Behaviour of gender-neutral names (Feminization of Unisex Names from 1960…
Behaviour of gender-neutral names
Feminization of Unisex Names from 1960 to 1990 (Barry and Harper, 1993)
Discussion of results
Girls are given recently popular names more often than boys, who are more often given traditional family names - this results in stereotyping and the trajectory of evolution of unisex names from masculine to unisex to feminine
The theory that masculine names for girls are more acceptable than feminine names for boys continues to be given weight by this study, as gender stereotyping (hegemonic masculinity) is more rigidly applied to boys than girls due to our male-dominant, androcentric society
The brief period of time in which names are unisex probably accounts for the limited overlap between names identified as unisex in this study, and lists of unisex names not based on frequency
The different popularities of the names in Tables 1 and 2 are likely due to different stages in the popularity of the names, rather than different types of names
The maximum popularity of unisex names is limited and brief
As the names becomes sufficiently popular, it loses its unusual nature but retains the "disadvantage" of failing to refer to the referent's gender
A probable reason for unisex names becoming popular is that they are unusual
Different pronunciations for the same spelling and the same pronunciation for different spellings are treated as the same name
The majority of names are given almost exclusively to either boys or girls
Unisex names are, in this study, those which have been given to at least 20 boys and at least 20 girls in the years 1960 and 1990
The frequencies of names given to boys and girls in 1960 and 1990 in Pennsylvania were obtained
240,000 births in 1960 and 180,000 in 1990, approximately
This paper follows on from the 1982 study, and tests the evolution of unisex names
Ashley advises against "sexually ambiguous" names
Slovenko emphasises the social and psychological confusion experienced by the referents of unisex names
Unisex names are deviations from the norm, but people with unisex names do not tend to deviate from the norm - no significant differences in measures of androgyny, personality or social background
Gender Neutral Names: Don't Be So Sure! (Van Fleet and Atwater, 1997)
Results and conclusions
Culture and age may impact perceptions but for the most part made little difference
Possible gender neutral names may not be perceived as gender neutral
Even fictional names intended to be gender neutral may not be perceived as such
Most perceptions are based on familiarity with people possessing the names
Experience rather than age may be a better variable to study
The full range of responses was used for all but one of the scifi names and 24/34 of the familiar names
Two other studies were conducted but not much can be said about them here
Students were asked to do what they did in Study 1 but with SciFi names instead - intended to show the impact of familiarity on the ability to gender names
Students were asked to rate how male or female they felt names were on a scale of +3 to -3, with +3 being the extreme female end
Women tend to perceive unique names more positively than men do
The Instability of Androgynous Names: The Symbolic Maintenance of Gender Boundaries (Lieberson, Dumais, and Baumann, 2000)
Collective behavior, residential segregation, and the work world
The Schelling model of racial residential segregation
In the context of this study, the model will be used in an analogous analysis about the numbers of boys and girls occupying a given name
It can be hypothesised that parents' disposition to giving a particular name to their son/daughter will decline as other parents give it to their daughters/sons
In the case of naming sons, there is a continuum of parents ranging from those who will not give their sons a name they know of even just a single female referent of, to those who will give a name to their son even if almost all others with the name are female
The point at which there is antipathy toward a name is presumably not identical for every parents
Some areas are racially mixed to different extents, and some names are androgynous to different extents
In some areas virtually all of the residents are either white or black, and some names are almost always given to men or to women
The Schelling model's primary development over the 1978 model is that a racially mixed area can quickly lose its equilibrium and become a highly segregated black area
There is less tolerant among white people for racially mixed areas than there is among black people, leading to racially mixed areas being very easily disrupted in this way
Due to intolerant white residents leaving, and less intolerant white people following them as more black people move in
There is a straightforward model underlying the Schelling model, which shows how the ethnic makeup of a residential area can radically change after a small number of a new group locates in a neighbourhood
The propensity of earlier residents to move away either increases or remains the same
There is a decline or lack of increase in the propensity of other ethnic populations to locate there
Their presence increases the propensity of other members to locate in the area
Provides a fruitful way to consider collective processes and can therefore be applied to androgynous names
If parents had an equal disposition to use androgynous names for their sons and daughters, this would lead to a relatively stable level of androgyny
Instability can develop and lead to a disposition to use a name for one gender to decline
Chance factors affect the gender makeup of names
An androgynous name used for daughters but no longer for sons is an oxymoron
The problem for "the boy named Sue" is that not enough boys have the name, rather than anything inherent about the name
Regardless of androgyny and questions around it, the popularity of names being ever-changing is in large part due to fashion and taste
Fashion choices are affected by the choices of others
As a result, there is dependency involved in actions concerning fashion and taste, and individuals are not acting independently
This must be the case for everyone as it is in the nature of fashion and taste as collective processes
Fashion and taste are collective processes
The maintenance of androgyny is dependent on mechanisms and collective responses similar to those affecting racial residential segregation
The analysis in this study is guided by these three considerations which share common elements which help to understand gender issues such as androgynous names
A decline in gendered names might be expected
However, a cross-national comparison of 60 societies indicates that gender is a more commonly conveyed characteristic than any other, even other features of the child or their family
Due to this, androgynous names can be expected to be relatively uncommon or only slightly on an upwards shift
The overlap is greater than the overlap between prominent names given to girls and boys
The overlap between prominent names given to different classes or races is large despite the large divisions between social classes and races in society
Thrust towards androgyny in areas of taste and fashion
Due to not being recent, it would not be surprising if androgynous names were currently undergoing an upwards shift
Disappointed parents also gave their daughters male names
Shirley became a female name this way
Not a recent development, names of male saints often given to daughters between the 1200s and 1400s
Strength of the feminist movement
Effort to drop inappropriate gendered terms
Replacement of gendered terms such as fireman with less needlessly gendered lexis such as firefighter
Decreased use of "girl" to refer to adult women
Decreasing use of Mrs/Miss
Evolution of Unisex Names (Barry and Harper, 1982)
The results support the prediction that names tend to follow the evolutionary pattern of male -> unisex -> female
Some Puritan "virtue" names such as Hope, Faith and Joy have evolved from unisex to female, although an exception to this is the now-male Constant
The male -> unisex stage is more consistent than the unisex -> female stage - celebrity influence may be a key factor in names losing their unisex designation
This may be due to a "prevalent preference" for masculine naming of girls rather than feminine naming of boys
This table shows that most formerly designated unisex names are designated female in recent sources (27/47), with 11 designated male and 9 remaining unisex.
24 additional names are unisex in one early source and two recent sources, with 14 otherwise mostly being designated male, 8 female and 2 neither.
6 of the 42 names classified as unisex in the majority of recent sources were classified as unisex in the majority of the early sources, if classified at all.
Two of these (Christy, Lou) are designated as female in one early source, male in another, and not at all in the third.
4 of the 42 names classified as unisex in the majority of recent sources were classified as female in the majority of the early sources.
32 of the 42 names classified as unisex in the majority of recent sources were classified as male in the majority of the early sources.
The paper is testing a hypothesis that masculine names become unisex, and the unisex names then become feminine.
In order to test this, three pre-1950s books of baby names were compared to 3 post-1965 books of baby names.
One book had a single alphabetical list noting whether a name was male, female, or both, while the others had two lists of male and female names
American books and an English book which notes inclusion of "American names"
Parents are more likely to give their daughters traditionally masculine names, than parents are likely to give their sons traditionally feminine names as a consequence of this hypothesis.
Most personal names "identify the sexes" of their owners, due to being chosen from lists for boys and girls
The English language includes names given to "both sexes, which have been "studied very little"
The low frequency of unisex names being used "prevents" unisex names from becoming established as commonly used for "both sexes."
Many formerly unisex names are now used exclusively "for one sex."
Many unisex names have evolved from exclusive use "for one sex"
Use of unisex names tends to be unstable and brief
Some countries names are exclusively male or female (eg. when names are limited to a list of names of Saints of the Catholic Church)