The world is better for both! But It’s as if the world is designed for men. Here are some examples – from military equipment to smartphones – that would make him believe.
A planned space trip for a NASA all-female team was canceled because the planned equipment was inadequately designed for women. The cancellation of 100% of female space travel has sparked a heated debate about how women live in a world designed for men.
Caroline Criado Perez, a journalist, and author of the book “Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men,” began researching sexist prejudices after discovering that medical data on heart attacks was based on symptoms only male. She thinks that hiccups like the one at the origin of the cancellation of 100% female space travel are commonplace.
These may include police jackets that do not include breasts, safety glasses that are too big for female faces, or boots that are not suitable for women’s feet, among other things, according to Ms. Criado Perez.
Here are seven reasons to believe that the world is not designed for women.
NASA was obliged to cancel the space voyage with an all-female crew. The space agency staff realized at the last minute that the combination planned for Anne McClain, one of the aeronauts, was unsuitable for her body. And it would have taken hours to make Ms. McClain’s tunic up to standard.
In 2016, the US military began recruiting women for the formation of combat units that had previously been reserved for men. But military officials found that much of the equipment – shoes, and helmets – was designed for men only.
Other women-friendly equipment was subsequently manufactured. Democratic MP Niki Tsongas then denounced the “alarming” disadvantages for women, including the inability to use a weapon properly. Women told US news website Buzzfeed News that during their military service they had to adapt their bulletproof vest, which was not designed to fit their size.
General Joseph Dunford, one of the US military officials, promised to speed up the process of adapting equipment for women in the military. “Women made Iraq and Afghanistan (…) with equipment designed for men,” says Alex Elias, an expert on women in the military. Female US Army personnel have long worn dangerously inappropriate clothing. During the Second World War, women were not expected to occupy certain positions, which is why the military failed to adopt the uniforms to the female body, according to Alex Elias.
Car accident mannequins
For crash simulations, the necessary tools were tested without thinking of women. For decades, the dummies have been tested on the male body only. According to a 2011 study by the University of Virginia, female drivers involved in accidents were 47% more likely to be seriously injured than their male counterparts. They were 71% more likely to be injured than men, the same study says.
According to Caroline Criado Perez, the female model used for these simulations is often a reduced version of the male manikin, which does not provide accurate information on how an accident affects a woman. It’s the same thing in the European Union where “out of the five regulatory tests that exist, only one specifies that you have to use a [female] dummy, and you have it on the passenger seat,” she says.
The industry is aware that it must address the issue of women, but “it did not do it in a reasonable way,” laments Caroline Criado Perez.
A number of features have made some women say that smartphones are designed for men only. Women’s hands are on average one inch smaller than men’s hands, which can make the use of smartphones more problematic.
Sending one-handed SMS on a 4.7-inch iPhone or larger can be difficult, if not impossible, for many women (and some small men).
Caroline Criado Perez believes that some applications are involuntarily designed to the detriment of women. In 2016, Apple resolved a problem that caused the Siri computer application to send abortion applications to… adoption centers – five years after the issue was raised. Caroline Criado Perez thinks that “this is not a conspiracy” of Smartphone designers against women, but a design mistake.
When the American basketball superstar, Stephen Curry, designed last year, a new line of children’s shoes, only boys’ sizes were available. A nine-year-old girl by the name of Riley ended up writing a letter to Mr. Curry, asking why he had done so. “I know you support female athletes because you have two girls, I hope you can work (…) to change that because the girls also want to rock with the Curry 5’s (the name of the shoe brand),” wrote the girl.
Mr. Curry thanked her and explained to her that the smaller sizes were all labeled “boys” on the website. In March 2019, the boys had even more sartorial options in the Under Armor Curry shoe line. But shoes are now available for both sexes.
Biologist Jessica Mounts, executive director of the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, told Chris Bell of the BBC that most of the scientific equipment she used was designed for men. “The problems are not just a nuisance (…) The clothes are too loose (…) Boots too big! It means we can stumble and fall,” laments Jessica Mounts.
Equipment “designed for women” often costs more, “with smaller pockets and still poorly adapted,” she says.
Space in offices
These design flaws also concern the environment of some places, which can be biased in favor of men. The standard for office temperature in the United States was developed in the 1960s, based on the metabolic rate of an average 40-year-old man weighing 70 kg.
Last year, Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon hit the headlines shortly before a debate with New York governor Andrew Cuomo when his temperature requirements were dubbed “sexist”. And the temperature is even “more important as it is difficult to feel part of a team when you are placed in an inhospitable physical environment,” says historian Shirley Wajda.
Mesh office chairs seem to increase freshness, while others, such as bar stool height chairs, can be uncomfortable for women in dress or skirt. According to Ms. Wajda, “trends towards standardization”, for reasons of efficiency, lead to a logic of the kind “one size for everyone”.
Caroline Criado Perez is delighted with the increased awareness of these issues. The inappropriate design of some equipment “think there is something wrong with them”, or “they are too small”, deplores the journalist, adding: “It’s just that we haven’t built anything for women.”