Introduction

Software is becoming more intelligent and communicative than ever before, and as technological innovations allow software to imitate human abilities, the distinction between machines and humans is becoming increasingly blurred. But such intelligent and human-like software is gendered, and most machines with speech capabilities have female voices. Siri, Apple’s intelligent personal assistant that speaks with a female voice, is programmed to have a realistic personality. She is used in a number of ways – from performing mundane secretarial tasks to telling jokes and serving as a companion. The ways in which people interact with Siri reinforce 1940’s sexist stereotypes and fetishize technology. Referencing a number of historians, scientists, media theorists, and sociologists – in addition to analyzing speaking machines from popular culture – this blog explains why today’s talking machines have female voices, and how human interaction with Siri perpetuates gender inequality.

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