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It’s Time to Stop the Baby-Name Shaming

Earlier this summer, Beyoncé posted a very important Instagram. Botticelli’s Venus couldn’t have asked for a better birth announcement: the floaty floral robe, the seaside background, the tiny newborn nestled in the crook of each arm. The caption formally identified the babies as her month-old twins with Jay-Z: a boy dubbed Sir and a girl named Rumi. Fans collectively freaked out over Blue Ivy’s younger siblings (because there’s no headier combination than Queen Bey plus babes), leaving just a small, sad corner of the internet to grumble about one matter: those names. Amid the heart-eye emojis and gushing accolades came comments like:

  • “I think Beyoncé could have done better.” 
  • “Stupid names but cute babies.” 
  • “These names are ridiculous.”

Though opting for an unconventional name is nothing new (consider 19th-century Texas governor Jim Hogg and his daughter Ima or the fact that neither “Prince” nor “Madonna” were stage names), the recent proliferation of Sirs and Saints and Apollos and Apples has triggered eye-rolling and name-shaming among folks who presumably think the world could use a few more Johns and Jennifers.

It’s not just celebrities who are getting grief for going against the grain; businesswoman Ashley McNamara agreed to her sci-fi enthusiast husband’s suggestion that they name their daughter Ripley in a nod to Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien film franchise. And it’s been a headache from the start, McNamara says.

“The Social Security office misspelled her name on her official documents,” McNamara tells SheKnows. “And most older people I know connect the name with Ripley’s Believe it or Not, so my husband is constantly correcting them and having to explain the Alien movie. She’s only 2, but it’s starting to get old already.”

More: Baby Girl Names With Great Meanings She Can Be Proud Of

Author Alina Adams has experienced similar confusion with the spelling and pronunciation of her 10-year-old daughter’s name, Aries. The girl’s parents wanted a name that wasn’t “overused,” but she’s often mistaken for Iris, Mary or even Heiress.

“She was born during Martin Luther King weekend,” Adams explains of the name choice. “Martin comes from Mars, and Mars is the Roman name of the Greek god Ares. I added the ‘i’ to make it more feminine.”

At least the negative feedback doesn’t faze the family. “We’re an interfaith, interracial, intercultural family,” Adams says. “We’ve long ago learned to ignore other people’s reactions to pretty much everything. No regrets.” Besides, Adams adds that the name “really fits” her daughter. “She’s a tough little girl who loves her unique name, and I would do it again.”

More: Beyoncé Shares First Pic of Newborn Twins Sir & Rumi

Blogger Larisha Campbell also stands by her decision to give her young daughters names inspired by X-Men: Serenity and Storm.

“Serenity’s name came from months of searching for something unique,” she shares. “Her dad was watching X-Men and one of the lines had the word ‘serenity’ in it. He fell in love and sold me on the name. Storm’s name was debated for much longer, as he wanted to keep the S name and X-Men theme, and what better way than to go with Storm? I wasn’t convinced until we actually had her. She came really fast; I barely made it to the hospital and had her in triage. We agreed that with the way she ‘stormed’ into life, the name suited her perfectly.”

But not everyone gets it — including Campbell’s own family. “Relatives didn’t believe us at first,” she says. “When they found out we were serious, they asked us why. Everyone who is close to us has embraced her name at this point… or at least they don’t openly tell us they hate it.”

Campbell says strangers often pull a face and remark, “Oh… that’s different” when introduced to the creatively named toddlers. But as someone with an uncommon first name of her own, Larisha is quick to dismiss any criticism.

“No one is guaranteed to like any name that you pick” she notes. “People will tell you Charlotte is too old or Ashley is too common. You literally can’t make everyone happy with the names you choose. Therefore, you should just find something that you and your partner love. Most kids go through a phase of not liking their name. You will never win 100 percent of the time, so just make the best decision you can.” 

More: Madonna’s Twins Perform the Best Dance of All Time for Their 5th Birthday

Whether that “best decision” is Billy or Bronx Mowgli, it’s nobody’s business but your own. And you never know; despite making a conscious decision to go with a seemingly unique name that would seriously stand out, Campbell’s 4-year-old ended up with a name that’s not actually all that rare. Serenity, it turns out, has been in the top 100 most popular baby names in the U.S. since 2009.

There’s still plenty of time for Sir and Rumi to catch up, but it’s also OK if those names stay singular. After all, Grandma Tina Knowles probably got some strange looks when she busted out the name Beyoncé — and look how well that turned out.

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