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Unsichtbare Frauen: Wie eine von Männern gemachte Welt die Hälfte der Bevölkerung ignoriert

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Unsere Welt ist von Männern für Männer gemacht und tendiert dazu, die Hälfte der Bevölkerung zu ignorieren. Caroline Criado-Perez erklärt, wie dieses System funktioniert. Sie legt die geschlechtsspezifischen Unterschiede bei der Erhebung wissenschaftlicher Daten offen. Die so entstandene Wissenslücke liegt der kontinuierlichen und systematischen Diskriminierung von Frauen zugrunde und erzeugt eine unsichtbare Verzerrung, die sich stark auf das Leben von Frauen auswirkt. Kraftvoll und provokant plädiert Criado-Perez für einen Wandel dieses Systems und lässt uns die Welt mit neuen Augen sehen.

494 pages, Paperback

First published March 7, 2019

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About the author

Caroline Criado Pérez

7 books1,267 followers
Caroline Criado Pérez is a best-selling and award-winning writer, broadcaster and feminist campaigner. She is published across the major national media, and appears in both print and broadcast as a commentator on a wide range of topics.

Notable campaigns include getting a female historical figure on Bank of England banknotes; getting Twitter to introduce a "report abuse" button on tweets; getting the first statue of a woman (Millicent Fawcett) in Parliament Square.

Her first book, Do it Like a Woman, was published by Portobello in 2015. It was described as “a must-read” by the Sunday Independent and “rousing and immensely readable” by Good Housekeeping who selected it as their “best non-fiction”. Eleanor Marx hailed it in the New Statesman as “an extended and immersive piece of investigative journalism,” while Bridget Christie chose it as one of her books of the year in the Guardian, declaring that “young girls and women everywhere should have a copy.”

Her second book, INVISIBLE WOMEN: exposing data bias in a world designed for men, was published in March 2019 by Chatto & Windus in the UK & Abrams in the US. It is a #1 Sunday Times bestseller and spent 16 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller lists. It is being translated into nineteen languages, and is the winner of the 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize, the 2019 Books Are My Bag Readers Choice Award, and the 2019 Financial Times Business Book of the Year Award. It was described by Caitlin Moran as "one of those books that has the potential to change things – a monumental piece of research." Melanie Reid in The Times called Invisible Women "a game-changer...making an unanswerable case and doing so brilliantly…the ambition and scope – and sheer originality – of Invisible Women is huge...It should be on every policymaker, politician and manager’s shelves," a sentiment that was echoed by Nicola Sturgeon who described it as "revelatory," adding that "it should be required reading for policy and decision makers everywhere."

Caroline lives in London with her small excitable dog, Poppy, has a degree in English language and literature from the University of Oxford, and studied behavioural and feminist economics at the LSE. She was the 2013 recipient of the Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year award, and was named OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,267 reviews
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,301 reviews22k followers
May 30, 2019
I really dislike conspiracy theories – in fact, few things make me angrier. The reason is that a conspiracy generally involves people plotting and planning and those people who are assumed to have the power to bring the conspiracy into effect generally have been shown in history to be pretty stupid – in fact, far too stupid to do the conspiracy and keep quiet about it. Conspiracy theories also tend to involve improbable leaps of faith along the way, you know, like the one that the US government was involved in bringing down the Twin Towers at 9/11. These theories become so convoluted and improbable that eventually it would be easier to just blame aliens.

But the real reason I hate conspiracy theories is that a conspiracy implies that the bad shit that happens in our world is hidden from us by powerful elites – and the fact is that the really, really bad shit in our world isn’t hidden from us at all. I think conspiracy theories have an appeal to us because they basically pardon us for our inaction. How were we supposed to do something about stuff we didn’t even know was happening? – Damn you, you evil conspirators! But really, whether it be climate change, third world debt, HIV/AIDS, American gun laws, the Iraq war, the slaughter and man-made famine in Yemen, the pollution of our oceans, referring to fossil fuels as ‘freedom fuels’ (no, I didn’t make that one up, even though I wish I had https://www.sbs.com.au/news/us-rebran...) – none of this is hidden from us. None of this needs a conspiracy to explain it. All of the murder, all of the destruction, all of the ‘let’s end all life on the planet for a bit more money’ is done in broad daylight with our noses pushed right up into it. And all of this is a million times more terrifying than the idea that the US government blew up a couple of buildings. Yet we watch our nightly news, yawn, roll over and fall back to sleep.

This book is about one of those non-conspiracies we sort of know about but do stuff all to fix. The way we treat women is so breathtakingly appalling it would be nice if there was some sort of conspiracy theory involved here to relieve us of our complicity. This book argues that how women are treated isn’t really due to the evil patriarchy, a bit like the Elders of Zion plotting the overthrow of the Tzar, but that how our society ignores women makes how they are treated inevitable. It says that many of the reasons that women are so badly treated in our society is because most of the people with power, most of the people who get to make the decisions that make a difference in the world, are men – and it isn’t that men consciously go out of their way to make life shit for women (even though you would have to wonder sometimes) but rather, they do this because they are men, and as such they design the world to work for them. And when that world simply doesn’t work for women, these men don’t even notice because they simply don’t inhabit the same world that women inhabit. There is no conspiracy theory required – just neglect, self-interest, and perhaps a little dose of wilful blindness based on those with power focused solely on their own needs.

The author blames a lot of the problems here on gaps in the data. There were lots of things I didn’t know. I didn’t know that car crash dummies are mostly ‘male’ – particularly driver dummies – and that they are based on what you could call ‘middle man’, about the average in terms of weight and height and everything else. I didn’t know that many drugs that are often almost exclusively given to women (think antidepressants say) are often almost exclusively trialled on men. I didn’t know that Viagra could potentially help cure PMT, but that the drug companies don’t want to put it through the clinical trials to do this since it is such a profitable drug that if they find out it causes problems in women it might cause problems that would kill the goose that laid the golden egg. There are lots of examples here of instances of things like men getting free condoms and women not having access to sanitary products that just make your blood boil. When it is pointed out it is hard to not come to the conclusion that we men really are arseholes.

This book gets depressing very quickly. There is just case after case of things that made me say, ‘Oh, for god’s sake – who makes this shit up?’ Like how women are often excluded from drug trails altogether because they have hormones that change over the month and so that might make testing the drug a bit more difficult. Which is a bit like designing trousers for men assuming they don’t have penises because, well, it just makes it easier. And before you laugh, the author gives at least half a dozen examples where things are poorly designed to fit women because women have the audacity to grow breasts.

This is an infuriating book. We are effectively murdering women – in fact, often we are actually murdering women and too often we do this by paying no attention at all to the physiological, social, cultural and power differences that exist between the sexes.

There was a bit early on in this book where I got a bit worried. She started to discuss the problems associated with women in academia – what has become my world – and while all of these problems are very, very real, I was worried that this book might end up a kind of ‘glass ceiling’ book. And after reading Feminism for the 99% A Manifesto – I’m going to have to get around to reviewing that eventually – I’m worried about ‘feminist’ books that only notice the issues that impact rich, white women. But this book brought intersectionality into its analysis too – you know, if you are black and female, you might want to travel out of the US to give birth, I’m just saying.

This book ought to make you angry. Not least because the answer to many of the problems identified would simply involve listening to women. I knew many of the things discussed here. For instance, that many more women than men died in the tsunami in 2004. The reason? Women look after children and old people, women are often in locations where they can’t hear the warnings signals, women are less likely to learn to swim, women are less likely to learn to climb trees, women are constrained by ‘modesty’ in clothes that make escaping rising water almost impossible – and if they do escape they are likely to be raped and possibly bashed by men. If you are not made angry by this book you have no humanity left. But the solution is often also painfully simple. We need to listen to women. We need to place them in positions of power. We need to involve them in decision making processes that impact them. I know, radical ideas, but we might as well start big and work down from there.

The instance that will stay with me from this book was about public transport – it had just never occurred to me. Most public transport users are women. Men drive cars, women catch the bus. But public transport systems are designed by men. So, they are designed to radiate out from the centre of cities – much like fingers splayed out from the palm of a hand. Which is great for men going to work and then back home again – but not so great for women who might need to get the kids off to school, check on their aging parents, and then work in three part-time jobs that are close enough to home to collect the kids again from school, all of which might not be in a direct line into the centre of the city. Public transport systems are designed by men to suit the needs of men, but are mostly used by women, and so often don’t meet the needs of the majority of its users. Shit like that has really got to stop.

Thanks Avolyn for recommending this to me.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,257 reviews58 followers
January 3, 2020
Do not read this if you are suffering from high blood pressure, because it is absolutely rage inducing. However EVERYONE should read this at some point, it looks at things that I had never even considered, genuinely brilliant.

Second Read- so.... my Feminist bookclub have this on the list, so gave it a reread- just as goddamn rage inducing on the second read.
Profile Image for Rob.
32 reviews12 followers
September 6, 2019
I don't know who would possibly want a man's opinion on a book about the problems with male default bias, but... here's my review.

This is essentially a collection of statistics which entail how systems made by men and for men are minimizing and marginalizing the other 50% of the population. It does this by breaking the statistics down into chapter-spanning categories and creating a cohesive narrative to explain how all of these events are related and come back to the same basic problem.

I would recommend this book to any man who identifies as "not sexist." Because this makes it clear that even treatment that men believe is fair, un-sexist, and in the best interest of women, is still entirely subjective to their inherently male worldview. This book really shook up my views on what equal consideration for both men and women should look like. To anyone who thinks, "Why can't women be more like men," or that women should follow the exact same rules and be given the exact same treatment, read this book. You will develop a very thorough understanding of how, both now and historically, one-size-fits-all rules generally conflate what favors society as a whole with what favors the men who write them. Consequently, equal consideration to both men and women often requires unequal treatment, because, surprising as this may be to many men, women don't necessarily have the same needs.

I listened to the audiobook, which happens to be narrated by the author. This, I think, was a huge benefit, as the tones and inflections of the author convey the feeling and intended meaning of every word. This does, of course, mean that the author's (understandably) frustrated bias often comes through in the subtext, but I think that's important in order to glean not only the data and statistics, but an actual woman's perspective on them. It doesn't blur the actual data being presented, so I think the book is better for it.

My one complaint is that the information in this book was borderline overwhelming. A majority of the content entails half-hour cascades of one statistic after another, and I found that my proverbial eyes would glaze over occasionally and I would have to back up and try again. This is unfortunately inevitable, as there are only so many ways to convey this information to the reader. It also draws to light the sheer volume of the unconscious and invisible discriminations that happen every day, and I commend the author's ability to gather and present them so entirely.

Another side effect of the volume of information is that I don't feel particularly empowered to personally incite a change. I often found myself nodding along with most of the book, but I'm left feeling very unclear as to what to do next. I do, however, believe that I am armed with facts that I didn't have before, and I can use this knowledge to call out the injustices that occur within my sphere of influence.

As a whole, most of this book felt like a persuasive essay along the lines of, "You want proof that male privilege exists, that most systems of governance are biased toward men, and that women are literally dying because of it? Well here's your proof."

And the proof is appalling. Point taken.
Profile Image for Lior.
14 reviews21 followers
July 31, 2020
This is a really good comprehensive investigation of how a failure to account for gender based needs and requirements results in a bias towards cis men.
This is exactly why the casual cissexism embedded in it is so unfortunate and harmful.
Perez critics the continuous overlooking of women and women's needs, but is herself continuously overlooking trans and nonbinary people. She also keeps switching between sex and gender as interchangeable.
The most problematic claim is that a lack of sex-segregated bathrooms in some places increases rape and sexual assault. This is clearly focusing on the wrong aspect of a problem, while creating new problems for people who don't fit the norm. It is extremely disappointing in the context of shedding light on how women are seen as a deviation of the cis male norm, who is seen as default.
A critical book published in 2019 which deals with gender cannot ignore trans folks. It is simply not good enough to address cis people exclusively in such a comprehensive book.
Hope there will be a better, more inclusive edition soon, as it is highly important this kind of information be accessible for all.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,848 followers
November 13, 2019
Simply said, if someone is in power, he tries to make a policy that meets his wishes and reflects the image of the society, company, etc he wants to build. This can be done in a direct, evil way by treating minorities, women, atheists, etc. with repression until imprisonment, torture and death if they misbehave and in these cases, it is an obvious crime.

It gets more subtle when bigotry and indoctrination kick in and lead to both politicians and managers that are not all direct, misogynic sexists. That would either fit the requirements their spin doctors taught them for winning the next election nor the code of conduct, corporate responsibility or whatever ethic mumbo jumbo the PR department has in planning.

Those white, rich man's minds have been poisoned by influences of faith, elitist thinking and inhumanity and many of them simply had no chance to get out of this vicious cycle, because it makes no difference if it is a cult, an extremist group or a billionaires club, they are all pretty misguided and pitiful.

The worst case, both for women and for the possibility to real change, are those who believe that they are doing the right thing and would call themselves emancipated but keep on pushing laws and employment contracts that discriminate against women indirectly and perfidiously. They don´t give any kind of appreciation, allowance or financial help to mothers without whose immense pain and effort each nation would die out because no kids would be born anymore.

They don´t give a dollar for all the unpaid work, the caring for toddlers and especially care-dependent elders and without this, the health system would simply collapse.

There are medicinal research areas that are taught, shaped and mainly tested on man. It is a simple economic reason why men are preferred in all kinds of long going and very expensive admission procedures for drugs because they don´t get pregnant and have no staggering hormone levels. The result is that many side effects may cause much more harm in women because they haven´t been tested in such large numbers or anyway.

The same questions plops up with the harmfulness of, well, anything, like any kind of food additive, environmental toxins and the regulatory limits. Tested and found harmless for men with an official quality seal. Tested with younger and older women with different hormone levels, muscle mass and probably pregnancy? "Nope, would have been too difficult and expensive, sorry, nobody does that, probably in Amazon wonderland, but not here." There are no numbers available regarding the side effects of all drugs, environmental destruction and food risks, but let's say that there may be an unknown number of women that would have profited from clean 50 male/ 50 female test series instead of dying.

I find it really difficult to decide if the simple, logical, economic greed is more disgusting than the reminiscences and aftermaths of all those very old, sexist writings by weird old men. Those two axes of evil certainly exponentiate each other, learn from each other and produce the right social and consumer products for him who unofficially still deems women inferior.

In design, the number of toilets is a prime example of male domination. This is not deadly, in contrast to using crash test dummies that are normed as male or giving free condoms and restricting female contraception, but an instance of simply forgetting that there is another gender out there. Or designing public transport in a way that makes it impossible to do more than just manly things like driving from home to work and back and not caring about things like groceries, kids and stuff. It would also be more expensive to tailor clothes that fit better at hips and breasts, so it simply isn´t done.

As much talk as there is about gendering, sexual harassment, eating disorders, etc. so less is heard about those topics in mainstream media. Those would probably bash the religious groups as long as the broadcast corporation doesn´t belong to the Kraken. But they wouldn´t even touch the economic problems with pincers and gloves, cause they all are very dependent on the companies advertising their products.

There are no men in general to blame, but a society and upbringing that makes them so blind to the different necessities of half of the population that their work, publications and statistics get highly subconscious biased, onesided, dangerous and often even deadly, as seen in medicine, especially pharmacy, one of the sickest examples of misleading science I have ever seen, especially because it is so obvious and could be easily prevented.

"This is a men biased world", one could sing and yes, the so-called strong gender built the whole world with a focus on efficiency, profit or prestige and didn´t listen, care or even think of the needs of all their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. And they inherited this behavior to their sons instead who live in a world of big data with algorithms, AI and immense potential to use all those tools to improve life for all people, but instead, as daddy taught them, they simply ignore, forget or, the easiest way, don´t even evaluate the data about women to jump in their money storage instead and let gold coins softly recoil from their bald head (from daddy too) producing a hollow sound from a skull just filled with ....

By empowering women, making a strict law to make half of each government and management leadership ranks half female, make all research transparent with tools like blockchain and dumping direct and indirect sexism in the trash can of history right next to all the other sick ideas out of white men's heads.

This is another great book about the topic:

I like to talk about WEIRD and the topic is a prime example of it.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real-life outside books:


Profile Image for Gwen.
198 reviews2 followers
January 27, 2020
This is a book about unconscious bias. It's not about men deliberately excluding women when considering things like uniforms, city travel, or treatments for medical conditions ... although it's true that once the bias is pointed out, it's not always top of the list to make safety adjustments. And that's really one of the most important points of the book: it endangers women if you design and build the world without considering women's needs and habits. Women are built in a particular way, and they are socially conditioned in a particular way, and they're treated in a particular way - comparing all this to men's situation is useful only to a certain extent because it is so easy for everyone to slip into the mindset that men are the default human, and women are, as the author notes, "niche". We design things for people, but really only think of men and their needs because - and companies and designers are open about this - women are harder, with our non-linear bodies and hormones meaning that more sophisticated (and more expensive) research needs to be done.

We also design things for men because men are the designers for the most part. They have no experience being women of course, and don't really look into it because, for the most part, it doesn't occur to them. If you're a woman, just think about all the books you've read through the years about male experience, with a male protagonist, and presented - or even taught - to you as "human experience". We do it all the time, and I read books regularly with male protagonists sorting out their stuff (if you follow me here, you'll see plenty of ex-Navy-SEALS running around). But women's experience in novels and poems? That's women's experience only. My point here is that while women are trained to identify with both men and women, and indeed possibly favor the male experience, men aren't trained to look at - or think about - women's experience.

Criado Perez has really done her research, but what could have been a very statistic-heavy book is in fact very readable, engaging, and so enlightening. The Introduction should really be published on its own - it's magnificent. This is a book to buy and keep, and get some of those sticky notes because you'll want to mark pages for future reference!
Profile Image for Laura Sackton.
1,073 reviews91 followers
December 3, 2019
There is so much relevant, important, fascinating, and deeply troubling information here about the ways in which the world, in big and small ways, is built for white men. BUT. I have to give this book two stars for its appalling erasure of trans and nonbinary people. The words themsleves (transgender, nonbinary, gender non-conforming) do not even appear in this book. Not once. Nor does the word cisgender. In a book about the ways that a lack of data renders women invisible, and the ways that invisibility literally costs women their lives, it is, frankly, inexcusable that Criado-Perez does the exact same thing to trans people. In her world, apparently, trans and nonbinary people do not exist.

This does not have to be a book about trans issues. It is not a book about race, and yet, Criado-Perez includes some analysis of race in the various scenarios she examines. It is not a book about class, and yet she also includes analysis of the way class affects the various data biases she examines. There is very little analysis of queer sexualities, AND YET she manages to precede almost all the data she gives about married couples with the word "heterosexual", which at least renders queer people visible. But she does not give this same basic consideration to trans and nonbinary people.

There's a whole chapter about the accessibility of public restrooms, in which she does not consider the ways that access to restrooms specifically affects trans and nonbinary folks. There's a whole bit about gendered language, and the ways it shapes how he think and act (which was totally relevant and important) that does not even CONSIDER how gendered language might and does affect (and harm) people who fall outside the gender binary. There's a chapter on how public transit and its infrastructure (bus stations, subway stops, etc.) are not designed with women in mind. She goes into the ways in which various infrastructures are unsafe for women, and the ways in which women experience violence in public places. But she does not once mention specific violence toward trans women, or how likely trans women are to be the targets of violence.

I'd read a few reviews before I started this, so I was prepared to be upset by it, but I decided to read it anyway because I found the subject matter as a whole so compelling. But Criado-Perez's failure to even mention the existence of trans people, and people outside the gender binary, just made it nearly impossible for me to take anything she said seriously. This happens a lot in nonfiction and I'm always exhausted and angered by it. Sometimes the oversights are small enough that I still feel the book has some merit. But in a book ALL ABOUT GENDER, and specifically the ways in which ignoring gender leads to serious harm--it's just too big an erasure to get past. The irony is heartbreaking.

Do better.
Profile Image for Joanne Harris.
Author 62 books5,759 followers
July 3, 2019
This is a long-delayed, hugely important book, which people of ALL genders should be reading. Sadly, more people seem to be discussing it than have actually read it. It's not just about crash test dummies, or voice recognition software, or airline seats, or toilet queues, or medical research. It's about the systematic way in which data on women has been ignored, neglected and downright erased, whereas data on men is not only abundant, but recognized as the universal norm. The needs of the "average person" boil down to the needs of the *average man*, and though not all men *are* average, there's still an enduring attitude that male is a default position and female, an aberration. I found myself recognizing so many situations depicted in this book - things I thought that only I had experienced, but which turn out to be common to pretty much all women, whether they're aware of it or not. Read this, and you'll start noticing inequalities you never even considered before. And you'll notice them everywhere.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,399 reviews589 followers
September 26, 2019
Invisible Women is the story of what happens when we forget to account for half of humanity. It is an exposé of how the gender data gap harms women when life proceeds, more or less as normal. In urban planning, politics, the workplace. It is also about what happens to women living in a world built on male data when things go wrong. When they get sick. When they lose their home in a flood. When they have to flee that home because of war.

My husband is not a knuckle-dragging caveman, but he is a middle-aged, white, Canadian male, totally oblivious to the privileges afforded to him by our society (admittedly, many of those privileges are granted to me as well). We were in the car, listening to the radio over the summer, and “It's a Man's World” began to play. Dave chuckled and said, “Boy, things have changed, eh?” And I replied: “And boy, have they stayed the same.” And this stunned him. “You can't believe that,” he said. “Here's a story for you then. A young girl at work...” I cut him off. “Young girl? What, is she eight or nine?” And then he was flustered. “You know what I mean. I'm just trying to tell you a nice story.” He paused like he was going to punish me by not telling me the story after all but soon continued: “Rebecca, who is probably twenty-five and on my team, was asked by HR to assemble some slides for a presentation on the industry and she asked me if she could present it to me first. She reads off the first slide, which is about the gender pay gap, and before she went to the next slide she frowned, looked at her notes, and said, 'This is probably American data.' Because she knows that there's no gender pay gap in our office, and if anything, there are more women than men in senior positions, and more women on a management track.” He looked proud of himself – and he should, I know that this non-caveman, the father of my daughters, is not a sexist or a chauvinist – but still I pushed my point: “If this had been a twenty-five year old male in your story, would you have started off with, 'This young boy at work...?' Because that's what hasn't changed, and no matter what you consciously do to promote the careers and the welfare of the women you know, it's the subconscious biases that are harder for us to navigate because you don't even know what you're doing that's holding us back.” Dave, “shocked” to discover I felt this way, wanted more details about these “subconscious biases” of which I accused him. And while women know that the systems are rigged against us, it's hard to be specific – until now. Caroline Criado Perez has assembled a collection of shocking and eye-opening stories in Invisible Women, very clearly making the point that men, for the most part, aren't consciously trying to hold women back; for the most part, men don't think about women, and the fact that our needs might differ from their own, at all. From medicine to safety devices to public transit, everything is designed and tested to suit the typical male's body and needs, with women's very different bodies and needs considered niche or secondary or “the same but smaller”. It is mostly about the gender data gap: the fact that nearly all studies and research, even medical testing, isn't disaggregated by sex, so there is next to no data about how anything in our societies, which tend to be designed by men for men, affects women differently than men. And where this is no data, a thing – in this case, women – is in effect invisible to those who do the planning – in most cases, men. Informative, shocking, and usefully prescriptive, Invisible Women is a must read for men and women everywhere.

The specifics are fascinating – dysmenorrhea (extremely painful periods) was found to be completely alleviated without side effects in the early stages of Viagra testing, but its manufacturer stopped that direction of testing when it found the drug's more profitable application; women in police forces and armies around the world are forced to wear male body armour that doesn't account for breasts and hips and therefore leaves them vulnerable to attack and more prone to workplace injury (a female police officer in Spain was disciplined for acquiring her own made-for-women bulletproof vest); NGOs tend to ask the male heads of household what is required in the aftermath of a disaster, which has, more than once, led to the construction of homes without kitchens in them – but it would take a book-length review to list everything fascinating in this book. I'll just add some of Criado Perez's conclusions regarding the invisibility of women in public planning:

When planners fail to account for gender, public spaces become male spaces by default. The reality is that half the global population has a female body. Half the global population has to deal with the sexualised menace that is visited on that body. The entire global population needs the care that, currently, is mainly carried out, unpaid, by women. These are not niche concerns, and if public spaces are truly to be for everyone, we have to start accounting for the lives of the other half of the world. And, as we've seen, this isn't just a matter of justice; it's also a matter of simple economics.

The invisibility of women in the workplace:

Women have always worked. They have worked unpaid, underpaid, underappreciated, and invisibly, but they have always worked. But the modern workplace does not work for women. From its location, to its hours, to its regulatory standards, it has been designed around the lives of men and is no longer fit for purpose. The world of work needs a wholesale redesign – of its regulations, of its equipment, of its culture – and this redesign must be led by data on female bodies and female lives.

And the invisibility of women in the political sphere:

The data we already have makes it abundantly clear that female politicians are not operating on a level playing field. The system is skewed towards electing men, which means that the system is skewed towards perpetuating the gender gap in global leadership, with all the attendant negative repercussions for half the world's population. We have to stop willfully closing our eyes to the positive discrimination that currently works in favour of men. We have to stop acting as if theoretical, legal equality of opportunity is the same as true equality of opportunity. And we have to implement an evidence-based electoral system that is designed to ensure that a diverse group of people is in the room when it comes to deciding on the laws that govern us all.

The first step to true equality of opportunity and outcome would be to close this gender data gap – wherever there is evidence of inequality, decent people do tend to advocate for change – but this will take more women in decision-making roles (it's disheartening to read of the many researchers who can't get grants to study issues that affect only women as they are too “niche”) and that takes time. I remember back in the 80s my mother complaining that the medical world tended to treat women like small men instead of maybe, just maybe, something not the same as men. So, yeah, that was a long time ago and it's still a man's world.
Profile Image for leynes.
1,111 reviews3,028 followers
November 17, 2021
When I got a free copy of Invisible Women (shout out to the LPB Berlin) I was really excited. Many of my friends raved about this book which exposes the gender gap in scientific data and how the resulting gap in knowledge causes the continuous and systematic discrimination against women, creating an invisible bias that has a profound impact on women's lives.

Unfortunately, I can't join their choir of praise. Whilst this book had an interesting subject matter, I had some major problems with it:

1 - Not even a mention of trans women
For a book claiming to zoom in on "half of the Earth's invisible population" and having gender as its main focus, it's almost comical that Criado Pérez completely ignores trans women. They're simply not part of her book. No stats on the violence trans women in particular face, or on their income and living situations.

I don't know if Criado Pérez ever responded to the criticism she received for not including trans women in her book on fucking women of all people but it reeks of transphobia.

2 - No focus on marginalised women
Even more appalling was the lack of inclusion of BIWOC, disabled women and women living in the Global South. Similarly to trans women, they were not part of this narrative. The reason I found this more appalling was the fact that Criado Pérez actually acknowledged their lack of presence in her book but gave the lacklustre excuse that "I would often try and find stats for black women or for disabled women and I just couldn't." UUUMMM, EXCUSE ME, MISS? Your book was published in fucking 2019, how come Black women, for example, have published books like Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present or Women, Race & Class for decades now.

I totally get that stats on cis white able-bodied women are easier to find and more readily available in quantity, but it's not like there isn't a single stat on BIWOC or disabled women that you could've included. DO BETTER!

In general, Invisible Women reeks of "whiteness = standard". Criado Pérez included some quotes in this book that made me really uncomfortable and furious at the same time, e.g. "We call the 18th century the century of 'Enlightenment', although it expanded the rights of men, it 'narrowed' those of women, because they were forbidden to control their property and income and were excluded from higher education and professional training." Oh, really? The 18th century expanded the rights of ALL men? ALL men were now able to control their property and income? Interesting. I must've slept through my history lesson then.

Whenever Criado Pérez says "men" in this book, she means "white men". And that sucks. Because she often juxtaposes the condition of "men" with those of "women", and thus presents a distorted picture, e.g. when she says that women in the US earn less than men, she doesn't state that white women earn more than Black men. Her generalising statements do her cause no good. She comes across as ignorant and her book as lazily researched.

3 - The worst fucking structure
What can I say? I just hated the structure of this book. Seriously, who edited this? Why have these very specific chapter titles like "At the workplace" or "Visit to the doctor" when you're not going to primarily talk about these topics in these chapters? It made no damn sense.

Overall, I wasn't the biggest fan of giving stat after stat after stat but it became downright impossible to retain the important information of each chapter because everything was so disorganised and disjointed.

4 - Facts? What are facts?
When reading nonfiction, especially on a topic you don't know that much about, you always have to trust that the author will provide you with facts and sources you can trust. Unfortunately, regarding the topics I had prior knowledge of, mainly the ones focusing on gender and language, I was shocked to see that Criado Pérez included some research that is highly contested, if not fully refuted. For example, she cites that there is a correlation between gender neutral language and gender equality, stating that countries with English as their official language have a higher gender equality than countries with gender-specific languages like Germany.

You don’t need a degree to see that this is absolute bullocks. Countries like Sweden, Switzerland and Norway are among the most gender equal, whereas countries like South Africa or “even” the US aren't shining examples of gender equality. Not sure what Criado Pérez was thinking but it left me wondering if she included other stats as “facts” that can simply be refuted if one was knowledgeable on the subject.

So all in all, Invisible Women is not a book I'd recommend!
March 13, 2021
Most of recorded human history is one big data gap. Starting with the theory of Man the Hunter, the chroniclers of the past have left little space for women’s role in the evolution of humanity, whether cultural or biological. Instead, the lives of men have been taken to represent those of humans overall. When it comes to the lives of the other half of humanity, there is often nothing but silence.
And these silences are everywhere. Our entire culture is riddled with them. Films, news, literature, science, city planning, economics. The stories we tell ourselves about our past, present and future. They are all marked – disfigured – by a female-shaped ‘absent presence’. This is the gender data gap.
The gender data gap isn’t just about silence. These silences, these gaps, have consequences. They impact on women’s lives every day. The impact can be relatively minor. Shivering in offices set to a male temperature norm, for example, or struggling to reach a top shelf set at a male height norm. Irritating, certainly. Unjust, undoubtedly.
But not life-threatening. Not like crashing in a car whose safety measures don’t account for women’s measurements. Not like having your heart attack go undiagnosed because your symptoms are deemed ‘atypical’. For these women, the consequences of living in a world built around male data can be deadly.
One of the most important things to say about the gender data gap is that it is not generally malicious, or even deliberate. Quite the opposite. It is simply the product of a way of thinking that has been around for millennia and is therefore a kind of not thinking. A double not thinking, even: men go without saying, and women don’t get said at all. (c) Oh, wow. This is a quite good power start to this book.

And it gets only better as it proceeds! Basically, it's very difficult to make men to see life through a prism of female life. The reverse is a bit easier since women anyway do a lot of historically 'male' tasks these days.

So, it's either get everyone to practice extreme empathy or invite mixed companies to do tasks that require mixed perspectives. Now, people still are finding it challenging and it keeps leading to impressive flip-floppy results in a number of spheres.

Great in-depth research do on how economics benefits from taking into account the needs of women.

… sex is not the reason women are excluded from data. Gender is. (c)
Private motivations are, to a certain extent, irrelevant. What matters is the pattern. What matters is whether, given the weight of the data I will present, it is reasonable to conclude that the gender data gap is all just one big coincidence. (c)
It is why a 2015 study of multiple language Wikipedias found that articles about women include words like ‘woman’, ‘female’ or ‘lady’, but articles about men don’t contain words like ‘man’, ‘masculine’ or ‘gentleman’ (because the male sex goes without saying). (c)
‘You’ve played games as a blue hedgehog. As a cybernetically augmented space marine. As a sodding dragon-tamer. [. . .B]ut the idea that women can be protagonists with an inner life and an active nature is somehow beyond your imaginative capacities?’ …
It should be easier to imagine yourself as a woman than as a blue hedgehog. But on the other hand she’s also wrong, because that blue hedgehog has one particularly important similarity with male players, even more so than species alignment, and that is that Sonic the hedgehog is male. We know this because he isn’t pink, he doesn’t have a bow in his hair, and he doesn’t simper. (c)

Some stuff is, naturally, idiotic, like it always manages to be in these books:
More recently, a 2017 analysis of ten introductory political-science textbooks found that an average of only 10.8% of pages per text referenced women (some texts were as low as 5.3%). The same level of male bias has been found in recent analyses of Armenian, Malawian, Pakistani, Taiwanese, South African and Russian textbooks. (c) Political science? Well, if women have been barred from politics for a larger part of history, what should the authors refer to? While the question at hand is serious, the discussion should not become irrational. We should stick to the facts not demand that women are invented into textbooks.

The author lists a bunch of instances when a woman's work was attributed to a man. Which, she argues, made women's breakthroughs so much harder to see and to attribute correctly. Love this part.
For most of history, if women were allowed to compose at all, it was for a private audience and domestic setting. Large orchestral works, so crucial for the development of a composer’s reputation, were usually off limits, considered ‘improper’. Music was an ‘ornament’ for women, not a career. (c)

Street design and transportation gender planning - now, that's another extremely important consideration!
There is a tendency (as ever) to blame the women rather than male-biased design. But male-biased design is in fact exactly what the problem is here. (c)
when we don’t collect and, crucially, use sex-disaggregated data in urban design, we find unintended male bias cropping up in the most surprising of places. (c)

A 2016 study found that Indian women who use fields to relieve themselves are twice as likely to face non-partner sexual violence as women with a household toilet. (c)
Profile Image for Sippy.
223 reviews8 followers
May 15, 2019
Had a hard time reading this, skipped, scanned, got bored with the ranting and the constant portaying women as victims and mothers. They are many times, but especially in western countries they have and can do more than is suggested in this book. Underwhelming. And yes: I am a feminist. ♀️
February 28, 2023

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I read this hot on the heels of TECHNICALLY WRONG, which was a mistake, because I felt like that was a better book: even though it deals with a lot of the same subjects, I felt like TECHNICALLY was more inclusive and intersectionally feminist, and also more accessible. INVISIBLE WOMEN is very dry and data-heavy (which perhaps makes it a more credible read than TECHNICALLY in some regards) and reads like a women's studies textbook. It is also written by a UK woman and largely cites UK studies (although not exclusively).

My favorite chapter was the introductory chapter about "The Default Male" and how data gaps can cause people to assume gender where there is none. When I was blogging anonymously, and serializing my work anonymously, people often assumed I was a man. There is an assumption, also, for many people to assume that voices of expertise or authority are male, I think, unless told otherwise beforehand. I also liked how the author talked about how incensed men get when women come into "their" spaces, and how equality to some can feel invasive. The hidden biases in city planning that followed in the next chapter were also interesting, but after that, I lost interest in the book.

I guess my first red flag was the bathroom chapter, where the author makes the odd choice to say that gender neutral bathrooms don't work because they have urinals in them and men can pee faster? But then, why not just put in more stalls? When I still physically went into the office, we had gender neutral bathrooms and they were great. No urinals, just stalls. You didn't have to wait in "your" line to go in, and people who were non-binary or perhaps trans but not out didn't have to make a public choice about their identity every time they went in to do the necessary. Weirdly, trans people weren't mentioned in this chapter at all, though, and I thought that was odd because when you are talking about bathroom rights and bathroom accessibility, that's often one of the top 5 issues that comes up. The author instead chose to focus more on how lack of bathroom accessibility can lead to sexual assaults for women.

This segues into another thing I noticed other critical reviewers taking issues with: lack of intersectionality. I have the Kindle edition and I did a few quick searches in my copy to check representation: trans people are mentioned not once, LGBT was mentioned once as a voting block, lesbian was mentioned once in reference to what the author calls "corrective rape" (lesbians being victims to men who want to turn them straight). Black women were referenced three times, twice in the chapter on health care and once as disproportionate victims of environmental disaster, but the author does not mention that they are also disproportionate victims of violence and also seems to have neglected to discuss how Black women's pain can be especially ignored by medical professionals and they are more likely to be turned away or accused of seeking medication to abuse recreationally.

Between the dry text and the surprising gaps, I don't think I can give this a high rating. I really appreciate what it was trying to do but it seems to take a pretty narrow focus on the issues at hand.

1.5 stars
Profile Image for Caroline .
429 reviews593 followers
May 29, 2023
NOTE (May 29, 2023): Invisible Women is about people assigned female at birth (AFAB) and isn't intersectional. Much of the book is about the physicality of those AFAB. For instance, the argument in favor of female-body crash-test dummies hinges on the fact that people AFAB have (generally) smaller physical proportions.

Unfortunately, some of what Criado-Perez says at various points could be used to bolster damaging gender-essentialist views. The author has also been criticized for transphobic views in general. Although she never says anything outrightly transphobic in this book, one part that gave me pause is where she discusses women's bathrooms in refugee camps. Trans-rights as they concern use of public bathrooms continues to be a heated point of contention. What she says here can be distorted by transphobics and trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERF) to serve as proof that trans-women, as people assigned male at birth, are a danger to cisgender women in bathrooms. In fact, research has shown time and again that transgender people are more often the victims of violence, not the perpetrators. As the refugee camps are concerned, women in these spaces may indeed be vulnerable and experience violence, but what happens there is not playing out in bathrooms in the larger world. There is no epidemic of cisgender women being assaulted in bathrooms by trans-women, as transphobics and TERF claim. This is a specious anti-trans argument rooted in fear and purposeful disregard for the facts.

REVIEW: Sexism is alive and well. Anyone tuned in today knows this. What far fewer know is how much women are an afterthought in so many ways. Invisible Women explores what Caroline Criado Perez calls “male-default thinking”--that is, the world-wide phenomenon of “male” equaling “standard” to the detriment of women.

The male way of life is considered conveniently universal. The male body is regarded as a kind of generic, “neutral body” on which to base design, and the female body is the aberration. Societies around the world unconsciously center men, and we all perpetuate the male default without thinking--for example, automatically using the male pronoun for animals whose sex is unknown to us.

The standard is also stunningly extensive, touching almost every aspect of life to disadvantage women at every turn. At best, it’s annoying: Women figure out inconvenient work-arounds for designs based on the male default, temporarily rendering the standard irrelevant. At worst, it’s dangerous and sometimes lethal to women. Measuring the world according to men’s bodies and men’s societal needs puts women at serious risk in countless ways. Perez analyzes lots of these, but to name three: Women are routinely under-represented or excluded in medical research and in drug trials. Cars are more dangerous for them thanks to the exclusive use of male-body crash-test dummies. Snow-plowing favors men’s travel routes, leading to increased injury and death for women. Two factors are at the heart of all the problems: Data are rarely sex-disaggregated, and survey questions too often have a male bias. Both flaws lead to a gender data gap, which in turn leads to imbalanced (or no) allocation of resources for women and little (if any) consideration of needs unique to them. Half of the world’s population is female, yet bizarrely, to those in charge women just don’t exist. They’re invisible.

As sexism goes, many people are aware of only the obvious displays, such as paying women less than men for the same job. What Perez examines is next-level sexism. If this book is memorable for anything it’s for shining a spotlight on how very little is not dictated by the male default. I was shocked to learn how unbelievably embedded and pervasive this default is, driven home for me in the most perfect way by Perez’s example of using the male pronoun for animals. She doesn’t touch on this, but I would add that along the same lines is the phenomenon of male-based female names (e.g., “Paula,” “Brianna,” “Kylie,” and so many others). It never goes in the other direction, and almost as bad is that we don’t notice or care that it doesn’t.

This book was easily my most educational nonfiction read of 2022, and I simply can’t heap enough praise on it. As an avid reader on the topics of sexism, gender relations, toxic masculinity, and other issues along these lines, I’d begun thinking there wasn’t much new to say. Invisible Women proves otherwise and is a guaranteed eye-opener for virtually all readers. It can’t not be: From the moment we’re born, male-as-standard is reinforced relentlessly and quickly internalized.

This standard is obviously sexist, but it’s also lazy, illogical, and unconsciously upheld to a severe degree. Invisible Women is a must for all but especially for those in a position to make big changes--who are willing to confront the male-default standard in the first place. Fortunately, in analyzing the problems, Perez draws attention to what the solutions are, and they’re fairly straightforward and do-able if the motivation is there.
Profile Image for Woman Reading .
432 reviews285 followers
February 6, 2022
4.5 ☆ rounded up because Everyone should read this book!
you don’t have to realize you’re being discriminated against to in fact be discriminated against

Caroline Criado-Perez tackles an immense topic and she succeeds in demonstrating that women have been rendered invisible by virtue of cultural norms that men sometimes have unthinkingly and at other times deliberately have adopted. By excluding women from consideration, not only does all of humanity lose out on potentially transformative insights but women are exposed to greater harm ranging from injury and up to death. If you are female, your first response may be to look at your life and believe “not me!” because you’re surrounded by respectful people of both sexes. If you are male, then I’m going to appeal to your innate sense of fairness and decency to consider reading Invisible Women.

Let’s start with the indispensable cell phone. Chances are good that you have a smartphone since you’re on Goodreads / social media. Have you noticed that the design of these phones have increased to the point that you need both hands to phone and to operate the camera feature (which are both features you’d likely require during an emergency) and that the phone is too big for most of your pockets (if you’re even wearing clothing with pockets)? The males would be more likely than females to say “no difference, no big deal.” Or have you noticed that you prefer either compact cars or SUVs which seat you up very high because both provide better sightlines and visibility from the driver’s seat than the large family sedan that your parents probably drove? I know that I do.

What both questions have in common is that the smartphone and the car were designed with the primary user assumed to be male, who has larger hands and who is taller on average than females. So even if you said, “yeah, sure,” you likely have shrugged them off as minor inconveniences.

But these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The internet and the technological capabilities of modern life have created many benefits and efficiencies. Companies have had decades to collect user data (location, internet traffic patterns, demographics, etc) and industries have compiled massive corpora (databases of voices, text, and images). We’re now in the age of Big Data, with programmers designing algorithms to sift through the oceans of data. But what if those algorithms are based on corpora predominantly featuring male voices, male images, and adjectives that are culturally favorable to males over females? As programmers are wont to say, “garbage in, garbage out.” This means that whatever bias exists in the corpora will be amplified by the time that algorithm completes its search. This could explain why 30 percent of resumes a company receives are the lucky minority to be seen by human eyes. I sincerely doubt that of the 30 percent of resumes which are seen by humans that they equally represent the two sexes.

You may then think that you’re not job-hunting and you’ve got a great professional network anyways. But there’s more. Drugs may not work for you if you’re female. There was a 2004 study by Sherry Marts and Sarah Keitt that demonstrated that differences between the two sexes go down to every tissue and organ system in the human body, as well as in the “prevalence, course, and severity” of the majority of common human diseases. Despite the National Institute of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 making it illegal not to include females in federally-funded clinical trials, a 2015 federal government audit of FDA revealed that 40 percent of documents still did not specify the sex of participants. So maybe that’s why you have to try many drugs and different dosages before finding medical relief.

Oh, females also are more likely to die or suffer longer because their medical issues present symptoms differently compared with men. Doctors, for the most part, have not been trained to account for these biological differences. Since 1989, cardiovascular disease is the number one health cause of death for women in the US. Perhaps you’ve heard the advice to take a low-dose of aspirin daily to help lower your chances of getting heart disease? The truth is that advice is effective for men, not for women who may actually be harmed by following that guidance, as the American Heart Association pointed out in 2016.

Finally, there is the statistic released by a 2015 McKinsey study: “globally, 75 percent of unpaid work is done by women." But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Getting concerned yet? Find out more, by reading Invisible Women. It is easy to read and there are no tables of statistics or graphs. Much as I would have really liked graphical representation of statistics, the lack of comprehensive and historical data supports her basic premise of the book - women are invisible. I personally also would have wanted more depth than breadth for not all of her points were made equally strong.

For those of you who already know this, Invisible Women is still worth reading as Criado-Perez provides some coverage of women in other parts of the world as well as suggestions for how to change this systemic problem.

Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.

~ Simone de Beauvoir
Profile Image for Candie.
333 reviews112 followers
March 2, 2020
Eye opening!!! So interesting to see how deep inequality really goes systemically. I mean you know it does, but I've never looked at it through the eyes of all of this data before, or lack there of. It discusses a lot of topics that are not generally talked about when people are talking about gender inequality. Areas that you have never even thought about; for example things like snow removal, public transportation, how public bathrooms are designed. Some of the things discussed are life threatening, like the symptoms for a heart attack or the use of crash test dummies, but some are less so. However, when all of this data to all of these situations are added up, it can become very life threatening as it leads to a very large gap between genders. Very interesting.

Also, keep in mind that although this book has many stories added in to make it quite readable, it is still a book based around data. I do think it is a very important read though as it discusses data and solutions that otherwise would likely not be discussed as they are so ingrained into our society we usually don't even notice. There is no one person making these rules that we can just blame and fight against; there are so many subconscious biases in all areas of our lives, and this book really points out so many. Definitely recommend as it is a great starting place to identifying the areas that need improvement.
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571 reviews158 followers
September 13, 2022
I finished this book a few weeks ago and it’s taken me this long to get my thoughts all together on this book. The reason it took me a while to get coherent thoughts written out? Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez was a good read, but one of those that exposes maddening aspects of the world we live in. In this case, it looks at how in areas like healthcare to education and urban planning, the world is biased in favor of men to the detriment of women.

Before anyone angrily comments, Invisible Women is a book regarding unconscious bias. Not every man out there is deliberately designing women out of the world or is intentionally misogynistic in their attitudes. It’s just that those in power who are making the public policy or scientific recommendations that affect everyone overwhelmingly still tend to be men that largely are using their own life experiences and applying it to their work. In this way, male becomes default for all of humanity.

So, largely it comes down to a huge data gap fed by the idea that the universal concept for humanity is male.

Still, I couldn’t help but find myself angry throughout the whole book on behalf of women, because unconscious bias or not, purposely, or not, those in power are making decisions that tend to result in harm for women. (Or even death.) Resources are not allocated where there is considerable need. When half the world’s population is neglected, it hurts everybody.

“The gender data gap isn’t just about silence. These silences, these gaps have consequences.”

For example, take the healthcare dimension. I recently listened to a podcast that talked about endometriosis. (Such issues also came up in Invisible Women.) For the women who are affected, it is often debilitating pain that comes with menstruation and can result in fertility issues. (And even heavy bleeding when it’s not that time of the month.) Endometrial tissues found in the uterus can also grow elsewhere—say the ovaries, pelvic area, and fallopian tubes most commonly. They’ll react like endometrial tissues do and slough off when menstruation comes along, except they have no way to leave the body and become trapped. Inflammation ensues which can eventually lead to scarring.

I know someone who has this condition, and it’s very clear that the pain is not in her head—e.g., psychosomatic. (Although this doesn’t mix well with existing mental health conditions.)

Only problem is that medical research hasn’t really prioritized these “women’s issues” and is similarly way behind when it comes to conditions like endometriosis. Not much is known about why endometriosis happens, although there are several theories such as immune system disorders (perhaps the immune system is unable to clear away these rogue tissues) or that these tissues can get transported to other places in the body via the lymph system.

That is a problem when it comes to developing effective treatments that get at the root causes of endometriosis.

“The bodies, symptoms and diseases that affect half the world’s population are being dismissed, disbelieved and ignored. And it’s all a result of the data gap combined with the still prevalent belief, in the face of all the evidence that we do have, that men are the default humans. They are not.”

I happened to focus on the medical example, but there’s a whole lot more areas she looks at, such as the tax system and how women’s childcare and other domestic responsibilities are not included in economic formulas as monetized work (e.g., women’s care responsibilities go unpaid) to the consequences of women’s underrepresentation politically.

Perez acknowledges that the magic fix will not only be closing the gender data gap, but any improvement in this area would also bring huge benefits for women and for society as a whole.

Now, we just need to get more women elected to positions that will allow them to enact public policy to close this data gap!


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Profile Image for Henk.
875 reviews
October 21, 2022
An important and insightful book on all the biases backed into our society, making life harder for women. A deluge of data proves the point of the author, making the injustice of not tackling the issue jarring
Whiteness and maleness are silent precisely because they do not need to be vocalised. Whiteness and maleness are implicit. They are unquestioned, they are the default.

More thoughts to follow! 🦸‍♀️📊🔍⚖️👩‍🔬
Profile Image for Anna.
1,737 reviews672 followers
June 12, 2019
I decided to read ‘Invisible Women’ after coming across an extract from it in the Guardian and associated discussion on twitter. Both focused on how practically everything is designed for the mythical ‘average man’. I'm very aware of this due to being only 5ft tall. I cannot reach any overhead racks in trains, hanging straps in buses, or top shelves in supermarkets. I’ve given up on backpacks because they’re never comfortable and find smart phones incredibly unwieldy to use, one of many reasons I hate them. The desk and chair I work in are too high for me to sit comfortably, so I have to adjust my posture all the time. Constant minor inconveniences of this kind are something I’ve just learned to live with. Such relatively trivial examples are useful to highlight a much more serious point: the world is still largely designed by and for men. Perez considers the impact of this in a variety of specific areas including politics and healthcare, repeatedly highlighting the lack of data on women’s experiences and need for this to understand and improve them.

While I found the book very readable, after a while this started to feel slightly more like a weakness than a virtue. By this I mean that any given section could be lifted out and published as a high quality thinkpiece. Perez cites more supporting evidence than most, however I felt that the book had rather a loose thesis and didn't make very strong suggestions for solutions. Perhaps I am merely quicker to blame capitalism than she is? (I tend to blame capitalism for practically everything - probably because practically everything is capitalism’s fault.) For example, one chapter criticises GDP as an inaccurate measure of economic activity, which it is, then suggests economic growth could be achieved by encouraging more women into paid work through better childcare and tax policy. This felt like a rather simplistic summary of the many flaws in GDP, notably its disregard of environmental costs, and of women in work, as underpaid bullshit jobs aren't necessarily liberating. That said, I share her incredulity that big pharma has no interest in researching period pain and PMS. So many women, including myself, would pay good money on a regular basis for some over-the-counter solution to the nightmare of periods. Nurofen just doesn’t cut it and GPs have little to offer. Come on, markets, supply a good to meet our needs!

To put my griping in context: I found the book well-argued and written, however it is definitely a piece of longform journalism rather than a work of feminist economics, politics, or theory. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more depth over breadth. That is just my preference, though, and it would be very unfair to criticise the book for not being something it never claimed to be. The topic is vast and Perez has chosen a good range of examples to illustrate key areas. Thus it’s very depressing to read if you regularly experience what it describes. This hit me particularly hard, as it summarises my first year as a junior lecturer:

But their unpaid work inside the workplace doesn’t help either. When students have an emotional problem, it is their female professors, not their male professors, they turn to. Students are also more likely to request extensions, grade boosts, and rule-bending of female academics. In isolation, a request of this kind isn’t likely to take up much time or mental energy - but they add up, and they constitute a cost on female academics’ time that male academics mostly aren’t even aware of, and that universities don’t account for. [...] The inequity of women being loaded with less valued work is compounded by the system for evaluating this work, which is itself systematically biased against women. [...]

Less effective male professors routinely receive higher student evaluations than more effective female teachers. Students believe that male professors hand marking back more quickly - even when that is impossible because it’s an online course delivered by a single lecturer, but where half the students are led to believe that the professor is male and half female. Female professors are penalised if they aren’t deemed sufficiently warm and accessible. But if they are warm and accessible they can be penalised for not appearing authoritative or professional. On the other hand, appearing authoritative and knowledgeable as a woman can result in student disapproval, because this violates gendered expectations. Meanwhile men are rewarded if they are accessible at a level that is simply expected in women and therefore only noticed if its absent.

You really can’t win in academia. Anecdotally, I’ve observed a pattern of senior male professors taking on postgraduate supervisees, then being so inaccessible that these orphan students turn to more junior female professors for guidance. Rather than tell such students to send their supervisor another email I try to help them, effectively taking on work that’s being shirked by men paid twice as much as me.

The book didn’t just cover sexism that I was already aware of on a daily basis. The chapter on international development and disaster response was eye-opening and, inevitably, deeply depressing. Perez recognises the important racial as well as gendered elements there and at other points, which is helpful. I found her introductory definitions of sex and gender rather unsatisfactory, though. They are unnecessarily biologically essentialist, and thus surprisingly old-fashioned in tone. This doesn’t undermine Perez’s arguments as such, but it’s a bit disappointing as with only slight editing they could have been much more inclusive.

Regarding exciting new manifestations of sexism, I really liked the discussion of how automation via algorithms amplifies bias in training datasets. It’s interesting to compare Perez’s suggestion of more granular data-gathering and rigorous testing of algorithms with the fundamental critique of Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. There’s a lot more to be said about how crude and reductive data mining can be; sexism is by no means the only form of inequality that can be reproduced through automation. By looking for correlations in big data without any interest in causation, analytics will find gendered behaviour patterns without providing any explanation for why they might differ, let alone whether these differences are fair.

I’d highly recommend ‘Invisible Women’ to men as a readable evidence base for 21st century gender inequality. I’d recommend it to women with the caveat that it’s a reminder of the many ways that being female sucks (albeit to different degrees depending on ethnicity, wealth, nationality, etc). The Guardian extract is an accurate representation of the book as a whole - it has the readability and passion of high quality journalism, without the systematic insight of more academic work.
4 reviews1 follower
January 6, 2023
Written by a feminist who is looking for inequalities and finds them everywhere. Well, in the direction of the "female victim". It's fair to discuss heart attack symptoms differing in men and women and certainly this info. should get out there, especially as women become more obese. She mentioned that she was angry and upset while writing this book (royal society prize) and I believe that is why she couldn't see alternative explanations for many of her complaints.

Regarding her data on women being more likely to be injured in car crash. Her conclusion that this is so, because many women are shorter and thus closer to the steering wheel may have some validity, but this would also apply to shorter men. I didn't see this analysis undertaken by her. It may also be that women are smaller, have less muscle mass and smaller bones, so are more likely to be injured when ramming into something. Again, no discussion of this possibility. And, how are you going to make a seatbelt for pregnancy, unless it's detachable. If there were a market for this, someone would already be rich. Of course, if a seatbelt is detachable, it may detach when you don't want it to detach, and you would see lawsuits galore. Also, my wife, who is a car designer made this point: A big person can't fit into a small individuals seat, while a small person can fit into a seat built for a larger person. That's why it's called mass production, not custom production. Nothing sinister here, just simple economics. An army study a few years ago showed women were twice as likely to be injured while training. Women also suffer more concussions playing soccer than men, due to a less muscular neck, smaller skull, etc. They also report injuries more often. So, a lot to unpack here. Although she throws out lots of data, it's meaningless unless you ask the right questions and her anger while writing it prevented her from seeing alternative explanations.

When asked to draw a person, most will draw a male. Is it possible that's because it's easier to draw a male-fewer curves, not because of some sinister bias? I'm no artist and would definitely draw a male because it's easier. Again, no discussion of that possibility.

Her discussion of coders is idiotic. She sites one company using an algorithm that looks for coders on a supposedly hostile site for women. How about telling us how many men vs women go into computer science (17% women in 2017) or who want to code. How many men vs women want to teach kids, box, fight in wars, do roofing work, do nursing work, garbage collecting, brick laying, designing, coal mining, etc. There are men and women who are dissuaded from choosing professions dominated by the other sex, but most individuals do as they please. I majored in Microbiology, which is 80% female. It didn't bother me. Pretending that men and women want to go into the same fields is just nutty, in my opinion and the data don't support this notion.

She also perpetuates this myth about the "pay gap". It someone could pay women 78 cents on the dollar for the same work a man would do, that person would be very rich. Only people who don't understand capitalism would believe this drivel. Same hours worked, same job, same experience means same pay. Women work fewer hours per week and choose different professions. The AAUW, a feminist organization, found the wage gap is about 7 cents. But, they didn't factor in the fact the men are more likely to ask for raises and negotiate upon getting a job offer.

Flu shot- J Hopkins published a study in 2019 (july 12 npj vaccines, Sabra Klein, PhD) which showed womans stronger immune response is due to estrogen and as such wanes as women get older. Testosterone lessens this immune response. Men with low testosterone and women with high estrogen elicit more of an immune response. Here is what is important though- The researchers suggested men and menopausal women get higher doses of vaccine because they are not being adequately protected. Young women don't suffer more side effects with the current vaccine. What the author thought was hurting women, actually is hurting men-this line of thought wouldn't occur to her, due to her linear thinking style.

There are thousands of studies done every year and the vast majority focus both on men and women. Why? Because they companies want to sell as much product as they can and don't want to get sued due to unknown adverse reactions. You can find a "bath" studies with just men, but a very small percentage of studies involve just men. The bath study was looking at blood pressure, which probably is tied to relaxation. Perhaps, because women go through estrous, the researchers thought this may skew the data. Say, if women are feeling bloated or have headaches during their period. Again, nothing sinister, they may have wanted to control as many variable as possible and didn't have the cash to do two studies. Remember to keep everything in percentage terms. The vast majority of studies are done with both men and women.

Air conditioning: It's more acceptable to put on a sweater than to strip down to a t-shirt. If you allow me to work in a t-shirt, by all means turn the heat up. As we all know, this is not allowed in most offices. By the way, how about the bias in dress in most offices. Women can wear pretty much anything in my office, but men must wear ties and long sleeve shirts and dress pants and dress shoes.

No discussion of data bias in school as it relates to how the behavior norm has become more feminine. Boys are much more likely to be tranquilized in an effort to curb their natural rambunctiousness, more likely to find solace in video games, less likely to read for fun, more likely to be influenced negatively by the absence of a male role model, among other factors. If folks want a better world, this is an issue to address. Men without purpose become violent, drug addicted and engage in criminality to a much greater extent than do idle women.

In conclusion, the author see everything through the lens of victimhood and thus alternative explanations, outside of bias, elude her.

It's impossible to begin to learn what one thinks one already knows-Epictetus.

A suggestion of other books to read alongside this one: The blank slate, why beautiful people have more daughters, the diversity delusion. Also, the documentary, the red pill would be worth the watch, if a different perspective is wanted.
Profile Image for julieta.
1,167 reviews21.8k followers
July 24, 2020
This book!! It took me a long time to read, since it´s a lot about (very frustrating) numbers. It´s pretty great, and terrifying at the same time. We have a lot of work to do, if we want things to truly change, but the first thing to maybe read this book and try to understand all the different things that are still separating women from really being equals in a default male world.
Profile Image for Prerna.
222 reviews1,424 followers
October 2, 2020
If you want more anger inducing proof for the fact that the systems in place across the world are inherently rigged against women because male definitions and standards have always been default, then this book is a perfect read. Even supposedly gender-neutral designs are actually biased against women due to non-availability of sex-disaggregated data.

This staggering lack of data shapes the dangerous terrain women try to navigate on a daily basis. Perez, in this book, presents numerous examples with citations to demonstrate how by failing to account for female anatomy, violence against women and unpaid work (which is mostly done by women), the designs of our public spaces, workplaces, tools, medicinal drugs and vehicles are uncomfortable at best and risking half the global population's lives at worst.

A lot of these designs further enforce and amplify biases already in place. Gender roles that even little girls learn by watching the society around them are also fortified by existing socio-political systems. But conversely, gender specific products that would make women's lives far easier are simply lacking. It's not our place to behave like a man, but it's really annoying that we aren't more like them apparently.

I am writing this review from a place of deep desolation. As I was just finishing this book up within which the author spoke about and condemned the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape case of a young woman then dubbed 'Nirbhaya', my country's print media was flooding with reports of a nineteen year old lower caste Dalit woman's rape by four upper caste men: she had multiple fractures, her tongue was bitten off, she was strangled and left to die. After struggling in the hospital for two weeks she passed away on 29th September. The police refused to hand over her body to her family and burnt it secretly at 2:30 am. When the news initially broke out, the state machinery even claimed it was fake. As citizens are now protesting and fighting for justice, Indian rape statistics are also doing rounds on social media as they did in 2012. But have these statistics been considered and incorporated into law making? No.

I woke up and read a barrage of tweets along the lines of "respect everyone, be a human and not a feminist" in response to the tweets condemning rape. Listen, the only way feminism can harm you is if your own well-being depends on the systemic oppression and exploitation of women.

The least we can do is inform ourselves and try to be more socially conscious in our choices. This is a very important book, please read it.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,212 followers
April 10, 2019
Read this if you're ready to get mad about how basically every research study done and used to create solutions to problems for "all people" are based on the average white male. Not surprising, but infuriating to see it laid out so plainly. I've always been so angered about technology being not useful for my tiny hands, and it's relieving -- and again, angering and frustrating -- this is just a norm of being female when research completely excludes the fact your body isn't the average white dude.

And don't get me started on the viagra research.

Crucial reading for feminists and for anyone who does product research. There is so much work to be done.
Profile Image for Emily B.
442 reviews441 followers
February 24, 2021
This was an extremely interesting and informative read. I learnt so much from reading this book, which I hope I can retain.

But yes this book is very statistic heavy, as a result there is a lot to take in.
Profile Image for David.
671 reviews337 followers
April 17, 2022
It's a man's world.

Sure, I'm familiar with income disparity, about how office temperatures are dialled to male physiology, and the head scratching oversight from Fitbit tracking various health statuses but not menstrual cycles. Obvious annoyances but this book outlines how much more is at stake.

How about the fact that it wasn't until 2011 that the US started using a female crash-test dummy. Up to that point they simply used a small male version which leads to cars being completely designed around the male body. As a result, females are nearly 50% more likely to be seriously hurt in a collision and 17% more likely to die.

How police protective armour is specifically formed to the male body leading to female officers having a higher likelihood of dying from a stab wound due to ill-fitting gear. How women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack because trials tend to use and research predominantly male participants.

Or how about that miraculous drug that helped alleviate menstrual cramps being deemed non-viable and unlikely to turn a profit that would go on to find life as a little blue pill to address male erectile dysfunction instead.

This book is filled with tidbits that spotlight our patriarchal data bias that go beyond the obvious to things like transit routes, snow removal and discovering the story of Mozart's older sister.

This is wall-to-wall knowledge that will having you nudging your partner, friend or co-worker with a "didja know?" that still leaves you shaking your head if not outright pulling your hair. Well worth the read, can't recommend it enough.
Profile Image for donna backshall.
677 reviews187 followers
April 22, 2021
I read this hoping to do a presentation at work for our Women's Development forum, but holy crap, how in the world do you boil down such a densely filled book into 10-15 slides and a clean summary?


Well, I guess it can, but I wouldn't come close to doing justice to this vastly important book. "Gender data gap" would sound too much like a buzz word, and the message could never penetrate as it should.

Instead I am submitting this as a book club choice at work, but hoping we can read it in the background, over the course of a quarter, not a month. Each woman will wish to sip, not chug, this book as we may for many of our less weighty novels and business books.
Profile Image for Kevin.
523 reviews107 followers
December 26, 2022
I knew that having a penis gave me certain advantages but I was completely oblivious of the extent of those advantages.

From the myth of meritocracy to the hyperbole of gender-neutrality, Pérez breaks it all down. While women represent 50% of world population, their representation in political leadership, in scientific and technological research, and in health and safety protocols is a fractional pittance.

Confirmation bias being what it is, it seems rather pointless to point out that the people who most need to read this probably never will. The few that do will likely never finish it or will counter Pérez’s powerful collection of studies and statistics with anecdotal tripe—patriarchal apologists are a very vocal minority.
Profile Image for Patricija || book.duo.
585 reviews383 followers
June 27, 2020

Pakalbėkime ne jausmais, o skaičiais. Prasta iš manęs matematikė, o ir sociologės širdis rėkia – statistika niekada, NIEKADA negalima aklai kliautis! Bet kai tema uch jautri, o dar jei tas žodis iš F raidės, kurio nevalia minėti, sušmėžuoja, nebelieka nieko kito, kaip tik apsiginkluoti ir apsišarvuoti skaičiais. Tokiais, kurie liečia visas sritis. Ir tuo pačiu – kiekvieną mūsų. Pavyzdžiui, ar žinojote, kad iš 25 439 televizijos veikėjų, sukurtų vaikams, tik 32% yra moterys? O jei veikėjas nėra žmogus, skaičius krenta iki apgailėtinų 13%? Ar žinojote, kad jei filme pagrindinis veikėjas yra vyras, jis ekrane praleidžia dvigubai daugiau laiko nei moteris? Rodos, logiška – gi pagrindinis veikėjas! Tai kodėl tuomet kai pagrindinė veikėja yra moteris, lytys dėmesiu pasidalina po lygiai? Ir aišku, žinome visi tuos stereotipus – tos bobos tik plepa neužsičiaupdamos (nu, pavyzdžiui, kaip aš dabar), bet kai filme pagrindinis veikėjas yra vyras, jis šneka 3 kartus daugiau, nei moteris. Kai pagrindiniai veikėjai – vyras IR moteris, spėkit kas kalba net 2 kartus daugiau ir dažniau? Manau jau nujaučiat.

Galima būtų sakyti, kad filmai su realybe neturi daug bendro, bet lyties reprezentacija ekranuose greitai peršoka į realybę. Pavyzdžiui, tas šaltinis, į kurį prireikus pagalbos kreipiamės pirmiausia – Wikipedia – 2013-aisiais „American Novelists“ skiltį padalino – į pirmąją ir į „American Women Novelists“. Nes į bendrą katilą sumesti nereikėtų. Ir šiaip baisu, kai dalykai įgauna moteriškus pavidalus, jums ne? Pavyzdžiui, kai superherojus Toras buvo Marvel komiksų pakeistas į moterį, kilo baisus chaosas – KĄ MES SAU LEIDŽIAM (dar prisiminkim visus kitus projektus, kur veikėjų lytys buvo sukeistos – t.y. iš įprastos vyriškos tapo moteriškomis)? Bet kai Torą pakeitė Varlė... Na, būti varle šiaip yra daug geriau, nei būti moterimi, tą įrodė ir gerbėjų reakcija. Bet šiaip smagiausia vis tiek būti vyru – ant USA dolerio (ir daugelio kitų šalių pinigų) banknoto, kaip žinote, puikuojasi tik jų veidai. Ir kai kalbame apie išradimus, pavyzdžiui, DNR, žinome – reikėtų lenkti galvą prieš Nobelio laureatus J.Watsoną ir F.Crick. Nes kas ta Rosalinda Franklin, kurios eksperimentai sudėjo kertinius pamatus DNR suvokimui ir atradimui? Dažniausiai moterys lieka pamirštos, ignoruojamos ir tiesiog nematomos – jų darbai pridengiami vyrų pavardėmis literatūroje, moksle, muzikoje, politikoje. Nes ir šiaip moterys atlieka 75% neapmokamo darbo – statistiškai per dieną moteris namams, vaikams ir kitiems darbams paaukoja 3-6 valandas, niekaip neįvertinamas finansiškai. Vyrų maksimumo vidurkis siekia 2 valandas. Tokio pobūdžio darbas įprastai prasideda kai mergaitė yra penkerių. O jei šeimoje auga skirtingų lyčių pametinukai – spėkit, kas prie namų ruošos prisideda daugiau ir dažniau?..

Knyga nesiskaito greitai ir lengvai, tačiau pateikia informacijos kiekį, nors ir sunkiai virškinamą, jog apie jį neišeina negalvoti dienomis ar net savaitėmis. Kalbu iš patirties – knygą dorojau nuo pat birželio vidurio. Ši knyga tai, ką nujaučiame, sudeda į skaičius ir faktus, o tuomet išskirsto į skyrius, leisdama suvokti, kad neteisybė ir nelygybė mus lydi kiekviename žingsnyje – pradedant namų buities kasdienybe, baigiant vaistais, kuriuos vartojame, programa, kurios mokomės mokykloje ir universitete, automobiliais, kuriuos vairuojame, keliais, kuriais einame ir darbo sąlygomis, kurios mums pritaikomos. „Invisible Women“ padeda įžvelgti dalykus, kurie įsišakniję taip giliai, jog apie juos net nesusimąstome, atveria akis prieš amžių amžius istorinės, ekonominės, politinės, psichologinės, socialinės neteisybės ir nelygybės, pasiūlydama aiškius sprendimus, kaip reikėtų ją ištaisyti. Knyga nėra nei isteriška, nei erzinanti – jokio nereikalingo pykčio, jokio drąskymosi. Tik faktai, problemos ir galimi jų sprendimai. Ir privalomas žvilgsnis į prarają – tą, kuri egzistuoja, tačiau į kurią žvelgti nemalonu ir skaudu. Ir prieš kurios didybę beveik neįmanoma neprisidengti neigimu – net ir supratingiausiems. Bet galbūt jau būtų metas nustoti dangstytis?
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