Let my start by saying that I feel extremely uncomfortable whenever I hear people refer to boats as though they are female. Well, I used to feel this way. Maybe it was my inner Smithie, but hearing a man say, “she’s a real beauty, isn’t she?” while pointing at his boat made something in the pit of my stomach ache.
Living on a boat means we’ll be surrounded by boat people, which means I’ll be hearing these gender references often. To ensure that I would be prepared to unleash a vicious verbal attack on the next unsuspecting soul who dared to refer to a boat as a "she" in my presence, I began reflecting on why calling a boat a “she” bothered me so much. At first, I thought it was because it seemed sexist, but after further thought, I realized that the source of my annoyance was the simply fact that boats aren't living creatures, don't contain hormones, and therefore shouldn’t be assigned any gender, male or female.
However, I soon realized that, although I took issue with boats being referred to as "shes," I was guilty of subconsciously assigning genders to many of my belongings. Take my car for instance. My car is not a girl! It’s a boy. It is blue, extremely practical, covered in a permanent layer of filth, contains an abundance of gas, and its direction is governed by its stick. All of these traits have caused me to conclude my car is male. While I don’t refer to my car as a “he,” in my mind, it is (or rather, he is).
After realizing I was guilty of genderizing inanimate objects, I thought more about the characteristics of a boat, so that I could determine whether or not I thought a boat was worthy of the pronoun “she.” Boats are complex, powerful, resilient, protective, retain water from time-to-time, demand respect, navigate rough waters with ease, and even when the wind is taken from their sails, they remain poised. Sounds very female to me! Sure, they can be a little high-maintenance, but that is a positive attribute, too. Cleanliness is next to Godliness after all, isn't it?
So, I’m OK with boats being associated with the female gender. It is quite fitting. I haven't yet referred to a boat as a she because it still feels a bit forced. I think I'll start small--maybe with my car. Let me practice: He's got some miles on him, but he's still a handsome devil...