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Invisible Women - murderous menstrual blood

Invisible Women
Invisible Women - murderous menstrual blood
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #64 • View online

Hello GFPs, and welcome to this, a very special edition of the Invisible Women newsletter. Special for me, and hopefully for you too! 
As regular readers will know, I am trying to find ways to make this newsletter financially sustainable. I love doing it, but obviously the time I spend on this takes me away from other work. I also wanted to develop this amazing community but while the newsletter was unfunded I didn’t feel able to justify that time away from paid work.
The first step was creating a membership option for those who feel able to support the work that goes into producing this weekly newsletter – and a heartfelt THANK YOU to those of you who have already signed up. You are making this work possible and it’s been so amazing getting to know so many of you over in the members’ area! I’m so excited about what is already happening in that space 💪
Today marks another step: a partnership with Elvie – a name readers of Invisible Women may recognise.
Like so many companies that produce products actually designed around female bodies, Elvie was born out of the frustration of one woman: Tania Boler. After Tania had her first child, she quickly became fed up with the lack of innovation in tech solutions for women. She also felt frustrated with the cultural norms that stop women from talking openly about their bodies. And so, in true GFP fashion, she decided to do something about it. That thing was founding Elvie, a company that produces tech that women actually need and want by doing that revolutionary thing: asking women what they want and need. 
‘There’s never been much innovation in consumer electronics for women,’ [Boler] says. ‘It’s always focused on a very superficial aesthetic level: turn something pink, or turn something into a piece of jewellery, rather than taking account of the fact that technology can solve real problems for women.’ The result has been a chronic lack of investment, meaning that ‘the actual technology that’s used in medical devices for women is sort of a kickback from the 1980s’. (IW, p.172)
I first came across Elvie when I was researching Invisible Women and looking for female founders of companies that developed products for women. Tania Boler, the founder of Elvie ticked those boxes and kindly agreed to speak to me about the challenges she faced getting her smart pelvic floor trainer to market, from the lack of data on vaginas to funders who thought 50% of the world is “niche”.
Fifty per cent of the population have a vagina,’ [Boler says], ‘and yet there’s hardly any journal articles about this part of anatomy. Three years ago I found about four articles done decades ago.’ (IW, p.173)
So imagine my excitement when I discovered there were ACTUAL REAL LIFE GFPs WORKING AT ELVIE! One such GFP replied to my newsletter back in July when I launched my membership scheme wondering if I had ever considered being sponsored. Which, yes, I had, but I had no idea how to go about it, plus I knew I couldn’t be sponsored by just anyone. I only wanted to promote companies who really do use data on women to design products for women – and as we know, that’s a small select bunch. But luckily for me, I didn’t have to go looking for Elvie, because they were already here! Hurrah!
“Elvie’s product design process always starts by listening to women, finding more about the challenges they face - and then applying world-class design and engineering technology to create better solutions that work with women’s bodies.”
Check out their smarter technology for women here
This is an experiment so I welcome your feedback (and if you work for a company who might be interested in sponsoring this newsletter please get in touch!) I promise that I will only work with companies who, like Elvie, are actually designing products that make our lives better and who actually use data collected on real-life women to do that. No default male, no pinking and shrinking, and DEFINITELY no pink tax.
So, this month, please thank Elvie for kindly supporting GFPs! I have also been hard at work improving my pelvic floor strength via the Elvie Trainer – their pelvic floor exerciser - so look out for my review on that in a few weeks. In the meantime I would LOVE to hear from GFPs who are already using any Elvie products: how are you getting on with them? 
I will also be doing an Instagram Live with Tania Boler on Monday 6th September at 6 pm. If you want to join in live head over to Elvie’s Instagram page. If you aren’t on Instagram or can’t make that time, don’t panic! The video will go up on Youtube and I will share the link in a future newsletter.
All right! Let’s have a look at what the scientists have been up to this week, I’m sure they’ll be having a TOTALLY NORMAL ONE!!!!
Gender data gap of the week
Federica Helena Marinaro
This is the answer we received from a journal with IF 9.26 from Springer. The paper is about stem cell therapy using stromal cells from menstrual blood, which are now deeply studied and have shown a great potential and safety.
#WomenInSTEM #researchpaper @GrumpyReviewer2
Oh dear. Very very oh dear. I contacted Federica to find out who had actually written this drivel, and while it would have been bad enough if it had been an external reviewer, it turns out it was THE ACTUAL EDITOR. The manuscript was rejected.
And then, to make matters worse, it turns out this isn’t even an isolated incident:
R. Martínez-Aguilar
I can totally relate to this. Every single submission about the potential of menstrual 🩸stromal cells for therapy came with a reviewer objection on the use of “dead/toxic cells”. We even had a pre-made response with references ready. We used it EVERY SINGLE TIME.
So that’s why we know next to f all about the menstrual cycle, thanks lads.
Meanwhile, as I write my period is 19(!!!!) days late following my second dose of the vaccine and therefore I am finding myself INCREDIBLY IRRITATED by blithe statements such as these:
…because given not a single pharma company collected data on the menstrual cycle during their clinical trials HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY KNOW IF GETTING VACCINE WHILE YOU’RE ON YOUR PERIOD OR A WEEK LATER MAKES ANY DIFFERENCE TO WHETHER OR NOT IT WILL DISRUPT YOUR CYCLE.
because AS IF!!!!! relying on women having even HEARD of the yellow card reporting scheme LET ALONE having the time to find it and fill it out IS THE SAME AS COLLECTING DATA IN A CLINICAL TRIAL SETTING
Yes I may be a bit het up.
If you prefer your thoughts slightly more, er, collected, I also wrote about the vaccine data gap for pregnant women in the Sunday Times this week. If you don’t have a sub you can sign up for 2 free articles a week.
Don’t blame pregnant women for not getting the Covid-19 vaccine | Comment | The Sunday Times
tbf that was quite angry too.
Default male of the week
Lucy Bacon
“In one corner, a UK snooker star. In the other, his bitter ex”

Is Reanne Evans, 12 time women’s snooker world champion, not a snooker star as well then? 🤔
She’s literally the 12 time women’s snooker champion.
Anyway the dude sounds like a peach:
Allen has also been critical of women joining the professional World Snooker Tour, while he recently asked for his ex-partner to be removed from a TV studio next to his practice table at the World Championships in April, claiming her presence was a distraction. (Source)
She’s also had to take him to court over child maintenance payments for their 14 year old child, despite his earning an estimated £3.3 million in prize money over his snooker career. She, meanwhile, earned only £6000 for winning the women’s world championship in 2019.
If you are enjoying this newsletter, consider becoming a member! Members get access to member-only events, a members-only area, plus the warm glow that comes from supporting the work that goes into producing this weekly blast 😍
GFPs fixing it
As readers of Invisible Women will remember, in the world of medicine, the default male patient reigns supreme. And the result of Reference Man’s omnipresence is that women suffer from longer wait times, less effective treatment and worse outcomes than men. Diseases that are mainly or exclusively suffered by women tend to be under-researched and underfunded.
So I was delighted to see the Scottish government’s Women’s Health Plan unveiled this week – and not just because Invisible Women is cited in the foreword (although obviously also because Invisible Women was cited in the foreword)
In our debate on Women’s Health I quoted from Caroline Criado Perez’s thought-provoking book ‘Invisible Women’ and I wish to do the same here at the beginning of our Women’s Health Plan, as she says so much in the few words: ‘women are not, to state the obvious, just men.’
She goes on to explain: ‘Historically, it has been assumed that there wasn’t anything fundamentally different between male and female bodies other than size and reproductive function, and so, for years, medical education has been focussed on the male “norm”, with everything that falls outside that designated as “atypical” or even “abnormal”.’ This has to change. Women are not atypical – they are 51% of Scotland’s population.
live action footage of J-Lo reacting to the Scottish Women's Health Plan
live action footage of J-Lo reacting to the Scottish Women's Health Plan
I do recommend reading the plan in full as it’s not that long and it has a lot of good and interesting info, but my highlights included:
  • The strong focus on sex disparities in heart disease, including sex-specific risk factors
  • Establishing a Women’s Health Research Fund “with the aim of closing gaps in scientific and medical knowledge in women’s health for both sex-specific and non-sex-specific conditions.”
  • Improving data collection “ensuring disaggregation by protected characteristics.” 💪💪💪
From a more personal perspective, I was also very happy to see plans to improve miscarriage care:
This includes supporting the development of individualised care plans after a woman’s first miscarriage, taking forward the recommendations made in the Lancet series, “Miscarriage Matters” published on 26 April 2021 and ensuring women’s services in NHS Boards have dedicated facilities for women who are experiencing unexpected pregnancy complications.
I mean tbh any care plan at all would have been welcome after my miscarriage. No one seemed the slightest bit interested in figuring out what had happened or why; whether I had had an ectopic pregnancy (I am higher risk for this) or if it was just a “normal” miscarriage.
On that note there is also this
'Now other women won't be haunted by the labour ward' - BBC News
Louise, 38, delivered her stillborn baby in a room next to women celebrating their new babies.
She told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I was 13 weeks pregnant and I went to my scan, told no heartbeat, came out the scan room and and [they] spoke of three different procedures. I went to start and was told because I was over 11 weeks have to deliver in the labour ward. My body shut down as soon as I heard those words.
"The promises I was made that I would be met at the door and I wouldn’t see anyone were completely false. I was let in that door by a dad celebrating the birth of his baby and on his way to tell his relatives the good news. I was waiting for a few minutes at that door. No midwives came for me.”
I was not as far along as Louise, but GFPs who have been around for a while will remember that I went through something similar back in December. It struck me at the time how insensitive miscarriage treatment was; it enraged me how non-existent the data was. So this is very welcome. I hope NHS England will commit to doing the same. Shall we ask them?
Click here if you’d like to tweet them and ask. G'WAAAAANNN!
Product of the week
GFPs, brace yourselves: someone has designed an actually useable lid for glass jars.
Yes, Joey, it’s true. Duerr’s, a jam maker based in Manchester is introducing an “Easy-open” lid across its range of jams and marmalades nationwide following a successful trial in Morrisons stores.
The simple mechanism reduces the effort required to get the jar open. The appearance of the OrbitTM lid is very similar to a normal twist-off lid, but it is actually in two parts: a central panel is sealed to the jar by vacuum, and an outer ring is screwed in place to provide further protection.
To open the jar, the user simply twists the ring in the same way as opening a normal twist-off lid. Twisting the ring firstly loosens the ring, then smoothly pushes the panel away from the jar to break the seal. In this way, the ring acts as a tool to break the seal. Once opened, the jar may be reclosed and reopened as usual.
Why is this product of the week? It’s all to do with grip strength.
Women have on average a 41% lower grip strength than men, and this is not a sex difference that changes with age: the typical seventy-year-old man has a stronger handgrip than the average twenty-five-year-old woman. It’s also not a sex difference that can be significantly trained away: a study which compared ‘highly trained female athletes’ to men who were ‘untrained or not specifically trained’ found that their grip strength ‘rarely’ surpassed the fiftieth percentile of male subjects. Overall, 90% of the women (this time including untrained women) in the study had a weaker grip than 95% of their male counterparts. (Invisible Women, pp.145-146)
Naturally, women’s lower grip strength will come into play in any activity that involves grip. Like, for example, opening a jam jar.
And indeed this sex difference is also one that Duerr found when they commissioned their own lid-opening research:
The resulting research indicated that although many people liked to purchase glass jars because they were re-sealable, reusable and recyclable many women commented on their difficulty to open and even some men claimed that jars could be stubborn.
The study suggested that 22% of the participants that took part in the survey could not open a jar with a normal lid, with the percentage increasing to 40% for women over 50 years of age. Participants that could open both types of lid confirmed that the Orbit lid was much easier to open.
Should’ve gone to Duerr 🥁
Should’ve gone to Duerr 🥁
And before anyone starts yes I KNOW about the banging on the counter trick and all the others too. The point is: why not have a product that works without workarounds?
No homework this week (apart from tweeting NHS England DO ITTTT)! Instead, spend your time reading the brilliant new book by Karen Messing, in preparation for her book launch on 7th September at 6 pm BST, to which you are all invited! The event will consist of a panel between Karen, me, Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC General Secretary and Hilda Palmer of FACK/Hazards Campaign.
You have to register in advance, which you can do here.
Karen’s name may be familiar to some of you from Invisible Women, where I briefly mentioned her – but not as extensively as her influence on me deserves. Karen is THE original researcher on female bodies in the workplace and her chapter “Don’t Use a Wrench to Peel Potatoes: Biological Science Constructed on Male Models is a Risk to Women Workers’ Health” in the book Changing Methods had an enormous impact on my thinking. It is no exaggeration to say that if I had not read her work all those years ago, Invisible Women may well have never existed. It certainly would have been a far poorer book.
Her new book is well worth a read, although fair warning, it will p*ss you off.
Bent Out of Shape Shame, Solidarity, and Women's Bodies at Work
Poppy pic of the week
That’s it! Until next time, my dear GFPs, and don’t forget to collect your potent and toxic menstrual blood so you can secretly kill your husbands!!! 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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