Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This is Just Too Perfect and Too Sad

at the same time.

From She's Such a Geek, we get the discovery that when you put

biologist OR physicist OR scientist “she says”
into google news search, google responds with
Did you mean: biologist OR physicist OR scientist “he says”

It does not do the same if you replace "biologist OR physicist OR scientist" with "teacher OR nurse OR housekeeper."

I also tried searching with
teacher OR nurse OR housekeeper “he says”
and I didn't get anything back but the search pages I asked for.

Now, I generally dismiss conspiracy theories based on Occam's razor, and this is no exception. I don't think this bit of sexism was purposely built into google. The most likely possibility is that it's simply a result of the combination of search algorithims, the number of instances in which female scientists, physicists, and biologists are quoted, and the number of times that people search for such quotes.

But that's what makes it all the more interesting. It's such a perfect example of how prevailing biases in one area, and the absence of activisim in another, can combine to turn even something that wasn't meant to be sexist into a tool of sexism.

It's such a perfect rebuttal to the idea that lack of action in a culture were such biases exist means that one is being neutral.

After all, if you add negative 1 to 0, you've still got negative 1.

No comments: