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Words from Invisible Women

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday! Today I bring you three words from Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez.


In this book Criado Perez explains that the data used to make decisions regarding product design, medical standards, public policy, and more, neglect to consider data from half the population: women. She then shows the real-life consequences of what this means for women’s daily existence throughout the world.


Criado Perez further describes that when a problem arises that specifically affects women, the proposed solution aims to change the women’s behavior rather than the faulty system. For example, devices correctly interpret commands voiced by men more easily than those by women because the data used to program them consists of male voices. Rather than improve the program, women are instructed to speak in lower voices to successfully use Bluetooth in their car or ask their echo dot to play music. Tongue-in-cheek, Criado Perez writes, “It’s obvious that the problem needing fixing is the women themselves. Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” (163). I left a sticky note on that same page saying, Why do I read books about how unfair life is for women? Do I like being angry? Clearly the problem is me—a woman!


As one who resists when a book is dubbed “important,” asserting a moral imperative to read it, I have to say that this book is important, and that everyone should read it. While the book frustrated me, leading me to feel both disadvantaged and powerless, I must consider the author’s purpose: to inform and to spur change. The change she asks for is simple. The solution to the problem she exposes is to collect sex-disaggregated data and to use it. Wherever she reveals the consequences of disregarding the need for such data, Criado Perez shows the potential improvements we could gain from it as well. Ultimately what she asks for is a paradigm shift to upend the research default that assumes all people to be white men.


Without further ado I bring you three words from Invisible Women that caught my eye. Below you will find the sentence in which the author used the word, the definition from New Oxford American Dictionary, and a sentence in which I use the word.


corpora


“Speech-recognition technology is trained on large databases of voice recordings called corpora. And these corpora are dominated by recordings of male voices” (164).


Noun, a collection of written or spoken material in machine-readable form, assembled for the purpose of studying linguistic structures, frequencies, etc.


The corpora of text messages completely changed styles since moving away from flip phones with T9 word and instead using smartphones.


riposte


“The reality that female bodies are simply not afforded the same level of medical attention as male bodies is often brushed aside with the riposte that, on average, women enjoy more years of life than men” (228).


Noun, a quick, clever reply to an insult or criticism


Quick-witted and sardonic, she was never without a riposte to unwanted commentary.


apotheosis


“The myth of meritocracy achieves its apotheosis in America’s tech industry” (94).


Noun, the highest point in the development of something; culmination or climax


I reflect on my past, I consider my future, and I feel confident that I have yet to reach my apotheosis.


What books have you found to be important? And what words have they taught you? Share in the comments, and happy reading!

 
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