Credit: Penguin

A book that changed my life: Invisible Women

By Sofia Della Sala

Criado Perez makes a point about feminism, but dialogue can be the key to change.

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez is a book that changed my life, but not because it was so captivating that I couldn’t put it down. It’s a non-fiction book outlining how the world is built by and for men, thereby completely silencing the needs of women. Invisible Women is a necessary read, perhaps as a stepping stone into further research and understanding of the struggles that women face daily all around the world. 

There is no denying it’s an incredibly powerful book: Invisible Women is jam-packed with facts and statistics that leave the reader feeling enraged and frustrated. Some of these facts will not shock women: we know we are underpaid; that we’re expected to take on the majority of caring responsibilities; and that we have to wait longer in toilet queues. However, Criado Perez also revealed information that I wasn’t remotely aware of, providing a rationale for the accurately chosen title of Invisible Women. A lot of the presented problems and disparities are invisible to women themselves. Perhaps I never noticed them because they have become normalised to the point that you don’t even consider that things could, and should, be different. I think this is the real achievement of the book: making the reader passionate about causes that they weren’t aware of.

But I do think the book has some problems. Most troubling was a mistake I noticed, although I admit that I could be wrong. When the author states that papers written by women are more likely to be accepted in the academic world if they are reviewed in the double-blind process, where both author and reviewer remain anonymous, Criado Perez cites two papers to back this up. However, one of the papers she cites to support her argument has been criticised and discredited by two separate teams. Because of this, my opinion is that it should not have been used as evidence to back up the author’s point, as it leaves the reader wondering if there are any other “facts” that are perhaps not as airtight as they seem.

Furthermore, the author criticises a paper that concluded that there are no issues involving gender differences in clinical trials. Although this critique is completely warranted, it comes across as slightly hypocritical, as it proves that the author is able to critically analyse a paper, and yet she includes a “faulty” source to back her argument up only a few chapters earlier. It is possible that the author was unaware of the paper’s critiques, or perhaps that she didn’t think its discussion constructive to the conversation. However, if I have completely misunderstood her stance, I apologise. On a personal level, I found this to be a major flaw of the book, as it claims to be evidence-based and therefore having trusted sources is imperative.

Unexpectedly, this is precisely why the book had such a profound effect on me. A work that has gone through what I imagine to be a rigorous editing process, proof-read and currently hailed as a feminist expose, has some genuine mistakes. A book whose whole premise is to open the eyes of the reader to the flaws of our society is definitely ironic when it presents errors of its own.

I was even more perplexed after talking to others who had read the book. They all sang its praise, of which it is certainly deserving, but my highlighting of a few potential pitfalls was simply waved away as not being relevant, since “98% of the book is accurate” anyway. People dismissed my comments because they, like me, agreed with the book’s overall message. But what if the roles were reversed? What if this was a book jam-packed with facts that they didn’t agree with? Would they disregard the errors as mere oversight? Unlikely. Realistically, most would hold onto those mistakes and use them as proof that the whole argument is faulty. I know I would, in that position. And this is why I find myself, even now, months after having finished Invisible Women, thinking back to the book and to my friends’ reactions.

If we use a sceptical eye to criticise “the other side”, the everyday things we disagree with, we should at least be willing to do the same for what we believe in. Or at least, in this case, to see how someone could legitimately poke holes in our arguments.

This book changed my perspective because it made me see how easy it is for people to agree, but how fundamentally unthinkable it is for them to acknowledge how others could disagree. Until you strive to understand others and realise that not everyone thinks the same way you do, no one can improve.

Having said this, Invisible Women is overall thought-provoking, anger-inducing, and perspective-changing. It is a book that inspires the reader to improve the lives of women around the world, and for this alone, I think it can be classed as a success.


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