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Invisible Women: "Boys don’t want to read books about women"

Invisible Women
Invisible Women: "Boys don’t want to read books about women"
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #89 • View online
Hellooooo GFPs! And how are you this fine morning? Nothing extraneous to report this week. The research for the podcast is going GREAT GUNS and I’m increasingly more EXCITED than TERRIFIED of releasing it into the wild. Other than that I have basically achieved nothing, so let’s move swiftly along into the main meat of the newsletter shall we? 😘

Our sponsor for March is Human Solutions. Human Solutions manages the world’s largest database of anthropometric human body scans and they are joining us throughout International Women’s Month, in support of the GFP mission of creating a world that is better designed for women 🙌
This database is made up of over 100,000 3D scanned bodies of all shapes and sizes, and from different locations around the world. This anthropometric data is used to create digital avatars which can be placed in vehicles from everyday cars to bicycles, buses and space rockets, to ensure that critical controls can be viewed and accessed by all operators. The biometric data is used to model the ergonomics of female bus drivers and fighter pilots to make sure that they can reach the pedals, controls and mirrors — someone should tell Go North West Buses…
Human Solutions got started in the automotive industry, but their avatars are now used across industrial and fashion design to ensure critical equipment, PPE, clothing, footwear and glasses are correctly sized for every body. Take a look at some of the ways they are slowly making sure women are visible in the design of all products and are never excluded from pursuing their chosen professions by virtue of structural bias in design.
Gender data gap of the week
Longtime GFPs may remember the newsletter a while back where I reported on the excellent work of End Sexism in Schools, and encouraged you all to join in their crowd-research project to document male bias in the KS3 English curriculum. Well, it turns out that many of you answered the call (hooray for GFPs!) and the data is IN. And…it’s not good.
Data from 891 secondary schools across 104 local education authorities shows that in the English curriculum at KS3:
  • 82% of the whole novels taught feature a male protagonist
  • 77% of schools only teach one or no whole texts by female writers, with 44% teaching none at all 
  • 99% of plays taught are written by men
  • Across years 7-9, there is around 75/25 split in the choice of male/female authored novels, however, the actual number of whole novels taught by female authors is likely to be even less because not only are about 3 times are many male authors listed, male-authored texts are also more likely to be mandatory (as opposed to being on a list of choices) than female authored texts - 68% compared to 57% respectively
  • A small number of schools account for the majority of female-authored texts taught; 16% of schools teach 50% of those listed in school curricula
You can download the full report on this page where you can also explore the raw data to find out how your local school matches up. The report is worth reading in full but I just wanted to highlight one section that I found particularly depressing:
The dominance of male protagonists on the curriculum is rooted in not only historic patriarchally-enforced notions of male voices having more value than female, but also in a widespread view amongst teachers that boys are harder to engage in reading for pleasure and as such books taught in class need to be chosen with their interests in mind. Several teachers we surveyed commented on this being an issue. One noted ‘we had to trudge through texts chosen to engage boys’, and another said that many teachers ‘think boys will only be interested in male protagonists.’
‘I wanted to teach my Year 10s in an all-boys’ school Pride and Prejudice as their GCSE text. I discussed it with my class and read them the first chapter; they found it funny and were enthusiastic about studying it. But when I asked my Head of Department if I could teach Pride and Prejudice, he laughed. ‘The boys won’t want to read that.’ I explained that they’d already expressed a preference for it. He insisted. ‘Boys don’t want to read books about women. They won’t be able to relate to it.’ Despite my continued protests over several weeks, I was forced to teach Great Expectations instead.’
Karen, teacher of English 
As the report points out, recent research in fact suggests that rather than boys having some kind of biological imperative that only allows them to be interested in stories about their own sex, “it is the way the subject is taught rather than the content that can prove a barrier: ‘for too many boys, classroom practices that limit choice, value compliance over purpose, and place the teacher as the keeper of all the knowledge, squeeze the vital juices out of the act of reading’ (Fisher and Frey, 2012, p.595)”
The report also cites evidence to suggest that in fact boys and men marginally prefer books written by women – it’s just that they’re less likely to pick them up. So maybe schools could stop reinforcing this outdated and frankly misogynistic cycle?
Default male of the week
In the hot-seat this week is the New Scientist, which did a worse job of reporting on this study (on how well non-pilots think they could lane a plane in an emergency) than that illustrious journal known for its rigour in science reporting the, er….Daily Mail.
This study being the latest in a long line of studies which find that men are just adorable. GFPs may remember that YouGov study the internet collectively lost its mind over last year which revealed that fully 28% of men fully believe they could take on AN EAGLE:
I for one would love to see the man versus elephant spite-match
I for one would love to see the man versus elephant spite-match
As the “sure I can fly a plane” paper says, “overconfidence is associated with gender.”
Men tend to be more overconfident in their knowledge and abilities than women—even in a high-stakes environment, such as competitive running and diving. This gender overconfidence gap is most prevalent when people are asked to evaluate their performance on a masculine-gender-typed task. By contrast, women do not show the same overconfidence for feminine-gender-typed tasks.
some real-world survey data suggest that people, especially men, can be remarkably overconfident in their ability to do ridiculous things. Data from a recent YouGov survey showed 12% of men claimed they could win a point in a game against 23-time tennis grand slam winner Serena Williams.
See? Adorable.
Anyway, these researchers decided to see HOW FAR THEY COULD PUSH MEN. So they recruited a bunch of people (men and women) and showed half of them a video of a pilot landing a plane and half of them no video at all, before asking them whether or not they thought they could lane a plane without dying.
Turns out, people are idiots, because although the video was filmed from the back of the flight deck and therefore showed nothing of what the pilots were actually doing with their hands, and in fact was described by a pilot with 35 years experience and who also trains pilots as “100% useless” in terms of its instructive benefit, it seems that “people” who watched the video were more likely than “people” who had not watched the video to think that they could land the plane without dying, despite having had no pilot training beyond having watched a “100% useless” video.
I put “people” in scare quotes there because the study rather annoyingly does not present sex disaggregated data for the video/non-video condition so it doesn’t tell us if men were more likely to have been influenced by watching the video. It does, however, inform us that “men were more confident than women in every condition,” ie that men are more confident than women that they could safely land the plane irrespective of whether or not they watched a video that didn’t tell them anything.
As I said, adorable.
Anyway, this whole gendered dimension was a pretty big part of the study, which was reflected in the Daily Mail‘s reporting:
Men are armchair experts and think they can land a plane after watching a YouTube video | Daily Mail Online
I REALLY appreciate whoever was on the Daily Mail‘s picture desk that day – really sterling effort there.
Weirdly, however, the New Scientist decided to bury the gendered lede:
Psychology: Non-pilots think they can land a plane after watching a YouTube video | New Scientist
And indeed, the New Scientist (which by the way, files this study under “HUMANS”) continues to proceed through almost the entire article using only gender neutral terms:
They found that people who had watched the video were up to 30 per cent more confident in their ability to land a plane without dying, compared with the confidence ratings of those who hadn’t watched the video. But even people who hadn’t watched the video gave themselves an average confidence score of 29 per cent for their ability to land the plane without dying.
Did they? Or did men?
Naughty step for the New Scientist (which to be fair they can share a bit with the original researchers who could have done a bit better at presenting their sex disaggregated data)
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Poppy pic of the week
A series of pictures, depicting our heroine, Popsikin the Great, First of Her Name, vanquishing her hated foe, Signor Chipmunk:
"So, we meet again, Signor Chipmunk"
"So, we meet again, Signor Chipmunk"
"No, Signor Chipmunk, I expect you to die”
"No, Signor Chipmunk, I expect you to die”
"I'll wipe that smile off your face Signor Chipmunk IF THAT IS EVEN YOUR REAL NAME"
"I'll wipe that smile off your face Signor Chipmunk IF THAT IS EVEN YOUR REAL NAME"
That’s it! Until next time, my dear GFPs….xoxoxo
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Caroline Criado Perez

Keeping up with the gender data gap (and whatever else takes my fancy). Like the Kardashians, but with more feminist rage. Plus, toilet queue of the week.

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