The united nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women (phew), or UN Women, has released an ad campaign showing the search-engine completion results for phrases like “Women shouldn’t” and “Women need to”:
Search engines guess what your search should be, based on previous searches by others, and so they give an insight into what people are searching for.
To check, I did some of the same searches on Google UK, with the same search for men to compare:
|Women shouldn’t work||Men shouldn’t marry|
|Women shouldn’t vote||Men shouldn’t wear flip flops|
|Women shouldn’t preach||Men shouldn’t wear shorts|
|Women shouldn’t have equal rights||Men shouldn’t cry|
which is every bit as outrageous as the ad campaign, and
|Women need to be wanted||Men need to feel needed|
|Women need to shut up||Men need to ejaculate|
|Women need to grow up||Men need to grow up|
|Women need to feel safe||Men need to cheat|
which is a little more mixed.
A similar idea has been applied to religion
|Christians have…||Mormons have…||Atheists have…|
|lower IQs||horns||higher IQ|
|killed more people||my child||no morals|
|more abortions||multiple wives||no songs|
|no morals||a lot of kids||faith|
Which I’m not sure tells us very much at all.
Using big data from search engines is interesting. I’ve used it before on the New Testament. I’ve used it professionally too, it is a good way to check which of a set of computer generated combinations is more ‘human’. But I wonder whether it quite tells us what we think it is telling us. I have no doubt misogyny is widespread enough to be reflected in search results, but I wonder whether the majority of people who search for ‘Mormons have horns’ are doing so because they are tempted to believe that, or whether they are trying to find out what the source of the ridiculous joke is.
Have a play with categories you think you fall into. E.g. “Nurses should” (be paid more!), or “Engineers are always” (right!), and let me know any particularly interesting results that come up.