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Invisible Women: Well whose fault is THAT, Mom?

Invisible Women
Invisible Women: Well whose fault is THAT, Mom?
By Caroline Criado Perez • Issue #69 • View online

Good morning GFPs!
You may remember that a few newsletters ago I announced the revival of my pre-pandemic book tour, hurrah! And that I had negotiated an extra special GFP discount even more hurrah! (it’s VISIBLE15 for those of you who missed this). Anyway there are still some tickets left for these dates, but they’re selling fast so if you want to be sure of making it you should book soon (especially since the first date is now in JUST OVER A WEEK, argh! I’m so excited to get out there and see you all!)
Anyway, what you may also remember is that shortly after re-launching the tour, we added ANOTHER DATE, all the way down in BRIGHTON, but I did not yet have a date for you.
Well, I am DELIGHTED to announce that I do in fact now have a date: the 25th November. And what a date it is! If you bought a ticket for my Brighton event back in the Before Times, the venue will have already contacted you to see if you can make this new date; if you can’t, they will give you a refund and put your ticket back online for someone else to buy.
Also! I recorded an episode for the Freakonomics Book Club a while back and it just came out on Saturday. You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or on their website where they have handily also done a very fancy transcript! If you know someone who hasn’t read the book, this isn’t a bad place to start them off:
Check the Data: It’s a Man’s World (The Freakonomics Radio Book Club Ep. 10) - Freakonomics Freakonomics
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
A question I get asked very often is “what about the men?”
I jest, although not really.
What I do get asked a lot though is, “have you ever found an area where it’s the other way round, where we collect data on women but not men?”
To which my answer has always been, yes! Anti-wrinkle research. When it comes to finding ways to keep women looking acceptable-as-defined-by-men, suddenly our concerns about the female body being too unpredictable to study fly out the window.
But the other day it was brought to my attention (by the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, no less) that there is another area of medicine where we focus almost exclusively on women to the exclusion of men, and that is the area of medicine I like to call “let’s blame mum 🤪”
Pretty much everyone
Pretty much everyone
As Clare Murphy pointed out when linking to the latest study blaming women for some other developmental disorder in their children:
Clare Murphy
It’s a paradox that when it comes to medical research, as expertly noted by @CCriadoPerez, women’s data is often missing.
But in child health, we rely solely on mother’s data as we don’t collect it on dads. So problems are always traced back to women.
So there you have it, a bona fide, justified “what about the men” moment.
But it also got me thinking, Carrie Bradshaw style:
Good question, Carrie, let’s consider the evidence.
Around the same time as Invisible Women came out, another EXCELLENT book was released called The Gendered Brain, written by Gina Rippon, Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging at Aston University. It’s a brilliant read and one I thoroughly recommend, but for our purposes I’m only going to focus on one aspect of it that absolutely fascinated me.
When I first read Gina’s book I was fresh from the trenches of the gender data gap, only recently having finished writing Invisible Women and still reeling from that – both from the effort of collating and writing, but also from the content itself. So much of what I had uncovered felt literally unbelievable to me: why couldn’t we just collect data on women? WHY COULDN’T WE SEX DISAGGREGATE OUR DATA???
still feel like this most days tbf
still feel like this most days tbf
So reading Gina’s book felt extremely weird because what she documented was study after study after study where not only were women included, but the data was sex disaggregated and just…
Except on reflection it wasn’t surprising at all, just profoundly depressing, because these studies were all about trying to find evidence in the male and female brain to justify patriarchy. You know the kind of thing: women are hardwired for wiping bottoms; men are hardwired for having their bottoms wiped. Again, I jest.
Sort of.
The REALLY infuriating thing was that despite study after study not managing to find any such thing, THEY KEPT GETTING MORE FUNDING TO KEEP LOOKING.
But sure, don’t bother funding research into the menstrual cycle and its interaction with the female immune system, sure why would you want to bother with that?
On which note, I wrote about this:
Why didn’t doctors listen to women about the link between Covid vaccines and periods?
tl;dr it’s great that after months of doctors telling women there’s nothing to see here, the US National Institute of Health is finally funding some research to investigate whether or not the COVID vaccines are causing any menstrual cycle irregularities. This is, as I wrote in the piece, hugely welcome:
Unlike the medical gaslighting approach, it may actually convince some vaccine hesitant women to get their jab. It could also form a basis for future, much-needed research on the interaction between the menstrual cycle and the female immune system. And, perhaps most importantly, it might convince future medical researchers to study menstrual cycle impacts from the beginning of their studies, rather than as an afterthought.
It might also convince the MHRbloodyA that absence of evidence ≠ evidence of absence, which is their current stance (they claim that because so few women, proportionally, have reported menstrual cycle irregularities that means there is nothing to see here. EVEN THOUGH NO ONE HAS ACTIVELY BEEN COLLECTING THIS EVIDENCE)
Again with feeling:
As I write I am experiencing my second delayed period since my second jab and this one is the heaviest I ever remember having in my life. It’s not been as, er…neat and tidy as usual let’s say. I also find it interesting that I experienced no menstrual changes following my first jab, which took place after my period, while following my second jab, which took place on the first day of my period, the changes have been pretty extreme. And yes, yes, n=1, but we do know that the impact of certain medications can be affected by when during the menstrual cycle they are taken (see for eg Invisible Women, p.201) so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to investigate whether or not the timing of the vaccine might matter here.
Many women got in touch to thank me for writing this piece, telling me it made them feel less crazy, that they were relieved to hear that other women had also experienced menstrual cycle disturbances following their jab, but I also spent the day it came out being screamed at by people who refused to read the article, accusing me of being anti-vax and having “blood on my hands.”
Naturally, I dispute this.
Calling for vaccines – or any other medication – to be properly researched in women is, to state the obvious, not the same as being anti-vax.
We warn about common side effects for very good reasons: first, because of the principle of informed consent around medicine, and second, because hiding side effects is a surefire route to conspiracy-theory-ville. We warned people that their arm might be sore for a while afterwards, is it really too much to ask that we can warn people that their menstrual cycle might be affected?
Yes apparently…
Mara “Get Rid of the Nazis” Wilson
"The vaccine may affect the menstrual cycle!" Yeah menstrual cycles can change at the slightest breeze, and you know what REALLY affects them? Viruses.
Anyway here’s why this attitude is wrong (beyond being infantilising anti-science medical gaslighting that is likely to drive rather than curb vaccine hesitancy, I mean).
The menstrual cycle, despite admittedly being something women have, is not a silly women’s thing 🤪 that is “affected by the slightest breeze” (yes I know she’s talking hyperbolically here, but her underlying framing of women’s bodies as irrational is dangerous and, frankly, misogynistic). Despite its having been generally ignored by serious medical science (because lady things EW amirite) the menstrual cycle is, in fact, an extremely important health indicator for women. So much so in fact that this year the American College of Obstetrics and Pediatrics (ACOG) has advised doctors to consider it a “fifth vital sign”. That is, as important a consideration for a women’s health as changes in body temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
Menstrual cycle changes or abnormalities can be a clear first symptom of a number of women’s health issues. “Regular cycles with the absence of excessive bleeding and/or pain are signs of wellness,” says [Dr. Geri Hewitt, a professor of obstetrics/gynecology at Ohio State University]. “Any aberration is an indication for more investigation.”
Problems that can be signposted by irregular periods include: eating disorders; thyroid malfunction; hormone issues, including those that cause Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS); sexually transmitted diseases; uterine lesions; and incorrect medication dosing. Very heavy periods, which are often dismissed, can indicate blood-clotting disorders. Excessive pain can suggest blockages, which can be hereditary.
In short, this matters. Irregularities in someone’s menstrual cycle is not something to be sneered at or dismissed. It is something to be taken seriously and investigated. It is good that it is now happening, although analysis of menstrual cycle interactions should have been part of the studies from the very beginning. Let’s hope the research community learns from this debacle.
More broadly, I would be very keen for this to mark an end to the infantilization of women by too many in the medical community. The attitude that says we mustn’t give credence to the many women noticing menstrual cycle irregularities in case it discourages other women from getting the jab is the same impulse that has medics telling me not to talk about painful IUD insertions or smears in case THAT puts women off getting THOSE procedures. In short, we can’t give women accurate information, or set realistic expectations, in case it leads silly women to make the wrong decision. Apparently, when it comes to women, the principle of informed consent does not apply.
This is not only unethical, it’s entirely counter-productive. IUDs and smears are not one-off procedures. This means you might be able to con women once by pretending that no woman ever feels anything other than “discomfort,” but what about when she’s due for her next appointment and she no longer trusts you? And in this case, what about when we want women to get a booster jab? Patronising women and telling them to shut up about their bodies is short-termism at its worst. Just do the research, give us the information, and give us access to pain relief where appropriate.
Oh, and to be super extra clear for the people at the back, I am NOT saying women shouldn’t get vaccinated (nor that they shouldn’t go for a smear or get an IUD). I’m simply saying we should, from the start, have been able to tell women the following:
  1. if the vaccine may cause menstrual cycle irregularities
  2. how long those irregularities might last
  3. and for the jackpot, why those irregularities might happen, because ultimately isn’t that going to be the best way to encourage worried women to get their next jab?
I’m giving the final word on this to my wonderful and about a million times smarter than me friend Tracy who sets it out beautifully:
Tracy King
@CCriadoPerez And I’m very very tired of the anti-science, anti-women idiots claiming reported side effects shouldn’t be studied in case it puts someone off getting vaxxed. Treating women like idiots.
In conclusion: please can we research the female body for purposes other than
  1. making us more f4ck4ble
  2. justifying our subjugation
  3. blaming us for everything
Ta! love you! Byeeeee!!!
Default male of the week
GFPs who have read Invisible Women and indeed, back issues of this newsletter, will know I am, as a rule, pretty down on the whole generic masculine thing, so you can imagine my reaction when I was sent this tweet:
Jamie Klingler
After being referred to as the spokesman for @ReclaimTS I asked that it be corrected. Apparently spokesman is gender neutral 🤷🏻‍♀️
And you know they doubled down…
Now look, I don’t like to stereotype, but take a guess what publication this was…
And if you don’t see the problem here…
Rachael Venables
Try telling someone 'spokeswoman' is a gender neutral term and you see where this falls down
Or you know, read Invisible Women pp….well all of the pages really.
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GFPs fixing it
But where the daily mail closes a door, a GFP somewheres open a window…
Rachael Venables
Actually, what the heck. I might try that. You guys are going to hear a lot of 'spokeswomen' quoted in my stories from now on
top marks to GFPs who saw that gif coming
top marks to GFPs who saw that gif coming
Product of the week
GFPs, this week we are talking POCKETS
I will be taking no comments at this time.
I will be taking no comments at this time.
Specifically, Dovetail Workwear pockets. Loyal GFPs may remember we first met Dovetail a couple of newsletters back when I was rhapsodising over their gloves being the first gloves to fit me like the proverbial glove 🥁
Anyway, THIS WEEK, I am rhapsodising about their trousers and overalls, which I have basically been living in ever since Dovetail were kind enough to send me some when I contacted them to ask about their gloves and how exactly they were designed for female hands.
This exchange led, perhaps inevitably given *gestures at my back catalogue*, into a conversation about pockets, with which it turns out Dovetail are also OBSESSED. In a healthy way, you understand.
Because it turns out Dovetail didn’t start with gloves. They started with trousers. With pockets.
As I explained a few newsletters back, Dovetail was born out of the need of women who worked outdoors and could not find work trousers that, well, worked for them.
Women’s workwear has traditionally been subjected to what is known as a “pink it and shrink it” approach in the apparel industry. So, based off menswear with a few changes, shrunk down, then made into a stereotypically girly color. Shrinking down does not mean those pants will fit. Often waists are too large, and there’s too much room in the leg, which can be a tripping hazard, especially if you have a tool belt at the waist. And when your pants are a tool on the job, and they don’t fit right, that means you can’t work safely or well. 
The inadequacies also extend to fabric. Typically women’s workwear comes in thin, cheap fabric and isn’t sewn well. We have women telling us their pants wear out too quickly— sometimes within 6-8 weeks. We have also seen faux chaps (stitching in the shape of a reinforced fabric panel, but no panel). And pockets are often dumb “lady pockets”—rarely functional, thoughtfully placed.
GFPs everywhere
GFPs everywhere
Like the excellent GFPs they are, Dovetail set out to design their own. A journey which began, like all good GFP journeys begin, with COLLECTING THE DATA (pls take note medical researchers with whom I am feeling PARTICULARLY SALTY of late).
They analysed all their competitors and began to figure out how to change or improve what was out there “based on the common tools used in manual labor.”
We soon realized we needed to reinvent pockets. Not just make them better individually, but devise an intuitive pocketing system. And so we set about becoming the pocket pioneers.
Dovetail HQ. Probably.
Dovetail HQ. Probably.
Once the first pant prototype was developed by Kyle, Kate, and Sara (the Maven Slim) they set about testing it for 9 months, sending out samples to women working in physical occupations and refining their designs based on the feedback.
The result is a range of work trousers which have a minimum – MINIMUM! – of seven pockets. The vast majority have ten or eleven. Their overalls have thirteen!
Yes, Joey, it’s true. Look at me being delighted with my pockets
The all-important phone pocket! This was something the founders thought about a lot as all 3 "had experienced toilet phone syndrome". Menswear, they point out, doesn't account for this as men pee standing up (oh god all right not all men!).
The all-important phone pocket! This was something the founders thought about a lot as all 3 "had experienced toilet phone syndrome". Menswear, they point out, doesn't account for this as men pee standing up (oh god all right not all men!).
But it’s not just about pockets. Their work trousers are also more durable, not just than the usual flimsy rubbish women are expected to put up with but also than the industry standard:
gender discrimination is literally built into the very fabric of womens utility workwear. When Dovetail brought out is first fabric pant, it went through independent industry standard testing (Martindale test) and was proven 30-40% more durable than comparable (including menswear). This is quite a leap given that womenswear canvas by the leading companies is typically thinner and cheaper than menswear. […] I remember a plumber mentioning that she used to go through a pair of workpants in 6 weeks on her job. When we do the budget math…it’s a big deal.
oooohhh what a lovely bit of data
oooohhh what a lovely bit of data
I must just also mention another design feature of theirs that delighted me and I do not for the life of me understand why no one has ever (to my knowledge and in my experience) done this before, but LOOK!
Elasticated overalls straps! I KNOW, JOEY!!!!
Elasticated overalls straps! I KNOW, JOEY!!!!
They also brought the first US maternity utility pant to market, for which they won an Innovation award from Outdoor Retailer.
The giants of workwear have been around for 100 + years. We’ve been here around 5. Not sure what they were waiting for, but working women don’t take 9 months off when they’re pregnant. Again, this involved a range of weartesters, with an early proto going from mom-to-be to mom-to-be. We call it the sisterhood of the traveling maternity pants! 
In conclusion: hurrah for pockets! Hurrah for Dovetail! Hurrah for GFPs!
If you know of a company doing excellent work in the designing for women space, please get in touch!
A LOT of homework this week, GFPs, you will forgive me. Not all of it will be relevant to everyone but do fill out what you can!
First up, and for UK GFPs only, Mumsnet is carrying out its regular survey on miscarriage. They’ve been collecting data on this since 2010 so it’s definitely worth filling out if you can. And can I also take this opportunity to thank the many GFPs who wrote to me following last week’s newsletter about miscarriage – it wasn’t an easy piece to write, but as ever your responses made it more than worthwhile. And: this is not the last you’ve heard from me on this topic. Now I have a clear list of eminently achievable demands, OBVIOUSLY we will not be leaving it there. Watch this space 😎
Oh and that Mumsnet survey link again.
NEXT UP: TOILETS! (don’t pretend you haven’t missed them)
Rhiannon Evans
If you have views on public toilets in London (availability/accessibility etc) you can share them with @LondonAssembly through their survey here Have your say and please share. @CCriadoPerez
I’m sure I don’t need to tell GFPs how important equitable toilet access is, but if anyone needs a brush-up on the topic I can recommend a very good book that talks about this issue in some depth 😏
NEXT! And I promise this is the final survey, the MENOPAUSE! This important survey is by the UK’s Women & Equalities Select Committee and I urge all UK GFPs who are either going through or have been through the menopause to fill it out.
Histrel 🇪🇺 💚🤍💜
For women experiencing (or who have experienced) menopause - the UK gov is doing a consultation about impacts at work and beyond @CCriadoPerez would you please RT
Phew! What a lot of surveys! Next two entries aren’t strictly homework, though, you’ll be pleased to hear.
FIRST UP is an amazing opportunity from the brilliant Women’s Budget Group to receive free training in gender-sensitive data collection and analysis. If you want to learn how to be the most effective GFP you can and hold your local government (or anyone really) to account, this is for you.
Women's Budget Group
Want to learn about using local data to advocate for women's economic equality? Join us to Discover Data, Delve in to Data and learn about Local Labour Data.

Because Feminist Initiatives Need Data!

Check out our various training dates in Sept & Oct!
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, another awesome opp for a very smart GFP!
Dr Tina L. Joshi
I'm readvertising this exciting, industry linked & fully funded #PhD @PlymUni to develop a #rapid #diagnostics for #UTIs with me, @versarien @mat_upton @Nanosteve1 #antimicrobialresistance
Please #RT, closing date- 19th Oct 2021!
Poppy pic of the week
such a hard life
such a hard life
That’s it! Until next time, my very dear GFPs. And remember, in doubt, Just Blame Mum! (sorry mum) byeeee!!! 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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