Google Doodles Still Erasing Women’s History

Two years ago, I wrote a post over at Feministe calling out Google Doodles – described by Google as “changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists” – for pretending women haven’t existed for most of history. At the time, I counted only 8 women out of the 109 birthdays that had been celebrated in the program’s history.

This has irked me every time I’ve seen a Doodle honoring a dude since I wrote that post but I stopped blogging, got a full time job, and never went back to count again. Until this morning, when I saw that today’s Doodle is honoring Howard Carter, the British archaeologist credited with discovering Egyptian King Tutankhamen’s tomb and accused, by some, of stealing artifacts from his famous find. I wondered, ‘how is Google doing on representing women’s history in 2012?’

The answer is sad and disappointing, if not surprising.

Of 48 global Google Doodles honoring birthdays in 2012, 5 have honored women. That’s 10 percent. [citation]

Really, Google? Women are more than 50% of the world but you insist, in the way that you mark historical achievement, that only 10% of notable historical humans are female?

With all the serious challenges women face, why is this important? What I wrote back in 2010 still stands:

Because we’ve lived with the myth that men created the world and everything good in it for long enough. As long as men get to designate who and what in history is important, young women will continue to learn that all their sex has contributed throughout all of history is their wombs. If we can’t see ourselves as the inventors, artists, revolutionaries and creators that came before, how the hell are we supposed to fashion ourselves into the modern versions? Schools certainly aren’t doing a very good job in this department and since it processes over a billion searches a day, Google plays an increasingly important role in how and what young people learn.

The company recently posted a job opening for a Doodler in Mountain View. Google, like many of its tech counterparts, would do well to realize that more female voices in the room are proven to be better for business. In this case, a woman who was willing to teach them about half a world of history could do a whole world of good.

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

10 responses to “Google Doodles Still Erasing Women’s History

  1. Pissgums

    May 9, 1942: The Zoludek Ghetto (in Belarus) is destroyed and all its inhabitants murdered or deported. Except for Pessia Lewit.

    Here’s an extract from “Fugitives of the Forest”:
    ***
    Not far away, in the town of Zoludek, eighteen-year-old Pessia
    Lewit (now Bairach) barely survived an Aktion on May 9, 1942,
    that took the lives of her family and hundreds of other Jews. She
    eluded capture by hiding with two neighborhood children, whose
    parents had been shot, in a maline that had been built in the attic
    of a cowshed. All around her, other groups of Jews in hiding were
    found and executed. Too frightened to react, she remembers hear-
    ing the voices of her Polish and Belorussian classmates searching
    vacant Jewish homes for imagined treasures. Finally, they found
    something.
    “It was our Passover dishes that we kept in the attic,” she
    writes. “The special dishes and glasses aroused, for some reason,
    their mockery. ‘Here are their glasses! And look at their plates!’
    They would scream in the midst of their excitement. The Gentiles’
    visits became more and more frequent. They were coming from
    the villages . . . in search of treasures. With axes and shovels they
    would hammer the walls.”
    After more than a week without food and water, Pessia emerged
    and was immediately apprehended by a Polish policeman she had
    met earlier. His name was Yanish. She prepared herself to die, but
    Yanish did not kill her. Instead, he gave her food and water and
    allowed her to return to her hiding place. He also told her that only
    eighty Jews, skilled craftsmen and their families, had been allowed
    to live. Among them was a man named Moshe Bairach, a Jew from
    a nearby town whom she had been introduced to in the ghetto.
    Within a few days, Yanish had figured out a way to save Pessia and
    the two children: She would be listed as Moshe Bairach’s wife and
    the children as part of another family.
    Soon after, Bairach was transferred to the Lida ghetto and Pes-
    sia was permitted to join him. They had barely known each other
    in Zoluclek, but Bairach was more than happy to care for her. In
    time, they fell in love and were married. In Lida, Bairach began
    making contacts with visiting partisans from Tuvia Bielskis group.
    He and Pessia decided to leave for the forest at the first opportu-
    nity. Their escape, together with about thirty other people, includ~
    ing children, finally took place one evening in May 1943.
    ***
    After the war, Pessia moved to Israel, where she worked in the Israeli Museum of the Diaspora.

    Here’s a pic:
    http://www.infocenters.co.il/gfh/multimedia/Photos/Idea/34812.jpg

  2. daria

    Yes, so true! I’ve wondered the same thing when looking at google’s homepage, too. Although it is true that throughout history, men have had more _opportunities_ to become inventors/scientists/writers/famous, it should be all the more incentive to celebrate women’s achievements. And like you said, expand young girl’s understanding of what they can do. Ugh, this really irks me.

  3. Pingback: A Second Open Letter to Google Doodles | Speaking Up

  4. As much as I agree that women’s history needs to be celebrated, I don’t really agree that Google has done anything wrong in this case. The reality is that throughout most of history, women didn’t have the rights that we have now, and therefore didn’t have the opportunities to make important discoveries and invent new technologies. It has only been in the last century or so that women have been allowed the same education and opportunities as men. That is why it shouldn’t be surprising that only ten percent of the achievers that Google celebrates in their doodles are women. The celebrated figures in history are mostly men because men had most of the opportunities at that time. However, the celebrated group of people in our generation should be equal parts men and women because we now have equal opportunity to achieve great things.

    • Sally

      More like 40-50 years in the Western world and even less in other parts thus reducing the number of possible women to have achieved the same level of recognition. I do however agree with you that in this case Google isn’t at fault.

  5. Pingback: [link] Google Doodles Still Erasing Women’s History « slendermeans

  6. Pingback: Google Doodles Still Erasing Women’s History « Shadow in the Mirror

  7. richwhiteguy

    The population is 50/50 so therefore the google doodles need to be? Erroneous. Women and men have the same average intelligence, but males have more outliers, (geniuses and morons). History tends to remember genius, therefore more men. It isn’t a mere social construct at play here, but a deep and unchanging biological reality. Feminists will however be remembered for one thing, providing rich white men with something to laugh at. Ha ha ha!

  8. Mike

    Hmmm… if there were just as many notable female historical figures as male ones, wouldn’t the whole feminist premise of “women have been held back from great achievements for centuries by a male dominated society” be debunked?

    Perhaps it would be more constructive to show this as an example of inequity of the past instead of insulting Google for not over-glorify generic achievements simply because their authors are female?

    Just saying…

  9. Pingback: Why are there so few doodles showing women? | à la mode de chez nous

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s