object sex

November 14th, 2003

Have you ever looked at an inanimate object and wondered to yourself (or to someone else) if it was male or female?

Wallet?  Male.
Purse?  Female.
Necktie?  Definitely Male.
Paper towels?  … uh, Female?  Maybe?  Hmm…

Well wonder no more, object sex is here.

While the sex of some objects can seem rather obvious, for others it is much less so.

What causes us to have this sense?  Does it stem from our primal need to figure out, quite quickly, if any given entity in the world is male or female?

And how is it that Romance languages such as Spanish have assigned genders for all of their nouns? (a pencil, for instance, is un lapiz - essentially “a male pencil”, and “a pen” is una pluma, namely “a female pen”)

And why does someone else get to make these decisions?!

Well for once, dear friend, you can be in control.  At object sex you are requested to use whatever logic, whatever heuristic you see fit to definitely choose once and for all the genders of many everyday household objects.

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, there are only choices.  But please, choose wisely… you wouldn’t want to let the rest of the world down.

Update: 01.15.04
The New York Times has decided to include object sex in their Online Diary column.  Apparently this issue is more important that I thought.  You can view an online version of the article here.

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