Adios, Alexa: why must our robot assistants be female?

Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Home and other AI devices tend to be voiced by women, playing into the stereotype that serving is a woman’s job. But do robots need to be gendered at all?

Microsoft has Cortana, Amazon has Alexa, and Google has … well, Google Assistant. That last name doesn’t give it away, but get it talking and the common link between all three AI assistants is revealed: they are all supposed to be women.

Providing assistance has long been considered a woman’s role, whether virtual or physical, fictional or real. The robots that men voice, meanwhile, tend to be in positions of power – often dangerously so. Think Hal 9000, or the Terminator: when a robot needs to be scary, it sounds like a man.

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