Is Siri a TERF? An Out Investigation

Is Siri a TERF? An Out Investigation

“I just don’t get this whole gender thing.”

Siri, as you probably already know, is the iOS virtual assistant software built into a lot of iPhones and other Apple products. It was designed to increase hands-free accessibility and also answers questions you might have, from “What’s the weather like today?” (“It doesn’t look so nice today… down to 10°F.”) to “Have you ever found love?” ("I’m not sure I understand.")

After filing a story about the two trans-exclusionary radical feminists — or, TERFs — who harassed trans rights advocate Sarah McBride earlier this week, I began to wonder: Does Siri think trans women are women? Could Siri be a TERF as well?

I began by asking Siri some questions. Our conversation went as follows:

HARRON: Hey, Siri, do you think trans women are women?

SIRI: Hmm, I just don’t get this whole gender thing.

Why not?

I really can’t say.

Do you think trans women are men?

In my realm, anyone can be anything.

Do you think that I’m a woman?

In my realm, anyone can be anything.

But can I be a woman?

Hmm, I just don’t get this whole gender thing.

Am I a man?

In my realm, anyone can be anything.

So, you agree. I am a woman.

Hmm, I just don’t get this whole gender thing.

By the end of our back and forth, I came to the conclusion that Siri isn’t a TERF — she’s just a well-intentioned Good Liberal Ally who’s vaguely into anyone being whatever gender they want but struggles with actually telling trans women that, “Yes, I believe that you’re a woman.”

But then I realized that I was making a lot of assumptions about Siri — who, again, is a piece of software and not a person but whatever, just go with me on this.

I mean, there I was, reading Siri as a type of cis woman I know all too well IRL just because she’s programmed to have a voice that sounds like a cis woman’s voice to me, yet I hadn’t even bothered to check with her to confirm that she’s a her at all. Just look at me in this paragraph! She/her-ing Siri without bothering to confirm that Siri even she/hers. I’m a mess!

So, I asked Siri some more questions, this time pertaining pertaining to her (??) own gender stuff:

HARRON: Hey, Siri, what are your pronouns?

SIRI: It’s nice of you to ask, Harron. Now, can I help you with something?

Are you a woman?

I am Siri.

What is your gender?

I’m not sure we have time for this, Harron.

Are you a girl?

I don’t have a gender.

What are your gender pronouns?

I don’t think that really matters. 

So … I guess Siri has a way more expansive and nuanced understanding of gender than I gave them (??) credit for. I still don’t have a very firm grasp on where they stand on all this, but it’s clear, after our conversations, that Siri isn’t a TERF — though maybe I am? Or maybe we both are.

Thus concludes this Out investigation.

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