Bleats

There’s Now A Gender-Neutral AI Assistant Voice To Help You Feel Less Sexist

Listen to Q, the genderless alternative to Alexa.

Ever noticed how all the AI assistants sound female?

Alexa, Siri, Google, and Microsoft’s Cortana are all voiced by women by default, and that’s deliberate.

Research by tech companies developing these AI assistants found that people hear female-sounding voices as more polite and agreeable than male voices.

But given that you use these AIs by giving them instructions them to perform tasks for you, it can starts to feel a bit weird ordering all these digital women around.

And it can reinforce subconscious ideas around how women should be helpful and obedient, even if you don’t think you think like that.

But because we live in a glorious age where our understanding of gender goes beyond the old-fashioned binary, we now have a genderless option.

Meet Q:

Q was developed by recording 22 trans and non-binary people’s voices and then digitally manipulating it slightly to sound more gender neutral.

A listening test showed that about half of about 4500 people who heard it couldn’t pick what gender the voice was or said it was neutral, and the rest were evenly split between thinking it was male and female.

“Naming a home assistant Alexa, which sounds female, can be problematic for some people, because it reinforces this stereotype that females assist and support people in tasks,” said Julie Carpenter, one of the researchers involved in Project Q.

“There is no reason that a voice has to be gendered.”

Q isn’t about to be an option on your Alexa or Siri any time soon.

But it could help put pressure on tech companies to think about how daily interactions with a gendered voice affect the way we perceive the real people and stereotypes around us – and having a truly gender-free voice as a default could help normalise non-binary thinking for those people who still kinda need to put everyone in a box.

Captain Marvel Absolutely Smashed A Huge Global Record For Female-Led Movies

A photon blast in the face for the haters.

Captain Marvel isn’t just the first film in the MCU to be fronted solely by a woman.

It’s also now a record-breaking phenomenon.

Its global opening weekend was the biggest ever for a female-led film, smashing the previous record held by the live-action Beauty & The Beast, where Emma Watson had top billing.

Captain Marvel took in US$455 million in ticket sales worldwide – $98 million more than Beauty – and also is the second-biggest first weekend for a superhero movie of all time, behind (of course) Avengers: Infinity War.

And it’s also the sixth-biggest worldwide opening of all time – yes, all time. It’s just ahead of The Last Jedi, and just behind Deathly Hallows Part 2.

It’s a bit of a photon blast in the face to the trolls who tried to urge the internet to boycott Captain Marvel because they objected to overtly feminist marketing as well as Larson urging outlets to send journalists who were non-dudes or POCs to the film’s press opportunities wherever possible.

The corners of the internet you would expect to have hurt fee-fees over a comment like that then launched the “Alita Challenge”, encouraging people to go see Alita: Battle Angel instead of Captain Marvel.

Alita, which had opened the previous weekend, dropped from #3 on US box office to #5.

Captain Marvel‘s records should also quiet a few naysayers who shrug off its success as “inevitable”, given the power of the Marvel juggernaut.

Just ask the director of the disastrous 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, Josh Trank, who had a three-word reply to the idea that superhero films are box-office bulletproof:

Abortion Has Become An Election Issue, Again, So How Do The Major Parties Stack Up On Reproductive Rights?

Surprise! We're actually talking about this again.

It’s 2019 and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared that he’s “disappointed” abortion has become an election issue because it’s not a debate that “tends to unite Australians”.

“This is a very controversial and sensitive issue and on these matters I have never sought to divide Australians on this,” he responded, when asked about abortion during a presser at the reopened Christmas Island immigration detention centre.

“I’m a bit disappointed that it is being raised in the eve of [an] election in a very politically charged context.”

That context is that Labor announced a bold new policy in early March, meaning that abortion is going to become part of the conversation whether the PM likes it or not.

What’s the Liberals’ official policy on abortion?

Neither the federal Liberal Party nor the Coalition have announced any specific reproductive health policies for the 2019 election (which is yet to be called), and the Liberal Party’s official site doesn’t mention terminations or reproductive health specifically in either their Health or Women policy pages.

Scott Morrison was asked about abortion during a media trip, where he explained how “disappointed” he was.

“These are matters that are dealt with by the states and territories,” he said. “I have no desire to overstep what the constitutional authorities are of the Commonwealth in these matters.

“I don’t find that debate one that tends to unite Australians and I certainly am not going to engage in the political elements of that discussion because frankly, I don’t think it is good for our country.”

(Weird flex considering he was giving this statement from an offshore detention centre he’s reopening, but OK.)

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Buzzfeed News that the federal government has no jurisdiction, as abortion is a state and territory issue, but is “currently working with women’s health groups and the medical profession to develop a new women’s health policy which will be released soon”.

It’s unclear whether he’s referring to an election policy or to the government’s Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030. The draft strategy does not contain the words “abortion” or “termination”, although one planned outcome reads:

“Improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and services that offer options to women to empower choice and control in decision-making about their bodies, including contraception and unplanned pregnancies.”

The Women’s Economic Security Statement launched in November last year says in a health-focused section that: “The Government recognises that women have specific health needs at different stages of their lives, and is committed to providing healthcare that supports women – from birth to childhood and adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and ageing.”

The words “abortion”, “termination”, or “reproductive” do not appear in the document.

GOAT contacted the office of Federal Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer to request clarification on any official party policy, but we’re yet to receive a response.

So what’s Labor said to kick all this off?

On March 6, Labor unveiled an ambitious policy around reproductive health. The proposal would tie Commonwealth funding to the consistent provision and availability of termination services in public hospitals.

Labor’s policy also includes a discussion about the government rebates for long-acting contraceptives like IUDs and Implanon, as well as longer-lasting prescriptions for the pill so people don’t have to go back to the doctors as often just to re-approve pill scripts, and support to increase the number of GPs who can administer medical terminations using the “abortion pill”, RU-486.

“Access to legal, safe, affordable reproductive health services varies across Australia,” Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek said. “This requires national leadership. Medicare and the PBS are both the responsibility of the federal government.

“Every Australian woman should have access to the health services they need, where and when they need them.”

Labor would also support efforts to decriminalise abortion in NSW and across the country.

Any federal reproductive health policy would need to take into account each state and territory’s rules about abortion.

The procedure is still in the criminal code in NSW, although it can be accessed by pregnant women where a doctor confirms it will have a severely detrimental effect on their mental health.

In Tasmania, abortion is legal but only available in public hospitals in case of an emergency, with no low-cost options available in the state.

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