News  |    |  July 14, 2021

Apple’s Siri is no longer a woman by default, but is this really a win for feminism?

News article by Eleonore Fournier-Tombs. Published on The Conversation website.


As of March 31, 2021, when Apple released the iOs 14.5 beta update to its operating system, Siri no longer defaults to a female voice when using American English. Users must now choose between two male and two female voices when enabling the voice assistant. This move could be interpreted as a response to the backlash against the gender bias embodied by Siri

But how meaningful is this change really?

Siri has been criticized as embodying several facets of gender bias in artificial intelligence. Digital sociologists Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy argue that Siri, along with other voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, have been developed in order to “carry out ‘wifework’ — domestic duties that have traditionally fallen on (human) wives.”

Siri was originally only voiced as female and programmed to not only perform “wifely” duties such as checking the weather or setting a morning alarm, but also to respond flirtatiously. The use of sexualized phrases by Siri has been extensively documented by hundreds of YouTube videos with titles such as “Things You Should NEVER Ask SIRI” (which has more than 18 million views). [ . . . ]