While researching the issue of sexism in advertising for a piece I posted earlier today I came across this series of ads sponsored by the United Nations and produced by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai in which they employed a simple Google search and the subsequent “auto-complete” results to illustrate just how pervasive sexism remains in our world.
According to a post on the UN Women website, “the searches confirm the urgent need to continue making the case for women’s rights, empowerment and equality, a cause the organization is pursuing around the world.” The site provides more background on the ad series:
…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.
“When we came across these searches, we were shocked by how negative they were and decided we had to do something with them,” says Christopher Hunt, Art Director of the creative team. The idea developed places the text of the Google searches over the mouths of women portraits, as if to silence their voices.
“The ads are shocking because they show just how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality. They are a wake up call, and we hope that the message will travel far,” adds Kareem Shuhaibar, copy writer.
Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai created a video to highlight their findings, “The Autocomplete Truth.” It’s worth watching (below):
According to Google, its auto-complete search predictions are “a reflection of the search activity of users and the content of web pages.” Since the UN campaign was created in 2013 I thought I’d check Google for a local update of such “activity.” I can’t attest to what search results might appear in Dubai, but according to Google search results I got today (from a U.S. IP), the search term “women should” is magically transformed into “women shouldn’t” then auto-completed with the phrases “should not vote” and “should stay at home.”
When I searched using “women are” the auto-completes transformed it into the phrases “women aren’t funny, women are shallow, and women are like bacon.” The final phrase provided would could be considered a case of reverse sexism, “women are better than men.”
Frankly, I’d much prefer seeing an auto-complete that read “women are equal to men.” 🙂 Clearly Google’s algorithms and our society still need work.