Have you ever tried typing "women should," "women shouldn't" or "women can't" into Google? The autocomplete suggestions you get may surprise and horrify you, as a new series of ads from UN Women makes abundantly clear.
Google autocomplete is a feature that suggests what your search term might be, based on its most frequent searches and the content of web pages. It is, in many ways, a neutral reflection of society. These ads feature genuine top-line results, such as "women shouldn't have rights; women shouldn't vote; women shouldn't work."
The autocomplete algorithm is constantly being tweaked; the ad specifies that the searches were performed on Sept. 9, 2013. So when we tried to replicate the results, we got slightly different — but no better — outcomes, such as "women shouldn't go to college," "women need to shut up" and "women should not speak in church."
For anyone who thought the Internet was a more enlightened place than the world at large, or that sexism was less of a problem in the 21st century, the ads are quite the wake up call. In each of four posters, autocomplete results are placed over the mouth of a woman as if to silence her.
The organisation also offers what, in an ideal world, the autocomplete result should be — such as "women need to be seen as equal." UN Women is a three year-old entity aimed at achieving gender equality around the world; it merges the work of four previous United Nations groups.
And in case you're wondering, the autocomplete results for "men should" and "men can't" are fairly prescriptive — "men should pray" — but not nearly as stereotyping. Except for "men can't be feminists" — which, we hope, is just as wrong as the results above.