The life and times of the Smart Wife—feminized digital assistants who are friendly and sometimes flirty, occasionally glitchy but 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.

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 For one thing, Strengers and Kennedy remind us, the design of gendered devices re-inscribes those outdated and unfounded stereotypes.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.

About Our Speakers:

Yolande StrengersAssociate Professor of Digital Technology and Society in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University, Melbourne..

Jenny KennedyPostdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, Melbourne.

Moderated by

Sarah KaplanDistinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto


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The Gender Analytics: Possibilities (GA:P) Event Series is an exciting multi-session online series. This unique online experience will highlight how emerging areas of analytics applied to issues around diversity and gender shape risks and opportunities for many organizations, operations and outcomes. Experts in data analytics, gender, and diversity, and inclusion more broadly will share their research and insights to an audience of business, academic, and government leaders.

The GA:P Event Series is being planned jointly by two Rotman research centers, the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) and TD Management Data and Analytics Lab co-organized by Susan Christoffersen (Co-Academic Director, TD MDAL), Sarah Kaplan (Director, GATE) and Matt Mitchell (Co-Academic Director, TD MDAL)

Stay tuned for an event recap and video.

Venue: On October 21, Rotman Events will email registrants the link to the page where you can watch the livestream.

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