It’s relatively easy to come up with feminist girl names inspired by strong females like women’s rights activists, scientists or writers, to name a few. It can be a bit harder to find a fabulous feminist name for a boy.
No matter, we’ve given it a shot below.
1. Use A Male Feminist Icon Name
One obvious place to look is the names of feminist men. Some early advocates of women’s rights with highly usable first names include:
Alphonse Rebière ― French writer who advocated for women in science
Amos Bronson Alcott ― educational reformer and father of author Louisa May
Frederick Douglass ― abolitionist who attended the first women’s rights convention in America
Parker Pillsbury ― minister who helped to form the American Equal Rights Association
Thaddeus Stevens ― radical politician who put forward a bill of women’s rights (at least one berrybaby has this namesake)
2. Say It With A Surname
If you want to name a boy after a strong woman ― whether from your family tree or a high-profile woman you admire ― one option is to use her surname.
Most of us can think of families who have done this. A recent celebrity example is TV host Seth Meyers. His older son, Ashe Olsen, has his mother’s and grandmother’s maiden names. Younger brother Axel Strahl has an almost-anagram of his mother’s name, Alexi, plus a significant surname from her family.
It can be a balancing act between personal meaning and aesthetic appeal, but here’s a small sample of strong women’s surnames that are also stylish for a boy.
Political activists: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rosa Parks, Madam C.J. Walker
Writers: Jane Austen, George Eliot, Helen Keller, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Virginia Woolf
Artists and performers: Alicia Alonso, Joan Jett, Frida Kahlo
Scientists: Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Rosalind Franklin
In fiction: the Bennet sisters, Nancy Drew, Hermione Granger
3. Make It Masculine
Another way to adapt a heroine’s name: Use a masculine form of it. This could either be the strictly speaking version you’ll find in name dictionaries, or an adaptation of the sound.
A few examples from assorted admirable women:
Billy for Billie Jean King
Elio for Eleanor Roosevelt
Emile for Emily Dickinson
Simon for Simone de Beauvoir
If you use this technique, you’re in star-studded company: Richard Gere and Alejandra Silva just named their son Alexander, apparently after his mom.
4. Claim It For The Boys
Want to challenge gender norms? You could use a unisex name. For true gender equality, the names with the most even boy/girl split at the moment include Charlie, Finley and Skyler. If statistics are important to you, bear in mind that the balance could tip either way in future years/decades.
Or how about using a name that’s more familiar on girls?
Realistically, not many parents are going to call their sons Isabella or Abigail (though if you do, more power to you). But some traditionally female names lend themselves more to boys. Hero is as much a word name as an ancient Greek female name. Jayne leans male for “Firefly” fans.
Some surname-derived names that were popular for girls in a few decades ago now feel like they could be fresh on a boy, such as Ashley, Kelly, and maybe even Tracey. Going back further…could you be the one to bring Esme, Florence and Hilary back to the boys?
There’s also a bracket of medieval female names that have fallen out of use – though some survive in surnames – and now feel unisex if not masculine. Emmett is firmly a boy name today; others include Ames, Marriott, Sealey and Wilmot.
5. Go Symbolic
What about a name that reflects values, rather than a specific person? Let’s finish by looking at some more symbolic feminist names.
Purple was one of the suffragettes’ colors, and is now the color of International Women’s Day. There aren’t many purple names that feel quite comfortable on boys ― though by all means reclaim them ― but Indigo, Mulberry and Porfirio are some.
Speaking of mythology, male names derived from goddesses, like Artem, Dimitri and Isidore, are a way to refer to feminine power.
More broadly, you could use a symbol of rising or springing back, like Phoenix, Lark or Arrow.
Modern virtue names are hot for boys, and many have meanings relevant to feminism, like Justice, Brave and Truth (which could also be a nod to women’s rights hero Sojourner Truth). There are also names with more subtle meanings – like Simeon or Samuel, which are associated with words meaning “listen”… Which is the first step towards smashing the patriarchy.