Today I want to write a bit of a feminist post. The reason I want to do that is because I love technology and all those appliances that talk to you so that you can set timers or play music just by saying it out loud. However, I can’t stand that the majority of those bots have female voices.
Amazon Echo has a female voice, so does Google home. Siri come with different options if you are using it in English, but for other languages like Italian there is only one option and that is a female voice. Most car navigators use female voices as well. So how come we don’t have the option to speak to a male voice instead? But most importantly, why do these companies choose to deliver their first product on the market with a female voice and then develop the option to use a male voice instead?
Well, the answer is quite sadly market related: female voices sell more. Apparently, research shows that people prefer to listen to female voices more than to male ones so products with a female voice have a wider market range. That’s all it takes to throw women’s pride out of the window. But there must be some consequences related to that, am I right?
The main reason why I find myself questioning the usage of female voices is that I think that at a subconscious level it could generate a behavioural issue. I am not a psychologist, I am just making assumptions. I started to question that when I once saw a funny picture online pretty similar to this one:
It is quite funny, but it also made me think that this way of us just asking things without even considering to be polite must reflect on our behaviour. Are we forgetting how to say thank you or please? Do we just give orders pretending to get an answer in less then a second, taking everything for granted?
If we add one more layer and give orders to a mechanism that we associate with the female gender, which answers with a clearly female voice, then consequences could be even worse. We will learn how to prompt orders to women or start to consider them as our consultants, not just as other human beings. The way people say shut up or you are a bitch to Alexa is not really an example of great education.
I know this might sound crazy to you, but it doesn’t sound that impossible to me. After all, speaking to devices is not that different to talking to human beings as we still imagine we are communicating to a real person. It must be a trick that our brain plays on us. The voice resembles the one of a real human being so our brain must think that after all there is a real person imprisoned in that device. Therefore, we speak to Google Home with an attitude that is not the one we have when typing on google.com. If you have seen the movie Her you know what I’m talking about. The main character falls in love with its futuristic version of Siri because she does sound like a human being.
While writing this article I also checked for online content and there already are researches that prove my point. I was particularly intrigued buy this one, where the author methodically reported the answers those bots gave to him when harassed. That made me realise how important it is that these bots learn how to react to insults and sexual harassment in a strong, straightforward way. Someone should start scolding men and teach them how to control their instincts! Otherwise, new technology may help us forget how to type but it will just reinforce despicable social issues our society is trying to fight.
So my final question is: I understand that business is business, but can you please at least give consumers a choice?
I truly think that companies need to revise the features of those new devices and include male voices as well. I hope they will do it in the near future, although as always concerns related to women and harassment are generally procrastinated if not ignored. After all, we still see almost only women in ads related to cleaning products and if you consider car ads, almost only men are featured as drivers.
Now let me finish with a more positive thought: those bots could be an amazing tool to teach people how to be polite. Imagine that they refused to give answers if you didn’t say thank you and please, or that they scolded you when using bad words. That could highly improve the way everybody communicates and technology would be at the forefront of a positive change in society: CEOs should really think about that.
That’s it for today, I hope you appreciated this article!
Feel free to share your thoughts down below,