Siri is the culmination of decades of feminized emotional labour.
By Julia Dyck | MOTHERBOARD
If you ask Siri about her gender she will insist that, although her voice may sound like a woman’s, she exists beyond this human concept. Or she may inform you that „Animals and French nouns have genders. I do not“. She does not offer her preferred pronouns, or otherwise comment on her feminized style of speech.
Siri’s female voice—which exists on the phone with a lack of explanation—suggests that while our relationships with personal technologies are increasingly intimate, the technologies themselves continue to be read as feminine. From the telephone operators of the 50s and 60s to the disembodied woman announcing the next public transit stop, female voices have been speaking for technologies throughout history while the voices and opinions of women have largely not been heard in the process of designing these technologies.
Originally prototyped after 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL 9000, Siri’s developers had dreams of further developing an assistant with a programmable personality to suit the user’s taste. When the design was bought out by Apple, her personality was dampened along with many of her original functions. The American Siri began with voice actress Susan Bennett speaking gibberish into a microphone without any idea that she would become the vocal personality of such a popular machine.