Campaign Spotlights Widespread Sexism Revealed By Google Suggestions Mary Traina

UN Women wants us to start talking about gender equality. Yet, discussing gender equality can be frustrating because so much of the oppression women feel is woven into your daily life. It’s hard to wrap your head the whole picture and even if you do, it can be difficult to help others understand that there is work to be done around the world and right within your own community.

The ad agency Ogilvy & Mathers, in a campaign for UN Women, has found a way to concisely communicate these issues using the world’s most honest tool: the Google search bar. From their website:

A series of ads, developed as a creative idea for UN Women by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, uses genuine Google searches to reveal the widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women. Based on searches dated 9 March, 2013 the ads expose negative sentiments ranging from stereotyping as well as outright denial of women’s rights.

The results are jarring but, with this campaign, UN Women hopes to foster a much-needed dialogue around the case for women’s rights worldwide.

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Out of curiosity, I did some of these searches using “men” instead of “women.” Here were the top results:

Men need to… “feel needed”
Men cannot… “be feminists”
Men should… “be allowed to hit women”
Men shouldn’t… “marry”

My favorite top 3 result was, “Men shouldn’t wear flip flops.” To which I say: Yes you can, men. Yes you can.

While people inflict judgement on both sexes via the internet, Google search suggestions certainly show these judgements take on a much more hostile and even violent tone in regards to women. It is a tone that indicates a desire to strip women of their voice and power. Most people use the internet mainly for the purpose of finding a community. It is a place that is honest and anonymous — where deep desires and motivations can be revealed. The fact that Google’s top suggestions are so hostile towards women suggests that far too many people are looking for communities to support their misogynist attitudes and keep women oppressed.

There is clearly work to be done: whether it’s taking the time to understand the very real gender inequalities that have been ingrained in our daily lives, simply speaking up when you hear a woman being made powerless or becoming involved through volunteer opportunities. You can find out more about what UN Women does on their website.

It’s a moving campaign — hopefully with enough power to get people talking. What do you think?

image via unwomen.org and via Bored Panda

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  1. Personally, I love these ads — talk about using the power of advertising for good! These are huge issues that women, especially my generation of young women, can focus on changing! This article (http://bit.ly/1hKna6p) also goes into those major issues affecting women. I think if advertising can shed light on these problems, more people might stand up to fight against them.

  2. I’d come across the campaign before this, but hadn’t thought to try out other search terms. I now feel completely ill. This is using the Australian Google.

    Asians should:
    - die
    - all die
    - not wear yellow
    - go back to Asia

    Girls should:
    - know about guys
    - not be educated

    Australians should:
    - fear the rise of China

    Refugees should:
    - not be allowed in Australia

    Asylum seekers should:
    - go home
    - be shot

    What. the. hell.

  3. Wow – I’ve never really thought about it but when you start Googling certain terms, it’s actually scary what the top searches are. These are from Google.co.uk:

    Black people should:
    – go back to Africa
    – still be slaves
    – be exterminated

    Muslims should:
    – go home
    – leave the UK
    – be banned
    – be killed

    Indians should:
    – die

    Pakistanis:
    – pakis smell
    – pakis stink

    Seriously, what is wrong with this world? I am absolutely horrified that these are the top search results for any of these ethnic groups here in the UK :(

  4. I’m just concerned that individuals will think that this is highlighting that Google is a sexist organisation- rather than realising that it only throws out suggestions that are popular search queries. (Which is what this article is saying- but this great piece of commentary doesn’t come with the ad!) It’s not Google that’s sexist, World: It’s you.

  5. I just started to type “Overweight people should….” When I got to the “sh” in should, Google suggestions changed to “Fat people should die”. I am just going to curl into a ball and cry now

  6. This drove me to do some google research myself. My personal favorites were “Women shouldn’t wear pants” and “Women shouldn’t be allowed on juries where the accused is a stud”. I mean, really?

  7. Thank you! I work in a traditionally male-dominated industry (Facility Operations & Commercial Real Estate Development) and sometimes I wonder if I”m being hypersensitive to these issue because of my career (a career I very much enjoy). There is still much work to be done; progress is slow & frustrating because awareness must be presented in a way that is will help the cause and not further feed stereo types- but so worth it.

  8. My favorite thing about this campaign is that it fairly and accurately represents present reality; you can’t just dismiss these views as being from a “bygone era” because they’re popular on Google right now.

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