The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot
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.
What's wrong with preferring domestic assistants with feminine personalities? We like our assistants to conform to gender stereotypes—so what? For one thing, Strengers and Kennedy remind us, the design of gendered devices re-inscribes those outdated and unfounded stereotypes. Advanced technology is taking us backwards on gender equity. Strengers and Kennedy offer a Smart Wife “manifesta,” proposing a rebooted Smart Wife that would promote a revaluing of femininity in society in all her glorious diversity.