Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why are boats (or cars, or nations) referred to as 'she'?

Alright, so I rarely post here anymore, as I'm certain you've noticed. I've been focusing on school and getting my health in order. I'm about to move into an apartment with my friend as we prepare to transfer schools for the fall, so my mind has obviously not been in the right mindset to be making epic posts of any sort. I hope to change that, but we'll see. I haven't been thinking too much about fat acceptance stuff sadly, but I have been putting a lot of thought into feminism. This post is about boats, nations, and other things that are referred to as 'she'.

You've probably noticed that most things are assumed to be male. "Look at the cute doggy! Well hi there mister doggy!" might be something you hear coming out of you or your friends' mouths. You may even hear a bee referred to as mister bee (if you're as into personification as I am, of course) despite the fact that the chances are far greater that any bee you see is a female, as bee colonies are highly matriarchal and the men are used only to impregnate the queen. So why is all of this relevant? Because there are a few realms where this gender assumption is not made, and these include boats, cars, nations, etc. Upon googling "Why are boats female?" and other such keywords, the answers received range from logical to just plain wrong, but unsurprisingly, very few had the hint of feminist thought. My explanation differs from the logic of such answers as "other languages have gendered articles, and this is just some leftovers from years past" in that I believe that it is due to the passiveness of the 'shes' in question.

A ship was historically sailed by men, and is still today simply a mode of transportation which must be sailed by someone. A car is similar, in that it is driven, and serves only as a passive means of getting from point A to point B. A nation is somewhat different, in that it physically isn't used to go anywhere, but one is historically led by men, and, while important, is still passive in that it must be run, and cannot exist without a leader or a group of leaders allowing it to exist. For these reasons, I feel that the calling of ships, cars, and nations 'she' is actually a custom rooted in sexism. Historically women have been viewed as passive beings who are to follow her husband or father's directions. It would make sense, then, that such passively controlled things as modes of transportation or countries would be referred to as she. After all, it has been the perception of our society that women are to be controlled and looked after, so that they may live out their lives serving the important men in their lives.

Who knows, perhaps there is a better explanation than I happened to stumble upon, but from what I can tell, considering how passive these things are, and how most things are assumed to be male otherwise, I feel that there seems to be a definite correlation between the two.

(For more feminist-related stuff, please see my other, easier-to-keep-up-because-it-requires-less-time-and-thought blog at The Female Gaze)

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