Invisible Women

By Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible Women - the 3 genders: men, kids, and unisex


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Invisible Women
Invisible Women - the 3 genders: men, kids, and unisex
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #51 • View online
Wow. My dear GFPs, what an amazing response to last week’s launch! We surpassed 500 members in the first day!! Those quick-off-the-mark 500 will be receiving an email this week to ask for your postal address so I can get the GFP bookmark in the post to you (they arrived on Friday and they look GREAT!) If you missed out this time, please don’t worry: I have more GFP plans for the future!
Thank you all so much for the many many wonderful emails you took the time to send telling me how much this community means to you and how excited you are to become members. I also loved receiving your suggestions for how to develop and expand this community; so many of you are already taking ownership of this movement, which was exactly what I hoped for and is so exciting to see happening already.
Finally, thank you also to those of you who didn’t feel I was charging enough and would like to pay more! I’m pretty happy with the level I’ve got things at for now, but I of course bear your comments in mind, and I will look into the possibility of being able to offer one-off donations too as several of you lovely lot suggested. I’m so excited about what we’re going to be able to do with this and where we’re going to take it!
For those of you who missed last week’s newsletter and have no idea what I’m rabbiting on about, you can catch up here. And for those of you who would like to become members but haven’t got around to it yet, you can do so by clicking here!
RIGHT! Let’s get on to the important work of gender data gap grousing shall we….

Gender data gap of the week
GFPs, I’m going to level with you: I’m wholesale breaking my own rules for this week’s gender data gap of the week, because this is not just a gender data gap of the week. It’s A CCP GENDER DATA GAP OF THE WEEK[sorry, I literally was unable to stop my fingers typing that terrible gag]
Anyway, what it actually is is a supercharged Gender Data Gap of the week that ALSO includes some awesome women who are fixing the problem (aka Women fixing it of the week), AND there is some Homework of the week for you at the end too, which I know you all love so much 😘
SO. As committed GFPs may remember, a few weeks ago the homework I set you was to fill in the homework of the week last week was to fill in this survey:
The response to that section was huge; I won’t go into the responses in detail now, but suffice to say: for many women, IUD insertion isn’t, as the NHS website says simply “uncomfortable,” and no, 400mg of ibuprofen isn’t cutting it. Several women who wrote to me compared it UNFAVOURABLY with the pain they experienced GIVING BIRTH WITHOUT PAIN RELIEF.
Sing it, Phoebe
Sing it, Phoebe
Anyway, since it has now been a few weeks since the survey went live, I decided to get in touch with one of this week’s wonderful women fixing it, Lucy Cohen, who decided to collect this data after she had a bad experience having her IUD inserted.
GFPs, the findings were not pretty. Fully 93% of respondents reported experiencing pain during their IUD fitting, with nearly 60% of those who reported pain rating it very painful, extremely painful, almost unbearable or excruciating. Several people reported the pain as worse than childbirth or broken bones.
Only 5.4% rated it as “uncomfortable”.
Meanwhile, 71% said they did not feel adequately informed of what to expect, and 95% said that they think that better pain relief should be offered. And, sure, this is a self-selecting bunch, but with nearly 1200 respondents (so far), such a high percentage reporting severe pain should give the NHS pause. It should certainly push them towards systematically collecting data on women’s pain during IUD insertion before making airy claims about how it may merely be a bit “uncomfortable”.
As well as collecting the data 😍Lucy is now also lobbying the NHS to change their position on offering pain relief for IUD insertion. She has been presenting the data to various bodies who have the power to make changes in this area, AND, she has launched a petition to show the strength of feeling behind this issue.
Now, sharp-eyed GFPs may have noticed that I didn’t say womAN fixing it up top, I said womEN. Because the responses I got to my newsletter didn’t only talk about IUD insertion. They also told me about other gynaecological procedures that are routinely done without pain relief. And the stories felt very familiar.
From GFP Fiona who had a hysteroscopy:
I was close to vomiting with pain. I am not a wimp, I had 3 children without pain relief (one back to back labour) and ran 18km yesterday. I swam in the sea in the winter. If I was a woman with a low pain threshold it would have been even worse for me.
Side note: it was very striking to me how many women felt they needed to justify their pain, to “prove” that the pain was real, that they weren’t making it up or being weak. This is how used we are to having our pain dismissed. For more on this, check your copy of Invisible Women, pp.223-228, where I cover some of the ways women routinely have their pain discounted, dismissed and pathologised, even in the face of emerging evidence that women may in fact be more sensitive to pain due to, among other things, sex differences in pain receptors…
But back to the GFPs who wrote in, many of whom shared the same experience as Fiona; several were unable to continue with the procedure as the pain was so severe. But there were two stories in particular that struck me, because as well as experiencing extreme pain during what was sold to them as a routine gynaecological procedure, they both had also experienced a colonoscopy. And the difference in the standard of care between the procedures is striking.
GFP Lucy was sent off for a hysteroscopy with the advice to take 2 paracetamol 30 mins prior to the appointment. On the day, the nurse advised her that it would be “a bit uncomfortable”…
Uncomfortable is definitely not the word I’d use. Bloody painful would be more accurate! Not to mention the “don’t be silly, calm down it’s not that bad”! Then the whole, there you go, pull your pants back up, there are maternity pads in the loo next door, seeya!
I staggered to the car, and had to take the day off work the next day with the worst period pain of my life, not to mention that saline that had to come out somehow, and then the fact that my body went off on one about having been violated so figured an out of the blue period would be just the thing to sort me out….
Compare this with the colonoscopy Lucy had to have a month ago:
I got loads of information about what to expect, what to watch for afterwards (as well as the what to eat and the horrendous prep medicine).
I then get to the hospital, greeted by a really nice nurse in a light and bright room, and get the choice of gas and air, or iv sedation for the duration of the procedure. (I opted for gas and air, because fun, but that’s by the by). After it was all over, they let me sit on a bed with a brew and some biscuits, and even offered to ring the person I got a lift from to come and get me.
No comment
No comment
Having experienced both, GFP Lucy rated the pain as about the same for both procedures, and it got her thinking:
why is it that a women’s only procedure is take 2 paracetamol and deal with it, compared to a non gender specific one where I get a choice of sedation and a bit of looking after??
GFP Laura also compared the standard of care she received for a female-specific versus a sex-neutral procedure:
I haven’t had an IUD fitted but I have had several colposcopies (next level exam after smear tests which can involve taking a biopsy from your cervix) - all of which have been excruciatingly painful as my cervix went into spasms. The leaflet you get sent beforehand says you may experience ‘mild discomfort’ and you can go back to work straight afterwards. I had to go home and spend the rest of the day in bed in agony each time! After the first time they gave me a local anaesthetic injection in my cervix which helped - but they don’t offer that routinely.
This is all in comparison to the many routine colonoscopies I’ve had where you can have as much gas&air and sedation as you want!
And as GFP Laura goes on to note, this isn’t just about the pain itself:
Apart from the unfairness and pain, it’s an issue because I’m a lot less likely to keep up-to-date with my smear tests if a painful colposcopy could be the result.
Indeed. It made me think about how I left my coil in for years longer than I was meant to simply because I was so traumatised from my previous experience and scared fo a repeat. I am LOVING not using birth control at the moment and am dreading if I ever have to go back on it. IT SHOULD NOT BE LIKE THIS.
Once more with feeling, Phoebe
Once more with feeling, Phoebe
But WHERE, you ask are the women fixing it and the homework??? WE WERE PROMISED HOMEWORK!
All right, all right, keep your default female knickers on!
First up, the women fixing it: Hysteroscopy Action, a group of UK patients campaigning for all hysteroscopy/uterine biopsy patients to have:
Full written information about the hysteroscopy/biopsy procedure including the risk of severe pain
Safe and effective pain relief
A genuine CHOICE of no anaesthesia; local anaesthesia; safe monitored conscious sedation; epidural; general anaesthesia
They also note that:
NHS Hospital Trusts are currently financially incentivised to perform at least 70% of hysteroscopies in outpatients rather than under general anaesthetic. This means that patients are not always given a CHOICE between an outpatient hysteroscopy and a GA.
Like GFPs Laura and Lucy, Hysteroscopy Action also, in an October 2020 open letter to the Department for Health and Social Care, compare the standard of care for hysteroscopies unfavourably with the standard of care for colonoscopies.
They also highlight the gender data gap caused by the NHS not routinely or systematically collecting pain scores from outpatient hysteroscopy (OPH) patients.
And, “when OPH pain-scores are reported in English journals usually only the median or mean scores are given. Hundreds of members of our Action/Support group were never asked for a pain-score.”
Nevertheless, the data that does exist suggests that the “mild discomfort” referred to on most patient leaflets is inaccurate [hmmm where have we seen this before]:
NHS OPH pain audits obtained by CAPH under the Freedom of Information Act shows that currently 1 in 4 NHS England hysteroscopy outpatients typically suffers severe pain of 7/10 or more.
Now look, I am but a mere woman, but my understanding of ¼ is that it is a bit more than the 2-5% of patients that hysteroscopists currently claim experience more than a bit of discomfort.
PHEW! I’m knackered. Are you knackered? I think I’ll save the homework for later on in the newsletter once we’ve all got our breath back. In the meantime, how about a good old default male palate cleanser…
Default male of the week
Physics dept said: women? Never heard of them. we’re “pleased to acknowledge HIS efforts” LOL
*Default female facepalm*
Actually designed for women of the week
There was a HUGE response to the Osprey recommendation from last week – a lot of you have big love for your osprey! I just wanted to share one response with you that made me…well, you’ll see:
Perfect timing for this email, I am in the market for a comfortable walking backpack! I looked at Osprey but then decided to look around to see if there was anything more affordable. The mountain warehouse website seemed a good place to start, so I went to the backpack section. I was pleased to see that they had a filter for gender so clicked through, only to find that the genders were men’s, kids and unisex! I then checked fit and there we are… Women’s fit! So we are just differently shaped men rather than a whole other gender. So that solves a lot of the gender data gap problems. 
ANYWAY, onto this week’s designed for women of the week!
So as faithful GFPs will know, I run. And when I run, I have things that I have to carry. Phone. Earphones. Treats for Poppy (of course!). Keys.
So it annoys me when running gear doesn’t have pockets. I hate using those waistband things (in fact I suspect there’s a whole other story on that as SEVERAL GFPs have got in touch asking about those, saying they don’t work for their waists or hips…if anyone has discovered a running band that has cracked the female body, hmu!)
But anyway in the meantime, (and forever), it’s pockets. Only, as we know, the powers that be have decided that women just don’t need pockets (even though as we ALSO know, thanks to some very interesting YouGov research I unwittingly set in motion a few months ago: WOMEN WANT POCKETS
You have no idea
You have no idea
ANYWAY. In my mission to get pockets on EVERY. THING. I got in touch with Sweaty Betty last year, purveyor of very sexy leggings to BEG and PLEAD with them to start making leggings with side pockets…on both sides. “I love your leggings,” I wrote, “but I refuse to buy them while you continue to inexplicably ration pockets.”
Anyway, Sweaty Betty sent the crazy-pocket-lady a very nice reply telling me they would feed this back to their garment tech team, thanks for getting in touch, blah blah, I just wrote it off. Boo shucks to Sweaty AND INDEED Betty, I thought.
But GFPs, I am as we speak eating my hat. Because not only have Sweaty Betty introduced leggings with pockets on both sides (although I’m afraid my goalposts have been slightly moved by lululemon’s ADDITIONAL WAISTBAND POCKETS, soz, SB), Sweaty Betty have ALSO introduced these delightful running shorts with, and I cannot stress this enough, pockets, and I really cannot stress this enough: ON BOTH SIDES, and I REALLY cannot stress THIS enough: BIG ENOUGH TO FIT MY IPHONE.
Poppy photo-bombing me there as I show off my mask in one pocket and iphone in the other
Poppy photo-bombing me there as I show off my mask in one pocket and iphone in the other
The pockets also zip up which means they are actually useful pockets for running.
In conclusion:
Update! Since writing this section I have since been for a run in the shorts and can confirm they very happily and comfortably fitted my phone, my airpod case, poppy’s treats, and my keys. Hurrah! FYI, my phone is an iphone 11 pro, so not the largest, but not the smallest model either.
Event of the week
As everyone knows, I love a good statue, and this week, a very good statue is being unveiled.
It is of a woman. You can also tell it’s of a woman, which I personally think is important if you care at all about female representation in the public sphere. AND, it’s a statue BY a woman! The statue hat-trick!
Here is a pic of the artist Christine Charlesworth putting the finishing touches to her statue of Emily Wilding Davison
And here is a picture of the artist Christine Charlesworth and Sarah Dewing, the founder and chair of the Emily Davison Memorial Project, alongside a miniature version of Emily.
As you can see, the statue will be placed sitting down on a bench, the intention being that the public will be encouraged to sit with her, which I LOVE. I also love how much detail they are including: Davison has a hunger strike medal with seven stripes representing her seven times imprisoned, a Holloway Prison badge and suffragette badge. She is also holding a census form in her hand (to mark the time she hid in a cupboard in the Houses of Parliament as part of the 1911 suffragette “No Vote, No Census” protest), and alongside her are her mortar board (she achieved first-class honours at Oxford, but could not graduate for reasons of sexism) and three favourite books beside her – The Bible, Walt Whitman poetry book ‘Leaves of Grass’ and Chaucer’s ‘A Golden Key’. They are also including an interactive QR code so people scan the statue on their phones and learn more.
All in all, job extremely well done. I salute you, sisters 💪
You can watch the unveiling via a livestream at 11am on Tuesday 8 June
This week The Guardian published my review of the new Daniel Kahneman (which he wrote alongside Cass Sunstein and Olivier Sibony). I accepted the commission because I expected to enjoy the book. In the event, I did not, and my review probably included the bitchiest sign-off of the day, week, month, maybe even year…
It was a really disappointing read and made me think a lot about the Big Think Industrial Complex and to what extent it does a disservice to us all. You can read the full review here if you are so minded.
Homework of the week
AND NOW. The moment you’ve all been waiting for!
1. Sign & share this petition
Petition · Offer better pain relief for IUD insertions and removals ·
2. Complete this survey:
3. And sign and share this petition:
That’s it!
OK, I lied. There is ONE MORE bit of homework:
There is still time to fill in the Women’s Health survey I mentioned a few newsletters back (only open to GFPs in England – apologies for not spotting that when I first included it. I did have a look, but obviously not carefully enough; now I can spend more time on the newsletter – for which: THANK YOU!!! – hopefully there will be fewer of those annoying mistakes!)
OI. YOU. Yes you! NO POPPY PIC FOR YOU TILL YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Get your butt back up to those links!
Poppy pic of the week
OK, NOW you get your Poppy pic 😍
Poppy bullying the AB as usual
Poppy bullying the AB as usual
That’s it! Until next time, my dear GFPs xoxoxo
Oh! And don’t forget you can now become a member!
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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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