I’ve been seeing news about Siri’s inability to help a lady with a need for birth control pop up all over the place. I’ve also been seeing criticisms of the concern over this pop up all over the place. To break it down, the AI in the new iPhone will not show you where to find birth control, and if you ask it for an abortion clinic it gives you a pregnancy counseling center (generally a place run by anti-choicers that tends to disseminate false information and works its absolute hardest to discourage every abortion). Now some people are pretty upset over this, but I’ve see a lot of responses saying things along the lines of “get over it, it’s just a phone”, “you’re overreacting”, “this was just a mistake, it’s new technology and those who made it can’t make everything available and perfect”.
So I thought I’d throw in my two cents on the matter. First: no, this is not the most important issue for feminists to address right now. Duh. Of course there are things that are more important than whether a cell phone is feminist friendly. HOWEVER second: LITTLE THINGS MATTER. I think this is one of the places where the vast majority of the population just doesn’t get the feminist attitude. Things like slut shaming, things like sexist jokes, things like sexist language…all of these little things are what create a culture that makes BIG sexist things possible. Every time you say something that condones rape, or that implies women should not have control over their bodies, you are reinforcing that idea to the people around you. If no one ever said “she had it coming because of her short skirt” or “if you don’t want kids, don’t have sex”, then attitudes of rape culture and slut shaming would be severely undermined. The fact that a phone which will probably be bought by millions of people cuts out an important piece of information on women’s health entirely reinforces the idea that women’s health is not important. It DOES include information like where to find Viagra. These sorts of decisions on the part of the makers of the iPhone 4S tell women who need help that they don’t deserve it or that they should not be given more resources to find the help that is available to them. That is an important message. While there may be other ways for a woman to find her birth control or find an abortion provider, it still sends a message. Additionally, if it sends even a few women to pregnancy counseling centers when they want and need an abortion, that is damage done to women and their reproductive choices. That is someone’s life. And that matters.
One final note: this is not just a mistake. This is a product that has had an immense amount of work put into it, and as previously mentioned, it gives information on men’s sexual resources so clearly the makers didn’t just forget about things like birth control. Even if it was a mistake…people need to be held accountable for their mistakes.
Featured image credit: Yutaka Tsutano