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Sexism in Google, Wikipedia… and IMDB

Sexism in Google, Wikipedia… and IMDB

Google is indeed sexist, according to a new US analysis of more than a million images. Wikipedia doesn't do any better when it comes to professional stereotypes… and neither does IMDB.

Harry Potter effect

In recent years, several studies have indicated that the Internet perpetuates sexual stereotypes. But Douglas Guilbeault, an Ontario sociologist who works at the University of California, Berkeley, believes he has proven the problem conclusively. Out of a million images from Google and Wikipedia searches, February 13th comes up nature The image of 3,500 trades and professions is based on stereotypes. “It is particularly disturbing because the images remain etched in the memory,” he said in an interview. For example, you may have imagined Harry Potter in many ways while reading his book, but after watching the movies, Daniel Radcliffe comes to mind. »


According to the study, star modeling also involves sexism nature. “On IMDB (editor's note) and Wikipedia, more than 70% of people classified as celebrities are men,” says Mr. Guilbault. In politics, this is understandable, but in cinema and television it is still surprising, given the number of actresses. This indicates that stereotypes that promote masculine characteristics influence stardom. » This gender discrimination in stardom could explain why actors receive more wages than actresses, even if there are more actresses than actors, according to the researcher.

the truth

Image from the University of California at Berkeley website

Douglas Guilbault, author of the study

Mr. Guilbeault also compared images from Google and Wikipedia with US Census data. And it turns out the pictures are sexier than the reality. For example, when searching for a more masculine profession or profession, the results show images of more men than they actually are. The discrepancy between image searches and census statistics is about 10%. But in some cases, Google reflects reality well, or is a little less sexist. “We need to think about the potential for search engines to play a role in improving equity and inclusion, rather than just reflecting stereotypes,” says Mr. Guilbault.

Language neutrality

The researchers also analyzed the proportion of men and women in descriptions of trades and professions. Here, Google and Wikipedia are not sexist – even less so compared to the census data. Is it because of campaigns promoting the Epicen language? “No, because there is still a small impact of these campaigns on Internet content. This is due to the neutrality of language. Sometimes we do not know if we are talking about a man or a woman. Many terms do not have a different version depending on gender. »

From one country to another

On the other hand, text searches can be more sexist with languages ​​that are more sexist, for example Latin. Electrician for example is fixed in English, but in French we can say lectricienne. “Two years ago, there was a study that showed that Google searches were more gendered in more sexist countries,” says Mr. Guilbeault. This study was published in the journal PNAS and was based on the World Economic Forum's gender equality findings.

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