Invisible Women

By Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible Women: sexist heatwaves


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Invisible Women
Invisible Women: sexist heatwaves
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #106 • View online

Hello hello GFPs, apologies as usual for deviating from scheduled programming.
This week we’re talking a bit about the podcast, and then a few bits and pieces including England’s new Women’s Health Strategy, sexist heatwaves, and, of course, POCKETS.
BUT FIRST: this was very nice!!
Caroline Criado Perez (@CCriadoPerez) revolutionised society's discussion of gender and data in her book Invisible Women. Her podcast 'Visible Women', made with @tortoise seeks solutions to these issues. Vote here:
You can vote for me here - make sure you select my name from the drop-down list! (assuming it’s me you want to vote for, maybe one of the other 49 people more strikes your fancy which is FINE. I am up against Elon Musk, after all………….)
In other news, the podcast! This is our last week before we take our summer break and we’re going out with a bang. Our main episode is, I think, one of the most important ones we’ve recorded. It’s all about…privacy. Wait, come back! (or is it just me that finds conversations about privacy to generally be a bro-heavy snoozefest??) Well anyway, this one isn’t.
Now, as GFPs know, I have spent over a decade calling for more data to be collected on women. And I stand by that call. The gender data gap is behind a whole host of life-limiting and life-threatening sex disparities. Closing the data gap for women should be an absolute priority for society.
But, in this episode, I had to consider a darker side to my beloved gender data, and it’s this: what happens when that data gets used against us? For some people, concerns about privacy may seem like an intellectual exercise, but as we explored in this episode, post Roe v Wade, this is has become a live issue for millions of American women. And, as we discover, privacy is something all women should care about. 
Patricia Clarke
When Roe v Wade was overturned, social media was flooded with one message: delete your period apps. Unfortunately, that wasn't scaremongering. Today's episode of Visible Women w @CCriadoPerez is about when women's health data gets used against us
If after you’ve listened to the episode you want to DO something, here’s a something! I strongly encourage GFPs to answer this call en masse.
PETRAS National Centre of Excellence

We are inviting artists, designers and creative technologists to respond to the challenges of cybersecurity, privacy, ethics and trust in female-oriented technologies (FemTech).

Apply by 21st August:
A fair amount of this week’s main episode was focused on America, not only because of Roe v Wade, but also because America is where a lot of the companies who own the apps we use on a daily basis are based in America. And that means that America’s privacy laws are everyone’s problem.
But we also wanted to talk a bit more about what’s going on in the UK, because the truth is, things aren’t entirely rosy over here either. Many people simply have no idea that abortion is currently criminalised in the UK, coming under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. Yes, that’s right, current abortion law in the UK comes from a time before women had the right to vote. Make of that what you will. (Things are slightly different in Northern Ireland, where abortion has recently been decriminalised).
The reason women can access abortions in the rest of the UK is because the 1967 Abortion Act allows for exceptions to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act – so long as you get the say-so of two doctors.
The problem with this is that anyone who is suspected of procuring an abortion outside of the exceptions outlined in the 1967 Abortion Act, can be prosecuted. And, while this is far less common in the UK than it is in the US, the evidence we uncovered in this episode suggests that these prosecutions are on the increase. Whatever your opinion on abortion, it cannot be right that vulnerable women are being criminalised in this way. And yet, this is the reality for women in Britain today.
For this episode we spoke to Dr Jonathan Lord, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who is also the medical director for MSI Reproductive Choices, a large healthcare charity that delivers contraception and abortion care across England. We asked him about the reality of access to abortion in the UK as the law currently stands – and what he thinks we need to do about it. This is such an important – and often shocking – episode, I really hope you’ll listen and share.
Bonus episodes are only available to Tortoise members, or Tortoise plus subscribers on Apple podcasts. Remember that I’ve negotiated 3 months free Tortoise membership (which obviously gives you much more than just access to the Visible Women bonus episodes!) for newsletter members, so if you’re a GFP member, you too can listen to this bonus episode!
If you’d like to become a GFP member, you can do so here, and you can find details of how to access your 3 months free Tortoise membership in the GFP members area. Otherwise, you can get a years’ Tortoise membership for half-price using my code Caroline50.
We’ll be back before too long with podcast episodes, but in the meantime, if you’ve liked what you’ve heard so far, please do take a moment to rate and review the podcast, it really helps!
Gender data gap of the week
Some rare good news, GFPs! This week the UK government published the first ever Women’s Health Strategy for England and…it looks pretty good?!
For a start, as of the 24/25 academic all medical students and incoming doctors will be receive mandatory training which is intended to “ensure that more doctors have a better baseline understanding of women’s health.” The plan is also to update guidance for female-specific health conditions like endometriosis to ensure the latest evidence and advice is being used in treatment
This is a win in and of itself. But what I’m even more excited about are the bits in the plan about research.
First up, they say this:
that health and care research which should, but does not, take into account sex-based differences does not receive public funding. We will encourage all publicly funded health research to include data on the sex breakdown of participants, keep progress under review and consider the need for further action [my emphasis]
This is marked as an “ambition” rather than a commitment, but if this happens, it would be huge. The UK is currently an outlier when it comes to requiring females to be included in publicly-funded research and for data to be disaggregated by sex. This change would being the UK’s public funders in line with America’s NIH and the EU’s Horizon funding programmes. It would be so fantastic if we could make this a reality.
We, along with the NIHR, have a long-term aim to explore how we can encourage researchers to disaggregate research findings by sex. This will also help us understand sex-based differences in health conditions. As part of this, we will work with research funders to explore how females are included across different types of research, including discovery science and early phase clinical work.
And there is more.
The plan’s ambitions also include:
  • an increase in research on female-specific health conditions, which are currently systematically underfunded compared to diseases that primarily affect men
  • a commitment to analyse currently funded research to identify – and ultimately close – research gaps and gaps in knowledge around sex differences in health conditions, symptoms and outcomes (which I don’t need to tell GFPs would disproportionately benefit women given women are currently so under-researched)
  • a plan to ensure research gets out of the academy and actually informs “healthcare practice and policy”
They’ve even remembered to address animal studies
A related initiative is to promote the inclusion of both sexes in the design of animal studies. Within biomedical research, female animals are under-represented in preclinical studies, including illnesses that disproportionately affect women (for example, stroke, depression and anxiety), and the effect of sex as a variable in basic research is frequently overlooked in single-sex animal and in vitro studies. The MRC has recently launched a new requirement to consider both sexes in experimental design of animal studies.
Be still my beating heart!
AND, drum-roll please, PREGNANT WOMEN! This is truly amazing, because this literally never happens. I mean, don’t fall off your chairs here, they’re not saying they’re going to start including pregnant women in research, but they are going to be looking at their systematic lack of representation (an issue which GFPs will remember was behind the major snafu when it came to getting pregnant women vaccinated).
By tackling the gender data gap through increased research, building understanding through training and tackling the root causes of why women’s voices are not always listened to, both women and clinicians should feel empowered to have more informed discussions over their care.
Sing it, Women’s Health Plan! Now, to make sure it actually happens….
A brief pocket-themed interlude
Default male of the week
GFPs, I regret to inform you that climate change is sexist (I mean readers of Invisible Women already knew this, but still):
Women more at risk from heatwaves than men, experts suggest | Women's health | The Guardian
Obviously, this is a serious issue, and it is older women who are particularly at risk. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this sex disparity exists (go figure) but they suspect it might have something to do with women sweating less than men, and therefore being less efficient at cooling down. Other theories include increased stress on female hearts, and also women having a raised body temperature around ovulation (although obviously this wouldn’t explain the higher rates in older women).
Mike Tipton, a professor of human and applied physiology at the University of Portsmouth, said women may be more at risk from heatwaves because they have higher core temperatures after ovulation, while they are often smaller than men and hence have a bigger surface area to mass ratio, meaning they heat up more quickly.
Anyway, in conclusion, stay safe out there ladies, and make sure you drink plenty of water ❤️
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Toilet queue of the week
A classic of the genre
A classic of the genre
Decriminalise abortion - BPAS Campaigns
What BPAS said. Sign it.
Poppy pic of the week
ferocious baby 💔
ferocious baby 💔
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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