning gemstone of the same name to the artist Jasper Johns, it's a name that is synonymous with beauty and creativity. Plus, it means "bringer of treasure" in Persian. How fun is that?
In full disclosure, I championed to have my second child named some derivative of Bo — whether it was a boy or girl. I feel like there's an inherent authenticity associated with this name, which interestingly ranks 75th for girls in the Netherlands. It's much less common here in the States, as it is considered more masculine. But I'm a fan and, although I wound up having a son named Bowen, he'd likely have been a Bo even if he had been a she.
This name isn't particularly mainstream for either gender, but it certainly skews more masculine thanks to the metal. However, the one person I know named Steele happens to be female, and I feel like her name suits her: Strong, cool, and memorable.
Yes, I was an English major. Yes, Irish playwright Samuel Beckett is one of my favorite literary geniuses. As such, it's no surprise I laid claim to this name — which means "bee cottage" — before kids were even a twinkle in my ovary's eye. I never considered the name for a girl until my husband and I had a waitress by the name serve us one Saturday night. She was clearly the exception to the rule, as this name doesn't even rank for girls. It should though, right?
To switch things up a bit, let's talk about a name that is traditionally used for females but could absolutely be rocked by little boys: Greer. In fact, I may be partial because this is my stepbrother's name. Although it is considered a girls' name almost exclusively, I think it makes a rad name for boys too — its meaning of "alert and watchful" is apt either way. I find it particularly suited to sons of strong, outspoken women, since it always makes me think of feminist writer and activist Germaine Greer.
When Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds (both gender-bending first names!) named their daughter James, the world collectively lost its mind for a hot minute. The name — which means "supplanter" in Hebrew — has pretty much always been considered traditionally male. And while it seems a bit of an incongruity now, so did Ashley when it first began being used for girls back in the '80s. See where I'm going with this?
If you want your little girl to be a total rock star, what better name than Hendrix after none other than the seminal guitarist/singer/songwriter Jimi Hendrix? True story: I had a hairdresser named Hendrix once, and, in addition to being a gosh-darn sorceress with highlights, she was just an incredibly hip human being. Since other rock and roll names have recently become popular — think Lennon, Jagger, and Presley — Hendrix is a good choice if you've got the music in you ... but want something more unique.
For starters, Sloan means "raider" in Irish, which is bae. But while this name is relatively popular for dude-kind, coming in at 1791st in 2015, it's but a blip on the radar for girls. But with fantastic characters like Ferris Bueller's girlfriend (Sloane) and Olivia Munn's newsroom persona (Sloan), it seems like this name in any form should be cracking the top 1000 on the regular.
Because I love you, dear readers, I'm sharing this — the hypothetical name of my third child — with you. Well, because I love you aaaand because I'm never having any more kids. But, still. Anyway, I find it interesting this name has been deemed strictly masculine. In my head, my hypothetical third child is a little girl with blue eyes (my husband's Hawaiian genes squashed out that trait in our first two) named Wilder Sway. I almost love it enough to procreate one more time. Almost.