First of all, I deeply thank Anna De Filippo for starting this section! I hope you appreciate this enforcement effort to fight gender stereotypes. I’m sure you’ll really enjoy this article!
Strangely enough to say for we Italian women but this time the outrage comes from English language. We had always regarded the English speaking world as the home country of the linguistic political correctness with no preconceptions. However, this time we were bitterly disappointed.
After having noticed a link posted on some facebook profiles, cultural prejudices and stereotyped images seem to be still so widespread and difficult to dishearten. The perplexing point is that these prejudices are not only confined to men but they are also affecting machines.
The link at issue, which was shared mainly by men on the famous social network, dealt with a google translation of the following sentence: “Men are men and men should clean the house”.
Google translator did not limit to the translation of the sentence but it gave the suggestion: “men are men and women should clean the house” (women is in bold as it appeared on the screen).
This scenario confirms again that stereotypes are still in force after all the years women have spent in order to let society understand that housework is not the only thing they are able to do.
Even worse is the fact that people still believe that cleaning the house is a women’s prerogative. This time it is technology that reminds it to us!
TV programs, advertisement, magazines are not enough to support the theory that “women are women” and “men are men” and, hence, the first ones are prone to do some work while the second ones are made for other things?
Again the image of the woman cleaning the house is welcomed as more natural because it is still considered unusual that a man could clean the house because women are said to have an aptitude for it.
Perhaps machines are not to be blamed because they are controlled by people, but it is unconceivable that sexism is also booming on the so up-to-date and modern technology, which seems to be anchored to an old and narrow mind.
As Umberto Eco stated: «Il computer non è una macchina intelligente che aiuta le persone stupide, anzi è una macchina stupida che funziona solo nelle mani delle persone intelligenti» (the computer is not an intelligent machine that helps stupid people. On the contrary, it is a stupid machine that works in the hands of intelligent people).
In fact, computers are considered stupid machines because they only work thanks to humans. However, a doubt arises from this happening: is it true that machines are always in the hands of intelligent people? In this case the answer should be negative because intelligence breaks the stereotypes and goes beyond what is conceptualized in a certain standardized way.
Actually Google translator is not run by individuals because the translations it gives are based on a statistical analysis coming from previous models which were translated by humans.
Nevertheless the point is the same because we have the proof that the texts presenting the image of the woman cleaning the house are higher in numbers; therefore, the sentence “women should clean the house” has more occurrences, in its linguistic acceptation, than “men should clean the house” and from there it came the suggestion, which has now luckily been removed.
It is unknown who is actually to blame: humans, society, machines? One thing is certain: behind such a ludicrous suggestion, there is the bitter awareness that women will have still to work hard in order to fight sex discrimination.
The image clearly shows the suggestion. The sentence was translated from English into German. We did not used Italian as the target language for the translation because the suggestion has now been removed and we could not have shown it to you in another language.
Umberto Eco, Come scrivere una tesi di laurea con il p.c., 1986
Anna De Filippo