book review – invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men

book review – invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men

unpaid work.

sex.

gender.

does it seem like i’m going to start a feminist rant? no. i’m going to talk about what we women have known forever.

i just finished up “invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men” and boy howdy am i annoyed. despite being the majority of people who inhabit the earth, we get the short stick when it comes to, well, just about everything.

caroline criado perez does a nice job of making statistics and data points palatable in her book, which tend to make me set aside a book if it becomes too boring. instead, she weaves in stories and examples with her data, using recent, actual events to back up what she’s talking about. (and if you’re worried about “citation needed”, about 30% of the book is footnotes and annotations.)

she talks about three major parts of women’s lives that are ignored in our world: sex, gender, and unpaid work. each of them is infuriating in themselves to think about discrepancies, but the most irritating for me was the medical section (dealing with the sex portion of this). think about all those medical studies and drug studies and all those medications you’re taking. now think about how the majority of test subjects and even mice are male. now think about how different the female body is with hormones and different muscle mass and metabolism, even. and the data they do get after these studies? they don’t disaggregate them by sex! so there could be a great drug out there for women that didn’t do squat out there for men, but do we know? no. science grants have generally dismissed research into childbirth and menstruation due to them being “not pressing” even though one happens every 28 days for most women and the other happens 360,000 times a day! if that’s not pressing, i’m not sure what is. and then let’s not talk about how doctors dismiss women’s pain as “all in their head”. did you know that a lot women are given antidepressants instead of painkillers? and the men in the same situation are given painkillers?

WHAT. ON. EARTH.

now, let’s touch briefly on the fact that when you include any vehicular crash tests that include dummies that are the size and stature of women (but not anatomically, so the chestal area is flat [think about where a seat belt goes]), the safety ratings PLUMMET. and they don’t even do crash tests with these smaller dummies in the drivers seats, because, you know, women don’t drive ever, amirite?

and let’s not even get started on phone size and the pocketriarchy. yes, she talked about both those things. i wish she had used the term pocketriarchy though. i’d probably’ve written her a love letter.

*EYE ROLL SO HARD*

and that’s just one. unpaid work is another huge portion. one of the scandinavian countries decided to do their snow removal backwards (start with the sidewalks and side roads and move outward) and the number of injuries massively reduced. why? because all the women who travel to various places for different errands and to take care of people are more likely to walk and use side roads. the men who don’t do all this unpaid work just use a main road to get to their jobs and go home. women are also more likely to combine various trips into one: i go to work, but on the way home, i stop at target, i stop at the grocery store, i stop to pick something else up. husbands generally don’t do this because their wives do.

throw in childcare, eldercare, taking care of infirm relatives, housework, etc.: what do you think it would add to the GDP? she posits that it would more than double what the GDP is worth in its paid work. considering the average woman’s leisure time versus a man’s, this wouldn’t surprise me one bit. consider emotional labor.

ok, phew. i’m getting all riled up here.

for the last one, gender, which is inculcated in us from day one, i think what’s most telling is how the workworld is designed for men and women are told “hey, just be more bold. be more insistent. be more” when talking about the pay gap. didn’t get a raise? well, you obviously didn’t sell yourself as well as jeeves did over in the corner office. so we’re going to have a workshop on how to teach women to show their worth in the workworld. instead of this, can’t we just acknowledge that women aren’t as aggressive as men in the workworld and are just as, if not more, worthy? can that just be… the NORM? instead of telling women they need to be more aggressive in the workplace? and when they are, well then they’re just shrill. they’re too much. they’re HILLARY CLINTON. (such an odd insult.)

*EYE ROLL AGAIN*

bottom line in ALL of these is that when standards are set or buildings are designed or drug tests are commenced, maybe a few women at the table would help. heck: if the table were half women, that would be at least egalitarian. because chances are that they will think of something that men don’t think about because they don’t experience it. that’s why it’s good to have diverse backgrounds at the table as well.

so. read this book. women, prepare to want to scratch your eyeballs out in frustration (only because you know it happens all around you all the time). men, prepare to have your eyeballs opened a bit. at least i hope that’s what happens and i hope you think about it next time you’re making decisions for the whole in a room full of men.

kudos, caroline. keep fighting the good fight.

One thought on “book review – invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men

  1. Yea Caroline, yea Kate!! Good job, speak the truth, stand your ground, and don’t take shit from nobody.

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