I promised something more horrifying than Martian Barbie, and here it is: WowWee Robotics’ Femisapien. The question I can’t get out of my mind is “Why? Why? Why?”
Actually that’s three questions. #1 is “Why do robots have gender?”. The answer may be that if we see something vaguely anthropomorphic, we’re uncomfortable until we’ve attached gender to it. People even assign gender to their cars – usually their own gender which should keep a Fruedian busy for a while.
#2 is “Why are the secondary gender characteristics so pronounced?” I mean, proportionally what is that – a 40 D-Cup?
#3 is “Does she nurse little robots with those?” (Do they produce 30-weight motor oil?)
OK, that went a little too far. My bad.
As a culture we’ve only recently begun to consider the idea that our fixation on gender could be a bit overdone. There’s hardly any product you can imagine that isn’t targeted to one specific gender or the other. As if there were only two; nature sometimes produces ambiguities, not all of which are visible in a medical photograph. Heaven help the young person who can’t feel at home in the gender that was culturally assigned to them at birth.
We’re not less gender-crazy than “primitive” cultures we look down on – we just apply more technology, and media, to our insanity.
- Think a robot this small couldn’t be horrifying? Remember “Talky Tina” from The Twilight Zone? When the subetheric signal goes out to “Kill all humans”, little Femisapien here will be wiring up your house mains to the bathtub faucet – count on it!
- It was pointed out to me that Wall-E and Eve from the movie Wall-E were gendered robots who exhibited a strong attraction to each other. Neither had pronounced anthropomorphic secondary gender characteristics, other than that Wall-E was boxy and angular and Eve was graceful. But their primary motivation seemed to be companionship; they were geeks who liked the same things.