Short answer: I have no idea? I just kind of do!
Long answer: Different people write at different...
Found this on the BSN on a discussion of why female PCs aren’t used in marketing.
It is a given in English that when gender is unknown we default to male, which you may or may not regard as sexist or simply tradition. Interesting wikipedia article here:
Some quotes I found interesting:
In languages with a masculine and feminine gender (and possibly a neuter), the masculine is usually employed by default to refer to persons of unknown gender. This is still done sometimes in English, although an alternative is to use the singular “they”. Another alternative is to use two nouns, as in the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” (hendiadys).
In the plural, the masculine is often used to refer to a mixed group of people. Thus, in French the feminine pronoun elles always designates an all-female group of people, but the masculine pronoun ilsmay refer to a group of males, to a mixed group, or to a group of people of unknown genders. In English, this issue does not arise with pronouns, since there is only one plural third person pronoun, “they”. However, a group of actors and actresses would still be described as a group of “actors”. However, this is also because the word “actress” is falling out of use in English, while the word “actor,” like “doctor,” applies to thespians of both sexes.
Animals are generally referred to as it unless the gender is known. Some animals such as cattle and chickens have different words for male and female animals (bull and cow, rooster and hen, for example) and he and she are therefore used correspondingly. The gender of other animals such as rabbits, insects, etc. is not usually obvious and so these animals are usually referred to as itexcept in some veterinarian or literary contexts. Alternatively, the use of “it” referring to an animal may imply the speaker lacks or disdains emotional connection with the animal. Thus, even though physical gender is undetermined, Rabbits for Dummies advises “You can win your bunny over to the point where he’s incredibly comfortable with you.”
The pronoun “she” is sometimes used to refer to things which can contain people, such as countries, ships, or vehicles, or when referring to certain other machines. This, however, is considered a stylistically marked, optional figure of speech, and may reflect a tendency of early translators to reflect grammatical gender in the original language. This theory is strengthened by the fact that in many classical and modern languages the word for e.g. “ship” (Hebrew אניה, Greek ἡ ναῦς, Latin navis, Spanish la nave, Czech loď) or “city” (Hebrew עיר, Greek ἡ πόλις, Latin vrbs, Sanskrit पुर्, Spanish la ciudad or la urbe, German die Stadt, Irish cathair) is in the feminine gender. This usage is furthermore in decline and advised against by most journalistic style guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style. If used, the terms she, her, and hers apply regardless of the entity’s name – for example, “The U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) was laid down October 22, 1964. She was launched on April 1, 1967…”
The author of the first article seems to take the default “he” as an insult, whereas I simply take it as a part of our language and its history. I find constructions like “history vs. herstory” or respellings of women as “Wymoon” or other variants rather artificial. I do however like the current trend where authors specify a female gender instead of the default “he.”
Interesting stuff to ponder.
Edit: This article is interesting as well: