A world full of objects, technologies and situations based on the male standard
A bra for a woman’s breasts, a shaver to maintain a men’s beard. These are examples of products designed for a specific gender. Besides these examples, there is a vast majority of products that should be accessible to everyone. But are they? Or are they only for
The example of a bulletproof vest may seem a bit random.
Scroll or click further to discover why this example is less random than it seems.
Many products, technologies and situations are based on the white man. These men have been taken as standard to represent all humans and the products they need.
The absent presence of research on women is called the gender data gap.
Even though there is no such thing as the ‘standard woman’, every woman has ergonomic differences compared to men. Men and women have different immune systems, hormones and physical traits.
Examples of these differences can be found here
These silences, these gaps, have consequences. It can cause awkward, and in extreme cases, very unsafe situations for women.
Explore examples of these types of unsafe situations for women because of this problem
Interact with the information through these few examples, where the problem had or has disastrous consequences. The examples are categorized into three sections HEALTHCARE, APPAREL and ERGONOMICS.
You can ‘highlight’ a category by clicking or hovering over it. Per category, you can read quotes, interact with the graphs and surf to the sources.
Excluding women from clinical trials has major consequences for their health.
DIFFERENT (HEART ATTACK) SYMPTOMS
The most common syptom of a heart attack for both men and women is chest pain. But women may experience less obvious warning signs. Women may be less likely to seek medical attention and treatment quickly, despite the warning signs. This is because their symptoms may vary from the standard (male) symptoms.
US data, published in Women’s Health Issues in December, last year, showed that women with heart attack symptoms were less likely to receive aspirin, be resuscitated, or be transported to the hospital in ambulances using lights and sirens than were men. These factors contribute to the disproportionately higher mortality in women with cardiovascular disease than men.
CLINICAL (VACCINE) TRIALS
Bioethicists, vaccine and maternal health experts have argued for years that pregnant women should be included early in trials of pandemic vaccines so they would not need to wait until long after a successful candidate emerges. That debate fell on deaf ears in recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika, but has taken on new urgency in the era of COVID-19, as studies show pregnant women are at increased risk of severe disease from the new coronavirus. “It’s a problem because if (vaccines) are not tested in pregnancy, then they may not be available or people may not be comfortable offering them,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, chief of gynecology and obstetrics for Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.
SAFETY HARNESSES ARE NOT SAFE
Differences in chests, hips and thighs can affect the way the straps fit on safety harnesses.
“When it comes to frontline workers, poorly fitting PPE can prove fatal. In 1997, a British female police officer was stabbed and killed while using a hydraulic ram to enter a flat. She had removed her body armour because it was too difficult to use the ram while wearing it. Two years later, a female police officer revealed that she had had to have breast-reduction surgery because of the health effects of wearing her body armour. After this case was reported, another 700 officers in the same force came forward to complain about the standard-issue protective vest.”
Unfortunately, bulletproof vests are not the only ‘uniforms’ that do not match a woman’s body. The problem also occurs with spacesuits, tools, science gear, military equipment, sports attire etc.
Female astronaut Anne McClain realized the medium sized spacesuit fitted her better than the large she had been using. There are two medium-sized suits on the International Space Station, but only one had been properly configured for a spacewalk. Because of this Anne could not join the prepared spacewalk.
Women are “out of position” drivers because they are on average shorter. (Our legs need to be closer to reach the pedals, and we need to sit more upright to see clearly over the dashboard.)
Cars have been designed using car crash-test dummies based on the ‘average’ male
Kellie French | The Guardian
Move the slider to the right to find out what a better world would look like.
Women are excluded from clinical trials > Medicines have different unexpected effects on women’s bodies
Armour and other apparel are designed for the standard male > Women feel uncomfortable, are excluded or even in danger
Safety measurements (in cars) are based on the ‘standard’ male > Women are at much higher risk (while driving)
And so on…
These are examples where safety is compromised. However, there are many more examples where men are used as the standard. For example, public restrooms that are designed the same for both genders, despite the physiological differences (resulting in long lines for women); temperature in the office that is adjusted for men, which often makes women feel (too) cold; and so on…
If you are familiar with an example (from your own experience) or know a source, you can share it here
Why are there so many urinals everywhere? Women have 1/3 the size of a bladder and we take up to 2.3 times longer as men. Stalls take up more space than urinals do, so a men’s bathroom can, on average, actually accommodate 20 to 30 percent more users than the same-sized women’s bathroom.
(quote from survey, 2021)
Most offices, we learn, are five degrees too cold for women, because the formula to determine their temperature was developed in the 1960s based on the metabolic resting rate of a 40-year-old, 70kg man; women’s metabolisms are slower.
(The Guardian, 2019)
Designers and researchers may believe they are making products for everyone, but in reality they are mainly making them for men. It’s time to start designing for both men and women.
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*Femtech is a term applied to a category of software, diagnostics, products, and services that use technology to focus on women’s health. This sector includes fertility solutions, period-tracking app, pregnancy and nursing care, women’s sexual wellness, and reproductive system health care. Nevertheless, we are still far from where we need to be.
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Part of the Cross Cultural Data Literacy 2021 | Graduation project Eva Janssen | www.evajanssen.nl