I wonder why it is that we refer to snowmen as "snowmen"? What is it about them, really, that makes them male? True, some wear top hats and smoke pipes, which are stereotypically masculine behaviors. But what about the snowpeople who simply have a smiling face, twiggy arms, and no gender-specific accessories? A friend and I gave Christmas socks to the rest of our coworkers, and one design had a snowperson with a pink scarf. Pink = stereotypically feminine. Yet at least one person still referred to her as a snowman, and when some of us intentionally called her a snowgirl or snowwman, it felt really weird.
I also noticed this assumption of masculinity (for lack of a better term) while playing a card game with my dad this week. The cards have pictures of various kinds of bean characters on them (for instance, the black-eyed bean is in a boxing ring and has a black eye, and the blue bean is dressed like a police officer). There are eight or so different bean characters in the deck, some of which are decidedly male, but most of which are fairly gender-neutral. Yet we both kept saying things like, "I'll plant this guy but let you have those other two guys."
I also find myself talking this way while driving. If I talk about (or at) another driver on the road, I almost always refer to him or her as male. "That guy was nice to let me in," or, "Dude, what are you doing?" It's almost never, "She cut me off," or even, "That person cut me off"--and I'm normally pretty conscious of gendered language.
Just an observation. Well, a few observations, really. I just wonder why we are so inclined to use masculine language over feminine.
Note: In case you've missed it in other posts or conversations, I don't hate men. I think men are pretty awesome. And I have nothing against the term "snowman," or against referring to beans or drivers as guys. I'm just observing speech patterns in myself and others . . . and I think there must be some connection between our language and our societal norms about gender hierarchies.