10 November 2010

What's in a Name?

Depends on who you ask. This post was prompted by an article on the subject of gender-neutral names, for boys in particular. The piece is so full of inane quotes by parents obsessed with their own self image (and self loathing?) that I could not hope to expose you to their fulness. But here is a sample:

I was a child of the ’70s, my parents were children of the ’40s, and I’m trying to teach my sons you don’t have to be so traditional, to reflect more of a global culture, to open them up to different family structures and different orientations...
“With the new masculinity, wanting men to be involved fathers, to have close friendships, to really be compassionate, are all things my husband and I thought about when we gave our son his name,” said Katherine Woods-Morse, who works for a foundation in Portland, Oregon, and whose now 12-year-old son is named Paxton.
Woods-Morse chose names for her children—she also has a daughter named Torin—before she knew their genders, an effort to counteract stereotyping. “We very specifically wanted to not put a lot of gender role pressure on our children with their names, though we also didn’t want to embarrass them by going with something too feminine for a boy or too masculine for a girl.
“Pax means peace, but it’s got a strong feeling and a very masculine ending without being too butch,” said Woods-Morse. “It doesn’t leave behind the best parts of traditional masculinity—strength and taking responsibility—but it still keeps you guessing about who is this individual.”

I am a traditionalist at heart. My son is named after me, and I am named after my father, so it makes sense that I would be dismissive of this trend. The article mentions how the name trend is not always an overt expression of the supposed "new masculinity," just an effort to be creative. I don't have a problem with the names, just the belief that they will imbue the child with the ability to somehow live up to this ideal that may or may not ultimately be a good thing.
Whatever. The bottom line is that a child's view of the world will depend on much more than their name.

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