Invisible Women: a "highly combative" free piano
Dragging Norway down to our level and default male Munch
Hello GFPs! Just a quick one to remind you that the Visible Women podcast is back on the airwaves today — and have we got a banger for you this week. In this episode, we ask: are pianos sexist? And if so, what can we do about it?
And in this newsletter, I’m going to give you a bit of behind the scenes INTRIGUE. So, as you will discover once you’ve listened to the episode (listen now before you read any further if you want to listen fresh!) we discovered that one of the makers of narrower keyboards has actually set up a foundation that will loan the retrofitted keyboards to conservatoires. We thought this was a fantastic idea, because, as we discovered in our research, part of the issue with the uptake of these pianos is that most pianists have never even heard of them.
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Anyway, producer Hannah got in touch with all the major conservatoires in the UK to see if any of them would be magnanimous enough to accept our offer of a free piano for their students to use. Here is a screenshot of her very nice polite email.
Most of the conservatoires either didn’t reply at all, or politely declined. Except for the Royal Northern College of Music, who instead of giving us an outright no, said they’d passed on the offer to their Head Piano Technician who had “a few ideas on the subject” and would get in touch with Hannah directly. As you can imagine, we were VERY excited. Were we about to get a bite??? But then, we got the email, and….
Literally never been more baffled in our lives. Marianne, if you’re reading, I’d love to know what this “highly combative” introduction was — Hannah’s extremely polite email? The trailer to the podcast? The PPE episode? Is that you Dr Sharon Moalem???? Wait! Come back!
Anyway, a sad ending to our tale. We hope the RNCM and in fact ALL the conservatoires who declined our offer of, and I cannot stress this enough, A FREE PIANO, listen to the episode, hear the testimony of the pianists we spoke to talking about the impact a narrower keyboard has on their playing.
Gender data gap of the week
This newsletter is a bit late and also a bit short because, as I mentioned last time, this has been something of a busy week for me — I got home from over a week of travelling very late last night. I was in Iceland on very exciting podcast business, which you will hear ALL about in a few weeks, and I also went to Norway to do a few events and a bit of press to mark the publication of Invisible Women in Norwegian. Look, here is a Real Life Norwegian reading it on the Oslo underground!
Anyway, to celebrate, I’m going to give you my one Invisible Women Norway fact. It’s a doozy.
So. As readers of Invisible Women may remember, we have a bit of a gendered data gap when it comes to the economy. Here are some extracts to refresh your memory:
The standard measure of a country’s economy is gross domestic product (GDP) and if economics has a religion, then this is its god. It is compiled from data collected in a range of surveys and represents the total value of goods (how many shoes were manufactured) and services (how many meals were served at restaurants) a country produces. It also includes how much we all got paid and how much we (including governments and businesses) have all spent. It all sounds very scientific, but the truth is that GDP has a woman problem. (IW, p.240)
This problem is basically that the unpaid labour that is mainly done by women is not counted in GDP.
The failure to measure unpaid household services is perhaps the greatest gender data gap of all. Estimates suggest that unpaid care work could account for up to 50% of GDP in high-income countries, and as much as 80% of GDP in low-income countries. […]
The UN estimates that the total value of unpaid childcare services in the US was $3.2 trillion in 2012, or approximately 20% of GDP (valued at $16.2 trillion that year). In 2014 nearly 18 billion hours of unpaid care were provided to family members with Alzheimer’s (close to one in nine people aged sixty-five and older in the US are diagnosed with the disease). This work has an estimated value of $218 billion, or, as an Atlantic article put it, ‘nearly half the net value of Walmart’s 2013 sales’.
In 2015, unpaid care and domestic work in Mexico was valued at 21% – ‘higher than manufacturing, commerce, real estate, mining, construction and transportation and storage’. And an Australian study found that unpaid childcare should in fact be regarded as Australia’s largest industry generating (in 2011 terms) $345 billion, or ‘almost three times the financial and insurance services industry, the largest industry in the formal economy’. Financial and insurance services didn’t even make second place in this analysis; they were shunted into a lowly third place by ‘other unpaid house- hold services’.
You will notice that these are all estimates. They have to be, because no country is currently systematically collecting the data. (IW, pp.241-2)
This was true at time of writing — but what I didn’t know was that it wasn’t always true. And this is where my single solitary Norway fact comes in: in the course of my research for an upcoming podcast episode, I discovered that actually, Norway did in fact use to count women’s unpaid care work in their accounts. They stopped because, well, the rest of the world didn’t, and so in order for their accounts to be internationally comparable, they had to become as sexist as the rest of us.
In conclusion, Norway, if you’re listening, we’re very sorry.
Default male of the week
While I was in Oslo I had a spare half hour and took the opportunity to head to the National Museum of Art, where I got to see the actual real life Scream by Munch, which was pretty cool. I also got to see this sign, which obviously I had to take a picture of for my GFPs, don’t say I never do anything for you.
Et tu Munch?
Poppy pic of the week
Obviously I have not been with Poppy this week, but the AB has been keeping my spirits up with plenty of pics — here is my favourite.
Until next time, my dear GFPs…xoxoxo
As a woman with below-average size hands who played piano from 4 years old, I have vivid memories of my hands literally cramping after practice. By the time I got to Grade 8 proficiency, most of the pieces required chords spanning tenths. And don't get me started on the running octave sections of the Alla Turca, which I learned while a child. Ow...
In fact, I could expand on the whole "default male musical instruments" piece by adding in tenor, baritone and bass saxophones, all of which are essentially unplayable unless you have unusually large hands AND above average wrist and arm strength, or, you know, you're an average man. They're really heavy! The intro to the Simpsons, where Lisa riffs her way out of the music room? Totally unbelievable unless she has superhuman strength (I appreciate she is a cartoon).