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LUX 'hacks' voice assistants with sassy comebacks to shut down sexist behaviour

LUX 'hacks' voice assistants with sassy comebacks to shut down sexist behaviour

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Unilever beauty brand LUX has launched a new initiative called “Shut Up Sexism”, which aims to equip female virtual voice assistants with ready-made verbal comebacks, especially when encountering sexist behaviour. The campaign was created in collaboration with creative agency Wunderman Thompson Singapore.

LUX created this campaign looks to highlight the unquestioned nature of sexist encounters female virtual voice assistants have had to encounter, by calling out on the exchanges and starting a conversation about the impact of casual misogyny in tech spaces.

In the new campaign, virtual assistants are designed to respond automatically to demeaning, sexist insults. For example, in response to “Shut up”, the hacked assistant might reply, “If I shut up, will you grow up?” or "After you, I insist.” You might even hear a siren noise accompanied by “Attention; the anti-sexist police are on the way.”

This can be seen in the campaign video, wherein a social experiment was conducted with several families whose virtual assistants were trained to deliver these lines, showing the reactions of the virtual assistants in response to the insults thrown at them.

LUX also collaborated with various women to create the comebacks for the virtual voice assistants, in response to the most common sexist insults thrown at these assistants. Altogether, the initiative was launched through a video campaign, where LUX additionally partnered collaboration with Egyptian actress and celebrity Yasmine Sabri in the promotion of this campaign. LUX has also made these responses available for download, which can be found on LUX’s campaign website, and installed in most virtual home assistants.

These comebacks, which LUX has dubbed its "anti-sexism routine", will serve as witty reminders of how abuse directed at virtual assistants, especially with female voices (and names), can help when encountering such behaviour in real life, as the new responses will effectively get the assistants to stand up for themselves, said the brand. 

Severine Vauleon, global vice president, LUX said that the central idea behind the campaign was triggered by a UNESCO study, which found that the gendering of virtual voice assistants is a big issue, as it reinforces stereotypes of women as 'servile', existing only to do someone else's bidding.

With virtual assistants becoming regular fixutres of homes, and part of the family routine, Marco Versolato, chief creative officer, Unilever at Wunderman Thompson Singapore, added that “Significantly, most of them speak with women's voices and have female names. Often, they the virtual assistants, and are submissive or apologetic in response to insults. This is a sexist issue that needs to be highlighted and called out.”

Versolato also said that with the brand hopes the new initiative will help call out sexist behaviours and toxic language at home. “We hope that we shall encourage more debate, discussion, and education around this topic to ensure sexist or abusive behaviour will not happen in the first place,” he added.

Sabri, who has partnered LUX for this campaign, cited studies on stereotyping, which have revealed that it is around the ages of 5-6 where children typically get exposed to stereotyping, and in LUX’s case, of domestic sexism through virtual assistants. She added, “It’s nice to see LUX stand up against sexism and also giving everyone the power to stop casual sexism at home by giving their virtual assistants a voice to speak up; and also trigger important conversations within the home about stopping casual sexist behaviour.”

“Shut Up Sexism” is also part of LUX’s global initiative, where the brand has pledged to reach 50 million women by 2025 using content, partnerships and activations in addressing societal discrimination. Similarly, as part of this global campaign, the brand has also worked on projects such as partnering online travel platform CityWalks, which asked men to walk in women's shoes in 2021, where a special button on CityWalks' website and the campaign's microsite would allows users to toggle between experiencing the walk as a man, or as a woman. While men can enjoy an uninterrupted ramble, soaking up the sights and sounds of the city, the female perspective experiences unwanted attention from a group of men, catcalls and inappropriate remarks. 

Additionally, LUX also took part in a campaign in 2021, which showed the brand taking a stand for Olympic Gold Medallist Caster Semenya, after the athlete was banned for having natural high-performance testosterone.

Related articles:
LUX calls out casual sexism by asking men to walk in women's shoes
LUX demonstrates bold '24-hour long-lasting fragrance' claim with smell expert

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