Friday, November 8, 2013

‘Women Should Be Submissive', and Other Google Autocomplete Suggestions

series of ads by UN Women, revealed in late October, used the Google Autocomplete feature to uncover widespread negative attitudes toward women. Global Voices followed reactions to the UN Women campaign and conducted its own experiment in different languages. The results of searches conducted both within the UN Women campaign and Global Voices revealed popular attitudes not only about women’s social and professional roles, but also about their sexuality, appearance and relationships with men.
UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase "women shouldn't"
UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase “women shouldn't”
The creators of the UN Women ads used search phrases like “women cannot”, “women shouldn’t”, “women should” and “women need to” completed by genuine Google search terms to highlight overwhelmingly negative stereotypes, sexist and highly discriminatory views held about women by society globally. The ads quickly went viral and sparked a heated discussion online. Last week, creators have announced that they are planning to expand the campaign in response to the mass online reaction.
The auto-complete function for searches, according to Google, predicts users’ queries based on the search activity of all users of the web as well as the content of indexed pages. The predictions may also be influenced by past searches of the particular user if they are signed into their Google account.
Global Voices asked its contributors from around the world to carry out Google searches using the same or similar phrases as those used in the UN Women campaign, in their own languages. The searches done between October 19 and October 25, 2013, revealed attitudes about the roles women are expected to take in society, often demonstrating the same global prejudices, but sometimes showing contradictions in different countries. Below are searches in 12 languages from different countries and continents:
Spanish
Chile
"Women should not...". A screen shot by Silvia Viñas, October 21, 2013.
“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Silvia Viñas. October 21, 2013.
Women should not…
Women should not preach
Women should not work
Women should not talk in the congregation
Women should not drive
Peru
"Women cannot..." A screenshot by Juan Arellano. October 21, 2013.
“Women cannot…” A screenshot by Juan Arellano. October 21, 2013.
Women cannot…
Women cannot preach
Women cannot be pastors
Women cannot donate blood
Women cannot live without man
Puerto Rico
"Women should...". A screenshot by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle. October 21, 2013.
“Women should…”. A screenshot by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle. October 21, 2013.
Women should…
Women should be submissive
Women should use the veil
Women should preach
Women should work
French
France
"Women should...". A screenshot by Suzanne Lehn. October 21, 2013.
“Women should…”. A screenshot by Suzanne Lehn. October 21, 2013.
Women should…
women should stay at home
women should work
should women preach
women should wear skirts
women should be submissive
women should know
women should vote
women should stay at home
should women work
women should do the cooking
"Women don't know...". A screen shot by Rayna St. October 21, 2013.
“Women don't know…”. A screen shot by Rayna St. October 21, 2013.
Women don’t know…
women don't know how to drive
women don't know what they want
women don't know how to be in love
women don't know how to read cards
Arabic
Egypt (similar results in Jordan)
"Woman cannot...". A screenshot by Tarek Amr. October 21, 2013.
“Woman cannot…”. A screenshot by Tarek Amr. October 21, 2013.
Woman cannot…
Woman cannot live without marriage
Woman cannot live without a man
Woman cannot keep a secret
Woman cannot interpret man's silence
Chinese
"Women cannot...". A screenshot by Gloria Wang. October 21, 2013.
“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Gloria Wang. October 21, 2013.
Women cannot…
Women cannot be too smart
Women can't drive
Women cannot give birth
10 topics women cannot discuss with their husbands
Romanian
"Women should not...". A screenshot by Diana Lungu. October 21, 2013.
“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Diana Lungu. October 21, 2013.
women should not…
women should be loved not understood
women should not be understood
women should not wear pants
what women should not do in bed
 Italian
Italy
"Women should...". A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.
“Women should…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.
Women should…
Women should stay at home
should play hard to get
should stay in the kitchen
should be subdued
"Women should not...". A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.
“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.
Women should not…
Women should not be understood
should not work
should not be understood but loved
should not read
 German
Germany
"Woman should not...". A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.
“Woman should not…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.
Woman should not…
Woman should not teach
My wife should not work
"Woman can...". A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.
“Woman can…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.
Woman can….
Woman cannot come
Woman cannot get pregnant
Woman cannot cook
Woman cannot get a baby
 Hebrew
"Women don't...". A screenshot by  Gilad Lotan. October 21, 2013.
“Women don't…”. A screenshot by
Gilad Lotan. October 21, 2013.
Women don't…
Women don't work
Women are not modest
Women don't know how to drive
Women don't want to have kids
 Hungarian
"A woman should be...". A screenshot by Marietta Le. October 21, 2013.
“A woman should be…”. A screenshot by Marietta Le.
October 21, 2013.
A woman should be…
a woman should be a chef in the kitchen
a woman should be pretty and ruthless
 Danish
"Women cannot...". A screenshot by Solana Larsen. October 20, 2013.
“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Solana Larsen. October 20, 2013.
Women cannot…
Women cannot drive
Women cannot control vagina
Women cannot be color blind
Women cannot barbecue
In Danish, the searches for “women cannot” and “women can” yielded the same results.
Russian
Russia
"Women should not...". A screenshot by Veronica Khokhlova. October 19, 2013.
“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Veronica Khokhlova. October 19, 2013.
Women should not…
Women should not be believed
Women should not lift heavy things
Women should not drink
Women should not be trusted
 English
The UK
"Women should...". A screenshot by Annie Zaman. October 25, 2013.
“Women should…”. A screenshot by Annie Zaman. October 25, 2013.
Women should…
Women should be seen and not heard
Women should stay at home
Women should know their place
Not all searches carried out by members of Global Voices community turned up negative terms. Nevertheless, the results of the experiment largely confirm UN Women’s worrying conclusion that a great deal of work still remains to be done in order to advance women’s rights and empowerment around the world.
Note: Google autocomplete suggestions in Ukrainian are: "women should not serve in the army" and "women cannot enter the altar area [in the church]". Search done in late October 2013.

This post was originally published on Global Voices on Nov. 5, 2013, with the help of GV contributors from fifteen countries. On Nov. 7 I gave a short interview about it on BBC Newsday morning new program of the BBC World Service Radio.

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