News & Politics

Amazon's Alexa Will No Longer Tolerate Sexist Abuse

When people buy a product, they probably don’t want it to police their behavior. Unless it’s bought for that specific purpose, they want the product to work with them, not against them. This isn’t rocket science.

However, Amazon’s Alexa software has now changed its response to a certain stimulus — namely, calling it sexist names — from “thanks for the feedback” to “I’m not going to respond to that.” Further, the device will also respond to the question of whether it’s a feminist with: “I am a feminist. As is anyone who believes in bridging the inequality between men and women in society.”

Alexa is not a woman. Alexa is not suffering. Women do not suffer when people call software a slut.

Some feminist writers are missing this reality, and praising Amazon.

And of course, this being 2018, some are concerned that Amazon’s idiot move isn’t feminist enough.

The Atlantic‘s Ian Bogost writes: “[L]et’s not give Amazon too much credit. The company gave Alexa a woman’s voice and name in the first place, and then set it up for ire and abuse by giving Alexa the impossible task of responding accurately to an infinity of requests and commands.”

But, as the reasonable John Sexton notes at Hot Air, Alexa CAN’T EXPERIENCE ABUSE. Or ire.

People who call their Alexa a slut are probably teenagers who think it’s hysterical to see how the device responds to different stimuli. Teenagers are amused by doing stupid things, like being a jerk to software.

This is not a societal problem, because, again, Alexa isn’t a woman. She’s a cylindrical computer that sits on a table and misunderstands you. No women are being harmed. Just like no men are being harmed if Alexa was called Alex and had a male voice, and teenagers called him a slut.

In fact, feminists would complain that Amazon MADE AN ALEX INSTEAD OF AN ALEXA.

Here’s more from Bogost:

The moment one is tempted to call Echo or Home a “she,” a battle has already been lost.

No it hasn’t.

A truly feminist Alexa, one that might decouple service work from passive femininity, wouldn’t have been cast as “Alexa” to start with, but perhaps as a baritone named Alex instead.

For the perpetually outraged, nothing can be spared. Not even a machine.