The autocomplete truth

I don’t know if you’re in a country that observes Women’s History Month in March, but as we come to the end of this month, wherever you are, let’s take a few minutes to contemplate how women are doing in the world.

I recently happened upon an ad campaign that was something of a sensation a few years ago. I’m not usually up on things that have gone viral, or that everybody knows about, and this is no exception. Though I missed it then, it certainly has my attention now.

Produced on behalf of UN Women,* the ad campaign uses google searches that begin with phrases like “women should” or “women need to” and highlights the most frequent search results, based on actual searches that took place in various regions of the world. The search bar and results obscure the mouths of the women pictured, as if the opinions expressed are trying to silence the voices of women.

In each individual photo you can see the top search results, and underneath the search a phrase that expresses an alternative. The text is small, so a bigger screen will help.






It is certainly true that typing something into a search window is not the same as declaring it to be one’s firm conviction. You might easily type in “women shouldn’t box” because you’re doing research on restrictions on women athletes. Still, the prospect of millions of people searching up “women need to be disciplined,” “women shouldn’t have rights,” and “women need to be controlled,” is very sobering.

The ad campaign was called “The Autocomplete Truth,” and was hailed as “the start of a conversation that everyone thought was finished.”†  It won numerous awards, and got people talking all over the world. There’s a short video about it that I found interesting, but that I couldn’t embed here, so I’ll link to it instead. You can read more about the campaign and the creative minds behind it here.

A few years have passed since everyone was talking about these images and this issue, but none of the problems have magically gone away. I assume there are still women around the world who are feeling that their way is made unnecessarily difficult by forces institutional, political, cultural, and personal. I assume there are still men in the world who wish that life could go back to how it was in the past, when their authority wasn’t questioned, when women knew their place.

I assume, also, that large problems like these do not solve themselves, and that it takes all of us working together to move forward meaningfully. The UN Women organization believes these things:

Women should have the right to make their own decisions.

Women shouldn’t suffer from discrimination anymore.

Women need to be seen as equal.

Women cannot accept the way things are.


What can you add to that list? Let me know in the comments.


*UN Women is the United Nations organization whose mission is fostering gender equality and women’s empowerment. You can learn more about it here.

†From, the website for Design & Art Direction, an organization that promotes excellence in design and advertising.

[Images: Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai at,]




5 thoughts on “The autocomplete truth

  1. Women need to be part of the change.
    Women should advocate for each other.
    Women cannot allow injustice and discrimination anywhere.

    • Excellent additions! I’m especially mindful of the challenge and the importance of your last–it’s all very well to focus locally, but we need to extend our care to those at a distance, as well. I’m reminded of the quote from Martin Niemöller:

      First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.
      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.
      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

      (I don’t know the extent to which this represents his actual experience, but I understand that he spent 7 years in Nazi concentration camps.)

  2. Women should be encouraged to express their feelings and to question ecclesiastical and traditional authorities.

    • Absolutely. Everyone benefits when all voices can be heard, even if it is disconcerting at first for those who are used to being the only ones allowed to speak.

  3. Pingback: Lori Notes turns 300 | Lori Notes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s