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Invisible Women: Confessions of a Pocket Addict

Invisible Women
Invisible Women: Confessions of a Pocket Addict
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #72 • View online
My dear GFPs, just a couple of reminders before we get going.
First up, you have until 06:59 BST on Friday 22nd October to sign up for newsletter membership if you want to join in this week’s GFP LIVE with Tracy Chou, which will be taking place at 6pm BST on Friday 22nd October!
Tracy Chou is an entrepreneur and software engineer known for her work advocating for diversity and inclusion in tech. She is currently the founder and CEO of Block Party, which builds tools for online safety and anti-harassment. She is also a co-founder of Project Include, a non-profit working to create a tech ecosystem where everyone has a fair chance to succeed. In 2013, her Medium article “Where are the numbers?” helped jumpstart the practice of tech companies disclosing their diversity data. Tracy was an early engineer at Pinterest, Quora, and the U.S. Digital Service.
Anti-harassment tools are, unsurprisingly, quite close to my heart, so I’m really looking forward to this chat, in particular the new functionalities Blockparty has released that allow you to mass-block @ssholes perfectly lovely people who entirely innocently join an online pile-on. We’ll also be talking about her experiences founding a tech start-up as well as her experiences in tech more generally while being that most dreaded of things: A WOMAN.
I’ll also be asking Tracy about the reaction to her 2013 Medium article; some of you may remember my quoting it in an Invisible Women passage about the tech world’s mysterious reticence to be data-driven in its approach to diversity:
Google has since repeatedly refused to hand over fuller pay data to the Labor Department, fighting in court for months to avoid the demand. There was no pay imbalance, they insisted.
For a company built almost entirely on data, Google’s reluctance to engage here may seem surprising. It shouldn’t be. Software engineer Tracy Chou has been investigating the number of female engineers in the US tech industry since 2013 and has found that ‘[e]very company has some way of hiding or muddling the data’. They also don’t seem interested in measuring whether or not their ‘initiatives to make the work environment more female-friendly, or to encourage more women to go into or stay in computing’, are actually successful. There’s ‘no way of judging whether they’re successful or worth mimicking, because there are no success metrics attached to any of them’, explains Chou. And the result is that ‘nobody is having honest conversations about the issue’.
It’s not entirely clear why the tech industry is so afraid of sex-disaggregated employment data, but its love affair with the myth of meritocracy might have something to do with it: if all you need to get the ‘best people’ is to believe in meritocracy, what use is data to you? (IW, p.109)
In conclusion, I’m REALLY excited about this GFP LIVE – lots to discuss! I hope to see loads of you there ❤️ ✊ I will be sending out the zoom link to all members at 7 am on the 22nd of October, so if you’d like to join us, make sure you’ve signed up before then!
I ALSO hope to see loads of you at my next two tour dates, which are taking place this week!
I’ll be in DURHAM on Tuesday and LEEDS on Wednesday! There are still a few tickets left for both dates and don’t forget GFPs get a SPECIAL GFP DISCOUNT: just type VISIBLE15 in when you checkout for 15% off. Hurrah!

This week’s newsletter is kindly sponsored by Peanut. Peanut is a bit like tinder, but the aim here isn’t to get laid: it’s to connect with other women in your area going through the same life-stage you are, whether it’s menopause, motherhood, pregnancy or you’re trying to conceive. Getting laid optional. Unless you’re trying to conceive that is – then it’s very much recommended tbf. 
As well as the swiping, there’s also live audio chats (like Clubhouse), discussion groups (like Facebook, but without your racist uncle), and an awful lot of questions answered and advice given, which, sure, you could try to use tinder for, but it’s probably not recommended. 
Peanut was set up in 2017 by Michelle Kennedy to solve a need she’d experienced as a new mum: isolation. When Michelle had her first child, she struggled to meet like-minded women and found herself trawling out-dated blogs for advice in the early hours. So she created Peanut: a safe space to meet women nearby and have conversations across meaningful topics from sex and feminine health to IVF, pregnancy, first years, midlife and beyond. 
There are now over 2M+ women using the app, which is free to download and free to use.
Gender data gap of the week
This week The Guardian reported that one in six of the most critically ill NHS patients are unvaccinated pregnant women with Covid and I am furious. This was all so avoidable.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, experts called for vaccine manufacturers not to forget pregnant women in the rush for a vaccine. I myself back in March 2020 wrote about the dangers of excluding pregnant women from data collection given the evidence we already have over the impact of Sars on pregnant women, as well as emerging evidence of the risks of Covid in pregnancy.
The recommendations for how to ensure pregnant women were excluded from life-saving treatment included making at least one (one!!) of the vaccine candidates suitable for use in pregnancy and getting started early with the reproductive toxicity (DART) studies so that pregnant women could be included in the vaccine trials along with everyone else.
Development of coronavirus vaccines that pregnant women aren’t able to use would be not only a tragedy but a grave injustice. Yet if old paradigms persist, that is exactly what will transpire. (Source)
It is so heartbreaking to read these words because that is exactly what happened – and it has ended in tragedy.
Old paradigms persisted. Even the most basic recommendations were ignored. Not a single vaccine was developed for use in pregnancy and the DART studies were delayed so long that they hadn’t even finished before several vaccines were already approved.
As a result, when vaccines were first being rolled out, instead of pregnant women being front of the queue they were, in the UK, initially barred from receiving a vaccine at all. In countries around the world, pregnant women are still being routinely denied access to any Covid vaccine.
The situation was slightly different for pregnant healthcare workers (not an insignificant number given the disproportionate number of healthcare workers who are female), who in many countries could have the vaccine, so long as they were happy to assume all the risk of a trial onto themselves with no support.
One US healthcare worker wrote about deciding to get the vaccine despite the lack of data and being shocked by the lack of follow-up:
When I got my Covid-19 vaccine, I was instructed to scan a QR code on a poster. Doing that brought me to V-safe, a vaccine safety tracking system from the CDC. One of the questions I answered with each dose was, “Were you pregnant at the time of your Covid-19 vaccination?” to which I answered “Yes,” fully expecting to be asked a series of other questions about my pregnancy. I wasn’t.
Instead, I only answered routine questions about arm soreness, fatigue, and fever. I waited for an email or phone call inviting me to enroll in a study of pregnant people receiving the vaccine. Instead, silence. Why is nobody asking us for more information?
This echoes the experience of a UK-based healthcare worker who contacted me with the same story: she got vaccinated while pregnant and was crying out for someone to take her data and use it. She too was met with silence.
In the UK, the advice against pregnant women routinely receiving the vaccine gradually, over several months, turned into advice for pregnant women to urgently receive the vaccine, as the severe impact of Covid on pregnant women became clear. But as I wrote last month for The Sunday Times, the change in messaging has come too late. Pregnant women are already scared and confused, let down by a lack of data and the lack of urgency to get it. And now they’re fighting for their lives in hospitals across the country. Not all of them will win that fight.
Oh and just to head off the inevitable person who at this point pipes up, wringing their hands about how it’s dreadful that poor pregnant women don’t have the data, but what choice do we have, we have to protect them, I’m going to conclude by quoting myself:
This blanket exclusion is often defended on the basis of protecting the pregnant woman and her foetus, a rationale that makes sense only in a world in which pregnant women never get ill. The result is that pregnant women routinely take untested vaccines and drugs outside of the relative safety of a well-constructed and closely monitored clinical trial. The only winners here are insurers and drug companies, who have successfully transferred the risk of a trial from themselves onto individual women, who then have to make high-stakes health decisions for themselves and their babies based on little to no information.
BITE ME.
Bonus gender data gap of the week
Labour misses gender pay gap deadline
And fyi, this is DESPITE having been given a 6 month grace period and not having had to do it at all last year. WTH, Labour???
Default male of the week
Bad news for women this week, as sports scientists confirm that we are still not human.
You might think, for example, that a study entitled “Exercise training elicits superior metabolic effects when performed in the afternoon compared to morning in metabolically compromised humans” would include women. I mean, if you’ve read Invisible Women you might not, but if you just followed the logic of the English language you would certainly be forgiven for assuming so.
Continuing on to read the key points, you might still remain under the impression that women are included in the term “human” and indeed in the terms “subjects”, and “participants”.
You could go on to read the whole six paragraphs of the introduction, blissfully unaware that women are, in fact, not human and may not even be in possession of a “human body”. The fact that women are not included in the term “volunteers” may come as a surprise given that women are generally more likely than men to be volunteers, but no one will be surprised that the term “individuals” only includes men, since famously women are an undifferentiated mass as handily expressed by this famous xckd cartoon:
Your confidence in women in fact being members of the human race would be sadly disabused once you start reading the materials and methods section, however, as despite this study passing ethics approval with flying colours…
Needless to say I am writing a strongly worded letter to Mr Helsinki (THIS IS A JOKE, OBVIOUSLY I KNOW HELSINKI IS FEMALE)*
*To be extra super clear, I am aware that Helsinki is the capital of Finland. Never can be too sure when making terrible jokes on the internet while being female...
*To be extra super clear, I am aware that Helsinki is the capital of Finland. Never can be too sure when making terrible jokes on the internet while being female...
To be strictly fair, this study does at least acknowledge in its limitations section that ignoring the bodies of 50% of…um…humans means that their study “cannot be generalized to the entire population,” which you might have thought would have resulted in their choosing a title like “Exercise training elicits superior metabolic effects when performed in the afternoon compared to morning in metabolically compromised men,” but that’s probably just me being a classic non-human.
They do also go on to say that,
To the best of our knowledge, gender differences in the effects of the timing of exercise on health benefits have so far not been investigated in humans, and are eagerly awaited.
Just not so eagerly awaited that you wanted to do it yourself. Gotcha.
Meanwhile, the media did a great job of reporting this male-only study:
the word "many" doing an awful lot of....heavy lifting there shut up YOU make terrible jokes
the word "many" doing an awful lot of....heavy lifting there shut up YOU make terrible jokes
In other media coverage of all-male studies, this week a couple of newspapers took the opportunity to cover this all-male study of the benefits of swimming in cold conditions.
Here is The Times’ offering:
I guess women are included in the word "participants" after all!
I guess women are included in the word "participants" after all!
delighted to find that, contrary to *gestures at basically all sport research" women are also "people"!
delighted to find that, contrary to *gestures at basically all sport research" women are also "people"!
And the Daily Mail
are those...woollen mittens??
are those...woollen mittens??
The thing that kills me is that the research paper itself *actually gets this right*. I mean, ok, it gets it wrong in excluding women for no good reason, but it does at least flag IN THE TITLE, that the study is in men.
Why is this so difficult??
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GFPs fixing it
I first discovered the term “geriatric pregnancy” when my friend Becca got pregnant at the, apparently, grand old age of 35 (she types, at the probably basically dead age of 37). Becca mainly found this funny if needlessly insulting – it’s not like she didn’t already know she was “old” in pregnancy terms (although given the average age to give birth in England & Wales is now 30.7 how old was she really?).
I, however, remember being outraged on her behalf and thinking that if I ever got pregnant at that age I would punch anyone in the face who called me geriatric. I did then go on to get pregnant at the one-foot-in-the-grave age of 36, but no one got a chance to call me geriatric because I miscarried. Lucky for them. Better luck next time etc.
Anyway, it turns out calling women who are perfectly capable of carrying a baby to term “geriatric” is by no means the only way we use language to demean women and make them feel that everything, up to and including the lack of a social safety net/affordable childcare that might make having children earlier a remote possibility is THEIR FAULT.
Do you, for example, have an INHOSPITABLE WOMB? Shame on you! Why haven’t you got the decorators in and done a general tidy-up you HORRIBLE SLATTERN? Perhaps your cervix is INCOMPETENT? Send her back to cervix school! Or maybe your uterus is just plain LAZY (probably FAT as well, UGH, get her on a diet, STAT, GODDDD, WHY IS UR UTERUS NOT BEACH BODY READY???).
live action shot from the maternity ward
live action shot from the maternity ward
This is all obviously ludicrous and it’s time for a change. Which, handily, is where Peanut comes in!
Like my friend Becca, Peanut’s CEO Michelle Kennedy also had the AUDACITY to get pregnant over the age of 35 and, displeased with the language she was met with, she decided to do something about it. Together with linguists and medical professionals, Peanut set about developing a glossary of terms that don’t accuse organs of moral failings.
For example, instead of calling a uterus “hostile” (what a b1tch!) how about talking about the cervical mucus instead, which has the added bonus of being actually accurate? Or instead of accusing a woman’s cervix of being incompetent, talk about early cervical dilation which, again, is what is actually happening.
Printed copies of the glossary are in the process of being circulated to clinics, parenting and baby classes, and surgeries. It’s also available for free online.
Hurrah!
Product of the week
This week we are talking LEGGINGS and ADEQUATE POCKETS. As long-time GFPs will know, this one is a particular bugbear of mine to the extent that I actually wrote to Sweaty Betty to ask WHY THEY WERE RATIONING POCKETS in theirs (they used to only have them on one side, why I have no idea)
Anyway, it turns out I am not alone in my quest for leggings with pockets. Who knew. In fact I am not even sure I can even hang on to my crown as Queen of Pocket Rants, given this MAJESTIC thread by Daniella Topaz
She first announces her quest:
Danielle Topaz
I'm doing an experiment: an ongoing ongoing thread

I've been trying to find a new pair of gym leggings to replace my old ones. My only requirements are a) they're under £35 and b) they have a side pocket for my phone.

Simple enough right? WRONG. 1/
Danielle Topaz
To be clear, I rely heavily on my phone when I'm at the gym. For music, for screenshots of my workout plan, for googling correct form, etc. Without pockets I have to stick it in my waistband or down my sports bra meaning it gets SWEATY and also falls out after 0.2 seconds.
GFPs everywhere nodding along furiously with Danielle at this point.
Danielle didn’t have much luck when she was searching so she started contacting leggings manufacturers and demanding WHY THEY DIDN’T INCLUDE POCKETS. The responses were…special.
I wonder what other basic functionality they will introduce as special editions. “Special staying up edition”. “Special non-see-through edition”
Anyway, Danielle continues…
Danielle Topaz
But a ✨very✨ special shout out to @beaybl who TOLD ME TO CALM DOWN when I expressed my justified exasperation at them avoiding my question. Slow, slow clap for you. 😉💕xx 7/ https://t.co/c5lFyK6x4i
Incidentally, why are leggings manufacturers so kissy??
Anyway, far, so CCP, but Danielle then took it ONE STAGE FURTHER, and started her own research project down at the gym
what a GFP 😍
what a GFP 😍
The result of Danielle’s long search is as follows:
Danielle Topaz
WHICH BRINGS ME TO: what companies actually DO have pockets?? From my shoutout on insta, the contenders were @fabletics, the @ASOS A505 range (not all of them though), @Aerie and @SportsDirectUK.
Now look, I hesitate to dissent from the newly crowned Queen of Pocket Rants, but I can’t in good conscience recommend ASOS if they don’t all have pockets purely on the basis that ASOS has far too many options to not have a “with pockets” filter. I find their website completely unusable on this basis so have completely given up on it. Danielle also gave a special shout out to a leggings manufacturer called Rainbows & Sprinkles, which I *want* to love because their prints are undeniably gorgeous and I do want them in my life, BUT: their leggings do not come with side pockets wtf?! I don’t believe I am alone in not only wanting my phone on me when I exercise, but also wanting access to it that ideally doesn’t require me to stop running…aka a side pocket
Kaye
Facebook friend putting out a call for leggings with two pockets.. why is it so hard to find functional clothes for women in 2021?!

#GiveUsPockets @CCriadoPerez https://t.co/gQg7XQGIWH
…and indeed I am not! Anyway, lots of good responses to this tweet too. Findra came up again, as did these from H&M (though I feel I must point out that there is only one side pocket, more inexplicable pocket rationing.)
I’m afraid that I just keep coming back to Lululemon, despite their prices not being the absolute best, because the leggings
1) stay up
2) have SEVEN pockets. Two at the side and FIVE at the waistband. How am I expected to go back to “we’ll let you have ONE side pocket and MAYBE a tiny back pocket for your pet thimble AND ONLY IF YOU BEHAVE” leggings? I am a pocket addict.
THAT SAID, I am once again on the lookout for some coooooollld weather running leggings with pockets and I am currently striking out, because Lululemon no longer seem to do cold weather specific running leggings. Which is weird, because I think it gets pretty cold in Canada??? Canadian GFPs, plz confirm. Anyway, if anyone can recommend some TOASTY running leggings with pockets, please get in touch!
If only Dovetail made leggings….
Homework
no homework this week! I have *plans* for next week….
Poppy pic of the week
This week we have been dog-sitting for my mum’s dog Toby so you’re getting DOUBLE DOG
waiting for treats
waiting for treats
waiting for human to throw ball because after all what other use does a human have
waiting for human to throw ball because after all what other use does a human have
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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