Few modern campaigners have had quite the same impact as Caroline Criado-Perez. During an introduction from our evening's host (Lucy-Anne Holmes, founder of No More Page 3), we were presented with a condensed list of her achievements. Criado-Perez has been instrumental in the Bank of England using Jane Austen's face for £5 notes, pushing Twitter to tighten their rules around abusive behaviour, and has facilitated the campaign to correct the absence of any statues of female figures in
There was a palpable excitement in the Norrington Room as the sold-out audience took their seats. This was very much matched by the clarity and personality Criado-Perez (along with her adorable dog, Poppy) brought to the evening. Covering her journey to this point, taking in teenage years in the 90s, when feminism was a dirty word, and her 'light bulb moment' whilst reading Feminism and Linguistic Theory, the Q&A soon turned to the subject of Invisible Women: the gender data gap. Taking three years to research and write, but born out of an idea much longer in gestation, the book's starting point was three startling facts. The first is that heart attacks in women are often missed due to the expected symptoms being the male ones. Doctors misdiagnose, women are sent home, and often die because their true ailment is missed. The second is that in 2013, the FDA had to halve the recommended dosage of Ambien (a sleep aid drug) for women, as it was discovered that they process the drug at half the speed of men. This was causing women to wake up drowsy, get in their cars and crash them. The final fact, and perhaps most impactful for the book, is that 90% of animal testing takes place on the male of the species. These failures of testing, of not taking women into account at the testing stage, was seen by Criado-Perez as not malicious but just a part of centuries of not thinking about it, of taking men as the standard. It is why, for example, when they tested the 'female Viagra' and its relationship to alcohol, the participants in the test were 23 men to 2 women.
I could have listened to our engaging speaker talk for hours on the various studies and instances she covers in the book. But I suspect it would have made me really quite angry. It is one of the more remarkable things about Criado-Perez, how calm and composed she remains in the face of such extraordinary facts. A warning about swearing was not as necessary as you might expect and no matter what the subject, Criado-Perez approached it with an infectious humour. Be it the 1975 women's strike that reshaped