Since Caroline Criado-Perez newest book got released (Invisible Women), the book seems to be doing the rounds, getting promoted as a feminist book. It’s not. Invisible Women is a transphobic and enbyphobic book, and it excludes women just for not being cisgender (cis). If you still insist on reading this book, or if you read it already, I would like you to be aware and acknowledge how this book is very problematic.
The book presumes only two sexes and two genders exist. This take is completely uninformed and damaging. It erases intersex, transgender and non-binary people. These collectives already struggle enough with trying to be recognised, and there is no need to stomp over any collective to explain sexism. Sexism affects all women, and by not including trans women we are contributing to their discrimination.
The book’s premise is how the ‘default’ human being perceived as a default ‘male’ is extremely damaging to women. It explains that the way data is collected among many areas assumes women are just like men but a bit ‘weirder’, so when male data is used for making decisions it ignores our differences in biology, socialisation and habits. But what the author seems to fully miss is how other collectives suffer from the same problems of erasure due to the default ‘cis’, default ‘binary’ (both in sex and gender) and default ‘heterosexual’.
TW: Transphobia, enbyphobia
Throughout this book I will refer to both sex and gender. By ‘sex’, I mean the biological characteristics that determine whether an individual is male or female. XX and XY.
This is uninformed, biased and damaging. Sex, biologically, is a spectrum. There are people with XX, XY, XXY, XXX, X, Y, etc. chromosomes, for starters. And within that people, there’s a full spectrum on how hormones and sex characteristics express in each individual’s phenotype: genitals and secondary sexual characteristics. There’s no sexual male and female binary, that’s an outdated construct from more biased times in science, and it has never been a thing in some non-western societies. You can read more about the science from the World Health Organisation.
The result is that when ‘brilliance’ is considered a requirement for a job, what is really meant is ‘a penis’.
This sentence makes it seem as if your genitals achieve something for you and give you privilege. What gives cis men privilege is how the world perceives them to be. Trans women or non-binary people with penises don’t get any of the privilege cis men get, because genitals have zero to do with that.
British female police officers report being bruised by their kit belts; a number have had to have physiotherapy as a result of the way stab vests sit on their female body; many complain there is no space for their breasts.
[…] thirty-five years after women were first admitted to US military academies, that the first uniforms were designed that accounted for women’s hips and breasts.
Not only women have breasts, and a bunch of cis women barely have breasts or have lost them. This could have been rephrased as “Due to not having space for their breasts, many British police officers…” and “accounted for hips and breasts”. Instead of that, Caroline Criado-Perez chooses a transphobic and non-inclusive language.
He is the standard, unmarked gender, not the atypical (other) one.
This quote, as the previous ones, assumes two genders, erasing all non-binary people. If it’s bad getting ignored in meetings due to being a woman, imagine having to fight for your existence to be recognised, let alone fight for your rights in a society that denies your existence.
Regarding the intention of the author: Caroline Criado-Perez definitely has the ability to research and dig deep in an investigation. So it’s quite hard to believe that this trans exclusion is completely unintentional. My assessment of this author’s ideology is that she’s a TERF (Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminist). She seems to have erased her openly transphobic tweets and blogposts, but you can find a trail of dead links to them. There’s some buzz on Twitter and a feminists association calling her out as a TERF. There are declarations of her saying she does not want to be called ‘cis’, that she’s ‘a woman’. This is the same argument some men make about not wanting to be called men, because ‘we are all people’.
She published this a while ago and has not deleted it. It’s supposed to support trans women but she titled it ‘Becoming a trans women’ as if they were not ‘real’ women unless they transition. This was 2015 and the book was published in 2019, so it’s not a sign of any type of improvement on her side.
Another instance of lack of intersectionality in Criado-Perez’ feminism can be found in the book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, when the author describes her experience with Caroline in a radio interview (pages 146 to 151) when Caroline framed instances of harassment as if race intersectionality in feminism, which Reni was talking about, was the origin of said harassment.
I understand how eye-opening might be for most people to see this many examples on how women are constantly underrepresented in data and how that affects women in a scale way bigger than most of us tend to realise. But we should be careful to not use our mistreatment as women to spread that same mistreatment we suffer to other groups.
Trans women and men exist. Trans women belong in Invisible Women. Excluding them is spreading hate.
Non-binary people exist.
Gender fluid people exist.
Intersex people exist.
If Caroline Criado-Perez publicly apologised about her views and revised the book to be inclusive, I would be the first to give away copies from it all around, but so far this is not the case. If you want some eye opening reads that are not excluding people, please check out Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates or feel free to recommend other cool books in the comments.
PS: Barcelona’s mayor is Ada Colau, not Callou. I just hope she double checks her sources better than she did this one. It only adds to my distrust of the book.