Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

We read a very interesting interview in Friday morning's Women Rule newsletter from Politico and we wanted to share it with you. Please find Elizabeth Ralph's interview with Caroline Criado-Perez below on her new book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

The first all female spacewalk, which was scheduled for Friday, has been canceled. Why? There aren't enough space suits on board the International Space Station to fit the two women who were going to do it. According to POLITICO's Jacqueline Klimas, both prefer size medium suits, and NASA has only one working size medium on board. There are two large suits, and one working size x-large. NASA discontinued size x-small and size small in the 1990s. (The Atlantic has a good history of all this.)

This mini-fiasco — we can put men on the moon, but we can't get space suits that fit women? — immediately reminded me of Caroline Criado-Perez and her new book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men . Our view of male bodies as the default and female bodies as atypical has resulted in a society built for men, she writes, from the size of an iPhone to the fit of a bullet-proof jacket to treatment for diseases. It isn't always done on purpose, but it can be deadly for women nonetheless. Some excerpts from our interview:

On her aha moment: "I came across this paper on the fact that women have different heart attacks symptoms than men. But then it also said that women were being misdiagnosed by doctors. It was one thing to think, 'Well, OK I just didn't know this.' But then to find that doctors — who definitely should know it — didn't was incredibly shocking."

On what she found most enraging: "It's not necessarily the data gap — it's the excuses. What you repeatedly come up with in all fields is that women are just too complicated to measure. Medical researchers argue that the female body is too complicated because we have a menstrual cycle, and it interacts with the drug trials and therefore it's too expensive [to study].

"They wouldn't make that argument about male bodies, because male bodies are seen as the standard body, even though they're just half of humanity."

On why we need more women in power: "It's not to say that women don't suffer from 'male default' because they do, but they are less likely to forget that women exist. Also, they're more likely to know what women might need."

On how "male default" affects her daily life: " Now when I drive, I'm very, very aware that if I get into a car crash, I'm much more likely to be seriously injured. I sit very far forward in the car and discovering that that is not the standard seating position and I am at much more risk of serious injury in a front collision because I have to sit that far forward in order to reach the pedals and have a good control of the steering wheel, that makes me really angry."

-- Related reading: "Women are diagnosed years later than men for same diseases, study finds" NBC