Machines, cars etc. being referred to as if it's female.

(13 Posts)
SomewhereSoon Thu 20-Jun-13 16:10:01

Is it sexist? To say for example, "she's a fantastic ride" and all the other ways that people tend to refer to vehicles and machines as her or she.

The way I see it is that yes it is sexist and or degrading to women, because vehicles and machines are man made and are there to serve humans and do what humans have created them to do, so servants really.

But what is the feminist thinking on this particular subject. It makes me uncomfortable when I hear people speak in this way.

What has brought this on is from watching tipping point on itv, in which the presenter and contestants constantly refer to the machine on there as she, and it makes me shudder.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Thu 20-Jun-13 16:12:41

I suppose if I were being rigorous, I'd say we ought to reserve he and she for things with an actual sex and not attribute masculine/feminine qualities to things (because it reinforces the idea that there are distinct masc/fem attributes).

But I have to say I've never especially noticed it the way you say it, and I rather like that (apparently) church bells are 'she' even when they have male names, as are ships.

burberryqueen Thu 20-Jun-13 16:12:47

worse things to worry about IME

StickEmUpPunk Thu 20-Jun-13 16:17:53

There is a really good song, sorry I like the tune, called Black Velveteen by Lenny Kravitz.

It's about a car but with very sexual references. It's almost confusing!

The point you made is totally right though. I did think ride refered to the motion of being on top, like on a motorbike or something

StickEmUpPunk Thu 20-Jun-13 16:20:39

I looked and WIKI says something different to my description.

Listen to it lol see if I'm going mad.

SomewhereSoon Thu 20-Jun-13 16:50:17

Thanks for the replies, it's not necessarily something I'm worried about, I just wondered if it was a feminist issue or something anyone else had noticed. I agree that he/she is better used for things that can actually be male or female, and for the exact reason mentioned upthread.

I'll give the song a listen, it sounds strange. Thanks again for everyone's thoughts.

TeiTetua Thu 20-Jun-13 17:08:30

Being a bit fanciful, but I would say that "she" for inanimate objects tends to be used when the speaker believes that the object has powers beyond his total control. It wouldn't be a thing you could just rule over, but with skill and restraint, it's possible to achieve not just success, but a kind of union with the object. As in handling a boat or a car, you don't do it with brute strength.

But before running off to find a tall ship and a star to steer her by, let's be clear that the man imagines himself on top and in charge!

GrimmaTheNome Thu 20-Jun-13 17:22:33

This is from a naval history site:

Why is a ship referred to as "she?"
It has always been customary to personify certain inanimate objects and attribute to them characteristics peculiar to living creatures. Thus, things without life are often spoken of as having a sex. Some objects are regarded as masculine. The sun, winter, and death are often personified in this way. Others are regarded as feminine, especially those things that are dear to us. The earth as mother Earth is regarded as the common maternal parent of all life. In languages that use gender for common nouns, boats, ships, and other vehicles almost invariably use a feminine form. Likewise, early seafarers spoke of their ships in the feminine gender for the close dependence they had on their ships for life and sustenance.

I've heard it's because in the romance languages, where all objects have gender, modes of transport are usually feminine (I know that's true of French at least) so foreign sailors with imperfect English would call ships 'she' instead of 'it', and it caught on with British sailors.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 21-Jun-13 23:31:52

Ship is grammatically neuter in Old English, but then so is wife.

I have a nagging feeling that ships in Norse are thought of as male and in early Middle English they're feminine, and at that point, sailors speaking French and saying 'she' wouldn't likely be the issue. But I'm not sure if I'm right about that, I'm checking.

ecclesvet Fri 21-Jun-13 23:39:33

Russian ships are "he".

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sat 22-Jun-13 00:00:53

But a little boat, like a dinghy, is feminine in Russian, I think? Lodka?

(DH is not in so not sure)

YoniBottsBumgina Sat 22-Jun-13 00:12:30

I remember my dad telling me that all cars had to have women's names because all cars were female and me asking him why and he came up with some reason but I can't remember what it was. I will have to ask him if he remembers. It seemed logical at the time but I was about four grin

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