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    Hey Siri, Are You Sexist? UN Disapproves Female Voice Assistants

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    Ashrita Dkhar
    Ashrita Dkhar Jul 20, 2019

    You’re driving in an unfamiliar area, and you turn on the voice maps. The pleasant voice gives you directions, and you get to your destination without getting lost. Or you’re the lazy kind and would rather go “Hey Siri” than take the effort to type. Again, a pleasant voice fills your room. So, here’s the thing. Turn on any digital assistant, and you know how it’s going to be a woman’s voice.

    Both Apple’s Siri and Google’s Alexa not only have female names, but they also have the voice of a woman. And the same goes for Microsoft’s Cortana, which is a fictional character from the game series ‘Halo’.

    And while not many people have anything particularly against it, Siri does has to answer numerous questions such as “Do you love me?” “Do you want to date me?” and more embarrassing questions. So, it does make you wonder. And right on cue, the United Nations has also voiced its disapproval.

    UN Speaks Up on Siri

    So, what exactly is it that the UN is unhappy about?

    In a study conducted by the United Nations, they noted, “Siri’s submissiveness in the face of gender abuse – and the servility expressed by so many other digital assistants projected as young women – provides a powerful illustration of gender biases coded into technology products.”

    You all probably know Siri’s answer to sexual comments or insults. For those of you who don’t, Siri isn’t sassy when it comes to this. Well, it’s “I’d blush if I could.” It might sound sassy, but if you really think about it, it just means that if it were human, it would’ve taken any comment or insult as a compliment.

    The issue that the United Nations has is not that these digital assistants are all female. It’s that they’re all programmed to respond to questions and comments with politeness, willingness, and servility.

    Our Two Cents

    I don’t know what’s worse, tbh. The fact that young women are expected to exhibit the submissiveness projected by the digital assistants or that even digital software aren’t spared from such behavior.

    But the one thing that’s clear as day is that the concern is real. And whichever way you look at it, there’s a definite issue. As if there isn’t enough gender bias in the world already, we’ve got more in technology products. So much for tackling the issue; we’re only introducing more ways to deepen the divide.

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