Is Gender-Neutral Smart Devices The Answer To Removing Its Sexism?
Ever since the beginning, most of the smart assistants we see and hear have a female tone, a female name, and did not address provocative and/or abusive queries correctly. The MIT Press published a book titled The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot, in which researchers discuss the gender roles and smart devices. It highlights our patriarchal society and how gender plays a major role. A smart wife is basically your obedient housewife from 1950s who performs housekeeping, childcare, and emotional labor. The design of the smart wife came from TV shows, pop culture, and the depiction of your perfect wife who manages your house perfectly.
The curviness of robotics, and the cylindrical kind of design, and in some cases, the very overt gendering and sexualization of devices is extremely feminine in a very stereotypical sense.
The problem with this is that it reinforces the idea that women are meant to do housework while men are not. It also sends the message that the main role of women is that of domestic and reproductive labors. This also relates to, by extension, how we abuse or mistreat women, encouraging sexism to thrive in our society. Making devices gender-neutral is not really solving the issues, it is just sweeping the issues under the carpet. Patriarchy is a social problem and we need to address it as such and change our thinking – which will start showing in the device designs we create.
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