english names, Estonian names, famous namesakes, fictional namesakes, locational names, mythological names, name history, name meaning, Nigerian names, surname names, unisex names
There has been an international brouhaha over the decision by Canadian couple Kathy Witterick and David Stocker not to reveal the sex of their baby, Storm. As brother Jazz enjoys wearing pink dresses and pigtails, Kathy and David decided it would be better if their child’s sex remained private to their family to avoid any more societal gender issues.
This story got plenty of media time in Australia, as in other countries, and mostly people were very much against the idea of raising a “genderless baby”. This opinion piece in the The Age says that the parents are selfishly putting their own ideological agenda before their child’s welfare, while more forthright articles suggested the parents’ idea was just absurd.
However, Emma Jane in The Australian was one of those who took a more sympathetic view. She believes that gender stereotyping of babies and toddlers has reached a ridiculous level, where even new-born infants are dressed in either pink frills or solid workmanlike blue.
She dressed her daughter Alice in boy’s clothes and gender-neutral primary colours as a baby, which was declared to be “child abuse” by a concerned onlooker. Now 4 years old, Alice can make her own choices, which, it turns out, means a wardrobe full of pink and girly outfits.
Sydney couple Jay Black and Scott Collins are supporters of Witterick and Stocker’s choice to raise a “genderless child”. (I think Jay and Scott are a female-male couple). Jay and Scott are trying to raise their sons, Poe, 4, and Ilo, 22 months, without gender stereotypes. Their boys have ambiguous haircuts, play with dolls, and are supported if they choose to wear skirts and dresses.
In line with this lack of gender demarcation, Poe and Ilo have been given unusual unisex names.
Poe is a surname, most famous as that of the American Gothic writer, Edgar Allen Poe. His surname is a variant of the early English name Peacock, which began as a nickname for someone who was vain or dandified, or from someone who bred peacocks. In a few cases, it may have come from a house distinguished by the sign of a peacock. Poe Ballantine is an American novelist, while Poe is the stage name of American rock singer Anne Danielewski. Poe is also a raven character in the TV series Ruby Gloom.
Ilo is such a rare name that information on it is scarce, and I have turned to Appellation Mountain to discover that it’s the name of an Estonian goddess dedicated to feasting whose name may mean “pleasure”, and possibly a Nigerian boy’s name meaning “joy”. Sylvia Plath’s teenage diaries rather fervently describe a blonde Estonian refugee called Ilo Pill; he was male, so even in Estonia the name of the goddess seems to have been used for both boys and girls. In addition, Ilo is a lake in North Dakota, USA, and a port town in Peru, so you may take it as a geographic name as well. It’s so neutral that you can’t even tell which country the name is from, or what it means! It can either be pronounced EYE-low, or EE-loh (I believe).
Funnily enough I didn’t even realise our children had gender-neutral names, but they definitely do, I guess our gender-neutral stance was always there in the back of our minds! Ilo is pronounced Eye-low. And we found the meaning of his name here: http://www.babynames.com/name/ILO.
(yeah they are gorgeous and awesome)
This is Jay as in Jay, Scott, Poe and Ilo. A friend happened across your post about us and let us know about it. Interestingly we didn’t consciously choose gender neutral names, they appealed to us in a very simple way; Poe, we had a friend of a friend named Poetry (!), Poe for short and we thought it was sweet and different. And Ilo came about when we were lying in bed before he was born, we liked the sound of it and googled it the next day to make sure it didn’t mean anything awful and we found it meant “sunshine” in african, and that sold it for us.
Check out our family blog at http://andthetrees.blogspot.com/. Best wishes, Jay.
Hello Jay, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your name story. When I read over what I’d written, I realise I did rather make it sound as if you consciously chose gender-neutral names as some sort of statement, which wasn’t quite my intention.
Can I ask if you pronounce Ilo EE-low or EYE-low? And where you learned it meant “sunshine” in an African language?
Your kids are gorgeous, btw!!! You look like such a happy family.
If you would ever like to write a guest blog on how you chose your kids’ names, just let me know. 🙂
It did strike me as ironic that toddler boys playing with dolls, wearing dresses and having long hair would have been completely normal in Edwardian times!
Of course it was only fairly recently that the idea that “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” came in; before that it was the other way around. So our ancestors would have found it rugged and manly to see their son wearing pink.
K. M. Sheard said:
I really applaud all these parents; this issue of babies and gender stereotyping is a pet bug-bear of mine. I find it madness that baby boys and baby girls are differentiated between more now – in our supposed age of equality – than 100 years ago, when they all wore pretty much the same clothes and played with similar toys until the age or 2 or 3 or more. It’s a brave person who flies so far in the face of convention to do what these families have done, but I for one am doing my best to raise my daughter to see beyond gender stereotypes! Oh, and I love the name Storm. Poe, I like too, but it makes me think immediately of both Tellytubbies and Edgar Allen – which is likely to give me some interesting dreams tonight!