Computers That Consume Our Media Develop Sexist Views of Women

Women don’t play sports and belong in the kitchen, according to sophisticated learning machines.

In a study that has a number of disturbing implications, researchers found that computers become sexist when exposed to too much of our media. University of Virginia computer science professor Vicente Ordóñez noticed a pattern in how the image-recognition software he had developed interpreted photos. “It would see a picture of a kitchen and more often than not associate it with women, not men,” he told Wired.

That made Ordóñez wonder if researchers were injecting their own biases into the computer’s thought processes. So he found some collaborators and decided to test industry standard the photosets provided by Microsoft and Facebook to “train” image-recognition software.

They found that both data sets reinforced gender stereotypes in their depiction of activities such as cooking and sports. Pictures of shopping and washing were correlated to women, for example, while coaching and shooting were linked to men.

More worrying, image-recognition software trained with these datasets did not just reflect those biases — they magnified them. If a photo set associated women with cleaning, software trained with that photo set created an even stronger link between women and cleaning.

For instance, the research paper shows a photo of a man at a stove that image-recognition software consistently labelled as “woman.”

As these types of intelligent machine-learning programs are getting ready to explode in number and in importance. If we can’t get a handle on how to combat this problem, they could magnify the worst stereotypes society has about race and gender.

This is already happening. In 2015, Google’s automated photo service embarrassingly tagged black people as “gorillas.”

As learning computers become more sophisticated, this problem could have dramatic real-world consequences. Mark Yatskar, a a researcher at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, imagines a personal assistant robot in the future that is trying to guess what a human is doing in the kitchen. It might give a man a beer while offering to help a woman clean.

Last year, researchers from Boston University and Microsoft demonstrated that software that learned from text provided by Google News had acquired sexist biases as well. When asked  complete the statement “Man is to computer programmer as woman is to X,” it replied, “homemaker.”

Eric Horvitz, director of Microsoft Research, notes that the materials we give to children often reflect an idealized world — where men and women are equally likely to be firefighters or homemakers. He suggests that a similar approach might be necessary for learning machines. “It’s a really important question–when should we change reality to make our systems perform in an aspirational way?” he asked..

Other experts worry that providing a distorted version of reality to computers will hamper their effectiveness because the data no longer reflects the real world. Aylin Caliskan, a researcher at Princeton, says it’s important for the computer to know that there are more male construction workers in the world so that it can analyze data more effectively. She recommends identifying and correcting bias afterwards rather than providing “bad data” to the machines at the outset.. “We risk losing essential information,” she says. “The datasets need to reflect the real statistics in the world.”

There may not be a clear-cut answer, but it is clear that the issue needs to be addressed before these types of learning systems become even more prevalent.

One final thought. If these stereotypes are present in media that is suppose to be curated against racial and gender biases and computers pick up on them and amplify them — what do you suppose is happening to our most important “learning machines” — the brains of our children — when they are constantly exposed to the unfiltered text and imagery that makes up much of modern society?

Two Female Entrepreneurs Invent Silent Partner “Keith Mann” to Be Taken Seriously

The sad thing is that it worked.

The next time someone tries to say that women and men have the same level of opportunity and are equally judged when it comes to business and entrepreneurship, tell them the story of Witchsy co-founders Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer.

The pair made headlines this week when it was revealed that the third founder of the quirky online art store, Keith Mann, was completely fictional.

“I think because we’re young women, a lot of people looked at what we were doing like, ‘What a cute hobby!’ or ‘That’s a cute idea.’” Dwyer told Fast Company.

“It was like night and day,” she said. “It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.”

It’s clear that the two have much to be proud of–regardless of their fake male counterpart–just by looking at Witchsy’s numbers from last year alone. They grossed over $200,000 which largely goes back to the creators that contribute to the site, but Gazin and Dwyer still make a profit.

When giant online art megastore Etsy banned the selling of witch spells two years ago, Dwyer and Gazin took inspiration and opened Witchsy. It’s known for its dark, off-color humor, and has quickly become a haven for art consumers that need to stray off the beaten path.

None of this success is thanks to Keith Mann, despite what Witchsy’s investors may have been made to believe. But when all’s said and done, if there’s any lesson here, it’s that the battle for gender equality, particularly in the man’s world of American start-ups, is far from over.

Boys Stand with Girls Against Sexist Dress Code

When more than 20 girls were sent home on the first day of school for violating an outdated dress code, the boys stood with them — shoulder to shoulder.

When girls returned to San Benito High School in Hollister, Calif., on August 14th, they received a bit of a rude shock. According to one student, more than 20 girls were sent home on the first day for wearing off-the-shoulder tops.

While the style was technically against the school dress code, students claim it had been allowed fin the past.

“The dress code policy hasn’t been an issue the past two years I have been here,” one anonymous student told Yahoo. “Off-the-shoulder is a very big trend in the fashion industry right now,” she adds. “It’s not harming anyone physically….I think it is ridiculous how we have to fight against [the administration] to wear a shirt that is not harming anyone.”

The next day, the girls rallied and decided to protest the outdated and sexist dress code by wearing off-the-shoulder tops again And this time, they were joined by the boys.

Two senior boys named Aydrian and Brody wore off-the-shoulder shirts on Monday. On Tuesday, senior Andrei Vladimirov joined them. All were sent home, along with more than 40 girls. And just listen to what Andrei told The Huffington Post:

“I felt bold and subversive, as I actually, physically oppressed something that I saw as wrong,” Vladimirov said, adding, “But this story isn’t about me, it is about those who are actually affected by dress codes.”

“What I find problematic about this [keep kids safe] response is that if someone did try to assault a woman, the responsibility should lie solely on the attacker, not the victim,” he continued. “A woman never ‘asks’ to be objectified, assaulted or raped ― and such thinking is what creates harmful consequences. Women deserve to be treated with respect ― and to be treated with respect is to be given the freedom to express one’s self, and hold agency as an individual.”

“The notion that women should clothe themselves because it is ‘distracting to men’ undermines both the agency and volition of women ― which has long been suppressed ― and the maturity of men, and reinforces the idea that all men are only concerned with sex,” he concluded.


Another male student pointed out the apparent hypocrisy that the girls have been allowed to wear off-the-shoulder tops in official yearbook photos in years past.

Perhaps the best part of these minor acts of civil disobedience is the response of the school’s administration. Rather than digging in their heels and cracking down on infractions, they are using this as a learning opportunity.

“The students have been really good — really respectful and cooperative in terms of talking to us,” Principal Adrian Ramirez told Yahoo. “I’ve had 20 to 25 students who have come in to meet with me in small groups or individually and it’s been a good process in getting their insights in regards to some of the issues.”

Ramirez met with the Associated Student Body group on August 17 to announce that he will assemble a committee of students “to start a conversation regarding dress code. I already have several students who are interested in being a part of it. The goal is to make sure they are heard and can express their opinions and concerns.”

While we don’t yet know the resolution, we  must commend the girls, their male allies and the administration are handling the issue.

‘Jem’ Artist Jen Bartel Shows How Comic Book Shops Are Failing Female Fans

She illustrates the Catch-22 that occurs when shops that repel women simultaneously complain that women don’t buy comics in a beautiful Twitter takedown.

Artist Jen Bartel (Jem, America), went on an epic Twitter rant Wednesday morning, dissecting the troubles in the distribution chain that end up hurting both comics and the women who create and love them.

The great thing is that the thread evolved into a place to recommend shops that do make women feel welcome. Click here and scroll down to find a recommendation or leave a recommendation for a shop you love.

UK Retailer Primark Sells Appallingly Sexist Batgirl Nightshirt

It seems like every six months like clockwork, a retailer somewhere in the world releases a superhero-themed shirt for women that sends exactly the wrong message to women and girls — undercutting the very notion of heroism, and reinforcing gender stereotypes rather than challenging them.

This time the culprit is British retailer Primark, and the victim is both Batgirl and any woman who bought the incredibly sexist nightshirt they are selling in their stores.

Primark - Batgirl Nightshirt
Primark – Batgirl Nightshirt

Superhero fan Pippa Granger spotted the nightshirt on a recent shopping trip, and initially she was excited at her find. “When I first saw it I was excited as it is difficult to get female superhero clothing without it being pin,” she said. “Then I read the words and my jaw dropped.”

The words?

When is a woman ever a woman? Every moment of the day…and night! Even Batgirl during her most hectic moments…when she is battling criminals…is always conscious of her appearance! Should her costume be ripped, her face smeared, a bootheel lost… and her concern boomerangs against her! And yet being feminine can sometimes be turned to an advantage as she demonstrates to Batman and Robin in…

Batgirl’s Costume Cut-Ups

‘By the time Batgirl pretties herself up’ ‘It’ll all be over’

Detective #371, circa 1968
Detective #371, circa 1968

That’s right, instead of heroically saving the day, Batgirl is obsessing over her physical appearance … because that’s what “being feminine” is all about.

The design is taken from Detective #371, originally published in 1968. While the comic might be from the ’60s, the ideas about women contained inside it are from decades earlier.

“It’s extremely demeaning to women,” Granger said. “I don’t understand how someone could have approved that design.”

Teenage Girl Gamer Shuts Down Sexist Haters

After being accused of cheating in a videogame tournament, a 17-year-old girl proved without a doubt that she is one of the best in the world.

Korean pro-gamer “Geguri” is currently ranked as one of the top 10 Overwatch players on the planet right now. Overwatch is a team-based first-person shooter combat game that requires extraordinary hand-eye coordination and tactics. At 17 years old and a woman, Geguri is an anomaly in the male-dominated, testosterone infused world of esports.

Geguri is so good at the game, that she was the predominant reason her team UW Artisan won a major Overwatch tournament.  She was so damn good, that two of the players on the opposing team, Dizziness, “ETLA” and “Strobe,” flatly accused her of cheating after the tournament. Strobe even reportedly threatened to come to her house with a knife.

The two bet their entire pro-gaming reputation on the idea that there is no way a woman could attain the kill ratio that Geguri did during the tournament. If Geguri was proven innocent, they pledged to quit the game forever.

Geguri’s entire brief history in e-sports — where she boasts an incredible 80-percent win rate over 450 matches — was called into question, as well as the manner in which she won. Geguri has a “kill ratio” of 6.31:1 — meaning that for every one time she is killed in the game, she has killed her opponent more than six times. That is extraordinarily high. No girl could be that good.

You can watch the video above to see Geguri’s superhuman aiming ability in action during the tournament, as she mows through opponents with her favorite character “Zarya,” a muscular woman with bright pink hair and a giant gun.

After ETLA and Strobe filed the complaint against Geguri, tournament officials investigated and found zero evidence that she was cheating. She’s just really, really good. But even then, there were still dark rumblings that Geguri must be rigging the game somehow. So the gaming site Inventory allowed Geguri to perform a live demonstration of her skills on a machine they provided.

Once again, Geguri dominated the game. You can watch an hour of the live feed below. The action kicks in around 5:40.

After this incontrovertible proof of Geguri’s skills, ETLA and Strobe finally did one honorable thing: they retired from e-sports, as promised.

Would all of this controversy has ensued if Geguri was a man? Possibly, but it’s doubtful. There are (very few) men ranked higher than her right now. No one is saying they must cheat. So we tip our hats to Geguri, a 17 year old girl who shut down sexism in the most satisfying way possible, by kicking the (virtual) ass of her detractors.

Hasbro changes the gender of all the dinosaurs for Jurassic World toys because girl dinos have cooties

Let’s make one thing clear. All the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and Jurassic World are female. This is actually a plot point both in the first movie and in the books.

Incompetent or evil? Depends on what movie you are watching.

All the animals in Jurassic Park are female. We’ve engineered them that way. …

We control their chromosomes. It’s really not that difficult. All vertebrate embryos are inherently female anyway, they just require an extra hormone given at the right developmental stage to make them male. We simply deny them that.

While admittedly this system ran into some major bugs in the first movie. It appears they have worked the kinks out by Jurassic World, which begins with the park fully open and functional, and a complete lack of surplus dinosaurs feasting on the entrails of wayward tourists.

In particular, the velociraptors made in the movie are female. They are part of a program InGen set up with Chris Pratt’s Navy Seal / “dino whisperer” character Owen. We are told the raptors “imprinted” on Owen in the lab.

Some people online actually joked that the raptors allow the movie to pass the Bechdel Test. After all, the dinosaurs do have a conversation halfway through the movie. (I maintain it fails the test because even though they are talking, I’m pretty sure they are talking about Pratt.)

So the dinos are girl dinosaurs, which in any sane world would mean absolutely nothing — after all, dinosaurs don’t care about gender politics.

Unfortunately, people do.

Jessica Halladay over at The Geekiary ordered a toy version of “Blue,” Pratt’s lead raptor buddy in the movie, from the Hasbro. But while reading the description of the toy, she noticed something strange.

I ordered a Blue figure because I couldn’t resist.  Only, I noticed something strange.  Blue is a girl.  The description done by Hasbro referred to her as a “he.”  I thought, ‘Huh, that’s weird. Maybe they just wrote a bad description.’  But, I checked the descriptions for Charlie, Delta, and Echo as well. All were described as males by Hasbro.  They’re all females.

That’s right, Hasbro is so afraid that boys won’t play with anything girly, that they reassigned the genders of all the dinosaurs in Jurassic World so as not to bruise fragile male egos.

Blue - Jurassic World
Who’s a pretty girl?

It is a bit of a slippery slope, though. If Hasbro admits that kids might actually play with female dinosaurs, the next thing you know they might have to make female superheroes…

…and we know they aren’t going to do that.

via The Geekiary

Marvel CEO Calls Female Superhero Movies a “Disaster” in Leaked Sony Email

By the time Captain Marvel finally makes her debut as the first female superhero to helm her own movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on November 2, 2018, Marvel Studios will have already made 19 movies featuring male leads, including three apiece for Captain America, Iron Man and Thor.

So why did it take 20 tries before Marvel was willing to give us a movie with a female lead?

An email from Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter to Sony CEO Michael Lynton sheds some light on Marvel’s thinking. In short, they have no faith in female heroes.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”raised” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]

Subject: Female Movies
2014-08-07 09:32:50 UTC
From: [email protected]
To: lynton, michael


As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.


1. Electra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad.

2. Catwoman (WB/DC) – Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film was a disaster.

3. Supergirl – (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female super hero in Superman franchise. This Movie came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million. Again, another disaster.




So what did we learn? For starters, Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter does not even know how to spell “Elektra” correctly.

Yes, those movies all lost money, but they were all also horrible movies made well before the current superhero renaissance.  It’s not as if they made a good female superhero movie and no one came. There are plenty of examples of female-led action movies that made bank. Instead of looking at the incredible box office numbers of movies like The Hunger Games or Frozen, studio executives are dwelling on the dismal box office of weak superhero movies made decades ago.

Unfortunately, this email is not some relic from the distant past. It was written just last summer. This attitude is affecting what movies get developed today.

So when you are wondering where your solo Black Widow film is, or why founding Avenger the Wasp is reportedly killed off-screen in events that precede the upcoming Ant Man, wonder no more.

Marvel’s superheroic women can defeat any enemy — except for the sexist attitudes of their own studio executives.