“Invisible Women” – Caroline Criado Perez

This book has definitely won my personal award of having the highest amount of highlighted passages in a book I’ve ever read in my life. While making my way through it page by page, I went through such a wide range of emotions, going from anger, frustration, disappointment to defeat and hopelessness but most of all the feeling of needing to absorb as much information as possible in order to actively use it myself in the future. That’s what left me marking passage after passage, as well as taking notes vigorously while getting through the 300+ pages. Almost 100 pages out of the total of 411 pages make up the sources, the references and the index in the end of the book, which already gives you an insight on how well researched this piece of writing is.

The amount of topics spoken about in this book makes it feel almost impossible to sum it all up in a review. As women on this planet, the majority of us theoretically knows about the amount of disadvantages we have to take upon us in comparison to men. What was shocking about this book though, was reading about all the details and the statistics to which extent this is happening, how women are ending up in lethal situations because the people at power (… men…) are currently not considering them enough. Going from medicine that isn’t sufficiently tested on women, leading to unforeseen secondary effects or voice control systems (like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri) not being tested enough on female voices, leading to car accidents.

Female bodies (both the human and animal variety) are, it is argued, too complex, too variable, too costly to be tested on. […] A 2015 Dutch paper boldly states that “The specific effect on women of a huge number of existing medications is simply unknown”.

p. 202 & 214

[…] [V]oice recognition software is often hopelessly male-biased. In 2016, Rachel Tatman […] found that Google’s speech recognition software was 70% more likely to accurately recognise male speech than female speech. […] There can also be safety implications. Voice-recognition software in cars, for example, is meant to decrease distractions and make driving safer. But they can have the opposite effect if they don’t work – and often, they don’t work, at least for women.

p. 162

The range of topics examined was extremely vast: from how pianos are built for male-sized hands and end up injuring female professionals more, how the standard office temperature is still based on male comfort, how men and women have different heart attack symptoms (leading to women being misdiagnosed), why women and men experience motion sickness differently, how phones are designed to fit a male sized hand, the disadvantages for women due to unpaid care work, to how the lack of correct testing on representative dummies during car crashes can lead to much more fatal consequences for women.

[…] When a woman is involved in a car crash, she is 47% more likely to be seriously injured than a man, and 71% more likely to be moderately injured, even when researchers control for factors such as height, weight, seat-belt usage, and crash intensity.

p. 186

Besides the impressive range of scenarios examined, I was also fascinated by the author’s writing. The intro pulled me in, getting me hooked to read on and I felt like the pace was well managed. On top of that, the structure of the book was very intuitive and clear. While being jam packed with numbers, statistics and facts, I found that all this information was presented in an extremely engaging way, so that it never felt too overwhelming to me.

What I have taken along after finishing the book are many argumentation points to use when it comes to conversations about the disadvantages between men and women. We often speak about this topic in daily life but I frequently found myself at loss when trying to stand my ground on why exactly things need to be done differently. Topics as banal as why the distribution of male and female toilets needs to be changed completely finally has a clear explanation in my head. The author illustrates on a multitude of examples how so many things are an issue of systems being built on a seeming “equality” rather than equity between the genders.

Even if male and female toilets had an equal number of stalls, the issue wouldn’t be resolved […]. Women make up the majority of the elderly and disabled, two groups that will tend to need more time in the toilet. Women are also more likely to be accompanied by children, as well as disabled and older people. Then there’s the 20-25% of women of childbearing age who may be on their period at any one time, and therefore needing to change a tampon or a sanitary pad. […] Pregnancy significantly reduces bladder capacity, and women are eight times more likely to suffer from urinary-tract infections than men.

p. 48-49

This book is an absolute must-read for both women and men, but especially men, in my opinion. By diving into this topic as a man you would be able to better see why we need you as an ally on our side in order to change the status quo. If you have a male family member, a male partner or a male friend – speak to them about the book and encourage them to read it. Your male partner will never be able to live through the discomfort or pain of menstruation, to understand the difficulties of having a hormonal cycle of 28 days and not 24h (like men do), of being paid less, of giving birth, of being harassed more on the streets etc. but he should at least make the effort to educate himself and be aware of the ins- and outs of such processes to the highest possible level of details. In any case, this book was a definite 5/5 ★ read to me!

“Invisible Women” – Caroline Criado Perez

★★★★★ (5/5)

Edition: ISBN 978-1-784-70628-9
Vintage, first published in 2019 (Chatto & Windus)

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