The Fembots Are Here!

This post started as a quick link I emailed to Liss at Shakesville, and she suggested I do a guest post on it. Cross-post!

So today I saw this TOTALLY awesome article in Newsweek. You can tell from the title that this is going to be an awesome bit of writing: “A walking, talking female robot to debut on a Japanese catwalk: not ready to help with chores.” HA that is SO funny.

I have a problem with no less than three (3) parties on account of this article: 1) Yuri Kageyama, Business Writer, 2) the robot-makers, and 3) the fashion industry representatives quoted. It is a fabulous trifecta of mysogyny, made only more glorious because it is about ROBOTS. Who doesn’t love robots!!

I’m going to address those out of order. So first, makers of robots.

Now, this is stealing a little of my thunder from later in this post, but Kageyama does not address the body types of a few of his other robot examples, and for all I know they are male or non-gendered. One is non-humanoid. But his writing sure suggests that many of them are meant to be or seem female (well, isn’t that what everyone wants?), and they are certainly being designed for traditional female roles – receptionist, runway model, in-home care or nursing assistant, etc. More importantly is this particular robot, which has a female body even though apparently it’s much more difficult to make a functional (in this case, walking) robot with an “average” female shape. But having a female robot body was too important to let that stop them! They devoted all their robot-making resources to making it this way – I mean, who would want a male receptionist robot? HA! Don’t be silly! This way we can use them for fashion!

Next up is the fashion industry, of which Hirohisa Hirukawa, “one of the robot’s developers,” says, “Even as a fashion model, people in the industry told us she was short and had a rather ordinary figure.” I mean, I guess at least they’re being honest – they don’t WANT an ORDINARY figure, because that might… show what clothes would look like on an everyday kind of person. OOPS I MEAN it might look hideous!! So boring and ordinary, these robots that look like ordinary people! Besides, what’s the point of a female robot if it’s not cartoonishly sexified? Don’t these people play video games?

Finally, on to Kageyama. I love how she manages to slip one or two completely gratuitous and sexist – I mean HILARIOUS – jokes into the article. Take the first sentence: “A new walking, talking robot from Japan has a female face that can smile and has trimmed down to 43 kilograms (95 pounds) to make a debut at a fashion show.” Oh HAHAHA get it? She lost weight! What a sexy robot! If only all women weighed 95 pounds. If only she wasn’t so short and ordinary! And maybe there are some male humanoid robots out there that Kageyama just didn’t think were terribly relevant to this article, even though, you know, they WOULD be. So, too, would be a discussion about how a male robot might be equally useful (it could shoot things!). But hey, it’s not really an article about robots and new technology or anything – it’s an article about fembots! It’s about fashion and robot receptionists! How funny!

I wonder what “fun moves” people will program for her! What fun. Gah.

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