Scottish museum to stop calling ships ‘she’

Rocking the boat: The Longhope Lifeboat at the Scottish Maritime Museum.

Is this a good idea? For hundreds of years, sailors have called their ships “she”. Now, the Scottish Maritime Museum has decided to “move with the times” and call them “it” instead.

What’s happening

Last week, a former Navy leader called into BBC Radio Four’s News programme. He was incensed by a story that he had heard that morning. It was “stark, staring bonkers”, he said.

What had made him so angry? The news that the Scottish Maritime Museum will now call ships “it” instead of “she”.

Find out more

Ships have been called “she” for at least 650 years. No one is quite sure why. However, some say it is because sailors think of ships as a kind of mother.

Ships protect them “from the dangers of the sea” and “violence of the enemy”, explained Admiral Lord West on the radio.

However, others say the tradition is sexist.

The Scottish Maritime Museum is changing its language in order to “move with the times”. Is this the right thing to do?

Some say…

Yes. Sailors used to joke that ships were “unpredictable” like women. This is old fashioned and sexist. Changing our words shows that our attitudes have also changed.

Others think…

Traditions are important. Sailors have said “she” for hundreds of years. They are not making fun of women, they are being respectful to the ship. There is nothing wrong with that.

You Decide

  1. Is it sexist to call ships “she”?


  1. Design your own ship for the Navy. Will you give it a girl’s or boy’s name? Or something that does not have a gender?

Some People Say...

“The man who rows the boat seldom has time to rock it.”

Bill Copeland

What do you think?

Word Watch

Connected to the sea.
The highest-ranking person in the Navy.
Prejudiced (or unfair) towards women and girls because of their gender.

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