To Blake and Ryan’s baby: Why being a girl with a boy’s name is awesome
Although Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds welcomed their daughter to the world sometime around Christmas, they have managed to keep their baby’s name under wraps for sometime. After much speculation, Reynolds finally confirmed to the Today Show that his daughter’s name is James.
Weird, right? Not at all. Considering “Blake” has historically been a boys name and “Ryan” is quickly becoming a popular name for girls, it makes sense that the couple has decided on another gender-neutral name that defies the norm. It’s not entirely unheard of in Hollywood, either, as Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz can attest.
Nor is it entirely unheard of among us ordinary citizens. Now, I can’t claim to be an expert on much in this world but I do have some perspective on this particular situation (as I’ve previously discussed). Growing up as a female-Tyler in a male-Tyler world was unique. From an early age, I was forced to confront and question the idea of gender identity thanks to my classmates, who could not contain their curiosity upon hearing my name. (As one 7-year old boy pointed out upon meeting me: “My brother’s name is Tyler. Why are you named Tyler?”) I learned to respond to three names: Taylor, Tayla, and occasionally Tyler, if the teacher realized their attendance sheet actually didn’t have a typo on it after all.
Those early experiences shaped me, even if I didn’t realize it then. My personalized pencils and mugs never came decorated with sparkly, pink flowers or bunnies but rather race cars and flames. I learned, inadvertently, how toys reinforced gender stereotypes, and how often they were based on assumptions rather than individuals.
When I grew up, I really embraced my name. Being the only girl named Tyler makes you pretty hard to forget. What might have made you the target of confusion in elementary school can make you the stand-out candidate in college or the real world.
Speaking of the real world, having a boy’s name can also help expose invisible, discriminatory hiring practices. At least, that’s what my mom claims to have intended by naming me “Tyler” instead of “Britney.” Back in the day, sadly, being a lady may have threatened your chances of getting a job in a particular field. With “Tyler” or “Bobby” or “Ryan” on your resume, you had a better chance of seeing an interview. While this kind of blatant discrimination may not be as common today, it definitely still exists. Hey, maybe with the old bait and switch, I can teach a potential employer with a gender bias a thing or two about equality—and open more doors for women everywhere. Thinking big here.
What I like most about having a boy’s name, though, is that it gives me plenty of stories to tell (and lots of opportunities to remind the world that women are just as capable as men). One time, I was accidentally placed on the boys’ soccer team. Another time, I applied to a scholarship for “distinguished young men” because my school included it in my list of scholarship options.
All of this is to say that Blake and Ryan naming their daughter James isn’t weird. It’s refreshing, barrier-breaking, creative and, in my experience, pretty freaking cool.
Featured image via.