You’re despondent. Broken-hearted. Your hero hath fallen. She fought and she fought and she fought, and now—as you say—IT’S YOUR TURN.
An icon, a legend. A fierce litigator and jurist who championed equal rights and protections under the law. This country is forever in debt to that magnificent woman. There was no one like her before, and we’ll be lucky if there’s ever another who can fill her impossibly tiny shoes. THE NOTORIOUS.
What a blessing. Mazel tov and congratulations. You both wanted this; it was your wish, your dream, and—thanks to RBG’s tireless work defending the right to make decisions affecting your own body—your choice.
You’re going to love your baby no matter what they look like, who they love, or how bad their poop stinks. You are enlightened. You recognize that while we are born with genitalia, GENDER IS A CONSTRUCT. Besides, you’re not a fucking idiot, so you’re not about to start a million acre forest fire to announce to the world whether you’re birthing a penis-haver or vagina-haver. Though this is a momentous occasion for you and your partner, that kind of celebration seems rather excessive.
You like some gender neutral names, like Alex or Taylor or Jordan or Jamie. Those names just… work, right? But you’re not sure. There are just so many options. You still don’t want to commit to anything.
If you have a boy, you’ve been considering maybe Holden or Atticus or Sirius, after your favorite literary characters. Maybe you want something that connects your baby to your ethnic heritage. Or maybe you’ll use a cool maiden surname or family name. You’ve always liked the message it sends when someone says, “Caldwell was my grandmother’s maiden name.”
That’s cute, right? Charming. Irreverent. Playful. You won’t go so far as to say “empowering,” but if someone else said it, well, you wouldn’t object.
I mean, look at Billie Eilish. Or the confident upstart protagonist of Little Women, Jo March. Blake Lively. Drew Barrymore. The names and the people wearing them are beautiful and strong. That’s how you want your little girl to feel: not limited by her gender.
The passing of your feminist hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made you consider a new name, if your baby is a girl. Sure, Ruth is old fashioned, but so is Sophie or Ella or Madeleine. You think about pulling the blankets up at bedtime, reminding her, “You know Ruth, we named you after one of the most exceptional women to ever live in this country.”
Just thinking about it gives me the feels.
Okay okay okay wait. I know it’s your body, your baby, your choice of names. I’m with it. But hear me out.
Yes I am fucking serious. You like those cute gender-bending names for a girl, right? So what’s the deal? Why not saddle your son with a similar swagger? Isn’t he going to be a feminist too?
Imagine his teacher’s surprise when he shows up and she’s doing roll call, and is like “Ruth?” And your son’s little hand goes high in the air, proud as fuck to have been named after the second woman to ever serve on the SCOTUS bench. Present.
Imagine your son realizing that he can look up to women, too. Imagine him growing up with not just male heroes blasted at him through the very limited and limiting American narrative. Imagine him literally doubling the number of available heroes and role models. Imagine him wanting to be like Gloria Steinem or Harriet Tubman or Toni Morrison or Marie Curie or his cool, weird aunts.
But that voice in the back of your head says it’s not a good idea.
And isn’t that really the worst thing that could ever happen to a boy? He might get called names. He might get judged. He might get passed over for promotions. And it would be your fault because you named him Ruth.
(Granted, if you have a daughter, these things will happen to her anyway. And that’s just the way it is, really. I mean, really, what could you do to stop it? There are forces at play that are bigger than just you.)
You swear you’re going to raise him to be a feminist. You’ll teach him to respect and value women. He’ll read essays by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and wear those cute onesies that proclaim “This is what a feminist looks like.” You’ll paint his room yellow!
I mean, we can all agree that his life would be immeasurably harder because you named him Ruth, which is a girl’s name, and that’s just weird for boys. You can’t put your finger on why it’s okay the other way ‘round, but it is what it is. And even though you bought a shirt with a dissent collar on it, you really don’t have the time or energy to fight this fight for the rest of your life.
Because, if you name him Ruth, the kids will be merciless! And then one day when he shoots up a school or plots to kidnap the governor of Michigan, it’ll be your fault because you named him Ruth and boys need trucks and guns and access to pay-per-view UFC fights and high paying jobs and hot wives or they’ll just snap one day.
With girls, it’s different. They’re more empathetic, so they can endure a lifetime of dehumanizing street harassment and discrimination and the pink tax.
You’ll go with like “Neil” or “Brett.” Coward.
I mean, sure, you want gender equality. Obviously. Remember that Saturday in late January, 2017? You marched for it! For women! You and your partner BOTH wore pussy hats!
You recognize that gender normative stereotypes are harmful for boys and girls alike, but, this is your son we’re talking about. This isn’t just some game. This is serious. Women have been fighting the same fight for equity for over 200 years, but don’t put this on your son. It’s not his fault. I mean, what do I expect him to do? Endure awkward first impressions because he’s named after one of the most intelligent, notable justices to ever serve on the highest court in the United States?
And for your son, that means marching through life unimpeded. You wouldn’t want to hold him back from achieving his aspirations. He has his whole life ahead of him! He can dream and do whatever he wants! One day he might be a powerful executive. A scientist. An astronaut. Even an Average Joe presidential candidate who wins the primary against a vastly competent and diverse field, securing a spot at the top of his party’s ticket in the most important election of our lifetime!
I mean, can you imagine how damaging it would be to his already fragile masculinity? How limiting it might be to his career and life aspirations to be named after one of the most widely revered women in American history? Literally soul crushing.
The shame. The embarrassment. A boy called Ruth? I mean, really.
This is a man’s world. And a Rose is a Rose is a Rose, but to call a boy by a girl’s name? Well, that’s just Ruthless.