Posted by: gisspar | May 24, 2009

Roombas have gender?

At first I was intrigued. Does a Roomba have a gender? Is it like a boat, always referred to as she? Or a… huhh, I’m having trouble coming up with an inanimate type of thing always referred to as he right now (I wonder what that means). Anyway, I was intrigued by the post title over at, so I went to read it. And intrigue was pretty quickly replaced by that niggling bit of anger reserved for unevolved boys. The post is about a panel at WisCon (no idea) called “What Gender is Your Roomba?” The chair of the panel, Heidi Waterhouse, randomly asked people at the event that very question. Here are two of the responses:

  • “A lot of people said it was female because it does domestic work.”
  • “Somebody said it has no gender until they get angry with it, and then it becomes female.”

The rest of the post goes into what was probably some thoughtful discussion about why we, as humans, feel a need to assign gender to everything including robots. But these two statements just highlight how far we have to go. It vacuums so it’s a girl—great, some idiot who probably wishes he could marry June Cleaver. What’s worse is it’s female when he’s angry at it. What does that say about us? I suppose it wouldn’t be fair to read too much into it without knowing exactly why schmucko gets angry with it, but I doubt it’s anything but another gendered stereotype. Are we background noise until something goes wrong and then of course it went wrong, look it’s a girl? Do you reserve a different kind of angry for the ladies or something? 

It’s a hockey puck that vacuums. Until you put fake leopard fur and googly eyes on it, it’s a hockey puck that vacuums. And once it’s wearing the fur, well, really that just says more about your wackaloonery than anything else.



  1. Benefited from the topic, thank you


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