UN Women campaign exposes how the internet thinks

Quiet, passive, and disciplined – women should know their place according to popular internet searchers highlighted in an alarming UN Women advertising campaign. The organisation wants to highlight that making the case for women’s rights and equality is still urgent.

Beginning with phrases such as ‘women should...’ and ‘women cannot...’, the powerful images show real life examples of Google’s autocomplete feature, placed over the mouths of women in portrait photographs. Autocomplete predicts and displays search phrases which reflect the activity of web users, as well as the content of web pages.

The campaign has provoked widespread news coverage as well as outrage and discussion on social media using the hashtag #womenshould.

Kareem Shuhaibar who worked on the ad series says ‘The ads are shocking because they show just how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality. They are a wake-up call, and we hope that the message will travel far.’

Inspired, other campaigners have made similar experiments. The UN Free & Equal campaign for LGBT rights searched for phrases related to gay people, throwing up often violent and homophobic results.

While internet search terms do not necessarily reflect all the beliefs and actions of the over two billion internet users around the world, the UN Women campaign highlights a disturbing level of discrimination and violence bubbling away in the World Wide Web.

Images: Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai.