The UN sexism Google search ads are wrong, technically

The truth is, we live in a male dominated society where men enjoy a privilege of exercising certain rights that do not extend to women. This culture has transcended generations and centuries. And it is going to take longer than that to clean up.


Why did things come to be as they are? Are we genetically so sexist? In the early days, the men used to hunt for meat while the women-folk would tend to the young ones and managed the caves. If perhaps, the root cause for sexism started there, it should have changed when civilizations evolved, correct? Nothing much changed during the times of the great kings and kingdoms. Further, during the industrial revolution, there was an explosion of many new jobs – engineers, architects, soldiers – most of them were reserved for men because either they needed an increased physical exertion or the necessary training for the required skill set was never extended to women. This was amplified by the fact that education was considered a “luxury”. Only the ones who would “use” the skills they learned at school, were educated. This is the reason why there were considerably lesser number of women scientists during the 18th century. Over the years, the patriarchal society got itself established as only men had “knowledge” of how the world “functioned”.

What changed?

Evolution in economies resulted in industries taking a background as the main money-making entities. People in industries were replaced by machines as a result of automation. Fields like science, technology, research, banking, took prominence. The jobs that are created for this generation of workforce are gender-neutral; they break the need for physical strength that the jobs during industrial revolution demanded.

So, now what?

Gradually, women began fending for themselves thus reducing their dependency upon men for basic needs. This “shift of power” was not welcomed by men and thus began the long struggle for women’s rights and freedom. This is yet an ongoing battle for equality not just limited to the under-developed or developing countries, but to the developed economies as well. Many organizations worldwide are doing a great job of making the world aware – like the UN.

UN Google search ads


The entire premise of this post was the “powerful” advertisements by the UN which used the Google auto-complete (a feature that suggests popular search terms as you type your search query) to show the widespread prevalence of sexism in our society.

  • Is the problem real? Yes. Equality between the sexes is something that is truly necessary for a society!
  • Are ads like these necessary? Yes, very much.
  • Are they doing a good job of raising awareness? They are doing great!
  • Are they truthful? No.

Here’s what’s wrong

Google uses a certain algorithm nicknamed Google Instant to get popular keywords related to the terms that you are typing in, using data collected from earlier searches by many other people, and displays it, in the assumption that you may also be searching for something similar. By the way that it works, what Google suggests is in no way connected to what you would be actually looking for. For instance, when you search for “save water”, the suggestions shown are hardly practical, are they?

I haven’t heard of a single person giving up water and living on beer instead!

This article may help understand how the Google Instant suggestions work. Further, going by the Google Trends, the term “woman should” was searched for the most number of times just about after the UN ads were posted.

The number 100 indicates that the point in the graph is the highest value ever.

Google suggestions can be easily misinterpreted

2013-10-19 12_32_45-Google
So, 25% of the people searching for “the world is” think that it is flat? If so, we may have bigger problems here.
This is interesting!
This is interesting. I’m more concerned about people thinking Oxygen is a compound!
I have many American friends, and this is hardly the truth!
I have many American friends, and this is hardly the truth!

My Take

Sexism is a real issue. Everyday there is news about how crimes against women have increased drastically, and how women are denied even basic rights by many Governments around the world. Yes, women are suffering and something needs to be done! By writing about the technicality behind the UN ads, I do not undermine the need for the awareness for this issue; I only felt that Google search suggestions are not indicators of how far-reaching sexism is.



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