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Invisible Women: The Curious Case of Percy Pig & The Missing Pocket

Invisible Women
Invisible Women: The Curious Case of Percy Pig & The Missing Pocket
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #83 • View online
Hello GFPs! Welcome, welcome, lots to get through today, so pull up a default female seat and let’s get stuck in!

Well, well, well, and what a response I got to the Elvie pump review from last week! (Thanks for the boob-loan, GFP Alice!)
Lots of enthusiasm for a product actually designed for actual women based on actual data on our bodies and our needs – for those of you who said you were now considering buying a pump, do let me know how you got on!
Loads of you were particularly taken with the quietness of the pump, like GFP Cathy, who still has “flashbacks to feeling like a dairy cow!” with her old pump:
I saw an Elvie pump “in the wild” last week and it’s unbelievable! I was in my doctor’s wait room and there was a young couple with a baby. I didn’t even realise the woman was pumping till she started to put away all the bits! And I have misophonia so even the slightest noise can bother me!
GFP Sarah also “would’ve loved the Elvie,” having “spent 3 years wrestling with noisy pumps. mostly from within my cubicle office. Will never forget my boss telling me that “the sound of my pump is disruptive to the office environment.” I was supposed to go pump in a bathroom. I didn’t.” D4mn right you didn’t, Sarah! Repeat after me, breastmilk is not a waste product, and THAT’S WHY WE USE IT TO FEED BABIES INSTEAD OF DUMPING IT DOWN THE LOO.
I enjoyed hearing also from current Elvie users, like GFP Leanne, who rhapsodised about how the Elvie pump meant she was “able to go back to work while my husband took shared parental leave, and still breastfeed my baby. I pumped on the train, at my desk and even once in a meeting. I was able to maintain my supply and keep a stock of milk going. Fantastic product.”
Final word to Catmum6702 on this unprecedented reaction to a product for women whose designers bothered to think about actual women while designing their product for women:
@CCriadoPerez What an alien concept, talking to women before designing a product which is going to be used by women! What's wrong with just using men as a baseline, then applying the old shrink n pink to it??
This week’s newsletter is kindly sponsored by Elvie.
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 who have been pregnant and/or given birth. 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. 
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.
Gender data gap of the week
Here at GFP HQ we know all about cars not being designed to adequately protect women, but more data on the subject is always welcome (if upsetting/enraging), and this week researchers in Australia gave us just that.
Are vehicles being designed and tested to keep women drivers safe?
Hashtag Questions To Which The Answer Is No.
Anyway, this was a pretty good article reporting on the results of this sex-disaggregated [🙌] analysis of 13 years of crash data from New South Wales, Australia. The data shows that while men are more likely to be involved in a car crash in the first place (in particular single-vehicle crashes or crashes involving speeding and other risky behaviours), where women are involved in a crash, they are more likely to be severely injured than a man. This was represented in the data by women being almost twice as likely to be admitted to hospital as men following a crash — and it wasn’t because women were more likely to be admitted for lesser injuries:
“While women in our cohort were more likely than men to be hospitalised for contusions, the severity of hospitalised injuries sustained by women were not substantially different from men. This indicates that the higher rate of admission among women is unlikely to reflect increased admissions for less severe injuries.”
These findings are unsurprising, in that they tally with research elsewhere in the world. From Invisible Women
Men are more likely than women to be involved in a car crash, which means they dominate the numbers of those seriously injured in car accidents. But when a woman is involved in a car crash, she is 47% more likely to be seriously injured than a man, and 71% more likely to be moderately injured, even when researchers control for factors such as height, weight, seat-belt usage, and crash intensity. She is also 17% more likely to die. (IW, p.186)
Since Invisible Women was published more data has emerged from the US suggesting that the situation is in fact even worse than I reported in Invisible Women, with the odds of serious injury or death for female car-crash victims being in fact 73% higher than for men.
Interestingly (infuriatingly? inexplicably?) the dataset excluded pregnant women past their first trimester, so you could reasonably conclude that the data might in fact be even worse, as pregnant women are at particular risk in the event of a car crash. I mean, they could even, and you may want to sit down for this, have disaggregated that data off from non-pregnant female occupants?
Imagine that! Still, it’s probably safer to stick to the old ways and just pretend wilful women with their wayward wombs and hormones and weird shaped pelvises simply don’t exist. After all, it’s served Reference Man well for millennia, why change now?
why would anyone want to move on from this
why would anyone want to move on from this
Default male of the week
A great little paper came out last week adding further grist to the GFP mill. As we all know around these parts, the concept of gender-neutral anything is a bit of a chimaera: because of our default male bias, anything that isn’t explicitly marked as female tends to be read as male. As a result, gender-neutral often isn’t gender-neutral at all. It’s male.
From Invisible Women:
It’s easy to slam phone manufacturers and social media plat- forms as sexist (and, as we shall see, they are, if often unknowingly), but the reality is that even if they had somehow managed to design an image of a ‘gender neutral’ runner, most of us would still have read that runner as male, because we read most things as male unless they are specifically marked as female. And so while it is of course to be hoped that angry grammarians will come round to the idea that saying ‘he and she’ (or even, God forbid, ‘she and he’) instead of just ‘he’ may not be the worst thing that has ever happened to them, the truth is that getting rid of the generic masculine would only be half the battle: male bias is so firmly embedded in our psyche that even genuinely gender-neutral words are read as male.
A 2015 study identified the top five words used to refer to peo- ple in human–computer interaction papers published in 2014 and found that they are all apparently gender neutral: user, participant, person, designer and researcher. Well done, human–computer interaction academics! But there is (of course) a catch. When study participants were instructed to think about one of these words for ten seconds and then draw an image of it, it turned out that these apparently gender-neutral words were not perceived as equally likely to be male or female. For male participants, only ‘designer’ was interpreted as male less than 80% of the time (it was still almost 70% male). A researcher was more likely to be depicted as of no gender than as a female. Women were slightly less gender-biased, but on the whole were still more likely to read gender-neutral words as male, with only ‘person’ and ‘participant’ (both read by about 80% of male participants as male) being about 50/50.
This rather disheartening finding tallies with decades of ‘draw a scientist’ data, where participants overwhelmingly draw men (the bias has historically been so extreme that media around the world celebrated as great progress a recent paper which found that 28% of children now draw women). It also tallies, perhaps more disturbingly, with a 2008 study in which Pakistani students (aged nine and ten) who were asked to draw an image of ‘us’. Hardly any of the female students drew women and none of the male students did.
We don’t even allow non-humans to escape our perception of the world as overwhelmingly male: when researchers in one study attempted to prompt participants to see a gender-neutral stuffed animal as female by using female pronouns, children, parents and carers still overwhelmingly referred to the animal as ‘he’. The study found that an animal must be ‘super-feminine’ before ‘even close to half of participants will refer to it as she rather than he’. (IW, pp.9-10)
I wrote that in 2018 and it turns out that in 2022, nothing much has changed. This paper looked at the phenomenon of “pareidolia” – our human tendency to see faces in a banana, or a piece of toast, or a boat. 3815 people were shown “256 unique photographs of illusory faces in a diverse set of different natural and man-made objects, such as potatoes, suitcases, and pastries”. Like these:
is that a cinnamon bun? i'm hungry
is that a cinnamon bun? i'm hungry
And, unsurprisingly to GFPs, it turns out that those faces are almost always male.
Us too, Phoebe, us too.
Us too, Phoebe, us too.
When all the responses for each face were added up, 90% of the faces had, on average, been marked as male. By contrast, only 9% of the faces had, on average, been marked as female. And, the female faces were less conclusively female than the male faces: that is, while they were, on average, rated as female, they received fewer female votes than the faces that were, on average, rated as male. The male bias is strong with, er, everyone, as yoda famously didn’t say.
When the researchers looked at all the ratings as a whole instead of looking at the averages for each face, they found that 81.4% of all ratings were male, with only 18.6% of ratings being female. So slightly lower than looking at the averages for each face, but still not consistent with what we know about extant sex ratios in…cinnamon buns. Yummy.
And when the researchers looked at the data for the participants themselves, they found that 80% of participants had a male bias (that is, they were more likely to rate faces as male than female), while only 3% had a female bias (more likely to rate faces as female than male). No word on whether those with a female bias were more likely to be female, but overall there was no difference observed between male and female raters in terms of how likely they were to mark a face as male or female:
“Male and female raters gave highly correlated gender ratings for a given illusory face” 
So. WHAT is going on? Well, the researchers ruled out possible confounding factors like colour, perceived gender of the objects themselves. They even ran the faces through “state-of-the-art visual feature models,” to make sure they hadn’t accidentally picked a load of faces that really did look more male than female, but no dice.
This led the researchers to conclude that humans simply have a cognitive bias to read faces as male. As for where the bias comes from, well, I have my own theories about that. I even wrote a whole book about it – maybe you’d like to pick up a copy in your local independent bookstore 😘
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GFPs fixing it
GFPs, this week I’m torn. Who is the greatest GFP? Tiffany Chu, the Mayor of Boston’s new chief of staff, who did a stellar job summing up the economic and health benefits of clearing snow from the pavements and local roads before the major thoroughfares (for a refresher see also Invisible Women pp.29-32)…or this conservative website that seems to think posting her unexpurgated argument, without comment, is a gotcha?
Oh no! More people will learn about the benefits of changing the order of snow clearing! THIS IS NOT THE FUTURE FEMINISTS WANT!!!
Anti-Product of the week
Breaking with tradition this week to bring you news of Marks and Spencer’s Percy Pig Pyjamas. My attention was drawn to said pyjamas by Harriet Gibson, who tagged me in her tweet to M&S querying the inclusion of pockets in the men’s percy pig pyjamas and none in the women’s
Harriet Gibson
Hey @marksandspencer, why are your men’s and women’s Percy Pig pyjama bottoms almost identical except that the men’s has pockets and the women’s doesn’t?

This seems like a @CCriadoPerez #wewantpockets moment 🤦‍♀️
You are right, Harriet, it does.
Anyway, Marks and Spencer did get back to Harriet with the following response
@HarrietEmily12 Hi Harriet, our women's pyjamas usually have a breast pocket included as part of their design. We want to keep both our Men's and Women's PJs at the same price but wouldn't be able to do this if we added in trouser pockets to the women's styles due to the extra costs. 1/2
Ok so several things. First of all, ???
Second, why would women want a breast pocket, WHERE OUR BREASTS ARE, over a pocket in a useful place that won’t be scratchy and uncomfortable against our breasts which as any fool knows is a kind of sensitive place for a woman
By the way, this is the breast “pocket” in question
Can’t see it? Don’t blame you. Have a close up
so that’s a really useful pocket for storing our spare lady things like thimbles and maybe the three (3) raw nuts women are allowed to have once a fortnight as a naughty little snack. But not much use for anything else.
Third of all, and as I asked M&S myself, why on earth is it more expensive to put pockets in the trousers of the women’s pyjamas than the men’s pyjamas? Let’s compare them shall we?
means-business-man, happy with his pillow and his pocket
means-business-man, happy with his pillow and his pocket
sexy lady doing something sexy with her hair
sexy lady doing something sexy with her hair
I see absolutely nothing different about those two outfits other than that the men’s presumably requires more material (which also presumably costs more as a result?) and that the men’s has two useful pockets while the women’s has one (1) useless one. Oh and I suppose the woman’s top is patterned - I’m not an expert in the respective cost of grey with one pig versus grey with many pigs, but I feel confident, following our YouGov survey, in saying that most women would rather have the man’s top and useful pockets than the women’s top with its breast pocket for storing the latest pretty button we found that we wish to carry with us always, close to our delicate beating heart.
At the time of writing I have yet to receive a sensible (or in fact any) reply from Marks & Spencer regarding the Mystery of Why Lady Pockets Cost More Than Manly Pockets. A Mystery worthy of the great Wagatha Christie you might say.
Meanwhile in Paris (Fashion Week)
This, on the other hand, *is* the future feminists want. And yea it is GLORIOUS AND OVERRUNNETH WITH POCKETS!
So great to see all this research emerging – GFPs with long covid and periods, see below:
Jacqueline Maybin
Please share widely in the UK to help us find some answers about Long Covid and periods @long_covid @LongCovidScot @MRC_CRH @AlexAlvergne @drlouisenewson
Poppy pic of the week
"Please, sir, I want some more"
"Please, sir, I want some more"
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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