invisible women

International Women's Day 2019 - @sallywhitewrites

Went to the pub last night and Sally said things I didn’t know, that I wish I had the knowledge and vocabulary to say - so I asked her to put it down for us. You’re welcome. Guest post by @sallywhitewrites. Please give her a follow. She may make you think differently.

Sally wearing Black and Beech

Sally wearing Black and Beech

On Tuesday it was Pancake Day. We celebrated with pictures of pancakes piled high and floury faces and doughy disasters. Not one person raged against it: not one person demanded to know why pancakes get a special day but pork pies don’t.

On Thursday it was World Book Day. We celebrated by getting out the glue gun and cobbling together four thousand Where’s Wallys. Not one person has grumbed and griped about the lack of a DVD Day.

On Friday it is International Women’s Day and bet ya bottom dollar there will be a fragile white male snivelling about the lack of a Men’s Day and the fact that feminism has ‘gone too far’.  

Here are two staple responses for you to have in your pockets for these predictable complaints: 1) International Men’s Day is 19th November. 2) Really? When? Give three specific examples. 

I’ve learnt the best way to counter ignorance is with a question. Someone once taught me the power of the phrase How fascinating – tell me more. Try it in the face of righteous fury- it works because either they have a legitimate point (ie, the ‘white women’ cisterhood effect of IWD) and you will learn something. Or they will splutter and mutter about suffragettes and horses and you can raise an eyebrow and wither them.

And if that doesn’t work- if they still ask you to ‘prove it’- use these well-researched and irrefutable facts from Criado Perez’s excellent book, Invisible Women that prove the damage of a patriarchy.

Invisible Women.jpeg
  • Women are 71% more likely to be injured in a car accident (and 17% more likely to die) than a man is because crash test dummies are based on average male weight, height and muscle distribution.

  • Mobile phones are designed to fit in the average-sized male hand.

  • Google’s ‘comprehensive’ health app could measure your copper intake (?!) but has no way of recording your period.

  • When it was first launched, Siri could find you a prostitute but not an abortion clinic.

  • Female Viagra was tested on 28 men but only three women.

  • Women make up only 11% of HIV cure trials.

  • Voice recognition is 70% more likely to recognise a man’s voice.

  • Female police officers are wearing stab vests design for (bust-free) males.

  • The research in to the effects of chemicals in nail polish, shellacs, polish removers and gels is pretty much non-existent despite them being linked to miscarriage, cancer and lung disease.

The problem is two-fold: there are not enough women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and women are less visible. We all know that the presumed pronoun is ‘he’. We assume male. Women are the exception (notice in supermarket aisles ‘Toiletries’ and ‘Women’s Toiletries’ for example). Men actually talk more than women but women are perceived to be more talkative. Is that because we are less used to listening to women? We need men to see us as humans with the equal right to safety and life rather than just our ‘wives and daughters’ or background noise. 

These facts alone should put pay to the complaint that feminism has ‘gone too far’. But if not, just let them know that out of 144 similarly developed countries, the UK came 53rd for equality: 91 countries are doing better than us. According to the government’s own research, the pay gap is 9.6% and, at this rate of progress, we won’t have pay parity for another 97 years. Too far? Pal, we are not going far enough or fast enough. 

But I get the temptation to bristle: I understand why men who benefit and are oblivious to gender inequality might be defensive. I’ve been there too. Recently I’ve begun to think about how I benefit from being white and middle class. I started listening to voices that are outside of my echo chamber. I’ve starting thinking about feminism in light of how others might experience it. I’ve put some hard graft and emotional labour in to becoming a better intersectional ‘feminist in progress’. I’ve winced when considering ‘white saviour complex’ and flinched in recognition of my own exclusion of working class voices. It is hard work. But it isn’t the job of BAME women (black, Asian and minority ethnic) to spell it out for us again and again: it’s our job to listen once and do the work.

Follow people who have a different perspective and hear them when they speak. Go, now, to Instagram and follow Stand for Humanity. Candice Brathwaite. Yes, I’m Hot in This. Niqabae Chronicals. Jameela Jamil. Go to podcasts and listen to The Everything Project episode Being Black. Ask questions. Look around. And what ever you do, don’t say you ‘don’t see race’ because if that’s the case, you’re not looking hard enough. 

Use International Women’s Day to reflect. Consider how far we’ve come in the last twelve months. We’ve outlawed upskirting. We’ve elected more women in to American politics than ever before- including representation of women of colour. We’ve repealed the 8th amendment and empowered women in the Republic of Ireland. We’ve unveiled a statue of Millicent Fawcett. We’ve seen Rwanda elect a parliament that is 60% women. We’ve put the shame back on the perpetrators with men like Phillip Green and R Kelly finally being held accountable. 

We’ve shouted and protested and gathered and listened and roared.

And now we keep going and we keep fighting until we all have equality.

By Sally White, at

Sally White in white

Sally White in white