Google Search Algorithms as Revealing of Collective Social Stereotypes: The Hyper-Sexualized Asian American Woman
Image by Tricia Wang 王圣捷
I performed a Google Image Search just on "Asian women," "American women," and "Asian American women" for a presentation that I made on stereotypes and identities of Asian American Youth. I wanted to demonstrate the pervasive stereotypes of Asian women as hyper-hyper sexualized bodies and that general cultural stereotype was also evident in a simple online image search where the rankings are based on algorithms.
The screenshot of the results are in the picture above. You can see a comparison of the results for Asian Women (on the left) in comparison to Caucasian Women (on the right). The Asian American Google Image Search revealed pictures of every Asian woman naked, legs spread open, and in a sexual positions. In contrast, the Caucasian Women search revealed a variety of images of women from wearing suits to profile shots. None of the Caucasian women were naked or in a sexual position.
When I presented my search during my talk, someone asked ted me to type in “Korean, Japanese, black, African America." Even after performing each of those searchers, “Asian women” still won as the most sexualized google image search. When you perform the search based on more specific cultures, like “Dominican” – it’s not as sexualized as “Latina.” Same for when you search “Japanese” – it’s not as sexualized as “Asian.” Sometimes sweeping stereotypes are easier for mass groupings of people.
From the search results, there are no other groups that are as sexualized as the generic “Asian woman.” Latina comes the closest. You can see for “Arab women” you can plenty of images of the stereotypes veiled woman.
SO for Google searches – it’s just based on algorithms on what users are clicking through and page ranking based on how many sites point to the webpage – which all determines the relevancy of the answers to the search query.
But just a simple Google search can show the type of social stereotypes that exist out there – based on the distribution of what internet users are clicking, pointing and linking to. And in this case I think it can even demonstrate the extent of a stereotype. In Google image search, there are no hierarchies of approval that the images have to go through as opposed to traditional media (newspapers, TV shows and etc), where images usually become racialized in the approval process. Try the google search yourself -make sure the "safe mode" it turned off.
click on the set to see the other see the other google searches I performed or try your own google image search – make sure the "safe mode" it turned off.