Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck’s choice of the name Seraphina for their second daughter has put the spotlight on ultra-feminine names. Lots of syllables, ending in a vowel: Those are the classic earmarks of the girly baby names.
When I had my first — and as it turned out, my only — daughter, I was afraid of girly-girl names. I wanted my child to be the kind of girl who could compete with boys in the classroom and on the playing field, who was adventurous and spirited, not bound by any outmoded female conventions.
But something surprising happened over the years. I came to not only like the girly names, but to love them. To not merely accept them, but embrace them. Maybe what changed was not entirely within me but in society at large: Why couldn’t a girl combine the frankly feminine with the formerly masculine and end up with an identity and an image that transcended any old gender stereotypes?
In fact, I began to think it was almost revolutionary to choose a girly-girl name but raise your daughter to be whoever she wants: To wear tutus and play lacrosse, to be great in math and grow her hair to her waist. To defy the stereotypes that led to one study showing that girls who’d been given girly baby names did worse at math and science, mainly because teachers expected them to do worse.
I also came to see that the trappings of conventional little girlhood that made me so nervous — the pink and purple ruffle-y dresses, the glittery shoes and the Cinderella DVDs and the passion for Barbie — came and went as quickly as any other stage of early childhood. Whereas a gorgeous feminine name was an attribute that would last forever.
Several girly baby names have been moving up the popularity list, with Olivia, Sophia, and Isabella heading for the top of the charts. Plus, more of my ultra-feminine favorites:
And by the way, a big shout-out to Beth Delany of Inverness, Illinois, the winner of the nameberry Jennifer Garner baby name contest! Though no one guessed Seraphina Rose, 16-year-old Beth, a name lover who already has all her children’s names picked out, guessed Susanna Rose. Although Carlie guessed the middle names Rose and Elizabeth first, our email to her bounced back — so if you’re out there, Carlie, let us know and we’ll send you a book too! Beth‘s prize is an advanced signed copy of our upcoming book, Cool Irish Names for Babies, due out in March.