You don’t need to be paranoid to suspect the world is skewed towards men – mainly white men. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez demonstrate, with data, the ways in which it is and some of her research should come as a surprise to even the most well-informed feminists. From what qualifies as deductible work expenses, the way streets are cleared of snow, the design of playgrounds to medical research, women remain invisible. An eye-opener.
Some of Perez’s themes are well-known and, I expect, experienced by many female readers of this blog, such as the gender pay-gap, the unequal sharing of domestic work or the more mundane problem of long queues at toilet facilities in theatres. We’ve all known this for a long time now, so why has so little been achieved? The problem, Perez argues, is that most things are designed by men, be it theatres or salary packages, so even attempts at fixing things, however well-meaning, fail because women are often not part of finding the solution – even to female problems.
There are other, perhaps less known issues, such as the staggering fact that it took thirty-five – yes, 35 – years, before uniforms in the US army were re-designed to take into account the female body. Military boots, apparently, are still designed exclusively with men’s feet in mind. Or the absurd fact that a glass of wine in a restaurant is a deductible work expense while child-care is not. When you know that 80-90% of single parents are women (in the US and UK), it’s obvious how this rule is stacked against women.
Perhaps the most disturbing facts in this book relate to medical research where women are grossly under-represented, often on account of their volatile hormone levels which make trials more complicated (as if that shouldn’t be considered when it affects 50% of future patients) and the tendency to hand out anti-depressants to women instead of correctly diagnosing the problem (thanks, Freud).
Perez has numerous examples in this well-researched and, at times, funny-sad book. It’s not necessarily because men are evil that we are where we are. As many of the examples in the book show, it’s just that men don’t consider things from the female perspective simply because they haven’t experienced it themselves, which goes to show how important it is to include women at all levels of decision making.
Mandatory reading for all policy makers, tech CEO’s, city planners and medical students and, come to think of it, all of us.
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez is published by Vintage, 321 pages.