An End to Invisible Women

The last part of Invisible Women (Part VI, When It Goes Wrong), starts with chapter 15, Who Will Rebuild. It focuses on what happens after natural disasters and wars. Mostly, women are excluded from these efforts as those charged with recovery are almost exclusively men. These men come up with a range of excuses for delaying or ignoring women’s concerns, such as a need to rebuild the economy or focus on saving lives.

But the truth is, these excuses won’t wash. The real reason we exclude women is because we see the rights of 50% of the population as a minority interest.

Chapter 15, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

But these excuses are nonsense anyway. The author shows how involving women actually creates better outcomes for men and women. Once again, the main obstacle is the gender data gap and “closing the gender data gap is better for everyone.”

The final chapter of the book is It’s Not the Disaster that Kills You. When things go wrong, it’s women who are disproportionately affected. Because the world is designed for men, steps taken to mitigate disasters often don’t work for women. Oftentimes culture is a further barrier.

When women do manage to escape violence and disaster, things don’t get better for them as refugees. Once again, the human default is male. One stark example is the fact that free condoms are made available in UK homeless shelters but the same is not true of menstrual products. This is often true for global refugees despite the fact that women make be up to 70% of such populations. Here is a basic human need being ignored that can lead to disease such as urinary tract infections from the use of unhygienic products. As the author states, “getting to grips with the reality that gender-neutral does not automatically mean gender-equal would be an important start.”

My favorite chapter of this book is the Afterword. The author summarize succinctly much of what she has described throughout the book, focusing on the need to close the gender data gap.

… the case for closing the gender data gap extends beyond women’s rights. Closing the data gap, as we’ve seen from the impact women have in politics, in peace talks, in design and urban planning, is good for everyone….

When we exclude half of humanity from the production of knowledge we lose out on potentially transformative insights.

Afterword, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

She covers three themes throughout the book and summarizes them as:

  • The female body and its invisibility
  • Male sexual violence against women, “how we don’t measure it, don’t design our world to account for it, and in so doing, allow it to limit women’s liberty.”
  • Unpaid care work , “… perhaps the most significant in terms of its impact on women’s lives worldwide”

And the beginning of solving these issues is to measure them by collecting the data to close the gender data gap.

Failing to collect data on women and their lives means that we continue to naturalise sex and gender discrimination – while at the same time somehow not seeing any of this discrimination. Or really, we don’t see it because we naturalise it – it is too obvious, too commonplace, too much just the way things are to bother commenting on. It’s the irony of being a woman: at once hyper-visible when it comes to being treated as the subservient sex class, and invisible when it counts – when it comes to being counted.

Afterword, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

And there are excuses galore. But how can any of them legitimate the exclusion and ignoring of half the world’s population? It is unconscionable. And with the fact that more and more of our world is controlled and governed by algorithms and the data fed to them, the need for accurate data that includes women is even more urgent.

… when you’re missing out half the global population in the numbers you feed your statistical algorithms, what you’re actually creating is just a big mess.

Afterword, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

I’ll conclude with the author’s call for better inclusion of women. As I said in an earlier post, these are our mothers, sisters, and wives. It’s time we stopped ignoring them, excluding them, and oppressing them.

There is a better way. And it’s a pretty simple one: we must increase female representation in all spheres of life…..

The solution to the sex and gender data gap is clear: we have to close the female representation gap.

Afterword, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

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