Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Women should…

I recently read an article on the Guardians Comment is Free blog about a new UN Women ad series, based on negative Google search results. Terms like ‘Women should…’, ‘Women need’ and ‘Women should not…’ were all searched and the actual results pasted over the mouths of women. The ad revolves around the Google auto-complete feature that runs an algorithm to predict your search term based on popular searches from other users. This gives a terrifying glimpse into how much sexism still exists, with terms such as ‘Women should not vote’ returning via the algorithm.

I took the article and the ad with a pinch of salt, but was horrified by the results I got, when I tried this myself earlier today!

terryinging_google_results

 

An alarming set of results by any standards, for some reason the first result ‘Women should be seen and not heard’ particularly struck a cord with me. Perhaps its because I grew up having the term repeated to me every time I visited my grandparents. Not that they didn’t love me, they just grew up with Victorian parents and had certain traditional values drilled into their own brains. This meant my brother and I would go and play out of sight, so that they could not complain. This idea that people feel women should be silenced, that they do not have interesting or valid opinions, as a woman of the social media age this really upset me. I generally don’t get upset or offended by much, life is too short as it is, but those seven words have made me really rather emotional!

As a slight side note I would like to add that emotion is not a sign of weakness, and so contrary to traditional belief expressing it, does not make women (or anyone else) weak. In some cases it might make them stronger, as it can take courage to expose yourself rather than to hide away. Of course there is a time and a place and knowing this is a skill that not everyone possess.

However, lets not forget the men. Although the top result for ‘Men need to…’ is ‘ejaculate’ the results are not all in their favor. At 15:20 on 22/10/2013 I did two Google searches, one for ‘Women should not…’ and one for ‘Men should not…’ the results were quite interesting.

should_not

 

While the results for women continue a pattern of out-dated and sexist view points the men’s results aren’t much better. Apart from two items claiming men are not designed for monogamy and one saying they should not vote,  the rest of the results deter men from expressing anything slightly feminine. Wearing skinny jeans, shorts, Ugg boot or crying are all traditionally more female pursuits, although these days are not unusual things to see men engage in. This brings me beautifully back to my previous post about men having to be men, and having no role models if they wish to express anything nontraditional. So what if a guy wants to wear skinny jeans or cry? Neither of them are necessarily unhealthy (although the tightness of the skinny jeans could have some effects I’m sure), nor do they signify sexual preference. I suspect there appearance in the results is as much due to catty women as it is uptight men.

At the end of the day they only things that should auto-complete for either of these search terms should be medical, as there is nothing about gender that should limit us other than biology. In future we should be discussing auto-completes for ‘people should not…’ and addressing issues of humanity not issues of gender!

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Boys don’t like pink!

So this isn’t necessarily about technology but I may try and awkwardly force a link.  I was listening to my friends podcast 2 Grown Men, you can find it online at http://www.2gm.co (that’s the ‘lazy link’, there are others). The 2 grown male hosts, Nick and James were talking about their children and gender identity in society. Basically the sum of the discussion was about not wanting to indoctrinate your child with gender stereotypes and biases that are prevalent in society. Particularly, James said he worried about his little girl because society still views females as second class citizens, and Nick seemed to agree that he would be more worried about those issues for a girl.

I must say, although I currently don’t have children,  I worry more about having a boy than a girl because of gender stereotypes. I feel there is more to support showing a girl she doesn’t have to be a barbie pink fairy princess (although I can’t say there is anything wrong with that)! Movements such as feminism and the like are useful tools to show a girl she doesn’t have to conform to societies expectations. Although these concepts might be a bit heavy to introduce to a toddler there are still plenty of strong female role models and heroines throughout history to highlight. These female icons go back to Joan of Arch or Boudicia, and can show how women can fight against submissive roles and be leaders or fighters.  There are also strong women in movies and TV, and not all of them are even bitches anymore! Some are simply strong powerful women, who are respected by many, even if they do still have to fight for what they want. I’m not saying equality is achieved, extinguish you’re burning bras, I’m simply saying enough progress has been made that there are alternatives to expose a girl to. Things as simple as if you put a girl in trousers then no one would blink. If you decide to put her in a red or a blue outfit rather than pink today, then not too many people will comment.

But a boy…if you don’t want to be stereotypical male, which involves a degree of machismo and interest in sports culture, and perhaps instead you like pink or My Little Pony then you are clearly gay! Of course just because you like, say pink or purple, and enjoy traditionally female toys, that doesn’t determine your sexual orientation. That would be like saying that an enjoyment of sports means you are definitely straight, again that couldn’t be more wrong. So who do you tell you’re son about? Okay there are some famous transvestites such as Eddie Izzard that could be used as an icon, and I’m certainly grateful for them…but I don’t know of many. In fact Izzard is the only one I can think of right now who isn’t homosexual. That might just be my ignorance, and I would appreciate any guidance to help me learn more on this issue. But I can guarantee you in modern British society, if you put a baby boy in a pink onesie,  you will definitely raise eyebrows.  Even having a son with long hair, whether it is due to participation in a sub-culture with a masculine energy or not, he is going to attract comments.

All of this concern is not because I want my child (male or female) to be an outcast, of course I will be happy if they fit into societies mold. Because all of this concern is because in my idealist-young-left-wing-childless mind I want my child to be themselves, I want them to feel free to be whoever they are, whether that fits society’s expectations or not. I know that is what all parents want,  and so I’m not so silly for having those ideas. I don’t worry about teaching my daughter she can ignore the stereotypes forced upon her, and I don’t worry that my friends and family will agree they are outdated and support me in this en devour. I do worry about teaching my son he can fight the stereotypes, and I’m not sure my friends or family would support this. I’m not sure my husband would let me put a boy in a pink onesie, he would probably call it hippy nonsense. And not because he is small minded, and not because he doesn’t support me, but because all the fighting for sub-cultures and minorities has meant the dominant male population hasn’t been able to complain.

Maybe I’m worrying about nothing and when I have my child it will be fine. The internet may even play an important role, making it easier for any awkward, counter-culture child to find like-minded souls (there’s the awkward link). But I still worry about the role models I have for a son, who wants to look at mummy’s My Little Pony collection (look, not touch these are collectables!) more than the little girl who wants to play contact sports.

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