UN ad campaign

The United Nations has released a photo series which features pictures of women with their mouths covered by sexist internet search suggestions based on Google’s autocomplete function.

The search terms featured in the ads include “women need to”, “women shouldn’t” and “women cannot”, and show a drop-down list of the suggestedsearches. The results of the autocomplete function, according to Google, takes into account several factors, including the popularity of the search term.

Some of the results, such as “women should be slaves”, “women should be in the kitchen” and “women cannot be trusted”, provide a healthy amount of shock value to this ad campaign.

The idea is simple: women are silenced by sexism. This approach to confronting prejudice is successful in its symbolism and deeper-implied meanings. We live in a modern era of digital technology but outdated views of sex and gender still haunt us.

Typing “women shouldn’t” into Google may be a slightly leading search, yet there still isn’t any excuse for what pops up. Typing “men shouldn’t” yields entirely different types of results.

While some of the suggestions for “men shouldn’t” are harmful, as they imply masculine stereotypes, they aren’t hateful like those that appear for women.

While it’s possible that many of the people searching these terms didn’t intend harm, the general trend is still unsettling.

There’s still a long way to go if we want to achieve worldwide gender equality. Our cognizance of the oppression women have historically faced, and the ongoing oppression that women live with today, should spark even more resistance to the same old sexist tendencies that are being propagated in new ways.

A noted problem with the internet is its propensity to cement prejudice by directing users to content that agrees with their ideology. Viewpoints are then solidified, as online communities provide a safe haven for degenerate people.

No matter how democratic a medium may feel, it can still be used as a tool by those with ugly opinions. Women should be empowered by the internet, not forced to see autocompleted searches that denigrate them.

— Journal Editorial Board

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