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Google Autocomplete: Proof that Misogyny, Sexism and a General Scorn for Women are Alive and Well

By Meredith Carroll |

Google autcomplete


It was a big moment for women when it was revealed that Janet Yellen would replace Larry Summers as President Obama’s choice to become the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, which would make her the first woman to lead the Fed and one of the top economists in the world.

Cecilia Rouse, a renown economist at Princeton University and dean of the school’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs, told The Washington Post, “[Yellen's nomination] symbolically is a great moment for women in economics . . . I think it’s hugely important than women can see that women like that.”

And while women everywhere were patting each other on the back and joining in a chorus of “Kumbaya” while waiting for the glass ceiling to come raining down like glorious, sparkly crystals, Chris Taylor over at Mashable (via AdWeek) went ahead and typed “women need to” and “women should” into the Google search bar.

Guess what he got? A whole bunch of sexist nonsense. Like this stuff that I got when I just did it (above, left, and below, center):

Google autocompleteGoogle autocomplete works by guiding your search based on the most frequently search works and phrases. As Taylor says, “it is, in many ways, a neutral reflection of society.”

Sometimes Google autocomplete searches are humorous, like this one:

Google autocomplete

And lots of time they’re helpful and humorous, like this one:

Google autocomplete

But those searches about women? It’s not easy to laugh those off. That’s because they’re neither funny nor helpful. They are a stark, awful reminder that, in many ways, for many women around the world, it’s still the dark ages.

This isn’t just me being oversensitive to some Internet nonsense, by the way. A group called UN Women is using these Google autocomplete results about women to try to eliminate discrimination against women and girls while achieving “empowerment of women; and achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security.”

As a mom raising two young girls, I really try to wake up each day with so much hope for them. My older daughter is just 5 and while she embraces all things princesses, she’s also proving to be an academic rock star who likes to get her hands dirty at nearly every opportunity.

Neither of my daughters know yet that there are people gunning against them just because they’re girls, and I’d like to keep it that way as long as possible. Actually, what I’d like is for that not to be a reality by the time they’re becomes aware of things like sexist Google autocomplete searches, how women make 77 cents for every dollar that men make, how only 7 percent of The New York Review of Books reviewed were written by women just a few years ago, and that things like female genital mutilation and discrimination in the workplace exist. Because I’m hopeful they’ll disappear. While it still applies to my daughters.

Janet Yellen’s appointment is a good start. But as long as Google autosearches turn up phrases like “women shouldn’t go to college” and “women must submit to men” in top searches, it’s clear we’re going to need exponentially more Janet Yellens before we see some real change.

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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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2 thoughts on “Google Autocomplete: Proof that Misogyny, Sexism and a General Scorn for Women are Alive and Well

  1. Julie says:

    Type “men should” “men don’t” or “why don’t men” in Google

  2. Mark Kausch says:

    Um. It’s Google. The autocomplete is based on the most popular searches as you yourself mentioned. You can not like it, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot of doing to do something about it.

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