A professor at Kansas State University argues that virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa are sexist because they have female voices.
The paper, which is entitled, Asking more of Siri and Alexa: Feminine Persona in Service of Surveillance Capitalism, examines the cultural meaning behind the female voices of virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa.
Professor Heather Suzanne Woods argues that the “stereotypically feminine personas” of Siri and Alexa are used to manipulate users into participating in “surveillance capitalism.”
The essay turns to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa as emblematic of AI VA that perform a stereotypically feminine persona that invites users to participate in increasingly intimate forms of data exchange that in turn contribute to surveillance capitalism. The study of AI VA, like Siri and Alexa, demonstrates the significant rhetorical capacities of the feminine persona as they are applied to objects with weak (that is, limited) artificial intelligence.
When GPS devices first launched for cars, many women jumped at the opportunity to have their directions dictated by a male voice. It’s not entirely clear that the gender of virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa says so much about our culture. Because of this, it is likely that male voice options will pop up on our devices in the near future.
In May, Google and Amazon announced that their virtual assistant software would be updated to include a male voice option. Apple Siri’s also has a male option.