The Smart Wife
Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot
Yolande Strengers, Jenny Kennedy
A bold dive into the problematic development (and developers) of "smart wives"--feminized digital assistants who are friendly, sometimes flirty, docile, efficient, occasionally glitchy, and perpetually available.
Meet the Smart Wife--at your service, an eclectic collection of feminized AI, robotic, and smart devices. This digital assistant is friendly and sometimes flirty, docile and efficient, occasionally glitchy but perpetually available. She might go by Siri, or Alexa, or inhabit Google Home. She can keep us company, order groceries, vacuum the floor, turn out the lights. A Japanese digital voice assistant--a virtual anime hologram named Hikari Azuma--sends her "master" helpful messages during the day; an American sexbot named Roxxxy takes on other kinds of household chores. In The Smart Wife, Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy examine the emergence of digital devices that carry out "wifework"--domestic responsibilities that have traditionally fallen to (human) wives. They show that the principal prototype for these virtual helpers--designed in male-dominated industries--is the 1950s housewife: white, middle class, heteronormative, and nurturing, with a spick-and-span home. It's time, they say, to give the Smart Wife a reboot.