The eighth book of this month’s 12 in 12 Challenge is Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. This is actually a book about the absence of women. The author considers how we accumulate data and use it to make decisions and design strategy and how so often women are missing from the data. This means that our world, both physically and culturally, is usually shaped by men. It is an interesting premise and one that every woman will recognise – the author backs it up with lots of examples which should alarm everyone who reads the book.
This is a very readable book although the author quotes lots of reports, surveys and books. I found that it particularly resonated with me because I recognised so much that she references in the world in which I live. I have known the problem of too big phones that you can’t operate with one hand but hadn’t realised that they are specifically designed for men’s hands. I know the problem with a seat belt not fitting a woman’s figure but hadn’t known that more women die than men in car crashes and that no female crash dummies are used to test cars. I have queued at women’s toilets whilst the men’s was free but this book shows how this inequity arises and how it is worse if you have gender neutral spaces.
There was much too that I hadn’t realised but which makes a lot of sense. Although the book concentrates mainly on the UK and USA there is a lot about women’s experiences in other countries including access to sanitary provision and what happens after disasters. The sections on health and medicine are truly frightening as a woman.
The problem is that our world works as though men are the default. Research, strategic planning and many other things consider men first. Women don’t contribute as much to society (at least they don’t if you don’t count it) and their needs are surely the same as men ? Physically, women are just smaller men – or at least that is how so much of the world is designed.
The author says that there are three main ways in which women are excluded from decision making. The first is that our physical body is ignored with the built environment being designed as though man were the default human and women only a deviation from the norm. The second is the problem of male violence towards women and how that shapes women’s lives but is ignored in all decision making. The third is the total absence of inclusion of the amount of time women spend in unpaid work in the home and with children and how it is vital to our society’s functioning but not taken into account in economic and service planning. What the author wants is for more women to be involved in our governments and other decision making bodies to ensure change and to make sure that women’s needs and contributions are seen.
This is a book that can make you very angry. It is also a book that reveals a lot about how our society works. I think that everyone who reads it will see the world very differently in the future.