I’m chalking this up to some language behind the scenes that isn’t really relevant. Regardless of the quotes using “he” in various contexts from a long time ago, I saw some stuff tonight that completely makes it impossible BB-8 is being gendered female. Apparently a female puppeteer is playing a male robot.
If you remember back to September or October of 2014, I was looking into the “soccer ball droid.” Back then a few people had referred to the droid as female and I liked the idea but no one knew for sure. As time went on, the droid we would come to know as BB-8 would be called “he” more often than that. Back then I wrote:
I have had a lot of fun kicking around gender ideas with this new droid, because it is kind of funny that we try and pick up on gender signifiers for mechanical beings. This droid belongs to the hero of Star Wars: Episode VII that we think might be named “Kira.”
Strangely, several sources has told me that people inside Disney and Lucasfilm are referring to BB-8 as “she” and “her.” Sources saying this are pretty strong. I have now heard for a third time in the last two weeks that BB-8 is being referred to as female character.
Just because they’re referring to BB-8 as “her” doesn’t mean that’s the case in reality. It certainly sounds like BB-8 is one of our new strong female heroes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, however. Three good sources think our new little droid hero is a “she” based on recent conversations at the official level. If BB-8 isn’t female, the little droid is going to be referred to in such ways in a few different places I can’t name.
Personally, I hope this is the case.