#WomensMonth: Sexism is still rife when you search the web

Misogyny lives in every corner of the world and even hides in the shadows of the internet. A simple search on Google can reveal a lot about the current culture and inherent sexism in the world.

A few weeks ago, someone presumably looking for spices and condiments typed the words “South Indian Masala” and was shocked to find these results. The pictures showed images of women. Another search this time under “North Indian Masala” yielded completely different results.

After they posted on Facebook, their comments section was full of mixed responses with some people laughing it off.

A decade and half ago, the world was introduced to Google Images to help users find image content on the Web.

The keywords of the image search are based on the file name. One can only imagine what the file names of those pictures of women must’ve been. When searching for an image, a thumbnail of each matching image is displayed.

Women in a patriarchal India are referred to as masala (spices) and maal (object or item) so it’s not difficult to believe that these results would come up on Google.

A few years ago, UN Women embarked on a campaign which demonstrated perceptions held across the globe about what women should and should not do, using Google autocomplete as the catalyst.

Autocomplete suggestions are served up by an algorithm that takes into account the popularity of certain search phrases, the location of the person searching, the freshness of the search query and a person’s previous searches.

Should Google be policing these searches? Or are they a reflection of what certain societies think of women? These are some of the questions many have asked with regards to the subject. It’s a worthy experiment to try for yourself to see what people are searching for and what results come up for certain words.

Men’s deodorant brand Axe recently counter-acted the misogyny on the internet by exploring fragile masculinity and what men actually search for on Google.

The new campaign titled  “Is it ok for guys…” received a lot of attention and begins with the stat that 72% of guys have been told how a “real man” should behave. It deals with a number of questions asked by many men, but openly discussed by only a few. This has been part of the brand’s new image that is more focused on self-expression.

Watch the video below:

Just this week, a male Google employee was fired after his memo titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” circulated internally. The memo argues that women are underrepresented in tech not because they face bias and discrimination in the workplace, but because of inherent psychological differences between men and women. “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” he wrote. This comes after an investigation as Google battles a wage discrimination investigation by labour department in the US.


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