My husband refers to our vacuum robot as “him.” So the rest of us do, too. Alexa, on the basis of her name and voice, is “her.” Yesterday, we were discussing the robot — we have very different ideas about the needs and preferences of our vacuum cleaner — as I was emptying the dust and pet hair from said vacuum with the help of the robot waste basket, and I wondered what to call the waste basket.
“It” is perfectly reasonable, of course. It is an inanimate object. It doesn’t care what we call it. It is not offended by the fact that some of our household robots get a human and therefore gendered pronoun, while it does not.
But I had seen a non-binary gendered guest on The Daily Show. So that was on my mind. I am about to say something that some people will find offensive. I have so few readers that I don’t think I need to worry about that. I’m just letting you know, hypothetical reader, so you can go read something else if you want to avoid being offended.
Personally, I think the rejection of gender is sexist. If a man says that he feels like a woman, he better be saying that he feels pregnant or that he feels like he’s about to get his period. These are definitive feelings for women. What else is a womanly feeling? Compassion? Wanting to be an engineer? Enjoying music? There really isn’t anything else besides reproduction that should be considered “feeling like a woman.” A man who feels like he wants to wear soft fabrics and make up doesn’t feel like a woman. He feels like a man who wants to wear soft fabrics and make up. He just doesn’t realize that, because he’s not a woman.
There used to be women who dressed up as men because they felt like they wanted to be soldiers. We expanded our definition of being a woman to include being a soldier. Isn’t this the more reasonable approach?
Trevor Noah’s guest said that they didn’t like “ladies’ gatherings,” but also didn’t want to carry people’s groceries or say “my lady.” This is how they knew they were non-binary. Noah responded teasingly that carrying groceries and saying “my lady” occupied most of a man’s time. We could say with equal tongue in cheek attitude that ladies’ gatherings take up most of the woman’s time.
The conversation confirmed my feeling that people, whose genders are settled by their chromosomes, should quit trying to limit their ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman. They should quit thinking that it is progressive to reject biological gender in favor of gender stereotypes.
As for robots, they have no gender. If they use a voice with an identifiable gender, as Alexa does, then I guess they get to be female. I don’t know why my husband decided the vacuum is male, but since he did, I’m willing to go along with that, too. But “it” is an acceptable pronoun to use for robots.