[iDC] Search engines and the politics of code

Sullivan sullivan at riseup.net
Tue May 8 23:21:45 EDT 2007

Hi all,
   I've been silently participating in this list for a little while, and
wanted to see what people though of this. I came across this post on
the feminist news blog feministing.com


What did 'she' invent?
According to a post left on Digg, when you search Google for 'she
invented,' it asks you, did you mean 'he invented.' Not shocking I
suppose, but no doubt one of the many ways that cultural and social norms
get embedded in language. Adding 'she' confused the search engine, because
it is assumed that an inventor is always he. According to the post and
many of Digg's thoughtful comments from mini-misogynist D&D playing
teenagers it must be because women don't invent things and never have.

So our task here is double, first what did she invent? And if SHE didn't
then what are the historical, social, racial, economic and gendered
reasons for that?

And second, how do we resist sexist language? How about, don't call me a
woman blogger, I would never call you a man blogger. Asking where women
are in any number of settings (including but not limited to blogger,
inventor, scientist, engineer or doctor) reestablishes that the normal
archetype of these folks is gendered male. It is similar to saying male
nurse. Certain work is assumed to be done by a certain genders so it
surprises us when the wrong gender is doing the wrong work and it must be
named, with he, she, male or female.

Now what this says about Google, well I leave that to you. . .

the digg post:

also, some historic women communications inventors: Nora Blatch, Hedy Lamar
"People are in a very depressed state because they see things as bad and
getting worse," he said. "The antidote is joyful, constructive activity.
Oh, there are pills, also. Unfortunately, after a certain period of time
they seem to stop working."-Steve Stollman

More information about the iDC mailing list