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Feminism: chat

The default male

139 replies

Insertfunnyname · 24/07/2021 19:39

I’m getting fed up with “he” being the default pronoun for every animal/bird/bug/Teddy/toy

My friend was showing his young child our hens (who all lay eggs and are obviously female) and was pointing each one to his child as “look at him!” “Oh he is pecking the grass” etc.

It’s not just men who do it unfortunately it’s every woman I know too. “I love your Teddy what’s he called” or “look at the slug he is leaving a trail” or “wow that bird in the book is collecting sticks for his nest”

I just had an argument with my husband as he is also programmed to do this. We have 3 sons and he defaults everything to male when talking to them. He says “what’s the harm. I’m male so that’s my default” he even argued that our friend ‘misgendering’ the hens didn’t matter as the hens don’t speak English.

I can’t articulate how horrible it is to have my sex constantly “othered” and I don’t want my children to grow up with male as the default. I try and use she/her as the default about toys/cuddly animals/t-Rex figurines etc and usually people overhearing are surprised. If I say “look at the snail don’t stand on her” then friends will say “oh that’s interesting how do you know it’s female?” Whereas nobody EVER says that when people use “he”

My husband says women are welcome to default to she and men can default to he but frustratingly ALL the women I hear talking to their children use he(!!) even women talking to daughters.

I can’t seem to make my husband understand the problem with this. He truly sees it as a non issue and says I’m sending the feminist cause backwards by caring about such a ridiculous thing that makes no difference. Ie save my breath for the big problems.

Does anyone else relate? Any words of wisdom to make my husband understand why I’d rather not bring my sons up as the next generation of “he/him-ers” I think he’d get it more if we had daughters which we don’t.

As an aside please join me in using she/her for everything to try and combat it!

OP posts:
DuesToTheDirt · 24/07/2021 19:49

You're quite right. When my kids were little I noticed this trait in myself, e.g. when reading pictures books (no words) I'd say, "Here comes the donkey with his friend," etc. I don't think there's much you can do about other people though, you can only work on your own habits.

DillonPanthersTexas · 24/07/2021 19:50

Snails are hermaphrodites, fitted with both male and female reproductive plumbing, and can mate with any member of their species they want so you are technically misgendering as well.

Weirdly most people ask "what is her name" when enquiring about my male dog. I tell them Elvis, it's not really a hill I feel is worth dying on.

Insertfunnyname · 24/07/2021 20:11

@DillonPanthersTexas I think you may have missed the point of the thread.

OP posts:
GrrrlPwr · 24/07/2021 20:21

I realized this when my DD was little. So we just changed EVERYTHING to female. That is the default in our house!
When other people are puzzled or question it we just say- half the planet is female. Can't really argue with that

BlueRaincoat1 · 24/07/2021 20:30

I definitely agree with you. I have 2 sons and have tried pretty hard to say 'he or she' about lots of things - my son who is 5 corrected someone recently who was talking about a postman and he went "or woman". I felt quite proud! I also try not to call women 'girls' but I called a young woman in McDonald's a girl (about her, not to her) and my DS said "mammy she's a woman not a girl!" . I think its worth doing, if you don't do it early, then 'the default male' thing 2ill be totally ingrained. I'm happy that they will grow up without a subconscious idea that men are more important than women. They still call the drivers seat 'daddy's seat' though, even though I drive them loads. That's quite annoying!

TooWicked · 24/07/2021 20:37

I noticed I do this after reading a thread about it on here maybe a year ago. It’s taken a real effort to stop myself.

We have a squirrel in our garden a lot who I referred to as ‘she’, and my dad was like “oh, how can you tell it’s female?” to which I replied “oh, do you know how to tell if it’s male?” which of course, he didn’t.

It’s so ingrained it’s a hard habit to break.

SourAppleChew · 24/07/2021 20:44

Misgendering of chickens. 🤣 Sorry, I think you need to get a grip. Others may disagree.

BunnyBerries · 24/07/2021 20:58

Absolutely, earlier Julia Donaldson books (like the Gruffalo) irrationally annoy me for this reason, (she later made the Gruffalo's Child book female) as well as other books like "Dear Zoo" which are all male animals "He was too... He was too... He was too... so I sent him back". Even books written by women seem to do this, and the side characters in books - cats are always female and the dogs always male - especially if not a main character). Why not use some imagination and depict a female dog? Or a male cat?

I found myself changing the books to say "she" and then questioning myself as my husband would read the book another night as written "he" and it might confuse my children how they were imagining the character. But I keep doing it anyway, it has started to pervade other things I see out and about!

Wearywithteens · 24/07/2021 21:01

This reply has been withdrawn

This has been withdrawn at the poster's request.

GrrrlPwr · 24/07/2021 21:02

Oh yes we change books too. Dear zoo is irritating for sure.
Remember half the planet is female, why ignore them?

BunnyBerries · 24/07/2021 21:03

I'd like to mention I first noticed this through my young preschooler child; who by default called every bug or animal in sight "she". I genuinely was taken aback. I thought from that moment on, of COURSE! Why shouldn't they be?

567fedup · 24/07/2021 21:06

I had to explain that Teddy's anatomy was obviously female.

GrrrlPwr · 24/07/2021 21:08

The schleich toys are correct! Only ones that are I think. Lion king new movie was very odd lol

topcat2014 · 24/07/2021 21:09

Getting the chicken thing wrong is just plain thick.

Snails, teddies etc, can see what you are getting at.

Karwomannghia · 24/07/2021 21:10

I’m one of those irritating parents who loudly sings “the doctor came with HER bag and HER hat and knocked on the door with a rat a tat tat” in miss Polly. I did notice that in most nursery rhymes and early songs the default is male.
I once had a discussion with a child I teach and he firmly said the picture I was holding of a woman in a white coat was a nurse. Because men are doctors and women are nurses. I asked if he’d ever seen a female doctor. Yes he had. It’s ingrained very early. Don’t get me started on the under representation and stereotyping of females in preschool TV!

ErrolTheDragon · 24/07/2021 21:16

He truly sees it as a non issue and says I’m sending the feminist cause backwards by caring about such a ridiculous thing that makes no difference. Ie save my breath for the big problems.

Whataboutery is such a cheap put-down. I mean, I don't suppose he's engaged with the 'big problems' of feminism so maybe he should start small himself rather than criticising?

Yes, of course it matters. Obviously it matters most with people - change from the default male where you can (eg the doctor in miss polly had a Dolly can easily be 'she')

Calling hens 'he' (or fields of sheep, or dairy cows) is sheer bloody ignorance too. Knowing the difference between cows, bullocks and bulls is actually rather important for safety in the countryside.

ErrolTheDragon · 24/07/2021 21:16


YoungWerther · 24/07/2021 21:21

Your husband sounds like a bit of a twat tbh.

Lessthanaballpark · 24/07/2021 21:21

Of course you’re reasonable to be annoyed by it but as it’s a harmless small thing you’re not allowed to complain about it.

Lest you look like a feminazi!

SwanShaped · 24/07/2021 21:26

I totally agree. Nearly all books with animals as characters are he. Lion inside, elephant on a bus, dear zoo. All of them. Same with teddies, bugs etc. And you’re right that people comment if you call something a she. ‘Ooh, how do you know it’s a she?’ So now I just change everything to she to counteract it. I find it so fucking annoying that half the world’s population are just like the don’t exist. Unless it’s about something girly, in which case it’ll be pink and rainbow and unicorns. Or, it’ll be a mix of boys and girls but mainly boys. Does my head in so much

SwanShaped · 24/07/2021 21:27

Also, if it’s such a ridiculous thing, why does he mind if you change it all to she. Seeing as it doesn’t matter....

Lessthanaballpark · 24/07/2021 21:34

Exactly Swanshaped If it doesn’t matter then what is the problem with changing all the defaults to female.

Womankind has achieved so much. Oh I do wonder which woman first discovered fire. Woman has sent woman to the moon.

I think it would matter then.

KimikosNightmare · 24/07/2021 21:39


Misgendering of chickens. 🤣 Sorry, I think you need to get a grip. Others may disagree.

It's not "misgendering" in the case of the hens. It's weapons grade stupidity.
Insertfunnyname · 24/07/2021 21:47

The thing with the hens just really took me aback so much. Our friend is a clever man. Very switched on, high powered career etc. OBVIOUSLY knows that egg laying chickens are hens and are female. So it brought home HOW ingrained calling everything “he” is that he actually was referring to them all to his toddler as “he”.

OP posts:
TheBitchOfTheVicar · 24/07/2021 21:55

When I was a kid I had Guess Who - out of about 30 people, six were women! Asking 'are they a woman?' was a way of weeding out the masses. I genuinely cannot get my head around this today - at the time it seemed unremarkable Sad

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