A fifteen-year-old girl is suing the Icelandic government for the right to use her own name. According to the Icelandic government, Blaer Bjarkardottir, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, is now officially known as “Stulka,” which simply means “girl.”
Iceland has stringent name requirements. Parents must choose from an approved list of 1,853 names, or they can pay about 23 dollars to submit a name to a committee for approval. These rules are meant to prevent the kind of humiliation that accompanies a name like “Blanket” or “Moon Unit” for example. I am just spitballing here!
However, naming laws also maintain socially normative conventions about gender, hence Blaer’s current predicament. “Blaer” uses a masculine article, so the committee refused to approve the request and instead labeled her as “girl.”
Iceland is not the only country in the world with these laws. Germany and Denmark have similar requirements as well, and Sweden introduced a naming law in 1982 to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names in the guise of protection. Obviously some of these laws are necessary to protect children from idiotic parents, but when naming laws are used to uphold cultural barriers, the water gets murky.
In light of the committee’s refusal, Blaer’s family is threatening to take the case to the Supreme Court if the ruling is not changed by the 25th of this month.
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