GFPs, I regret to announce that I was involved with a minor twitter ruckus this week.
I do try to avoid those these days, but, well, someone sent me a tweet thread by a company called Arqaam, and…it kind of p*ssed me off.
In its twitter bio, Arqaam presents itself as providing “Informed & Ethical Data Analysis” – but the tweet thread in question gave an uncited run-down of some of the major talking points from my book: car crash test dummies, heart attacks, urban planning. And…ok, that could be lifted from my book, but on the other hand, those talking points have taken on a life of their own and are spoken about by people who’ve never ever heard of me or my book so…not a smoking gun.
But the thread also linked to a blog post…and that post, also uncited, 100% was lifted from the book. I know this because not only did it go into those same talking points in more detail, it also made two rather obscure references that made it glaringly obvious that this content was lifted from Invisible Women.
The first was the reference to the female viagra study that tested how the drug interacted with alcohol on 23 men and 2 women (IW, p.207). And the second was the quote from Tom Schalk, the VP of voice technology for auto supplier ATX Group, who, instead of turning his attention to fix his voice recognition software that couldn’t adequately recognise the voices of 50% of the global population, instead suggested that women could undergo “lengthy training” to fix the “many issues with women’s voices.” (IW, p.163). Together with the heart attacks, the car crashes, the references to trip-chaining and cities being designed around the traditional needs of the “male breadwinner,” it was simply not credible that this was not plagiarised content.
So…“Informed,” yes, but “Ethical”? Not so much.
Now, this is far from the first time I’ve been plagiarised. In fact, it happens semi-regularly to me, usually in the form of some viral social media post where someone will claim to have “just suddenly thought of how the world is designed for men” (🧐) and then go on to list most of the major examples from my book.
These annoy and upset me. Of course they do. It’s incredibly frustrating to have your work stolen and presented as someone else’s. Writing Invisible Women was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and probably will ever do. It took so much out of me mentally. It sucks to have people casually rip it off.
I often wonder if people think I just wouldn’t know? That I won’t recognise when you’ve lifted examples I spent the best part of a decade curating and present them as your own original research that you curated? Because actually this hasn’t just happened in viral threads. I have seen this happen in at least one feminist book too. And, trust me, I know. I know that research intimately. I know which combinations of studies mean you’ve stolen my work.
I’ve let these examples slide, feeling it’s more trouble than it’s worth to make a fuss. But this one, I didn’t let slide. It’s one thing for someone to nick your work for a viral thread. It’s quite another for a company to profit from it.
Arqaam is based in Germany – and Invisible Women was a bestseller there for months (published as Unsichtbare Frauen). There was no way this was a coincidence – and I wanted a citation. Bringing together all those disparate studies and stats, from all these different disciplines, to PROVE that the data gap is gendered, systemic, global, and multidisciplinary, was HARD. I deserved to be credited for doing that work.
So I tweeted them.