“Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Marcus. Do bots really need a gender?”
Healthinar Engagement

Removing gender by applying gender neutral voices and names will not “solve” this issue. This idea of representation is confronted by fiction author’s all the time, though more in regards to race/ethnicity/skin color than gender. All too often, the solution offered up by well intentioned “color blind”* folk is to just remove these traits entirely. Don’t make characters white or black or Asian or Middle Eastern. The problem that arises then, of course, is that the characters then default to white and when anyone, the author included, depicts those characters as anything but white, fans turn up their noses because that’s not how they pictured that character (see Hermione Granger.) Oftentimes, even when a character's skin color is described, people assume white and lose their happy minds when that character is depicted as non-white (see Rue from Hunger Games.)

If you go with a truly gender neutral name and voice, people will assume whatever fits into their worldview. They will, for the most part, assume female for assistant roles and male for more analytical ones. On the other hand, if you confront the stereotypes by giving the assistant a decidedly masculine name and voice and the analyst the feminine name and voice, you stand a chance of making a little impact on those stereotypes instead of reinforcing them. All that having been said, that assumes that this will actually have a noticeable inspect at all. Gender roles, scripts and stereotypes are not something easily changed. They shift gradually over time with a lot of people making a conscious effort to do so. Ultimately, I just don't see these bots being ubiquitous enough to really play much a part in that, if any at all.

*By "color blind" I mean the well intentioned but naive folk who, in regards to race, say they don't see color - a statement which only flaunts their privilege rather than promoting some feeling of inclusivity.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Casian Holly’s story.