Next time someone tries to deny that sexism exists, here's one source of evidence you can point out: Our Google searches and results reflect gender norms. This is no conspiracy on Google's part; rather, it reflects billions of data points Internet users have provided based on their implicit and explicit beliefs. And some of these beliefs are truly frightening.
Most of us wouldn't say that we value men more for their minds and women more for their looks (though apparently some of us really would say "women are like bacon" — more on that later); sometimes, though, our Internet habits reveal more about us than we ourselves are aware of, and that information in turn exposes what our society has taught us. Since people feel no need to censor themselves for political correctness when they're sitting at home on their laptops, our most harmful stereotypes come out as we type away.
As last year's World White Web campaign taught us, for example, the distribution of images on the Internet as revealed by Google Images is racially skewed toward white versions of body parts. Image searches for "body" typically yield white men, and search terms involving racial groups autofill in the most offensive ways possible.
When it comes to gender in particular, here are some of the absolute worst search autofills and results that reveal that sexism is definitely still a thing.
1. "Boy" And "Girl" Yield Vastly Different Images
As Redditor bleunt points out, Google Image searches for "boy" will lead to photos of kids, while that for "girl" will lead to sexy shots of young women. While it's true that this may simply be due to the different age connotations of "boy" and "girl," the fact that those connations tells us something in and of itself. When we conflate "girls" with sexy women, we both infantilize women and sexualize girls. Further proving this point, "girl" (but not "boy") is frequently searched alongside "beautiful."
2. People Ask If Their Sons Are Geniuses And If Their Daughters Are Overweight
According to an analysis published in The New York Times by data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, people search "is my daughter overweight?" 1.7 times as often as "is my son overweight?" and search "is my son gifted?" 2.5 times as often as "is my daughter gifted?" Perhaps also revealing of gender norms, the top suggestion to complete "is my son" is "gay."
3. People Think Women Are Like Cats And... Bacon?
These suggestions confirm the uneasy feeling I get when people talk about how cats are so picky and standoffish and vain: We characterize animals in ways that are suspiciously reminiscent of gender stereotypes, which is also reflected in the common saying that "men are dogs." I actually know a lot of friendly and active cats, but our ideas about different types of animals and different types of people reinforce one another. I was scared to click "women are like bacon," but i took one for the team and found out it's because they "smell great, taste delicious, and kill you slowly. Men are like bacon because they're pigs." Dogs, pigs — it's the same idea.
4. People Still Think Men And Women Are From Different Planets
That dang book has influenced our collective consciousness to the point that Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is the most common autofill for both "women are" and "men are," even though numerous studies have come out since its publication proving that men and women are both actually from Earth.
5. People Wonder If Feminists Are Ugly
Further corroborating the claim that many people endorse gender norms whether they realize it or not, those who challenge them — AKA feminists — get called ugly and stupid. Just great.
Images: Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images; screenshots via Google