For Google doodles, flowers=women.

Cross-posted at From Austin to A&M.

Today is International Women’s Day. A day that is dedicated to ending oppression against women, achieving gender equality, and celebrating women and their achievements. For feminists, IWD should also be a day where we celebrate women often left out of the dominant paradigm:

Tweet from Avory Faucette

Tweet from Avory Faucette that reads, “Big love for #IWD for all my trans women, queer women, WOC, WWD, neuroatypical women, fat women, & all women left out of dominant picture.”

Obviously, feminists hopefully do all these things every day (or at least try), but IWD is a nice occasion to remind the rest of the world that half the population of the globe lives under different and unequal conditions than the other half.

But for Google? International Women’s Day is about flowers. Because for Google, women are pretty much not important except as symbols of femininity.

Google IWD doodle

The Google doodle for International Women’s Day 2012. The logo replaces the normal primary colors with muted purple, red, yellow, and green. The first G is changed into the symbol for Venus, and the second O is a yellow flower.

Google has come under fire for its non-holiday doodles, which often recognize the lives of notable people . And by people, I mean men. Google doodles that recognize innovators are overwhelmingly about men; as of 2010, of 109 notable people recognized, 8 were women. Eight.

And Amadi of AmadiTalks pointed out last year that the Google doodles for Mother’s and Father’s Day fail to depict women actually parenting (or even women at all), as well as failing to depict any representations of parenting that aren’t middle-class and White. Google instead settles for illustrating Mother’s Day with flowers. Every. Year. For a company that claims to be creative and innovative, this is lazy, and shows just how much Google knows and cares about women.

Tweet from @GuardianJessica

A tweet from @GuardianJessica reading, “I’m not sure about the girly #IWD Google doodle, to be honest. Flowers? Wtf?”

The Google doodle this year also includes a flower. Besides the Venus symbol (a symbol that we can read as either problematically part of a binary system or as a reference to the political feminist movement), the flower and the color change (primarily purple) are the only parts of the logo that indicate exactly what they’re trying to recognize today. Not only does the doodle fail to represent actual women or actual achievements by women (something Google doodle fails at consistently), it also conflates female with feminine. It conflates “woman” with “girly,” symbolized by the flower and the color purple (generally coded as feminine in the West). And instead of actually acknowledging women, or supporting women’s equality, the Google doodle phones it in, as it always does with women. They slap a flower on the page and pretend they give a shit, when in reality, this representation is worse than none at all.

A tweet from @GuardianJessica

A tweet from @GuardianJessica reading, “And birth control pills RT @mathildia @GuardianJessica I’d like to see a suffragette, rosie the riveter, a vampire & a peanut butter kitkat.”

15 thoughts on “For Google doodles, flowers=women.

  1. kate

    When I saw Google’s doodle, I was also put off by the flower. I felt slightly placated when I read IWD’s Wikipedia page, which states that the Yellow Mimosa symbolizes the day in several countries. I still don’t think the doodle is an accurate representation of women, but I think they were aiming to use that “symbol” rather than a generic flower.

  2. jlstrecker

    Thank you. I saw the doodle this morning and was so vexed; glad I wasn’t the only one.

    Google could have doodled something that would actually help women — like this graphic from ActionAid. They have the power to do that and they chose not to.

    According to Wikipedia, “In many regions, [International Women’s Day] lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.” In Italy, Russia, and Albania, a common gift is yellow mimosas. Which could explain the yellow flower — except that it looks nothing like a mimosa.

    1. Courtney Stoker Post author

      Plus, the idea that IWD turns into a version of Mother’s Day is kind of sad to me. This is supposed to be a day of promoting gender equality. You can’t do that by buying ladies flowers and calling it a day.

  3. Alice

    I’m confused. Aren’t flowers supposed to be a symbol of international women’s day? Certainly this has been a part of IWD celebrations for a lot longer than google has been producing graphics.

  4. Erin W

    I’ll give them a pass on the purple Venus since that’s part of the official IWD logo, but I am underwhelmed by the rest. How generic!

  5. G

    BBC’s as bad or worse. The joined in the breathless amazement that Pinterest actually is a success without having mostly male customers in this article.

    Picture caption says: “Women – not geeks – are Pinterest’s early adopters

    1. Restructure!

      Horrible caption. Maybe there should be a place where we collect all these millions of casual comments by people (mostly men) in tech that assert women can’t be geeks.

  6. Fiona

    Flowers are historically a symbol of international women’s day, I believe. I don’t personally think Google misstepped there.

    On the other hand, the 101 men/8 women ratio of honored individuals is surprising and sad. Is that widely known? It was new to me.

  7. jlstrecker

    To contact the Google Doodles team and tell them how they could improve next year’s IWD doodle:

    (As I was searching for the contact info, I found out that, surprisingly, 2 out of the 5 current Google Doodlers are women. Now obviously it shouldn’t be their sole responsibility to design the IWD Doodle. But you’d think a team that’s 2/5 women wouldn’t end up with a design that’s so… chivalrous.)

  8. Anjasa

    I saw it this morning and it kinda ished me as well. I was fairly disappointed with how traditionally feminine it looked with the colours and style.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with traditional feminine motifs, but can’t we be a bit more cutting edge than that? Especially with so many important issues that have come up in the last year for women across the world.

  9. Sheila A

    Thanks so much for this. My response:

    What women really love is leaves. If only Google had taken the time to really do some data mining on the ornamental vegetation preferences of all women everywhere, this could have been avoided. (Pro tip: For IWD, I would personally like to receive a TA to help me grade all my papers. And universal health care in the United States, so I would not feel coerced by my dependency on my employer-provided benefits should I decide to follow the recommendations of the American public and engage in job creation by becoming a small business owner. And an end to sexual repression and violence against women and girls worldwide. But those things are hard to put in a Google Doodle, I know.)

  10. RH

    The Purple and green are there because they were the colours of the Womens Suffrage groups in Britain. ( and maybe other countries?)
    The colours meant;

    Green – Give
    White – Women
    Violet – Votes

  11. Claire

    I was put off a bit by the flower too. I like the playful overall feeling of the art though. Maybe it would be better for something more emotional and Hallmark, like Mothers’ Day.

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