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Babies: Call Them “It,” Not “She” or “Her” June 22, 2008

Posted by federalist in Language.

There is a bizarre and pervasive custom in the maternity/baby industries to refer to babies using only female pronouns — even in gender-neutral contexts.  This is really weird.  I thought the refusal to accept “he” as a gender-neutral pronoun was limited to the most fanatical left-wing feminist circles.

Consider how absurd it would be if you employed this convention in instructions for changing a newborn’s diaper: “Be sure to clean under her scrotum, and if she is circumcised remember to cover the tip of her penis with a liberal dollop of ointment on a cotton gauze pad.”

I grew up in a large family and our convention was generally to refer babies with non-gendered pronouns.  E.g., “Where’s the baby? I need to change its diaper and put it to bed.”  Babies didn’t earn their gendered pronouns (or their name) until they could start to interact and understand language.



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