Look at a Book Review by Jeff Hamaoui.
Jeff is a family man with a wife and two children. He often worries what his children will think about the world. At work Jeff is a partner and the head of education and innovation at the Modern Elder Academy the world’s first midlife wisdom school. He is also the CEO of Baja Sage, a company building communities that are striving to be wiser places for human beings to live together in. In his past life, Jeff worked in sustainable innovation and design as a consultant, investor, philanthropist, writer and teacher.
I am writing this review as my wife finishes washing the final dishes of the evening. It’s an old argument, she needs to see the dishes done that night, I’m happy to leave them til morning. So she does them. It’s an argument that has ossified into an invisible part of our family life and routine. I don’t see it. She says she doesn’t mind.
After both of us read Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez I’m beginning to wonder…
There are very few books that are life changing. Books that shift the way you think about things. In my work at the Modern Elder Academy, we talk a lot about shifting mindsets building off of the work done by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck. Dweck suggests that to change a mindset you need to identify the mindset you have, imagine a new and better mindset and share that commitment to change with your friends.
Invisible Women is one of those mindset-shifting books.
Caroline Perez, activist, feminist and artist sets us off on a journey to see our collective mindsets about women in the world. It is an intense and sometimes disturbing journey. Prado deftly lays out the idea that the world has been designed around what she calls the default male.
In this world, everything that is not the default white male is deviant from the norm. This deviancy includes (but is not limited to) Women. She starts with anecdotes, like how crash test dummies were designed for men (which explains why seatbelts are so uncomfortable for anyone with breasts) and shares the data point that women are 47% more likely to die in a serious car crash as a consequence of this default male design.
Case after case is raised in subsequent chapters in sometimes hilarious and sometimes ghoulish detail. From public transport, to policy, from the ways that offices are designed, medicines are dosed, to the benefits we receive at work Prado lays out a stark multi layered picture of the obstacles women face in trying to live in a world designed for men.
The fact that the largest instance of female and infant mortality around the world is due to indoor air quality because of poor stove design is so heartbreaking that I had to stop reading. Twice.
In the face of all of this data, all of these facts some of which have been clearly understood since the nineteen nineties it is hard to understand why more hasn’t been done to change things. Angela Saini who reviewed the book for the Guardian called this the ‘I don’t give a damn gap’. As a man I think perhaps it is closer to being an ‘I have a lot to lose gap’ because as I listen to my wife doing tonight’s clean up I have to admit its pretty nice not having to do it myself.
So what is to be done? My wife is for now a caregiver. Work that needs to be clearly understood as work despite being unpaid. As a couple we had a difficult conversation where I admitted that our workloads were uneven. It was likely about 7 hours less work for me a week (similar to the numbers raised in the book).
We decided that anything that happens before 9am and after 5pm in our household needs to be evenly and fairly divided between us. We have even discussed creating a checklist to put alongside the one we have for our kids to help restructure all of our thinking on what is a balanced and fair division of jobs and to discuss it openly as a family.
I hope it works. I am off to go and tidy up the house now and help with the dishes. I do still think that they could be left ‘til morning.