I was born in the wrong century. My name is Madison and I am a guy. In the late 1800s throughout most of the 1900s, Madison was actually a common male name, but according to an article by Yahoo writer Kevin Polowy, the movie “Splash”, which debuted in 1986, caused a surge in Madison’s popularity as a female name. Ashley, Lauren, Lesley, Lindsay, and Sydney were all previously male names as well, but come the late 1900s, these names were bequeathed to exclusively female based on a nameberry.com article by Pamela Redmond Satran. So why did my parents, like so many others, decide to name their kid something that’s so… let’s say…strange?
The answer is simple: millennials. In the twenty-first century, new parents are less apt to choose gender-specific names as they once were one hundred or even ten years ago. In today’s society, more and more parents do not want their children to feel pressured to conform to stereotypes that may restrict them in some way, leading many to choose names such as Phoenix, Quinn, or Reese for their children, which have all been deemed gender neutral based on data published on babynames1000.com.
The push for gender neutrality has exceeded past simply just names. Recently, companies such as Target and Toys R Us have been ditching their gender-based aisles of pinks and blues, feeling it is detrimental to kids as they grow and develop.
Target’s August 7th press release regarding the decision said, “… we never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented.”
It was decided that practical uses of gender separation would remain, such as in the clothing section, while areas such as toys and bedding would become gender neutral. A majority of kids identify easily with one gender from a young age, so these neutral-gendered toys will likely not affect or confuse them. However, for children that may struggle with gender identity early-on, this change could promote inclusiveness and comfort, although long-term research on the effects of gender neutrality is sparse considering its recent emergence.
HHS, too, can relate to gender neutrality. The Class of 2016 will be the first class of Holliston to wear gender neutral robes at graduation, replacing the previous system of boys wearing red and girls wearing white.
The administration, Senior class officers, and a representative from the Gay-Straight Alliance decided it was time to follow the lead set by surrounding towns such as Hopkinton, and choose one color for both genders.
Out of the 211 seniors, about 100 voted to wear red while only about 40 voted to wear white; the rest did not participate in the vote.
However, not everyone agrees with gender neutralization; the trend has sparked outrage with many conservatives.
In August, Billy Graham on Facebook, in response to Target revealing that they will be going gender neutral, declared, “I have news for them and for everyone else—God created two different genders. If you agree, share in the comments below—and let Target know … that you are perfectly willing to shop where the genders God created are appreciated.”
This quote created an uproar on social media, receiving over 109,000 likes and 50,000 shares.
The gender neutrality debate will undoubtedly continue as parents coming from increasingly liberal generations allow their childrens to explore their gender without any preconditioned ideas of male or female.
From the identity associated with a name to the simplicity of colors in a toy aisle, the debate has already seen its effects in the United States to the joy of some and dismay of others.
Regardless of stance, the issue is one to watch for. To what extent the progressive world embraces gender neutrality remains to be seen, but the concept of gender neutrality poses countless possibilities for gender-based change.
Perhaps, given the current state of the United States and many other countries today, Madison and other gender-neutral names will further a more progressive, “genderless” society.