Invisible Women

We've already got a thread somewhere on .com or .org about tools that are not made for women or smaller men.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
by Caroline Criado-Pérez

"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. (less)"

From the introduction to the book: (pp. 21-24)

"Identity is a potent force that we ignore and misread at our peril: Trump, Brexit, and ISIS (to name just three recent examples) are global phenomena that have upended the world order--and they are all, at heart, identity-driven projects. But misreading and ignoring identity is exactly what obfuscating maleness under the guise of gender-neutral universality causes us to do.

"A man I briefly dated tried to win arguments with me by telling me I was blinded by ideology. I couldn't see the world objectively, he said, or rationally, because I was a feminist and I saw everything through feminist eyes. When I pointed out that this was true for him too (he identified as a libertarian) he demurred. No, that was just objective, common sense--de Beauvoir's 'absolute truth.' For him, the way he saw the world was universal, while feminism--seeing the world from a female perspective--was niche. Ideological...

"These white men have in common the following opinions: that identity politics is only identity politics when it's about race or sex; that race and sex have nothing to do with 'wider' issues like 'the economy'; that it is 'narrow' to specifically address the concerns of female voters or voters of colour; and that working class means white working-class men...

"These white men also have in common that they are white men. And I labour this point because it is exactly their whiteness and maleness that caused them to seriously vocalise the logical absurdity that identities only exist for those who happen not to be white or male. When you have been so used, as a white man, to white and male going without saying, it's understandable that you might forget that white and male is an identity too.

"...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. And this reality is inescapable for anyone whose identity does not go without saying, for anyone whose need and perspective are routinely forgotten. For anyone who is used to jarring up against a world that has not been designed around them and their needs.

"The way whiteness and maleness go without saying brings me back to my bad date (OK, dates), because it is intrinsically linked to the misguided belief in the objectivity, the rationality, the, as Catherine Mackinnon has it, 'point-of-viewlessness' of the white male perspective. Because this perspective is not articulated as norm, it is presumed not to be subjective. It is presumed to be objective. Universal, even.

"This presumption is unsound. The truth is that white and male is just as much an identity as black and female. One study which looked specifically at white Americans' attitudes and candidate preferences found that Trump's success reflected the rise of 'white identity politics', which the researchers defined as 'an attempt to protect the collective interests of white voters via the ballot box.' White identity, they concluded, 'strongly predicts a preference for Trump.' And so did male identity. Analysis of how gender affected support for Trump revealed that 'the more hostile voters were toward women, the more likely they were to support Trump.' In fact hostile sexism was nearly as good at predicting support for Trump as party identification. And the only reason this is a surprise to us is because we are so used to the myth of male universality.

"The presumption that what is male is universal is a direct consequence of the gender data gap [the subject of this book]. Whiteness and maleness can only go without saying because most other identities never get said at all. But male universality is also a cause of the gender data gap: because women aren't seen and aren't remembered, because male data makes up the majority of what we know, what is male comes to be seen as universal. It leads to the positioning of women, half the global population, as a minority. With a niche identity and a subjective point of view. In such a framing, women are set up to be forgettable, Ignorable, Dispensable--from culture, from history, from data. And so, women become invisible."

This forum has always been biased toward male, but we have shifting from Green Wizards to Conservative White Male Wizards. And on the eve of my ninth anniversary here, that worries me a lot.

David Trammel's picture

"This forum has always been biased toward male, but we have shifting from Green Wizards to Conservative White Male Wizards. And on the eve of my ninth anniversary here, that worries me a lot."

How so? I'd be interested in how you feel we have shifted our focus here and if that has happened, how you think that could be addressed.

I will admit I'm concerned that Greer on Ecosophia has seemed more and more to be kicking liberals and their actions while giving conservatives a pass for the problems they cause but I haven't consciously made any moves rightward here on this site. I thought initially his comments about Greta Thunberg recently were a bit harsh but came around to the point he was making, that as well meaning as Greta's original protests were, that she has become a tool for the Powers That Be.

I'm pretty left leaning and libertarian in my beliefs but I do recognize that conservative thought and voters make up a huge minority of the population. I don't feel that being open to people of every political belief to Green Wizards is wrong, as long as they don't try and promote those beliefs on the forums in a clearly not helpful way. I'll chat with white nationalists anytime about growing better tomatoes but give them the boot if they start spouting political bullshit.

You can't find solution to the problems we face in the coming collapse without taking conservative opinions seriously, even if you disagree with them. Recognizing that hunters and gun owners have as much interest in preserving the Land as do environmentalist, and we can do a lot more by seeking common ground than highlight our differences makes more sense to me. I know you and I disagree on this issue.

I won't use the Green Wizard website to advocate a particular social or political agenda, no matter how much I think that agenda is correct.

Now I can't do much about being both White and Male.

I recognize the privileged that status gives me, and try hard to be aware this colors the way I see the World but I'm just not going to blame myself for the misactions of others I did not commit just because they share the same traits of being white and male.

I've asked many times for people to step up and offer their own views on things in guest blog posts, but have found few takers. I will say the recent posts by a few here very encouraging, and hope that it will give us a broader perspective on things than my minor slice.

Having said all that, I will say Sophie I appreciate all you have contributed to this forum and thank you for that. Please feel free to post any suggestions on how we can make this forum better, or email me privately.

Alacrates's picture

I'd be interested too to hear how you've experienced this forum to be biased towards the white and the male.

I haven't participated as extensively as others, but I've never found it to be slanted to white male conservatives as far as I can remember. But, of course, I am myself white and male, so this could be a blind spot in my own view of things.

From my own perspective, I've found this forum to be a bit slanted towards rural topics as opposed to urban concerns, hehe! I do realize this view is partly due to my own jealously, as an urban apartment dweller, to those who have the ability to grow plants in the soil on their property. (I have tried balcony gardening, but my balcony just does not get enough sun they way it is positioned - I've told myself to either get my act together and join a community garden, or wait until I can have access to a plot of my own!)

The idea of tools being oriented to men is interesting to me. I work as a plumber, which is definitely a male-dominated trade where I live. I've never worked with a woman in this field, and in the 4 times I've been to school for this trade, my classes of about 15 people have only been males. All white too, except for a few black men in some of the levels.

There are a few women working locally, I see them at the suppliers from time to time. The few that I've seen are actually quite feminine & attractive in appearance (I realize I'm wading into gender mine-fields here!!) but are kind of masculine in their character, very boisterous and outgoing.

I've found myself not fitting in very well with the masculine culture of a lot of trades here, I'm pretty quiet and introverted, it hasn't been an easy fit. I've always preferred physical work though, so this has been where I found myself in my career path.

I tried to teach my girlfriend some plumbing. She is very interested in home renovation, and I think she's better than me in visualizing building projects and understanding what is involved intuitively... but when I tried to show her something simple (plumbing in a kitchen sink & dishwasher) I found she didn't have the hand strength to work with the fittings, and she also hated the smell of the ABS glue... she would far rather commission the renovations she was involved with than work in them herself....

So I wonder sometimes about the gender divide when it comes to trades, etc. I work in a lot of trying environments in my job: crawling in dirty crawlspace areas, bad smelling areas, hot attics with tons of itchy insulation, extremely heavy boiler parts to try to lift.... my girlfriend says no thanks! I stick to my work in a salon...

A lot of the females in my family work in professional positions, in office settings, that pay decent salaries & benefits, and don't have much interest in getting involved with work with tools & physical exertion, though their jobs have stresses of their own....

But there are a few females out there who do want to work in this field, and I think a place should be made for them to participate, even if they lack the physical strength in certain areas. In some regards, power tools have made strength differentials inconsequential, and lighter materials like PEX piping and ABS/PVC drainage have made the trade much easier for anyone to deal with, compared to the old days of cast iron & steel pipe....

Anyways, I hope I haven't been offensive with anything I've written here, just replying with the thoughts at the top of my head, interested to hear the prospectives of others

mountainmoma's picture

I have seen no comments on this forum, or ways of commenting, that make it hard for females.

Now, Peak Prosperity, they dont mean it as a site, but the way of posting of many people there, I dont know how to describe it, but I can see why there is like maybe one female who bothers to post there.

But, here, I have seen none of that.

Alacrates's picture

I was wondering what your input would be, thanks for including it.

David Trammel's picture

"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 recognized or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you're a woman."

I agree that the trend today is bigger and more power. As someone who is slim and small framed I often find tools that are made for someone much bigger than me. I own two rechargeable power drills made by DeWalt in 12 volt. I'm finding it harder and harder to find batteries for them because DeWalt is only offering the same tools in a bigger 18 volt model. I have no idea why. The 18 volt models are heavy, bulky and don't handle well when you are just using them occasionally.

I do know my two 12 volt models are work horses and I've had them over twenty years. Maybe its planned obsolescence at work. Stop offering the batteries to force me to buy new tools.

As for hand tools I've never found it hard to buy tools that fit my smaller hands, though in many ways it a question of leverage. A smaller wrench might be a better fit for your hand but lack the length that gives you a easy turn.

I work a very physical job (soon to not) which sees me having to pick up and carry bars of metal up to a hundred pounds dozens of times a night. Sometimes I can't and I'm appreciative that I have a big strong co-worker who will sometimes do it for me.

Not many women can either but you know what, I work with three women who can. People find the level they can participate at, and smart companies accommodate them. All three are treated as equals and if their smaller frame (at least two, the third could kick my butt) is not considered a liability by their male coworkers. We have one man who is a cancer survivor and a throat trac tube who is less physically capable. The work force knows his limits and adapts. We help each other out.

So I wouldn't attribute the lack of women friendly tools to some white male bias, rather the idea that if a company makes a product that 95% of their customers (big strong males) find useful, is what they will make to make the most money. The fact they don't offer a more appropriate sized product for the minority customer is not gender bias but just sound business practice.

Blueberry's picture

Have known several woman pipe fitters that were very good at detail work. Try and take a 4 inch pipe using 2 angles to go 90 degrees and weld it together and not leak. The liquid in the pipe is acid at 100 PSI.

Alacrates's picture

I would have no idea, I don't work with welding at all and don't deal with acid waste either.

I have noticed in trade schools that females are drawn to welding courses. Not sure why that would be exactly, and I notice that they don't often proceed into the trade either, but I guess they pick up the skills they want for their own purposes, whatever those may be.