Official Synopsis from Goodreads: Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you’re a woman.
Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.
Award-winning campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the impact this has on their health and well-being. From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women. In making the case for change, this powerful and provocative book will make you see the world anew.
My Copy Came From: I borrowed this from my local library.
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Review: Eye-opening and informative. I loved it! Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez is one of those books that is so chalk-full of data that it is overwhelming to read at times, but I couldn’t put it down.
Invisible Women talks about how much of the data that the world uses is based on men, and how women are largely ignored (not necessarily on purpose). This sounds like a bold statement, but unfortunately, as you’ll see if you read this book, there are many examples of this.
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. Because when we say human, on the whole, we mean man.
From bathrooms to city design, parks and bus stops, crash test dummies and cars, medications and taxes, many of these items were tested and designed by men and how men would use them in mind. This doesn’t mean that women were necessarily forgotten on purpose, but rather, those that designed and tested items did not take into account the differences between men and women, and how women, you know, might have boobs that get in the way of a seatbelt. Or, you know, might not want to wait for a long time at a darkened bus stop late at night or park in a parking garage. Or have shorter legs than men, or have different fat distribution, or differences in where our body strength lies. Or different hand size and body sway.
There is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t work. There is only a woman who isn’t paid for her work.
This book focuses on many statistics from all over the world, and I learned a lot about how different it is for women in different countries. Some of the statistics, especially those about women in poor areas and access to bathrooms were astonishing and heartbreaking to read.
Organized in parts, Invisible Women has parts devoted to Daily Life, The Workplace, Design, Going to the Doctor, Public Life, and When It Goes Wrong, and it was all absolutely fascinating. I found the sections focused on Daily Life, Going to the Doctor, and Design probably the most interesting, with the sections focusing on taxes and government slower.
We just don’t see women as naturally brilliant. In fact, we seem to see femininity as inversely associated with brilliance: a recent study where participants were shown photos of male and female science faculty at elite US universities also found that appearance had no impact on how likely it was that a man would be judged to be a scientist. When it came to women, however, the more stereotypically feminine they looked, the less likely it was that people would think they were a scientist.
The chapters have an obvious pattern. They have an introduction, a middle section with All The Stats, and then a Powerful Conclusion that makes one want to pump their fist in the air and shout No More! So I was really thinking this build up was going to end the novel with a bang, and it didn’t quite end the way I was expecting, as it ended a bit quieter. Sometimes the book felt a bit lectur-y and at times felt anti-man, but it’s hard to argue with the statistics provided.
Failing to collect data on women and their lives means that we continue to naturalise sex and gender discrimination—while at the same time somehow not seeing any of this discrimination. Or really, we don’t see it because we naturalise it—it is too obvious, too commonplace, too much just the way things are to bother commenting on. It’s the irony of being a woman: at once hyper-visible when it comes to being treated as the subservient sex class, and invisible when it counts—when it comes to being counted.
Do I believe everything this book said without question? No, but it’s definitely opened my eyes and I think this is a must read and would make an excellent book club discussion book. There is a lot to talk about here, and it’s a book I’ll keep thinking about.
Bottom Line: Mesmerizing and informative. A must read!
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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez”
Just this morning I was listening to the local rock station. They do a “Monday Count Down” for which each of the two DJs provide a list of whatever topic they’ve decided. Today, it was top 5 actors who don’t have a bad movie. Like, the movie might not be great, but that person’s performance in the movie is still good. We get answers like Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, The Rock, and John Candy. Between the two of them, not one woman on the list. It was like it hadn’t even occurred to them. My first thought was Charlize Theron. Or Angelina Jolie. Or Ellen Page. It made me so angry, and I considered not listening to them anymore.
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Uggh…. there is a small section in this book that talks about women in entertainment (movies, television, etc) and the stats were astounding. From speaking roles to leading roles, it was quite eye-opening and further illustrates just how much we’ve been ignored in the industry. Which, again popped up in the news today with the Oscar nominations being announced and yet again no female director nominated. (I haven’t seen any of the nominated movies yet however).
There were so many big-name films directed by women, too! Here’s a short list of movies that came out just in the FALL of 2019: https://www.indiewire.com/gallery/2019-fall-movie-preview-female-directed/queen-slim-2/
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Oh wow! Thanks for the link – I had no idea Hustlers, Harriet, or A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood were directed by women. I think the only movie in the list I’ve seen was Frozen 2, which I thought was really great and was surprised that one wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Film. I’m interested to see Little Women as it sounds like Greta Gerwig really changed up the way the story is told, utilizing flashbacks while still being true to the source material.
I know people loved Gerwig’s film Frances Ha, but I was so confused by it. I didn’t realize she was part of Little Women! I haven’t been to the movie theater in a while, which is unusual for me.
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Great review and I will be adding this to my TBR stack. But now let’s consider being a left-handed woman – double unrecognized. Even scissors are crafted to make them best used by a right-handed person. It’s not just the handles that don’t fit the “wrong” hand but the blade that cuts is for the other hand’s pressure. Most machines made for women, even sewing machines and kitchen appliances, are made for right-handed women. I am not left-handed, but had a very good friend who is and so it was brought to my mind, and easy to understand, how difficult living in a backwards world can be. However, as you no doubt found out, it is even more important that our medications address not only our different physiology from men’s which can lead to misprescribing, but the test results are usually set for men … on, dear! I haven’t read the book and I am already on my soapbox.
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Thanks 🙂 This is a fascinating read that kept getting me riled up, too! It’s quite shocking, but then again, it really isn’t the more you think about it… I think we’re getting better, at least I certainly hope so!
Once you read the book your eyes will be opened even more! The medications and healthcare section was so fascinating/horrifying. I need to re-read this book and wish I could memorize all of the stats!