Choosing a name for your child can prove a daunting endeavor. Barring the obvious fact that there is a dizzying array of names to choose from, picking the name that is the perfect mix of meaning and your personal style is quite a task. But if you're an older Millennial feminist like myself, there are happily many feminist baby names from the '80s that are even more feminist today. These names boast dual appeal — not only do they hearken the strength of the strong women (and men) who share them, but they are also "classics" that speak to our nostalgia.
For instance, take my name, Julie. It has gained feminist impact since it was one of the most popular monikers of my birth decade, thanks to prominent modern feminists like Millennial writer Julie Zeilinger. I'm not including it on my list, because that felt a bit too much like nepotism or something. Not to worry, though — there are plenty more where that came from. This makes perfect sense, if you think about it, because all of the Jennifers and Jessicas and Julies and Denises of the '80s grew up and, happily, many of them became badass defenders of equal rights.
So now, when we choose that name for our own child that we secretly wished our mom had given us in the '80s, we can bolster our choice with the knowledge that these '80s names have since grown in their feminist impact.
This gender neutral Irish name means "war," but that's obviously not the reason we love it. Rather, it's because the name Kelly — which was the 29th most popular name in the '80s for girls, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA) — is shared by feminist badasses like comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. Hailed by Vanity Fair as the "future of women in comics," DeConnick is breaking down barriers in a male dominated industry. And she has zero qualms about taking on the patriarchy, having said during a panel at New York Comic Con, "I am willing to make people uncomfortable so that my daughter doesn't have to!"
The second most popular name of the '80s, Jennifer means "white shadow" or "white wave." Pretty, right? Plus, thanks to outspoken advocates for equal rights like Jennifer Lawrence, the name now carries much more weight. Lawrence often addresses gender inequality and the gender wage gap in Hollywood and was a passionate detractor of "slut-shaming" when several high profile women in Hollywood were targeted during the 4chan celebrity nude scandal.
Joseph never seems to stray too far from the top 10 most popular boys' baby names — and the '80s were no different. Snagging the no. 10 spot according to the SSA, this name means "Jehovah increases." So why does it have extra resonance today? Well, for one, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is one of Hollywood's most outspoken male feminists. "There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice, and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole," he told The Daily Beast. "I’m a believer that if everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it’s better for everyone. It benefits society as a whole."
With the meaning "who is like God," you can't really go wrong with this name, eh? But if you need another reason to renew your love for this popular '80s name, consider that it is shared by Michele Wallace — a feminist author, professor, and cultural critic best known for her 1979 book Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. Wallace is considered one of the pioneering women of black feminism and often uses her platform to dissect sexism. And let's not forget Michelle Obama, too!
It likely comes as little surprise that John was the ninth most popular name of the '80s according to the SSA — at least it didn't for me, 'cause I knew a metric ton of Johns growing up. One of the reasons the name (which means "God is gracious") has added appeal for me now is because of musician John Legend. Not only is he married to fierce AF feminist Chrissy Teigen, but Legend fundraises for the feminist charity Chime for Change and openly advocates for equality. "All men should be feminists," he explained at a press conference. "If men care about women's rights the world will be a better place."
Toronto feminist Stephanie Guthrie, co-founder of Drunk Feminist Films and Women in Toronto Politics, first came to prominence when she took misogynist video game creator Bendilin Spurr to task on Twitter in 2012. Although she keeps a low profile on social media these days, she remains steadfast in her advocacy for women, making this a worthy name indeed. Besides, it means "garland, crown" — how fitting is that?
If you aren't following Matt McGorry on social media, please go forth and do so now. Then naming your future progeny after him will make total sense, 'cause the guy is a feminist hero. A star of Orange is the New Black and How to Get Away with Murder, McGorry is tireless in his efforts to advocate and raise awareness for intersectional feminism. Matt, for the record, is a derivative of Matthew, which means "gift of God."
Listen, I don't care if Lisa Simpson is a fictional cartoon character — as a child born in the '80s and raised in the '90s, she remains a defining example of feminism for me. Her life goals include becoming POTUS, she often points out inequality, she reads feminist lit and, let's just be real, she has a thing for feminist rants from time to time (don't we all?). This name, which means "pledged to God," was super popular in the '80s at 31st for the decade.
Don't let the harsh meaning of the name "Mark" (it's "warlike") put you off. This popular '80s name has the benefit of being attached to actor/activist Mark Ruffalo who, in recent years, has been an outspoken advocate for women's rights. In fact, last year during an interview at AOL BUILD, Ruffalo felt compelled to officially identify with the feminist movement, saying, "I'm a feminist, by the way. I didn't know there were any [non-feminists] left in the world. I thought we pretty much came to the 50-50, like [feminism]-is-cool conclusion."
Oh, Amy Poehler, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. In addition to portraying the kind of imperfect feminist we can all relate to (hello, Leslie Knope), Poehler is the embodiment of that every-girl feminist IRL. She has written feminist books and essays, co-created the super-empowering Smart Girls movement, and never shies away from standing up for all women. Bonus? The name Amy, which was the no. 15 name of the '80s, means "beloved."