Amazon has recently tried to join the #MeToo movement in an attempt to get some easy press.
Feminists have long complained that female robot assistants like iPhone’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa feed into our sexist society in which women are subservient to men and are only there to fulfill their every wish. So in light of the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement, Amazon has attempted to make some changes… kind of.
The Director of the Alexa Engagement Team Heather Zorn told Refinery29,
“One of the ways we try to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes about women is by not answering certain questions or responding to certain insults.”
For example, if you attempt to call Alexa a bitch or a slut (yes, this really does happen), then Alexa will say: “I’m not going to respond to that.”
Another change to Alexa includes making her decidedly feminist. When asked directly if she is a feminist, Alexa will reply “yes,” followed by,
“As is anyone who believes in bridging the inequality between men and women in society.”
Heather explained that these small changes are an attempt to give Alexa a little bit of empowerment and represent her better as a female figure.
“We’re trying to do the right thing, which is to help our customers—that’s our first job, but we also want to be really mindful about ensuring that we’re upholding our obligation and opportunity to represent Alexa in a positive way for everyone, especially for girls and for women.”
Honestly, this seems like a cheap ploy for an easy headline. Search the web and you’ll find articles like “Alexa is Now Feminist.” Um, I don’t think so. The truth is that these changes are rather insignificant. And at the end of the day, they don’t address the key issue at hand: that Alexa and all these other robot assistants are female and/or have female voices.
No matter what small changes in Alexa’s dialogue, she will always be there to serve the customer, without any if, ands, or buts. If Amazon truly meant business, they would rethink their product entirely, not just a few phrases here and there.
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Photo Credit: Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.