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Google Autocompletes The World's Opinion Of Women—And It's Not Pretty

UN Women uses a simple Google feature to show sexist attitudes hiding in plain sight.

Here's one easy way to determine how rampant sexism is across the globe: run a Google search. To prove that masses of Internet users have worrying opinions on what women should—or cannot—do, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) tested the search engine's autocomplete feature. Type in the words "women" and "shouldn't" or "women" and "cannot," and you'll get a litany of despicable options: drive, vote, speak in church, box, have rights...you get the point (interestingly, here in the U.S., when you type in "men shouldn't," you get a more innocuous list: wear flip-flops, wear shorts, marry).

The ads were created by Christopher Hunt at Ogilvy & Mather Dubai. Each one includes a line of small print, listing the date on which the search was run. Why not give autocomplete a try and see what pops up when you type "women can" into the search bar. Or better yet, the phrase "misogynists are."

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97 Comments

  • Megan Courtney

    It's not that I do not see this as horrible, because I do. I just believe people should look in to how auto complete on Google works. It is all automated, and every time you "test" to see if these horrible things pop up, you are submitting a new query into that particular "auto complete" and just like voting, adding to the rankings of these horrible things on the list.

    SO, to combat this, try searching an alternative; like women are awesome. Give that some votes. =)

  • Omar Al-Baroudi

    It's BS ideas like this that really destroy society. Should women not be at home? should they not work in the kitchen? for God's sake who is supposed to take care of the home and the kids? a maid? seriously let women do what women are naturally good at doing and stop telling them to be more like men!

  • Klud Klud

    If I was in the kitchen, you'd be starving. So let me do what I'm good at - going to work and taking care of the finances. You can take care of the kids, as you seem to have a mind as simple at they do.

  • Marc Vesper Johnson

    Do you think all women are better than all men at looking after a home and children? Do you think that all men are better than all women at business? If you think so, it's quite easy to show you examples, from many cultures, where this is not the case. Some women should work and not raise a family; some men should stay at home and not work.

  • Becky Walford

    I'm naturally good at my career in marketing, at looking after myself and i'm great at being an independant woman. I'm also great at mocking the cretinous ramblings of mysogynistic oddballs. Thanks, i think i'll keep right on doing what I'm a natural at :)

  • Mike

    This "test' of the autocomplete function is absurd. You cannot say that the entire world's view is sexist and can be verified by this. When I ran the same search, I got:

    women need to shut up
    women need to grow up
    women need to be wanted
    women need to feel safe
    women need to know about men
    women need to stop complaining
    women need to feel secure
    women need to feel wanted
    women need to support each other

    6 of 9 of these results are mostly true.

    On another note, I did a second search:

    justin bieber is a douche
    justin bieber is a jerk
    justin bieber is dead
    justin bieber is a tool
    justin bieber is a punk
    justin bieber is a brat
    justin bieber is ready to be a dad
    justin bieberis ugly
    justin bieber is stupid

    If this was how the "world" felt, then this kid wouldn't be where he is now. I guess we shouldn't base our reason off of google autocomplete results.

  • Josh Rogers

    Type in the same search for men and you get cannot be trusted, cannot be feminists, shouldn't wear shorts, shouldn't marry. Seems like no matter what you type into google your going to get a bad opinion out. Sorry girls but that's not sexist, its reality for everyone. I don't like what I see when I type this in for men but I don't create an article about how sexist it is. Grow up and learn to accept that the world is a place that changes slowly not just because you complain about it. How about instead of looking into how sexist the world is we try to stop prostitution of young females? That seems like a much better use of all of your time.

  • lkduerig

    On the flipside, try "women are". "Too picky", "Stupid", "Evil". (tested from private browser window.) Somehow I would have expected something friendly in that list.

    "Men are" got me "from mars and women are from venus", "arena", "better than women", "men and men should clean the house". Where did those come from??!

    As a side note to SkipB, if that was a Google hack paid for by the agency itself, they were pretty thorough.

  • Lena

    I tried it without the history feature and I got "Women should:
    -not be in combat
    -not preach
    -[should]er tattoos
    -not speak in church
    -be seen and not heard
    So yeah... that's pretty bad.

  • TehCupcakes

    This proves nothing whatsoever. 1) If you're going to type in "women shouldn't", of course it's going to show a list of relevant answers with that phrase in it! 2) Just because people Google "women shouldn't vote" doesn't mean they AGREE with that statement. Maybe they're looking for an article where somebody presents that perspective. Since when does seeking information make you sexist?

  • Scott

    My computer is new so it shouldn't really have any bias towards my history.

    Having said that, I put "men" in google with the same following words as these people did and the results were not pretty either.

    - "Men SHOULD all die"
    - "Men SHOULD man up"
    - "Men CAN'T be feminist / be friends with women."
    - "Men CAN'T cry."
    - "Men SHOULDN'T marry."

    These, like the women's, are not favorable and reinforce stereotypes that men cannot show emotion and that we're the antagonist of every relationship (which I assume the "all die" and "shouldn't marry" is referring to).

    It's disappointing this article chose to only tackle this subject by focusing on just the women instead of showing the negative affects of gender stereotyping as a whole.

  • a_student

    This is an automated statistical extrapolation
    generated by a search engine's back end computers, which does not necessarily indicate that the world
    hates women. Such extrapolation just shows that these words tend to
    appear together more often, or, the words that suggested by
    auto-complete is of a higher probability to appear after you typed
    "women can..." etc. It is likely that the mathematics model (I don't
    know what they uses, but my bet is on N-gram/Markov) powering the
    search auto-complete function draws its training data from millions of
    news articles, which serves as a convenient linguistic corpus for the
    model. Such articles relevant to this topic can be discussing positive, neutral or negative
    things about women, and each one of them could have happened to have used the
    words "women can blah blah" somewhere in combination. Hence, it does not necessarily mean that the
    world's opinion of women is "not pretty". We simply don't have enough information to arrive at the conclusion pitched by this article here.

  • Violaine

    I'm French so I Googled "French woman can" ... COOK :) I'm kinda relieved.
    HOWEVER, this article gave me a different view on how our societal sexist attitude is present every single day, right there, on the Internet search tool I use the most... Under my eyes. It definitely says a lot about the progress that needs to be made...

  • Jackbo

    If you type in different races, you get racist things to come up as well. Like black people....., asian people.....
    But if you type in white people, you get things that ain't too bad.

  • richard bubb

    If Google's AutoComplete's suggestions are derived by users' searches and therefore generally user-specified and/or user-centric... what does that indicate about the "searchers" working within the "United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women"? And what exactly have *they* been looking/searching for using Google's AutoComplete. Do the other major search engines respond with similar results? I checked Bing & Yahoo, and returned results were exactly identical to each other (I think they use the same search algo). Your results will vary... but I seriously doubt the results will be same as "United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women" results. So does one believe such an ad?

    I absolutely agree that some men's attitudes towards women are between 20-50 YEARS outdated, but one hopes more enlightened people (men AND women) will eventually mentally rise to a higher thought-plane, but until then maybe ad campaigns will raise awareness... but to those misogynistic neanderthals who couldn't care less, these campaigns will not help much. Kind of reminds me of the prevailing attitudes of America in the 1960's-1970's regarding Blacks in America... many Whites thought that Blacks (and any non-White persons) were (enter negative insults here) until they got to know them as genuine friends, and/or relatives.
    Only then did the song did not remain the same. Changing people is a lot like changing donkeys... apply 2x4 with applicable force; check for change; repeat as necessary or until desired results are observed.

    It kind of reminds me of the old joke:
    Q: How do you change a light bulb?
    A: You can't. The light bulb has to WANT to change...

    Moral of the lesson?
    Until an idiot WANTS to change, you still are looking at an idiot.

  • Chris

    Try it with 'men' instead. Or with Jews, Christians, Muslims, whatever. If you query with a negative, you're going to get negative results, no shit.