Written by Rachael Cheeseman
Look, being a woman is hard. I'm not going argue about this. Yes, men have struggles too and yes, things are much improved from how they once were but that doesn't change the fact that sometimes being a woman is just plain difficult. And I'm not even talking about the big issues like the pay gap. I'm talking about the million small issues like how I don't feel like I can go to a swimming pool without shaving every inch of my body and wearing a perfectly cut swimsuit that holds up my boobs and covers my baby lines and I still feel the need to race the 5 ft walk from the changing room to the swimming pool in case any judgemental looks come my way. And yet some middle age overweight man with a back that can only be described as offensively hairy, struts confidently down the entire length of the pool, adjusting himself in his budgie smugglers with a kind of self assurance that most women can only dream of.
There are plenty of little things that can make it feel tough to be a woman and guess what? There's some ways you probably weren't even aware of. Well, allow me to enlighten you (you are welcome) with some of these everyday products that were designed with men in mind.
The women reading this will know this one already. They will not be shocked because the majority of them will have spent their entire adult lives trying to find a way to stop their seatbelts digging into their necks. Or trying to decide if the belt is meant to go over the boobs, under the boobs or nuzzle into their cleavage. Seatbelts just do not fit women. In fact, the American Journal of Public Health published a study claiming that women are 47% more likely to suffer severe injuries in a car accident because seatbelts are modelled on, and tested with, men in mind. Now, obviously seatbelts are still absolutely necessary. I will take a bit of whiplash over careening through a windscreen any day but you have to ask whether there isn't something more that could be done to make cars safer for women. Men are generally taller and heavier than women and I understand the necessity to have seatbelts that can withstand the force of even the tallest and heaviest men, however that should not be at the expense of smaller, lighter drivers. And before anyone says anything, yes I know most cars have that little seatbelt height adjuster thing in them. But I can tell you that, at only 5ft 3 inches tall, that thing makes zero difference. The seatbelt still maintains a strangle hold round your neck.
2. Air conditioning
Arguing over the ideal temperature is something I'm fairly certain couples have been doing since the dawn of time. I can imagine cave women insisting they need two Sabre-toothed Tiger blankets to keep warm, while the cave man sweats through his wooly mammoth boxer shorts. The simple fact is men and women have different metabolic rates, women generally have less muscle mass and unfortunately this means we just feel the cold more. Women in offices complaining that they are too cold is so commonplace it’s almost a cliché, but it turns out there is a good reason for this. The algorithms that dictate temperature regulation in many office buildings were designed in the 1960's and based on an average male. They are designed to keep men at an ideal temperature which often means that the women are left out in the cold (See what I did there?)
There are no two ways about it: feeling too cold sucks. It just plain sucks. Your body has to expend more energy to try to keep you warm and this can lead to a more depressed mood, lethargy and a fall in productivity. In 2004 a study by Cornell University actually found that by raising the ambient temperature in an office in Florida, the amount of typing errors made by women fell by 44%. It's also worth noting that when you get too cold you need to urinate more frequently (a process known as cold diuresis) so warmer offices could mean less trips to the loo (good for productivity) and there's a tidy sum of money to be saved by not blasting the AC at full power.
This one really annoys me. It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that Men and women respond differently to things on a basic biological level. Our pain receptors are different, we are susceptible to different diseases and respond differently to medical intervention. So why on earth would a huge amount of medical and clinical research assume that the male can serve as the representative of the species? In 2005 Viviana Simon reported that during the previous decade, 8 out of 10 prescription drugs had to be removed from the US market because they were discovered to cause greater health risks in women. Unacceptable. This should not be something people are finding out after taking the drug. It should be known what the risks are to everybody before it becomes readily available. The good news is this is changing. Clinical trials are becoming far more inclusive of not only women but minorities. We are slowly learning that not everything can be based on an "average” white man.
4. Medical Implants
Sticking with medicine for a minute. Did you know that heart disease is biggest killer of men and women in Britain? The amount of women suffering from heart disease has been steadily increasing over the years and some forms such as MVD (microvascular disease) affect mainly women. So it's great news that french company, Carmat, have managed to create a fully artificial heart implant, right? Well... if you're a man it is. The revolutionary device fits 86% of men but is only suitable for 20% of women. The reason for this is size. The device is too big for the majority of women who have a smaller thoracic cavity than the average man. The company confirmed that it is not currently working on a smaller model. I understand scaling down technology can be a difficult and expensive process but the need for the technology is really quite pressing. Shouldn’t a more suitable implant for women at least be on the cards? Carmat aren’t the only company that don’t appear to have accounted for women. American company SynCardia created an artificial heart that could be used temporarily by patients awaiting transplant. It was FDA approved in 2004 and the company specifies that it is suitable for "the majority of men and some women". Just take a moment to really appreciate what that means. Now, while it is true that more men fall victim to heart disease than women, does this necessarily imply that their need for the technology should come at the expense of others? Heart disease is still the number one killer of women in the US. The need for this technology to be designed with women in mind as well, cannot be ignored.
There are a lot of small things we come across everyday that are harder for women. I for one can't reach anything off the top shelves in my kitchen cupboards and I'm fairly certain if I keep trying to use my phone one handed I'm going to dislocate my thumb. Are these big problems? No, not really. Not in the grand scheme of things but how can we ever expect our daughters and nieces and sisters to believe they deserve to be equals, when a thousand small things everyday will remind them that they're not.