Digital voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa are tools of oppression used by the patriarchy to keep women down, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) along with the German government and the EQUALS Skills Coalition, according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
According to a 146-page report, the authors note that “most leading voice assistants are exclusively female or female by default, both in name and in sound of voice,” which sends sexist signals that “women are obliging, docile, eager-to-please helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command like ‘hey’ or ‘OK.’”
If you tell Cortana she’s hot, the report frets, she’ll quip that “beauty is in the photoreceptors of the beholder.” Digital assistants “greet verbal abuse with catch-me-if-you-can flirtation” and “give deflecting, lacklustre, or apologetic responses to verbal sexual harassment,” the report says. This response fails “to encourage or model, let alone insist on, healthy communications about sex or sexual consent.”
So – Siri and Alexa are basically training men to be rapists, according to that last part.
What’s more, “The assistant holds no power of agency beyond what the commander asks of it. It honours commands and responds to queries regardless of their tone or hostility,” which reinforces “gender biases that women are subservient and tolerant of poor treatment.”
According to the report, this all has something to do with the lack of women in the tech industry. To fix the problem, the UN report suggests mandatory tech education for women and gender quotas in tech industries, with ample government funding of course.
Better not tell them about “Okaeri”
Will the Silicon Valley sexists do anything about these digital tools of oppression?