“Google, Google, on the Wall…”

Google%2C+Google%2C+on+the+Wall%E2%80%A6

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 3.33.46 PM

In an article for The New York Times, “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?” writer Seth Stephens-Davidowitz presents the results from a study he recently conducted about the questions parents of young children type into the Google search bar.

Davidowitz discovered that parents are more likely to ask Google if their son is a “genius” than to ask if their daughter is a genius. With regard to girls, parents more often ask, “is my daughter skinny?” or “is my daughter pretty.”

Additionally, Davidowitz cited 160% more searches for “Is my daughter ugly?” than “Is my son ugly?”

These Google searches reflect that parents value intelligence in their sons and appearances in their daughters.

Thus the severe gender gap in the United States and abroad begins early in life – and right in the home. Parents have a big influence on the false stereotypes that accompany gender.

Even more troubling, these Google searches do not correlate with real statistics – boys are three percent more likely to be overweight than girls, and girls are eleven percent more likely than boys to be in gifted classes. Parents’ concerns are misdirected.

Davidowitz also used Google searches to analyze gender preference before birth. In Pakistan, he cited 590% more queries regarding the conception of boys (“How to conceive a boy”) than girls.

Pakistan, home to Malala Yousafzai, is no stranger to gender prejudice and violence. But why does this gender preference also exist in the US, where there is approximately a 10% preference for boys over girls?

Although Davidowitz did not present a definite answer as to why this might be, he did suggest two potential sources. Either men, who expressed a slight preference for sons, could be searching for conception advice in large numbers or women may prefer sons as well but do not admit it.

Regardless of the reasoning behind it, his study shows that there is a bias against young girls.

In the closing of his article, Davidowitz presented the question, “How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?”

Young girls would be in a greater position of power, and the world would certainly benefit from this. Aspiring female politicians face a bias that inhibits much of their success in office as relative to their male counterparts.

Rather than focusing on their political message, journalists and voters often scrutinize how female candidates dress and their degree of femininity, among other criticisms. Women in positions of political power offer a fresh perspective, and ensure greater representation of the America population, especially since women made up 50.9% of the population in the 2010 United States Census.

One area  Davidowitz fails to explore is the effect of parental pressure on young girls versus on young boys. Since parents expect their sons to be intelligent, boys face immense pressure to live up to these standards, which are reinforced through society and popular culture.

The Google searches above elucidate how our expectations for young boys are unrealistically high (i.e. strength, intelligence) yet how our expectations for their female counterparts are unrealistically low (i.e. beauty is the only concern).

With these perceptions clearly in place, Davidowitz’s study demonstrates that a cultural shift must take place to ensure a brighter future for girls and boys.