Gender-neutral baby names are racing up the list of popular monikers so far this year as, experts say, more parents are looking to break boy/girl stereotypes. (Photo: Getty Images)
Move over, Noah. You too, Emma. Though these monikers topped the Social Security list of most popular boy and girl names last year, 2015 is all about the rising popularity of unisex baby names, according to a new survey from BabyCenter.
Declaring this “the year of the gender-neutral baby,” BabyCenter reveals that names being used for both boys and girls are on the rise among the nearly 185,000 baby monikers registered at the site, compared with 2014. “Millennials are an open-minded and accepting group, and they don’t want their children to feel pressured to conform to stereotypes that might be restrictive,” Linda Murray, BabyCenter’s editor in chief, writes in a statement sharing the 10 names rising fastest in popularity for both genders.
Amari is the winner so far, with a 56 percent increase for girls and 22 percent for boys compared with last year. On her (and his) heels: Karter, more popular with girls; Phoenix, used most often still for boys; Quinn, Reese, River, Rory, Rowan, Sawyer, and Taylor.
“Many parents want to transcend the old-fashioned feminine or masculine roles and image with names that have not traditionally been used for either boys or girls but can be used for both sexes,” Nameberry’s Pamela Satran tells Yahoo Parenting. Calling out other hot goes-both-ways labels, such as Avery, Parker, Carson, Peyton, Jordan, and Emerson, Satran notes that the newly popular names are actually just a fresh iteration of an old trend.
“Gender-neutral names started to become popular in the 1960s with the new rise of feminism and liberal ideals,” explains the baby name guru. “Back then, you saw names like Jamie, Jody, and Terry used for both sexes. And in the 1980s, the first generation of working mothers and parents focused on professional equality picked upwardly mobile, gender-neutral names such as Courtney and Morgan, often for their daughters, while boys’ gender-neutral names went in the new ‘cowboy’ direction with Casey, Corey, and Jesse.” This 2015 version of the unisex name trend, she says, “has to do more with an ideal of transcending gender stereotypes for children of both sexes.”
What makes a moniker feminine or masculine, anyway? “A lot of people say that Madison and Addison, two extremely popular names mostly for girls, are actually boys’ names because they have the ‘son’ ending, which means ‘son of,’” the expert adds. “But are they boys’ names if they’re used over 95 percent of the time for girls?” Fun fact: Leslie, Kelly, and Shannon were once used primarily for boys.
“The older generation may be taken aback by gender-neutral names and think a name should announce the child’s gender,” says Satran. “But individuals college age or younger are more comfortable with the idea that gender is a fluid concept and that a name with an indistinct gender identity is more than fine — it’s preferable.”
So when parents choose a gender-neutral name for their child, they may do so to make a statement in support of such fluidity, much like refusing to dress their kids in pink or blue. But Satran cautions that kids “often strongly identify with hyper feminine or masculine roles and objects no matter what you do.” And she should know. “My daughter’s name is Rory, and I dressed her in denim overalls when she was little,” confesses Satran. “But she insisted on wearing them with red patent leather shoes and a tutu.”