“When we exclude half of humanity from the production of knowledge we lose out on potentially transformative insights.”Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
Invisible Women makes me feel seen.
Captivating, infuriating and empowering all at once. In a word, this book is important, and should be essential reading. Not just for women, but everyone!
For some, the data gaps and issues addressed by Criado Perez might be a bitter pill to swallow. But for many, you will see your own experiences, whether it’s being pushed aside and patronised at work or being sexually harassed on public transport. In that way it is a book to empower the #MeToo generation by unearthing the hidden data that proves we are not alone. For my fellow feminists, it will confirm even some of the seemingly small injustices you see in the world that made you sound like a conspiracist when you voiced it before. (You’re not imagining it. Those new smart phones really are too big to actually use in your slender lady hands or fit into your non-existent jeans pocket. Why? Because they were designed to perfectly fit into the hands of an average sized full-grown man.)
But Invisible Women’s greatest success, is that it will open your eyes to experiences beyond your own, uncovering stories of women from different cultures; women of different races; different social classes; women in employment; women at home… Invisible Women sees them all.
One of the most memorable and enlightening chapters for me was ‘The Plough Hypothesis’ that took a look at the unpaid domestic work of women globally. Particularly the part on three-stone fires (a pot balanced over fire on three stones), which is a cooking method century’s old and widely used in developing countries to this day. Wood, or anything households can get their hands on to burn are used as fuel for these stoves.
This chapter infuriated me!
Criado Perez cites the 75% of families in South Asia using biomass to fuel their homes – this goes up to 90% in Bangladesh alone – and in sub-Saharan Africa, biomass fuels cook food for 80% of the population. That is millions of people, mainly women and children, often in unventilated rooms, being habitually poisoned in their own homes. The toxic fumes are apparently the equivalent of smoking 100 cigarettes a day, and in some countries, it’s a bigger killer than malaria. (p.151-2)
Why don’t they just use modern stoves you ask? Well, clean stove schemes have been attempted, but between lack of money or even lack of purchasing authority that usually falls to the man of the household, Perez argues that a safe stove simply is not an option for all women. It is not a perverse female desire to cook themselves to death over burning waste, as some sensationalist headlines on the issue have implied.
This is just one example from the book that opened my eyes to an issue – I confess – I didn’t even know existed. Page after page, you will find fascinating case studies of women from around the world who are marginalised and/or made unsafe.
To all the people who ask: “Do we really still need feminism? Things have gotten so much better now.” PUSH THIS BOOK INTO THEIR HANDS. It shows that however far we have come, it is not enough. Not even close in too many countries. This book is a rallying cry to say we – women everywhere – deserve more.
If reading this book didn’t ignite a feminist fire in you, go back to the beginning and read it again. You must have missed something.