Don't worry, your giant phone probably won't get any more giant
February 24, 2019 10:44 AM   Subscribe

...if only "because 'they’ve hit the limit of men’s hand size'." In an excerpt from her new book, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez argues that there's a big data gap around designing for women's bodies, leading to health apps that can't track periods, freezing summer office temperatures, giant smartphones, and voice recognition software that doesn't hear us. More alarmingly, police body armor, seatbelts, protective face masks, and medicines are also designed and tested for men, leaving women at greater risk of injury or death.
posted by j.r (135 comments total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
 
When I first heard about dudes complaining about phones being too big to hold in one hand, I was so confused - since when can you use a phone with one hand in the first place?! So bring on the giant phones. I keep it in my purse, anyway.
posted by airmail at 11:04 AM on February 24 [15 favorites]


I'm exactly the average height for an American woman. I've told men this before: Sometimes I feel like the only place that's designed for someone my size is economy class on an airplane. And that's not really designed for me, it's just capitalism taking a priority over men's comfort. I admit I get a little bit of schadenfreude when I see a man trying to find room for his knees.

Desks are just slightly too tall. Chairs often make my legs go numb if I sit for too long without something to rest my feet on. I can't reach things in the top shelf of the kitchen cabinets. My roommate thinks the solution is to get out the stepladder, and then he laughs when I think that's too annoying and just climb onto the counter. (I mean, I laugh too, it's ridiculous I need a ladder to use my house.) I can't see the front of my car as well as he can, either, making it harder to park. Offices are always too cold, to the point that I am distracted and miserable and I lose dexterity in my hands, making it hard for me to type. I tried to buy a bike at REI a few months ago. There were a couple of "women's" bikes, which I didn't want. Almost all of the other bikes were too big, if they had a smaller frame it would have to be special ordered. An average-sized man, though, would have had many choices.

Oh, and it also took way too long to find a backpack, because the practical backpacks that fit my criteria were built for men. (These criteria, btw, had no relationship to having to be huge.) I've had to return messenger bags because the straps couldn't be shortened enough to fit my completely average sized torso. I finally found a "men's" backpack a while back, that sort of fits. It'll do.

I could go on.

We all have to be uncomfortable sometimes because none of us are average in every respect, but I do think that sometimes men don't realize how often women are uncomfortable because they haven't been considered.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:11 AM on February 24 [136 favorites]


Welp, that was terrifying and infuriating, but thank you for posting it. I knew about Siri and phone size and voice recognition software and office thermostats but somehow I didn’t know about crash test dummies. So I’m looking forward to experiencing a whole new level of anxiety on tomorrow’s commute.

I wonder what it would be like, just for one day, to live in a world where I am People.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 11:12 AM on February 24 [28 favorites]


I try really hard to go hands free. I’ve discovered that there are times it really hurts to have weight around my waist. I almost fainted at a family gathering. When I took off my belt pack, I suddenly felt lots better. I don’t like huge phones..
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:13 AM on February 24


Still typing this out on my iPhone 5S . I don’t really watch video or play games on my smartphone, so bigger screens are useless to me. It looks like I will continue using my phone until they pull the plug on support, but I am still hoping that the rumors of an SE 2 are real.
posted by FJT at 11:20 AM on February 24 [12 favorites]


This is one of the (many, many) reasons that increasing workplace diversity is important.

When new products are developed, the earliest and most frequent testers are generally the team developing the product. If the development team is homogenous (i.e., a bunch of white guys), a lot of assumptions are going to get baked in without their even realizing it. Problems that don’t impact the people building the thing just get forgotten about — even with things like red-green color-blindness, which do impact white guys but might not appear in a small design team.

Formal usability testing with a diverse group, if it ever happens at all, will almost always be near the end of the product design process. Some decisions might already be too baked-in to change... and if the problems involved are widespread enough in the industry, your testers are probably using coping skills the designers are never aware of, even with the pre-release product.

If a wider mix of demographics and capabilities were common in the industries designing products, there would hopefully be a higher chance of catching these things early. If only because one of the engineers involved got frustrated when working on their sample product.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 11:24 AM on February 24 [60 favorites]


Yeah, it was really fascinating to me when I realized that I'm not actually short. I'm about an inch below the average height for an American woman, which is less than half a standard deviation below the mean. I'm really average. I just feel really short, because literally nothing is set up for an average-sized woman. And that includes spaces that are coded as female, like the grocery store. Women do most of the shopping, but the stores are still designed so that we can't get things off of the top shelf.

And I actually think that speaks a tiny bit to this:
This is one of the (many, many) reasons that increasing workplace diversity is important.

When new products are developed, the earliest and most frequent testers are generally the team developing the product.
Because while that's true, I also think it's true that average-sized women internalize the perception that we're outliers and that we can't expect the world to work for us. But a guy who is 5'11'' is farther from the mean than I am, and he sure as hell isn't going to think that he shouldn't test the thing, because he's an outlier. But if I were on a team, I would say "oh, this doesn't work for me, but that's normal, because I'm short." It's not just that the world doesn't work for women. It's that we completely internalize the idea that we are not entitled to have a world that works for us.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:30 AM on February 24 [100 favorites]


I saw a link in a paywalled article about this saying that Viagra also stops pain of menstrual cramps, but research on this was halted because it was considered unimportant.
posted by jeather at 11:32 AM on February 24 [28 favorites]


From last year: Military changing body armor to better fit women on the battlefield. Because it might be an issue when a smaller-stature soldier has to stop and lift up her armor plates just so she can bend over.

I have a personal stake in this design problem because I am small. When I take my car to my tall mechanic, I have to laugh as he tries to fit himself in without putting the seat back. He's like Ugh, you have the seat really far forward and I'm like YES, THAT'S BECAUSE MY FEET WON'T REACH THE PEDALS OTHERWISE. Also, yeah, my airbag will consequently kill me. Driving the truck? Everything as far forward as possible, plus back and butt pillows please. I have to adapt in unsafe ways to average design, and men laugh about it. When they bother to notice.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:36 AM on February 24 [60 favorites]


This is really interesting; as a short woman, I generally don't mind being short, because it's fairly easy to adapt - use a step ladder, pull the car seat forward, etc. But I hadn't actually considered how many of those adaptations increase the risk of injury. ( Although, as a fellow stand on the counter rather than bother with the step ladder type, I have considered that that'll probably be how I die in an eventual household accident...)

And, of course, many of these "easy adaptations" rely on being relatively young and able bodied.
posted by the primroses were over at 11:50 AM on February 24 [28 favorites]


Yeah, it was really fascinating to me when I realized that I'm not actually short.

Oh, man, I just realized that sometimes I joke about being short - like, I've internalized it too, even though I know I'm exactly average. I'm not short at all, but the world considers me to be, because women are not ever the average human. Either we're not considered at all, or we're considered as a special niche. Nevermind that we are actually slightly more numerous.*

(*In regions where we have not been reduced through sex-selective abortion, high maternal death rates, etc, etc.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:51 AM on February 24 [19 favorites]


jeather, it's worse than that. Viagra was developed as a treatment for heart attacks, but Pfizer never pursued that indication because they thought men's boners would be more lucrative. It's a particularly egregious example of how capitalism prioritizes the sexual pleasure of men.
posted by basalganglia at 11:53 AM on February 24 [21 favorites]


I mostly just want to know whether this means that I should ask for a viagra prescription for my cramps. I mean, I am also outraged, but I mostly want to know about the cramps.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:55 AM on February 24 [16 favorites]


The thing is, I knew about the heart attacks. It's been talked about for years, it's part of the history of Viagra. I had no idea about the menstrual cramps, because they were so unimportant they were never worth mentioning.
posted by jeather at 11:59 AM on February 24 [14 favorites]


This is the only info I can find on viagra and menstrual cramps. Appears to show a benefit, but severely underpowered (only 25 women; they should have enrolled 62 by their own power calculations). It's from 2013 and as far as I can tell, nothing since then. So yeah, research on relieving menstrual cramps doesn't get funded as it should (Viagra or no).
posted by basalganglia at 12:04 PM on February 24 [3 favorites]


I am pretty sure that if you gave me 24 hours, I could personally round up 62 women who would be in a study for them. I don't even understand why they don't study this. I get that the answer is misogyny, but we're talking about a super, super common condition. You'd think the sheer imperative to sell pills would make them test it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:07 PM on February 24 [34 favorites]


A local podcast did an episode on fitness/outdoor gear; Shrunk and Punk'd, and just the general annoyance of having gear that is just slightly too big and doesn't fit right (or, in the case of plus sized women, that doesn't exist, period).

And in some cases where there's women's gear, like with the test dummies, it's just shrunk, without any other sort of modifications. Or, it's only available in pink or purple. Which, pink and purple are great! But women sometimes want other colors. For example: my running watch is a very cheap Garmin. I ordered it online, and didn't realize that I had gotten what was probably supposed to be the "men's" model (which is just a little bit too big), because I got the version with the black strap and blue border, instead of the all- teal or all-violet one.
posted by damayanti at 12:21 PM on February 24 [10 favorites]


I found the tweet where Viagra as a cure for menstrual cramps was referenced. I don't have an account to read the linked article.
posted by jeather at 12:24 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


We have all been raised to believe in (and depend on) the desire of corporations to make money as a corrective of a sort to racism and sexism. But since corporations are run by people, turns out that racism and sexism overrule the profit motive all the time.
posted by emjaybee at 12:25 PM on February 24 [29 favorites]


I am male, of approximately average height … and left-handed, which is yet another demographic that gets it in the neck (in this case, by living in a world designed for right-handers, rather than being female in a world designed for males).

Given the unwillingness of corporations to make ambidextrous devices for the 15% of the population they're wilfully excluding by insisting on putting things like computer trackpads or phone fingerprint readers on the right of devices (and don't get me started on kitchenware and scissors), I'm utterly unsurprised to see the same dynamic at work wrt. sex even though it's 52% of the potential market they're disadvantaging.
posted by cstross at 12:47 PM on February 24 [8 favorites]


I bet we can make this a mega-thread by just posting examples.

I recently bought a nifty pair of Bluetooth headphones but when I adjust the head bit to the smallest it goes they don't quite touch the top of my head. Grr.
posted by bendy at 12:51 PM on February 24 [4 favorites]


I was saying last night how stupid architects are. Every one of them has been visiting public buildings all their lives. They’ve seen how they work. Always. They’ve spent time thinking about capacity and footfall and what have you. Yet I have never visited a public building where the women’s toilets are even remotely large enough to avoid long queues.
posted by Segundus at 12:51 PM on February 24 [36 favorites]


Oh please, do NOT get me started on fucking architects and whether they give a shit about the people using their buildings.
posted by emjaybee at 12:57 PM on February 24 [23 favorites]


This article is getting a lot of attention in the female medical community right now. I just saw a long thread full of female surgeons detailing the various work-related injuries they’ve sustained because apparently most OR tables can’t be adjusted down far enough for female surgeons to reach into the patients at the angles they need. Some procedures require a fair amount of strength and the angles are all wrong for shorter surgeons.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:57 PM on February 24 [57 favorites]


The only two buildings where I've seen enough ladies' restrooms were both theatres for a 95% female audience. The proportions weren't quite equal to the audience ratio (going by the maps outside, 5:1), but ample enough for intermission traffic.

In my office there's been a spate of cancers and other health issues in women in their 30s and 40s, which suddenly stopped the moment we changed buildings - we're still in a high class office building, but this time the windows open. I'm not the only one suspecting the old building contributed to at least one death.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:01 PM on February 24 [10 favorites]


Don't worry, your giant phone probably won't get any more giant

Samsung: Hold my beer you can't hold our phone

Segundus: "I was saying last night how stupid architects are. Every one of them has been visiting public buildings all their lives. They’ve seen how they work. Always. They’ve spent time thinking about capacity and footfall and what have you. Yet I have never visited a public building where the women’s toilets are even remotely large enough to avoid long queues."

Like so many artists many architects care more about form than function but this really is unlikely to be on the architects and rather should be laid at the feet of building owners who only want to pay for code minimums.
posted by Mitheral at 1:13 PM on February 24 [3 favorites]


I'm a 6' man with proportionately-sized hands. I happen to like the increased visual area provided by a large phone (especially, as I get older and my eyesight is no longer what it was, the ability to see more of a message or web page when I zoom in to read smaller print). Also I don't tend to use a phone one-handed very often. On the other, um, hand, I don't want a phone so big I can't sit down comfortably with it in my pants pockets (which again, since I wear men's clothing, are plenty deep enough). So far 5"-6" phones are about right for me, which means I'm being perfectly served by the current technology.

All of which is to say that it never occurred to me to think about how large phones could be too big for smaller people, until I accompanied a woman friend while she went phone shopping and she deliberately chose the smaller model of whatever iPhone version was current at the time. Fortunately I don't design physical objects of any type, so my personal lack of awareness in that area hasn't affected anyone; but it does seem like a gross oversight on the part of people who do.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:13 PM on February 24 [4 favorites]


my AFAB friend recently had a heck of a time finding alpine touring skis suited for their height, and they’re not even particularly short (5’4”ish)

also, gentle reminder that while constellations of body parts, hormones, etc are somewhat correlated with gender, people of all genders can have all kinds of constellations of them, and journalists really need to figure out how to use language that encapsulates this reality. my afab friends who have periods and so on do not have “female bodies,” and my body is not a “male body” because it grows a beard, etc.
posted by Gymnopedist at 1:15 PM on February 24 [35 favorites]


I'm with you there emjaybe, I visit so many high end houses where the female aspects are an afterthought at best in architect's thinking.

When I studied (landscape) it was pointed out at some length that virtually all so-called 'standards' are based on a 22 year-old, 75Kg, Caucasian male about 5'8". I always crouch to get view photos at my clients eye height (I'm a 6'3" male), otherwise my landscapes simply don't work - it's not rocket science, but it all seems a step too far for many designers.
posted by unearthed at 1:26 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Also: pockets.

My biggest gripe is with the lack of pockets on running pants or shorts for women. Like, what am I supposed to do with my keys? Right now, I just slip the front door key off the keyring and hold it in my hand when running, which is a crappy solution, but better than the alternative, which is leaving my house unlocked and empty for 1.5 hr in the middle of the afternoon. But would it kill the makers of athletic wear to add a single zippered pocket somewhere on the garment?
posted by basalganglia at 1:27 PM on February 24 [23 favorites]


There are a disappointingly high number of health and fitness apps that have no understanding of pregnancy other than 'you appear to be getting heavier AND less active, tut tut'. I found a couple with a bolt-on 'pregnancy' mode, but all it ever did was to congratulate me on achieving Normal Pregnancy Weight Gain and tell me my baby was the size of a cauliflower before redirecting me back to the main screen which declared I was now obese.
posted by Catseye at 1:32 PM on February 24 [40 favorites]


Here's Caroline Criado Perez's tweet about the article, which has its own megathread of replies saying “Yes! You heard me!”, and lots of other examples: chainsaws, mammogram tables,…
posted by ambrosen at 1:40 PM on February 24 [15 favorites]


Omg, yes, the health and fitness apps. I'm pregnant and I have gestational diabetes and so it's a good idea for me to track what I eat, but I have not been able to find a diet-tracking app that is actually at all set up for me to do that while also taking into account the fact that I am pregnant and I am gaining weight and that is OK. The first app I tried to use wouldn't even let me set my "goal weight" as more than I weigh now, informing me that my specified goal weight and height were well above a "normal" BMI. I had just gotten my gestational diabetes diagnosis and this was not a welcome message to receive at the moment. It's really frustrating.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 1:48 PM on February 24 [15 favorites]


I legit wonder if cameras on phones are optimized for cis faces.
posted by nikaspark at 1:52 PM on February 24 [6 favorites]


Civil Eats, Farm Tools for Women, by Women: "Adams and Brensinger originally thought they’d create an online marketplace of farm tools and equipment made just for women. But they soon found that there weren’t any. And there were no tools that were using true ergonomics backed by science....Working with a team of engineers from the Pennsylvania State University, they researched and designed ergonomic tools to help make farming safer, healthier, and more productive for women."
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:00 PM on February 24 [31 favorites]


There are a disappointingly high number of health and fitness apps that have no understanding of pregnancy other than 'you appear to be getting heavier AND less active, tut tut'.

And not just aps! My employer's yearly "trade health data for insurance premium discounts" happened when I was 8 months pregnant. The online questionnaire did have a place to mark that but then just said "answer these questions as if you weren't pregnant" and the in person screening had no adjustments. So my BMI and waist circumference were "too high" and I now get regular "learn how to improve your health!" emails.
posted by damayanti at 2:02 PM on February 24 [12 favorites]


I have never visited a public building where the women’s toilets are even remotely large enough to avoid long queues

I curse the lack of women architects every time I encounter a cubicle that’s too small to turn around in, because men just have to open the door and face the bowl so fuck the rest of us who have to get inside, close the door behind us, turn around and sit down.
posted by billiebee at 2:03 PM on February 24 [48 favorites]


Another small but ongoing peeve of mine are the earbuds that ship with iPhones. I very recently upgraded a super old phone and so I am now in no-headphone-jack hell with everyone else, and the only earbuds that fit without an adapter are the ones that came with the phone. They are hard molded plastic and they are so obviously designed for ears far larger than my own and the "buds" won't even slightly fit inside my earholes, they just rest there on the outside of my earstuff, loose and echoing and constantly falling out and off.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 2:07 PM on February 24 [13 favorites]


Oh, someone in her twitter thread mentions the "oh did you have big boobs in the way? no prob we'll just have the seatbelt go over your neck" issue.
posted by jeather at 2:13 PM on February 24 [33 favorites]


I'm female, 4'11", 95lbs, laughing my ass off that this is news worthy because this is just my life, sure as the sky is blue.

I learned to sew because I'm ~2nd percentile for height for US women and nothing fits off the rack. I hate how my car's seat fits me but it was the least bad option of every new subcompact I sat in after my mid aughts Hyundai died. I've never had an airbag deploy on me and I'm terrified if I ever do; it might kill me or blind me from smashing my glasses into my face. Let's not forget the glasses! I had a choice of about 3-5 frames in the high end designer store with options stacked to the ceiling, everything else was too big. I ride a "boys" snowboard (literally same in measurement and materials as equivalent girls model just blue and yellow instead of purple. Burton only started making girl's snowboards thinner in the waist to match smaller feet three seasons ago). In my neutral colored snowboard clothes with goggles and helmet, I am taken for a boy. I ride a bike designed by the first woman to make scaled down steel road frames in the 80s, and I found it at a thrift store. Most bike shops will not carry a single quality adult road bike in my size. I learned to surf last year, and the male instructor suggested I try a board that was 26" wide when my shoulders are 14" wide. My furniture at home is all vintage and smaller scale, custom, or IKEA. My "one-size-fits-most" desk chair at work is giving me severe orthopedic problems that I spent my own money and time solving, rather than just getting a new chair because everyone has to have the exact same chair for aesthetic and cost reasons unless you're the CEO and then you get whatever chair you want. I adapted to a standing desk instead for at least half my work hours to cut down the chronic damage to my neck and shoulders. You would think airplanes would be great but no, my feet don't touch the floor and flight attendants scold me for blocking the aisle when I put my feet on my bag to reduce the blood clot risk. If I ever have the money to buy a home, I'm spending whatever it takes to rip out the counters and make them the right height for me so I actually have good leverage when chopping. I'm so fucking tired of this shit - it's absolutely everywhere all the time
posted by slow graffiti at 2:46 PM on February 24 [40 favorites]


A coworker and I both love our iPhone SEs - they're compact, and they have headphone jacks. I should have jumped on it when they cropped up on Apple's clearance site a month ago. Seeing this is nudging me to shop for a used one, sooner rather than later.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:58 PM on February 24 [6 favorites]


I know this isn't a fresh take, but having Apple be the de facto design leader on phones (and other end-user tech) is awful for everyone.

I'm not trying at all to say that sexism isn't a major vector of this or that other tech companies can't be just as sexist, but having one company's very skewed vision of usability and accessibility inform the industry to this degree is maddening and leads to a lot of terrible group-think. The this particular brand is based around a male-tyrant-auteur fantasy is meaningful.
posted by es_de_bah at 3:01 PM on February 24 [18 favorites]


@slowgraffity my mom is about your size (4'9'') and she finally got her airbag disabled because it is just too dangerous.

According to the AAP she should be in a carseat booster . That's not going to happen.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:02 PM on February 24 [9 favorites]


Yet I have never visited a public building where the women’s toilets are even remotely large enough to avoid long queues.

My grandmother was the only woman on the committee heading up the redesign of the Seattle Opera House / Civic Center. When the architects delivered the plans, she had to point out that there were no front of house women's toilets at all.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:03 PM on February 24 [49 favorites]


There is one set of items designed for women: cleaning materials like brooms and ironing boards. I'm 5'8", so just a little taller than average for a woman, and plenty of brooms are too short for me. I don't own a stand-up ironing board anymore, but when I did, I had to set it at the highest available height and it was still a little too short. A too-short broom is inefficient and uncomfortable to use, and a too short ironing board causes neck and back pain. I have no idea what someone of average male height, around 5'10", would do.

So I guess the designers think smaller people exist when it comes to cleaning gear.

(Also despite being taller than average my hands are pretty tiny, so Apple can pry my SE out of my hands someday when they are frozen from the stupid office temperatures. I'm not buying a new phone from them unless they make something I can actually hold securely.)
posted by nat at 3:04 PM on February 24 [14 favorites]


I'm the reverse! Shorter than average but with large hands (I love giant phones) and also a giant head.
posted by jeather at 3:20 PM on February 24


Yuuuuuup.

Offices so cold in summer that I wear long pants and sweaters and still have to excuse myself to the washroom to run hot water on my freezing cold fingers. Office/academic buildings where I have to go to a different floor to get a washroom that doesn't have a urinal in the shared space. Too big phones that I can't hold one-handed and that won't fit in my back pocket. Hand tools that are too big and put pressure in the wrong places such that my fingers go numb. Wearing glasses and swim goggles marketed towards children. Slip on shoes that I step right out of. All sorts of unisex clothing and gear that just isn't. All sorts of things that are just too big or too heavy.

And count me as another woman clinging to her iPhone SE. I bought mine second hand after Apple discontinued it this past September - I'd been holding out for the rumoured SE2. My next door neighbour did the same after she tried to get by with a larger model and couldn't stand it. I don't know what we're going to do the next time we need new phones

Amusing note: the vintage built-in kitchen counters in my 1930s home were definitely designed for "the lady of the house". My male housemate complained constantly that the counters and sink were too low and gave him back pain when he tried to work at them.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 3:26 PM on February 24 [12 favorites]


My aunt and my father had exactly the same heart condition 20 years ago. My Dad is a surprisingly healthy man in his 70s; his sister is dead. Because the research on their medical problems only considered men.
posted by crush at 3:26 PM on February 24 [35 favorites]


I want an iPad with phone capabilities. I would probably stop buying a phone at that point. I seldom use a phone as a phone, but I don't really need the redundancy. With my AirPods I seldom take my phone out. I see the calls on my screen of my Mac. I can take calls on my watch. I honestly don't see what I need a phone for anymore. I text with all my friends and the only people who call me are spammers and wrong numbers anyway.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:30 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


Like so many artists many architects care more about form than function but this really is unlikely to be on the architects and rather should be laid at the feet of building owners who only want to pay for code minimums.

I can confirm. I have rarely worked on a project where we were allowed above code minimum. And when clients are flexible they ask us to exceed equally on both sides. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve actually right sized based upon demand, and even then there are surprisingly few studies that give an idea of the “correct” ratio. Many times a project will have a target core ratio that demands every non “usable” square inch be as efficient as possible (restrooms aren’t part of leasable space).

The best route to true equality in built space is through reform of the codes and standards themselves. Talk to a universal design advocate; this has been a long and bloody battle and we are not nearly there yet.
posted by q*ben at 3:47 PM on February 24 [9 favorites]


I'll add another voice in favour of not blaming the architects. Blame the developers, blame your building code, whatever, but the architect probably hasn't been given a choice. I've documented for both female and male architects, didn't make the slightest bit of difference - put in the code minimum, and squeeze that if you can.

No one wants to pay for a loo.
posted by deadwax at 3:54 PM on February 24 [9 favorites]


I've occasionally been scheduled to teach courses in the kindergarten building on my campus. Design-wise, this building is, shall we say, not a favorite, but it has one advantage over all the regular classrooms: the only chalkboards/whiteboards low enough for me to use comfortably.

Similarly, many years ago the campus upgraded to new "smart" podiums. The first round of podiums were big, clunky things that couldn't be moved. They were also so high that I had to stand on tiptoes in order to see students in the first couple of rows. I gently intimated to the department secretary that this was, pedagogically speaking, rather suboptimal.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:25 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


I mostly agree, but will share a small anecdote anyway. I am a small woman; with small hands. I remember the first time I designed a web page for mobile phones, and passed the prototype around the office.

The feedback of the buttons and tabs being too small was a huge insight to me.

(Now if it would only go the reverse with everything else please?)

(And I use an iPhone 7 but still have my 5s as a backup/WiFi only phone. Every time I pick it up, it feels like home.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:50 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


I’m down to 5’3” and shrinking, I’ve lost two inches in the last couple of years, and when I was considering remodeling my kitchen, before it became clear that it was a much bigger deal than anticipated, the architect was astonished that I wanted lower cabinets, counters, etc. I’m a hobbit for fucks sake, I have no idea what’s in the top shelf. And now that I qualify for an aarp card, I’m not climbing up there to find out.

But yes, should I find myself with an extra 100k, I’m totally making a hobbit size kitchen.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:51 PM on February 24 [14 favorites]


Yes to ear buds being too big. Even when they have the smaller silicone pieces, they rarely are small enough. Many moons ago, Phillips, or maybe Panasonic, made some that fit without hurting! I bought a couple spare, and when they discontinued them, I bought a few more on clearance.

Then they started putting mics in earbuds, a feature I can’t live without. So I’ve gotten used to the Apple ear buds, but yeah, they hurt in the beginning and they hurt when I wear for too long. Unfortunate, my attempts to buy women’s sized earbuds really had me doubting my sanity. Some even seemed larger! (Sigh)

Unrelated, but I worked briefly at a company that sold office furniture. I discovered that there is such a thing as petite chairs made for us smaller folks! They go down lower, and the seats are scaled down. That was an amazing find! And yet the company dragged their feet about actually getting me one. They were worried they’d have to give them to all the women. 🤦🏻‍♀️
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:08 PM on February 24 [10 favorites]


Oh, man, I just realized that sometimes I joke about being short - like, I've internalized it too, even though I know I'm exactly average.

I'm 5'2"--also not much below average. But I'm built leggy in that most of my height is in my legs and the point of my hip is high, with an extremely short torso.

And I can't sit at and use a single desk or table space at my job with the attached chair without having to hold my arms about two inches higher at the elbow than is comfortable for me. Go on, try to hold your arms like that for a minute. See how you feel. Try to imagine sitting like that for every work day. Adjusting height wasn't important enough, I guess.

When I do have the option of adjustable height chairs, I never, ever have any option that lets my feet touch the floor, and frankly I'm lucky to get a chair with a little ring or rung to brace my feet against. I think the only place I currently have access to one of those is the lab I TA, where I never get to sit for more than five minutes anyway, and my acoustics room. Hell,
I could not find a comfortable height desk for my own home that let my feet touch the floor without eventually purchasing a used-off-Craigslist Ikea stand to sit desk and stationing it at literally the lowest possible height.

I do a lot of work perched in an uncomfortable armchair with a few other chairs around me to serve as ad hoc tables for a cup of cocoa or a workspace for papers. I believe I am the only person who reliably sits in one, and it's purely because otherwise my shoulders kill me by the end of the day. I've bitched about this to my (male) boss several times, and he just laughs and acts like I'm being over-particular. But over time, it hurts!

Do not even get me started on how I had to order on my own and locate a specially designed "for women" lab coat to fit my totally common pear shaped body in the workplace, because not a single one of available options fit me.
posted by sciatrix at 6:49 PM on February 24 [14 favorites]


Oh man, the seatbelts. Infuriating. I learned in statistics class that I am an average height American female. I have a smaller than average chest. I always adjust my seatbelt to the lowest possible setting. Despite this, I am constantly moving my seatbelt to proper position, instead of across my neck.

Men in my life have gotten in the driver's seat after I used the car. "You are SO close to the wheel" "I don't think it's safe to drive this close to the steering wheel." Add in the fact that I drive a stick shift and I am forced to be even closer - I have to be able to fully depress the clutch.

It sure feels like, if I got in a serious crash, the airbag deployment would slam my seatbelt into my neck and crush my windpipe.

However, LIFE HACK: my feet are the same size as the largest boys shoes. I can buy boys tennis shoes and they are usually wide, plus $10-$20 cheaper than the adult version. So I guess that makes up for it.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:01 PM on February 24 [7 favorites]


men just have to open the door and face the bowl so fuck the rest of us who have to get inside, close the door behind us, turn around and sit down.

Men have to sit down to take a shit just like everyone else, so yes we've all had to turn around in tight cubicles before at one time or another, only with longer legs.

also, gentle reminder that while constellations of body parts, hormones, etc are somewhat correlated with gender

The article is making the point that half the population is being poorly served, and it isn't because of their gender. What's the right term for this group? AFAB?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 7:34 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


When I took off my belt pack, I suddenly felt lots better. I don’t like huge phones..

I wear belt packs/sporrans/festival belts, whatever you call them, whenever I don't have suitable pockets. I have to wear them more often now due to a combination of (a) small or no pockets in women's pants and (b) giant phone that doesn't fit in any pockets in women's pants a lot of the time. Blech.

It's not just that the world doesn't work for women. It's that we completely internalize the idea that we are not entitled to have a world that works for us.

That's because we're always told that we're hated, we're second class at best, and the entire world is designed to emphasize that.

I wonder what it would be like, just for one day, to live in a world where I am People.

Me too, but we'll never know.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:41 PM on February 24 [6 favorites]


In my office there's been a spate of cancers and other health issues in women in their 30s and 40s, which suddenly stopped the moment we changed buildings -

This is happening in my old building except it's affecting both sexes. The men are all being rushed into hard to see specialists like neurology within days while the women are being told it's anxiety and/or offered hysterectomies. For the exact same symptoms. EXACT. It's maddening.
posted by fshgrl at 7:41 PM on February 24 [29 favorites]


I've worn contact lenses/glasses for most of my life, so I get a yearly eye exam, and I always forget that as someone who has had large breasts for most of her life too that it's VERY uncomfortable to get an eye exam. "Lean forward and put your chin on this" — but I can't lean forward far enough because there's a bar right across my chest and I'm already too short for the chair (and too fat width-wise, of course!) to have much leverage so I just have to try to turtle my neck out enough to get close enough.

It's humiliating, so I block the memory of it and don't remember it happens until it does again. I just went in for my yearly exam this past Thursday and I truly appreciated the optometrist saying cheerily "Don't worry! It was obviously designed by a man. No one is comfortable putting their chin there, no matter what their body size." I've never had an optometrist acknowledge it before but this one was (rightfully) pissed and it was really nice not to feel that shame of having a body that doesn't fit in places. She seemed to imply that even men didn't find it all that comfortable but she said anyone with breasts is miserable and that if she had the time and money, she would remake all the equipment in their office to fit more bodies.

You folks blew my mind talking about height. I have always talked about how short I am, have been teased about it, and I'm 5'4". I know that's about average but I didn't realize that I had internalized that, being a woman, I don't get to count as normal because women's bodies don't count. Hearing that other people's thighs go numb in chairs? Another case where I feel deep shame, like it's my fault. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets comments when someone taller sits in an office chair after me about "woah, who put this all the down to the floor?" yet I would never consider making a comment about "who put this so far up I have to pole vault into it to adjust it down?"
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 7:51 PM on February 24 [18 favorites]


nat: "I have no idea what someone of average male height, around 5'10", would do."

When I still had to iron work shirts I'd set the board on milk crates. All counters are a good 3-4" too short for comfortable use; spending time at a sink is horrible for the back (a dishpan on the counter is better).
posted by Mitheral at 7:59 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


I do a lot of work perched in an uncomfortable armchair with a few other chairs around me to serve as ad hoc tables for a cup of cocoa or a workspace for papers.

Hey, are you me?

I spent so much time working either perched on my chair or cross legged. Even I thought I was just being odd. No, it’s because nothing, the chair, the desk, anything, ever fit.

I have a fat necrosis and divot in my thigh from sitting cross legged in chairs with arm rests.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:26 PM on February 24 [7 favorites]


Everywhere.

Every work bench in the lab was too high, especially the fume hood (where you handle the worst chemicals). The auto pipettes were too big to operate without my hands starting to hurt, and I don't even have small hands. The generic safety glasses, the generic lab coats, the field boots and coveralls... all too big, too wide, or too long.

Industrial equipment in general is not made for women, including on farms where women have worked since agriculture.

Everything can't fit everyone all the time, but this issue really gets no serious consideration.
posted by zennie at 8:43 PM on February 24 [7 favorites]


I'm reading this and just now realized that sufficiently short people can iron standing up. I put the ironing board at its lowest and kneel on the ground. I've always assumed this was because I'm a little shorter than American (male) average. Now I need to ask my mother whether she irons standing up.

It's kind of impressive how we found a way to do worse than designing everything for men. Instead, we've designed men's tools for men and women's tools for women, and if you try to do the wrong sort of work then good luck.

Tangent: I've yet to find safety glasses in the U.S. that fit Asian faces. They all expect the bridge of my nose to be higher and my cheekbones to be lower, so they leave big gaps instead of skimming the contours of my face like they're supposed to. Fortunately, I don't work a job that requires eye protection or I'd be in trouble.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:02 PM on February 24 [7 favorites]


To those raging against ever-larger phones in super-slippery materials that one needs to hold in both hands like an offering unto the gods or a teatray, try getting a stick-on holder. It looks dorky but it has made it possible for me to use my phone one-handed.

[insert clever name here]: I have a fat necrosis and divot in my thigh from sitting cross legged in chairs with arm rests.

I too belong to the divot sisterhood. It's the only way I could manage a long day at the computer when I worked in an office.
posted by tavegyl at 9:08 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Most lab ppe can be sized to women now, though that was much, much less true even 10 years ago. Twenty, it was pretty much impossible to find anything smaller than a "men's small" and fitted garments weren't available at all.

The things we can't get are masks, either dust or APR to fit women's faces. Dust masks are light-duty, to filter particles only, covering the nose and mouth. Almost every woman has a leak around the sides of their nose. The generic mask nose shape fit almost no woman's face. There are hacks you can do with clips, but they're generally pretty uncomfortable and don't work fantastically well. Similarly full-face air-purifying respirators, colloquially "gas masks", often fail on women in two places: along the lower jawline---women's are sharper than men's---and/or at the temples. The jawline one is really hard to fix, especially as the fit test require that we do things like look side to side and down at one's feet. Full-face APRs are generally easier to fit women than half-masks: as a result our SOP is now full-face masks only, no half ones allowed.

We're a pretty multi-ethnic bunch and we've found that "race" or ethnicity doesn't really seem to make a huge difference in our 30 year data set on protective mask fit testing, but gender certainly does.

SCBAs (the breathing apparatus that fits into a mask like firefighters use) are often too big for most women too, and the lifesign monitors are always going off on women as they don't read their motion properly, as a result. Chemical protective gear is particularly hard to fit, especially on smaller women, rendering them almost immobile with the folds of fabric around joints even in the smallest suits. These are semi-disposable "one size fits no one" things, but they really, really don't work for smaller frames.
posted by bonehead at 9:08 PM on February 24 [7 favorites]


Last time I was looking at buying a phone, they were available in a range of sizes, and I didn't see anyone forcing customers to buy the largest.

Uh huh? Your last phone shopping trip, how recently was that?

My iPhone SE (discontinued Fall 2018) has a 4" screen (measured on the diagonal). The smallest currently available models of iPhone are 4.7" - which for me, and many other AFAB people, is too large. So, okay, fine. Apple isn't the only company to make smartphones. Only it doesn't seem to be better anywhere else*.

There are many AFAB people in this thread, and previously, who've reported having trouble getting phones small enough to fit our hands (and our pockets). Maybe, just maybe, we're telling the truth.

*Please don't bother linking me to an Android phone that is 4.6". I know they exist. That is still too large.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 9:13 PM on February 24 [11 favorites]


We all have to be uncomfortable sometimes because none of us are average in every respect, but I do think that sometimes men don't realize how often women are uncomfortable because they haven't been considered.

Gendered design norms show up all over the place. I blame quite a lot of my back pain on the height of every kitchen sink and bench I've ever used being slightly too low for my six foot male frame, and I used to joke that it sucks to do dishes in a world designed by dwarves, but of course kitchens are not designed by dwarves but for women. Like they say: if you can't stand the height, get out of the kitchen.
posted by flabdablet at 9:21 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


While all the men on the lighting crew could easily lift lights out of the road cases, often I was too short to pull the light up out of the road case. I'd have to jump up on another case, then hunker down and haul up the 80 lb light and set it on the unopened road case I was standing on, then I'd hop off the road case, grab the light and go hang it. I'd worked five times as hard as the guys on the crew before we ever even got a truss in the air.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:39 PM on February 24 [6 favorites]


the only chalkboards/whiteboards low enough for me to use comfortably.

I was at a workshop in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and they had the most glorious chalkboards. They were made of pressed glass, or something like that, and the chalk just glided over them beautifully, but they were dark-colored, so you don’t get the annoying double image like with glass whiteboards. And the best part? I’m 5’, and I could reach to the top of the board. That never happens in the states.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:55 PM on February 24 [3 favorites]


Dust masks are light-duty, to filter particles only, covering the nose and mouth. Almost every woman has a leak around the sides of their nose. The generic mask nose shape fit almost no woman's face. There are hacks you can do with clips, but they're generally pretty uncomfortable and don't work fantastically well

Are you using n95s or the generic ones? They make us do fit testing at the IACUC now and got very focused about training us to seal the clips, and only one woman as I recall was encouraged to order specially sized small masks; the rest of us get to make do, but at least we do know how to modify the damn things to prevent any whiff of the test smell compound getting through. Are you telling me those fuckers fit men right out of the box?!

The thing I wish for in terms of PPE is gloves. I am an XS in gloves, but those sizes are rarely available in the lab, both in the lab I work in and the lab where I teach. (Most of my work requiring PPE is done in a space where the IACUC provides the PPE.) But XL gloves are almost always available.

What gets me is that these things for "women's work" that you all are saying aren't built for men, guys, are all private spaces. They're household kitchens--which by the way are not currently built for women's bodies, not if my experience serves--or ironing boards or I guess... What other specialized housework items even are there that are affected by body size?

But the things women in this thread are pointing out are things like cell phones and work spaces and personal protection gear and body armor and chairs and medical equipment and car safety design. Can you maybe grasp that these are not comparable complaints?
posted by sciatrix at 10:07 PM on February 24 [14 favorites]


The n95s are what we used, though not for years now. Everyone needs clips; women have a hard time fitting even with clips. I found you had to either force them or bend them to even work, and that almost always caused discomfort, which meant that people with fit issues around the nose, mostly women, hated wearing them.
posted by bonehead at 10:14 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


The one that raised my eyebrows recently was that doors are built with the strength of an average man in mind. I usually do okay with doors (though turns out there is a reason I like the lightweight cheapo ones!), but at the time I read that, I was working in a WeWork where I struggled to open the doors. Carrying a laptop or a cup of coffee? Forget about it. It put the whole tired debate about men opening doors for ladies in a new light; they'll design doors that are too heavy for you to open and then make a big show of (maybe) opening them for you and call it chivalrous. Wow, that was a bit on the nose.
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:24 PM on February 24 [21 favorites]


Like, what am I supposed to do with my keys?

I'd suggest a shoe pocket - a key-sized pouch that velcros onto your shoelaces.
posted by bendy at 10:59 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Are you telling me those fuckers fit men right out of the box?!

I'm a man and I've never encountered one that fit without fiddling.
posted by flabdablet at 11:17 PM on February 24


Oh my god, the gloves! Latex/nitrile, leather work gloves, winter gloves, fucking welding gloves! Like, I might actually want some dexterity when I’m fusing metal with more metal. And dexterity is not something you have when your gloves extend an inch past your fingers (minimum).
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:09 AM on February 25 [11 favorites]


During my university fencing days I preferred to use a pistol grip, and when I bought my own gear I found that the only grip that fit my hand was literally for children. My coach thought it was hilarious and made fun of my 'rat paw hands', but that grip was a REVELATION. I had far less soreness at the end of a training session, and suddenly the blade became so much easier to control.

Unrelated: now that I freelance I've just come to accept that no workplace will ever really fit my body, and my physiotherapist gave me a stern talking to when I went in to get some shoulder pain treated. I'm planning on putting together a little kit of a folding laptop riser, bluetooth keyboard and mouse so I can at least work on a raised laptop when I work on-site, because my neck and shoulders are jacked after years of looking down at a laptop perched on a seat that's reliably a bit too high for me.
posted by nerdfish at 1:44 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


leahwrenn: "And the best part? I’m 5’, and I could reach to the top of the board. That never happens in the states."

To be fair there is a trade off between height of the board and visibility of the board from the back of a row of desks. Anything lower than a metre is unviewable. And they still work even if the top line of text isn't at the very top of the board.

sciatrix: "The thing I wish for in terms of PPE is gloves. I am an XS in gloves, but those sizes are rarely available in the lab, both in the lab I work in and the lab where I teach. (Most of my work requiring PPE is done in a space where the IACUC provides the PPE.) But XL gloves are almost always available. "

This is one that pisses me off. I take a small ear plug on the right side and a standard on the left. But invariably companies are too cheap to buy anything one size and style of plugs. And then nag people for not wearing plugs that don't fit properly or are like shoving a stone into your year (I'm looking at you yellow 3M plugs1). Same thing with gloves; there is no reason not to have the full range of sizes available. They are all the same price and all available from any decent supplier. I take a size 8/medium and even then I often have to chase around for the right size. Even if a company had to special order specific sizes it's not like the need is a sudden unexpected surprise.

1 seriously, I sometimes think companies buy these because everyone hates them so much a single box will last for an entire project.
posted by Mitheral at 2:15 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


my neck and shoulders are jacked after years of looking down at a laptop perched on a seat that's reliably a bit too high for me

To be fair, that's more of an excessive reliance on laptop thing than a gendered design thing. Laptops have always been completely horrible from an ergonomic point of view, giving the user a choice between neck and shoulder pain from a screen that's too low or neck and shoulder pain from a keyboard that's too high.

Raising the machine to put the screen in the right place - vertically centred in front of your face without you needing to turn your head and the top of the display panel at eye level - and using a separate keyboard and mouse is indeed the only way to make a laptop's ergonomics acceptable for more than about half an hour's intermittent use per day regardless of body size and shape.
posted by flabdablet at 4:39 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


leahwrenn: "And the best part? I’m 5’, and I could reach to the top of the board. That never happens in the states."

mitheral: To be fair there is a trade off between height of the board and visibility of the board from the back of a row of desks.


If the board needs to be high, then classroom designers should consider raising the floor to match? A rostrum to speak from shouldn't be a ground-breaking development.
posted by vincebowdren at 4:50 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


I have permanent skin damage on my hands because they were too big for the biggest size (of THREE!) of gloves available from my then-employer's supplier. I have burn scars on my arms, which were too long to be fully covered by the protective sleeve things provided by my employer's supplier (one size fits all? does that ever fucking work?)

I'm way bigger than average for where I live in pretty much every way (except cup size) though. Those of you who are completely average shouldn't have as hard a time with this as me.
posted by Dysk at 5:35 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I'm late to the party but five feet tall and typing this on a phone I can only use two handed, sitting cross legged in a chair. You are all my siblings in suffering.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 5:39 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Work gloves are a nightmare. I have no ability to fit into women's S M or L gloves. (They are not broad enough across the palm. I do a fair amount of manual labor and have fairly beefy hands for a woman. L's fit my finger length ok but I can't close my hand.) Women's XL gloves fit the palm but have half an inch of dangling fingertip beyond my own. They are not useful like that.

I buy (when I can find them) Men's M gloves, which are very close to correct. Pity they're not commonly stocked, but I buy like six pairs when I find them. If you go and the store is out of Men's M work gloves? That was probably me or someone like me.

Someone (above) mentioned chainsaws. I spent this morning running the husqvarna to get out our wooded, two-mile dirt (private, not public) lane. We had 50 mph winds last night and a few pines bit the dust in an across-the-road sort of way. I can start the saw and run the saw, but after about thirty minutes, it becomes clear that the saw was not made for me. *sigh* And I power through because, well, the trees are not going to remove themselves from the road. Also the market for girl-friendly chainsaws is vanishingly small. *sigh*

I cannot physically muster enough oomph to start the 48" walkbehind deck mower. The pull it needs (pull-start) is bigger than the distance I can pull. Like, I'm clearly not made to run this machinery, not even getting into where the controls are or how far apart they think my shoulders are. *sigh* It's not that I am unable to run pull-start machinery. I start the log splitter, the 2-cycle hedge clipper, the aforementioned chainsaw, ordinary push lawnmowers... but the walkbehind deck mower requires more pull than I am physically able to produce. It's humiliating.

Carhartt's full-body coverall suits. (This item.) I have one and it's very warm. I love it and I wear it when I am playing bulldozer in the wintertime. However, it does not really understand about hips. ("Women's" is not an option for coveralls. They are a Men-Only item even though I know boatloads of women farmers or other sundry rural, outdoor activities who own and wear Carhartt coveralls. They're a go-to outerwear item when you have to spend an hour or two outside trying to get the damn tractor started in 15F weather so that you can put round bales in the field.)
posted by which_chick at 6:06 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


Men have to sit down to take a shit just like everyone else, so yes we've all had to turn around in tight cubicles before at one time or another, only with longer legs.


Wearing purses and growing babies, and or while tampon or padding up. There’s a reason I kept a mental list for years of “good” bathrooms.

Now that I do have pockets, the garments are still pretty unstructured, so I de pant before I turn around so my stuff falls on the floor (ick ick) instead of a toilet (ewwwwweww)

For work I found a wonderful tilt rocker foot rest. And a pillow at my back; and I bring my chair to every meeting except with my boss (they’re never more than 30 min.)
posted by tilde at 6:17 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


The one that raised my eyebrows recently was that doors are built with the strength of an average man in mind.

ADA specifies the force at the handle to be no more than 10 lbs exterior / 5 lbs interior to open a door. Door closers are adjustable and as they wear out a lot of time building maintenance will just jack up the resistance to avoid having to replace the device.

If it takes more than the above applied force to open a door than you have a legal right to require the owner to fix the issue.
posted by q*ben at 6:19 AM on February 25 [12 favorites]


The pull it needs (pull-start) is bigger than the distance I can pull.

This! Oh my God, the frustration over multiple attempts, and then seeing a 6' 2" neighbor make pull-starts work with ease because of his height and armspan--! (Can we also discuss a small woman driving 6-foot T-posts to a 4-foot height using a 14-pound, 2-foot-long post pounder?)
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:20 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


Count me in as another woman with large boobs who is constantly struggling to not get choked out by her seatbelt. It is so aggravating! When I wear a sports bra (the Enell, the hardcore uniboob bra that's the only thing that'll hold the ladies in place) while driving I just give up and put the chest strap under my arm. I'll take my chances on going through the windshield rather than what I feel is the certainty of crushing my throat/decapitating myself with the seatbelt.

(Also, I'm currently nursing my Galaxy S5 to its inevitable end because, at 5.2", it's the absolute largest phone I can--almost--handle with one hand. I've been so depressed at seeing all of the newer versions going up in size.)
posted by TwoStride at 6:28 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Is there a seatbelt design that works for the large-breasted? It seems as intrinsically difficult as making a bicycle seat that doesn't cause male infertility.
posted by LarsC at 6:44 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Is there a seatbelt design that works for the large-breasted?

After thinking about this for like, 5 seconds, yeah, you could design a seatbelt that is like a baby's carseat - put your arms through two hoops that clip together at the sternum and then instead of the crotch attachments like a baby has, clip it into a lap belt. Someone whose job it is to create these things could come up with something better. It's possible.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:01 AM on February 25 [4 favorites]


Oh, pro tip for long blouse tails or skirts that must go up in the toilet: tuck your tail up into your bra strap before you turn around to sit.
posted by tilde at 7:01 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


Is there a seatbelt design that works for the large-breasted?


Five point harness like pro and amateur race car drivers.
posted by tilde at 7:02 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


A five point harness either crushes your boobs or doesn't properly secure your shoulders, unless you can comfortably fit the vertical belts in your cleavage (which not everyone can).
posted by Dysk at 7:16 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


(At least in my experience, and for most other women who've used them I know.)
posted by Dysk at 7:16 AM on February 25


A five point harness either crushes your boobs or doesn't properly secure your shoulders, unless you can comfortably fit the vertical belts in your cleavage (which not everyone can).

Regardless of whether or not a five point harness is the answer to this, the current seatbelt design is not the pinnacle of seatbelt design and could be improved to actually work for people with breasts. The point is it hasn't been.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:18 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


Absolutely agree! I was suggesting that there aren't currently any off-the-shelf solutions that work, not that none are possible!
posted by Dysk at 8:21 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


After thinking about this for like, 5 seconds, yeah, you could design a seatbelt that is like a baby's carseat - put your arms through two hoops that clip together at the sternum and then instead of the crotch attachments like a baby has, clip it into a lap belt.

This is actually known as the safest seat belt design, but car manufacturers have rejected it under the rationale that people (ahem, men, maybe?) wouldn't want to use them.
posted by agregoli at 9:50 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


I was saying last night how stupid architects are. Every one of them has been visiting public buildings all their lives. They’ve seen how they work. Always. They’ve spent time thinking about capacity and footfall and what have you. Yet I have never visited a public building where the women’s toilets are even remotely large enough to avoid long queues.
posted by Segundus at 12:51 PM on February 24 [28 favorites +] [!]

Oh please, do NOT get me started on fucking architects and whether they give a shit about the people using their buildings.
posted by emjaybee at 12:57 PM on February 24 [17 favorites +] [!]

ITYM "the architects have never had to queue to take a shit in their buildings" - HTH.

(I am 6'1" , my spouse is 5'0", different handedness. Ask us about inconveniently sized/shaped objects!)
posted by "mad dan" eccles at 10:35 AM on February 25


I was working in a WeWork where I struggled to open the doors. Carrying a laptop or a cup of coffee? Forget about it.

Oh, good point! Either I work in that same WeWork, or they're all like that; and it had never occurred to me that a man of average strength wouldn't find it nearly so hard to come and go.

Also, I take issue with their office furniture. The desks aren't adjustable, and the standard-issue chairs don't go high enough relative to the desks for 5'4" me (not short, thank you everyone above for pointing that out) to have my arms at the right height to type. And speaking of arms, the armrests don't go low enough for me to be able to rest my arms on them either; they catch me just above the elbow. You'd think a co-working/hotdesking environment would have this stuff down, but nope: until my employer got me a better chair, I was having to bring in a stack of cushions in order to be sitting tall enough to not be in pain by the end of the day. Plus a footrest, naturally, which I'm still stuck using.

(Is anyone else really sick of having to use footrests with office desks? They get in the way: you can't tuck your chair under the desk if its frontmost wheel bashes into a footrest, and somehow there is always a frontmost wheel.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:50 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I've got a clip that attaches to the lap belt portion of the seatbelt that allows the shoulder belt to be tucked into it in such a way that the shoulder belt now settles across the middle of my chest instead of my throat.

The packaging helpfully let me know that it was designed to break in the case of a crash so that the shoulder belt can go back to its proper position and crush my throat upon impact, as God intended.
posted by telophase at 11:19 AM on February 25 [16 favorites]


"There is one set of items designed for women: cleaning materials like brooms and ironing boards. I'm 5'8", so just a little taller than average for a woman, and plenty of brooms are too short for me."

I'm the same height and it never occurred to me they even make brooms long enough for folks to actually use, I figured over the years it was just a tool designed deliberately to be a huge pain in the back to use every single time, and/or most businesses are too cheap to buy one with a handle a standing human being could use without having to crouch in some way. Presumably broom manufacturers are just evil entities determined to bring suffering wherever their products are used, which is why they design dustbins to all expertly leave an infuriating amount of leftover debris mockingly leaving an outline of the dust pan with a 6 inch clearance.

I hesitate to blame sexism on the broom issue, I have to imagine they're awful to use for shorter people. Big Broom doesn't care about dirty floors, they just want you to hurt.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:48 PM on February 25


I legit wonder if cameras on phones are optimized for cis faces.
posted by nikaspark at 3:52 PM on February 24


I don't know, but they're optimized for white skin.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:07 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


And count me as another woman clinging to her iPhone SE... I don't know what we're going to do the next time we need new phones

Buy a non-Apple phone? I mean, you could make a choice to not give your money to a company that thinks you're an edge-case user of their products.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:11 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Buy a non-Apple phone? I mean, you could make a choice to not give your money to a company that thinks you're an edge-case user of their products.

I don't think you understand. The iPhone SE is/was probably the most "new" 4-inch smartphone. All other phones of that comparable size are around that age or older. If we make the choice not to give money to a company that thinks we're an edge-case, we would end up with no smartphone made in the last 4 years.
posted by FJT at 2:48 PM on February 25 [11 favorites]


agregoli: "This is actually known as the safest seat belt design, but car manufacturers have rejected it under the rationale that people (ahem, men, maybe?) wouldn't want to use them."

Getting people to use seat belts took 50 years of campaigning and increasing penalties for non compliance (it's relatively easy to get 99% usage compliance for babies but even their many kids are riding around with belts that are too loose/tight or seats that are incorrectly secured to the car). Making them more difficult to use (or more constraining, a 5 point non retracting harness is a serious pain in the ass on the street and even serious amateur and semi professional drivers tend to wear them incorrectly) would both reduce compliance and be a serious marketing loss for any company that went it alone. Changes are only going to come via legislation and a new belt would probably be much more expensive and less comfortable to wear.

It would indeed be nice though if they figured out something like LATCH for full size people so that those users who care could spend the money on safe custom solutions. This would be harder than it might seem because you's also need to get regulations changed. IE: in most places if you are driving a car on public roads equipped with a racing harness which you choose to wear you also have to wear the OEM 3 point because the 5 point harnesses doesn't meet the regulatory definition of a seatbelt.

ManyLeggedCreature: " They get in the way: you can't tuck your chair under the desk if its frontmost wheel bashes into a footrest, and somehow there is always a frontmost wheel."

This is by design; a rolling chair that doesn't always have a frontmost wheel is a tipping hazard.

DarlingBri: "
Buy a non-Apple phone? I mean, you could make a choice to not give your money to a company that thinks you're an edge-case user of their products.
"

There aren't many mainstream choices even outside of Apple for phones in the 4-4.5 range and most of those choices are older phones (like the SE) that will disappear from the new market in the next 12-18 months.

Question for people with small hands desiring small phones. Would a 4" screen be acceptable even if attached to a phone 50% thicker than a 5-6" phone with the same specs? Or is thickness also a problem?
posted by Mitheral at 3:17 PM on February 25 [2 favorites]


The point is the safest harness was rejected initially. We'd all be using them today if that was the design at the start.
posted by agregoli at 3:22 PM on February 25


I legit wonder if cameras on phones are optimized for cis faces.

The cameras or the face-detection software? I'm not sure how the camera itself could enter into it (unlike with race), but the face-detection software might very well have been trained on a database of faces that did not include any or disproportionately few trans faces. The biggest facial recognition datasets (e.g. MegaFace, which contains images of ~627,000 people sourced from Flickr) are quite large and taken from fairly diverse sets, but there hasn't yet been much effort to ensure that those datasets are balanced along various axes.

Even work at the forefront of removing bias in facial recognition and detection (such as IBM's Diversity in Faces Dataset) still resorts to a gender binary:
Note also that the gender categorization in Table 3, as in much of the prior work, uses a binary system for gender classification that corresponds to biological sex – male and female. However, different interpretations of gender in practice can include biological gender, psychological gender and social gender roles. As with race and ethnicity, over-simplification of gender by imposing an incomplete system of categorization can result in face recognition technologies that do not work fairly for all of us. Some recent efforts, such as InclusiveFaceNet [42], show that imperfect categorization of race and gender can help with face attribute recognition. However, we expect that more nuanced treatment of race, ethnicity and gender is important towards improving diversity in face data sets.
posted by jedicus at 3:35 PM on February 25


I should note that there is a definite downside to improving face detection in cameras. Code that is good at determining where a face is in a scene (e.g. for autofocus or to add adorable filters) is also good at things like identifying people in surveillance camera footage. And the same dataset that would be used to ensure a camera is not biased against trans faces could also be used to pick trans faces out of a crowd. There are ethical issues there that the computer science community has not done a great job with so far.
posted by jedicus at 3:39 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


a new belt would probably be ... less comfortable to wear

I dunno... would it? Because right now, I have the hard edge of polyester webbing cutting into my neck unless I adjust the belt constantly. I think the point is that we don't know what could be developed because development ceased after a belt was created for Average Man.
posted by Emmy Rae at 4:36 PM on February 25 [3 favorites]


A five point harness would be pretty incompatible with wearing a dress or skirt as well.
posted by peppermind at 5:12 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


A four point would be fine in that regard. There are all kinds of other issues with existing four point harness solutions for general use rather than racing, and for people with larger boobs though. But it is a great point that skirts and dresses pretty much rule out five and six point harnesses in any situation that doesn't require a race suit.
posted by Dysk at 6:22 PM on February 25


The Benedum Theater in Pittsburgh recently added in a new vast women's restroom and I think a decently sized men's restroom. During performances, they have at least two ushers in or near the women's room to direct people. And it's quick; I've almost always just walked in, done what needs to be done, and moved on.

And you know what? It makes them money. Time that I'm not waiting for the bathroom is spent buying things: drinks, or snacks, or swag, or maybe it just lets me stay at a restaurant for dessert instead of rushing over.

HEY EVERYONE I CAN'T BUY STUFF IF I'M WAITING IN LINE. LET ME GIVE YOU MY MONEY.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:08 PM on February 25 [7 favorites]


There are at least a few convention centre sort of buildings where the division between the two bathrooms are movable or adjustable in some way so that when Hot Rod show has it rented the washrooms are 70/30 male/female and when It's the national Nursing association it's 30/70.
posted by Mitheral at 7:50 PM on February 25


Even something as simple as a height adjusting slider (instead of a fixed point of contact) on the B-pillar makes a huge difference on how comfortable a seatbelt is for a shorter or bustier person (or even a taller person, I imagine). The first time I encountered this was on a Chrysler LHS. (I think figures 2 and 4 on this page show it, even if it doesn't really demonstrate how it works).

It helped so much to be able to slide the belt down so that it was attached to the car at a point that wasn't as high as it typically is in cars (especially more modern cars, including the model that replaced it, the 300, which is a car that is terribly designed for shorter people). By reducing the height of the attachment point, it reduced the angle of the belt as it reached from the hip to the opposite side of the chest, making it less likely to cut across the neck. It wasn't perfect, and it could have had a bit more allowance in how low it could drop, but at least it allowed some degree of adjustability.

It was a simple device that was adjusted by manual manipulation -- no electronics or switches or (heaven forbid) networked devices operated via a smartphone -- so I'm sure that's part of what doomed it. That, and the fact that it was something that probably cost a buck or two extra to install, and since it wasn't of primary benefit for the average-sized guy, it was deemed as something that could be eliminated under the guise of "cost-savings" (or profit maximization).
posted by sardonyx at 8:09 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty common feature on modern cars. They can't make it too low though because if the belt is too low for a tall person it can compressor their spine. It may also have been depreciated in some models in order to allow side curtain airbag installation.
posted by Mitheral at 8:53 PM on February 25


Cool cool so the fact that it will crush my windpipe in a crash because I can’t adjust it far enough down to work for me is more important than a tall person not reading the safety instructions about how to properly adjust it.

I am an anxious person and I make sure to adjust my seatbelt properly over my hips and try to do whatever I can to keep it from sliding from the center of my chest up towards my neck. Not being able to do this means that often I opt not to drive long distances because I can’t feel safe in the car. I’m really sick of these things being hand waved away like “yeah but if we made it safe for more people it just wouldn’t be convienent” or treating this like a fun thought experiment on how seatbelts might work better and then shooting it down because it’s not likely to happen.

These issues around safety equipment means that women will die horrible deaths because of design that ignored our needs and is broader than like, an issue of whether your back hurts when you iron clothes. I hope that’s something that anyone commenting is senstitive to.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 9:53 PM on February 25 [6 favorites]


Mitheral, I realized my comment seems like a direct response to you, it was actually just exasperation with the world at large! Sorry for not editing it to be more clear before hitting post.

I’m suffering from post IUD-insertion right now and the waves of cramps are causing me to be really ragey. I got it put in to help treat endometrial hyperplasia and the number of “we don’t know” answers I got from my (awesome) doctor today just brings this “hey the world at large doesn’t care about women’s bodies so we’ve never tested for X, Y, or Z” problem into sharp focus. Or fuzzy focus because that’s how the pain is making me feel right now.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 9:58 PM on February 25


My co-worker noted the iPhone SE is still somewhat available from Apple, at least, the Verizon and T-Mobile versions; the latter should work with AT&T.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:11 PM on February 25


I can't believe Apple haven't noticed the continuing popularity of the SE and given some thought to why that might be, so I live in hope they'll roll out the longed-for SE 2 at some point before mine gives up the ghost.

On occupational hazards, I hadn't been aware of the issues she raises in relation to nail salons, but that combination of poor protections plus the risks themselves being less visible because it's women's work and therefore not work work. I used to work in residential care, which at the time had one of the highest rates of back injury by profession. Partly an inevitable consequence of the nature of the job - you're lifting and manoeuvring other human beings, even with all the most up-to-date hoists and assistive equipment in the world there's a risk there. But also partly because in a lot of workplaces the risk wasn't taken at all seriously, equipment like hoists were expensive and therefore avoided, and the staff turnover rate was so high that employers often didn't bother with useful training in the first place.

I worked in one nursing home that didn't have hoists at all, and handled its responsibility to patients and employees by saying "don't lift people if you haven't had the training." But only maybe 10% of the staff had had the relevant training, so the rest of us had to lift people if we wanted to keep our jobs. Which was fully known about by the management, of course. I worked in another where 'lifting and handling training' consisted of one 2-hour course that covered instructions for lifting boxes - bend from the knee! hold close to the body, not far away! - that didn't translate to lifting a heavy, frail patient with advanced dementia. The only advice we got on that was a list of holds not to use, because they came with a risk of injury to us or the patients. One of my colleagues asked "so what holds are we supposed to use, then?" and was told, I kid you not, that the trainers didn't like to suggest any holds as okay in these presentations because then the handouts saying so might get kept around in the future once those holds were found to be dangerous.

So. Back injuries it was.

Meanwhile, my brother was working in a factory with heavy machinery. They (thankfully) recognised the risks their employees faced and took safety seriously. But then, even people who knew nothing about his industry could recognise that the work he was doing was hard and manual with a risk of injury; the work I was doing got questions like, "so what is it you do, do you sit around playing dominos with the old people?", or serious suggestions like "but maybe it's okay that it's minimum-wage because if it was well-paid you'd get people doing it for the money who didn't really care." Injuries? Not even on the radar.
posted by Catseye at 3:51 AM on February 26 [9 favorites]


I'm another one hoping for an SE2. I'd accept it being a bit thicker or not as fancy as other models in exchange for actually being able to use it. I need the better security and privacy on iOS, and I have small hands.

I reckon those stick-on holders got popular about the same time as the phones got too big for the average woman's hand. I wonder if this sizing issue has an effect on the iPhone's market share across Asia too.
posted by harriet vane at 5:09 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Yep, another SE2 hopeful here. I rushed out and bought an SE as soon as they announced that they were discontinuing them, instead of continuing to nurse my 5S along for as long as I'd intended - as did a lot of other people, judging by how quickly everywhere seemed to sell out.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:01 AM on February 26


I do have a good and modern Android phone that fits my small (albeit male) hands. It's the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact, with a 4.6" screen (which is low resolution, but still looks great), and still a very good camera and reliable and high speed with proper battery life. There's a slightly newer (released 2018, not 2017) version, the XZ2 Compact, which is possibly easier to hold (curved back, as opposed to the XZ1's flat top and bottom and front and rear with rounded edges along the left and right), and with a full HD screen, which also fits.

They're both definitely worth checking if you are looking for a holdable phone that's modern.
posted by ambrosen at 6:04 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


A number of the stick on holders interfere with car phone mounts and wireless chargers. I used some ribbon and heavy duty sticking tape to modify my case with a strap.
posted by tilde at 7:31 AM on February 26


Is anyone else really sick of having to use footrests with office desks?

I found footrests to be enlightening—you mean, I don’t have to sit with my feet perched on the rolling bars of the chair?

I got elected to my local borough assembly (like city council) this fall, and the meetings can sometimes go for 6 hours. I got them to find me a footrest and a smaller chair for when I’m sitting at the dais (although I think I’m sharing the chair with someone else in the building, as the clerks have to go find it regularly). I was a little embarrassed, but I had really bad back/shoulder pain after the first meeting in the regular-sized chairs. The only problem is that i can’t scoot the rolly chair in as much as I’d prefer because it hits the footstool.

Who knows what the other commissioners etc. think about my short-lady setup.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:51 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Ha ha.

look at all the tiny people complaining about things. The tiny people who can fit in regular beds, and buy regular clothes. People who can drive the discount rental car, and fly coach.

I was in the hospital for 5 weeks with a broken knee because my car wasn't designed to protect tall peoples legs in a crash. The airbag and seatbelt protected my face though!!
posted by Megafly at 4:13 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I mean, I get that it's hard to be an outlier. (And if you're really 6'9", as you said in one of your questions, then you're really an outlier. According to this thing, you are taller than 99.997% of American men. In terms of outlier-ness, you are roughly equivalent to a woman who is 4'5", which is ten inches shorter than I am.) We should do better at figuring out how to make things work for outliers. But, as I said above, I am not an outlier. I am an average-height woman. I am treated like an outlier, despite being typical, because the category to which I belong, which encompasses roughly half the population, is not considered important. Half the population is disregarded when we decide what the norm is. And that's kind of a different proposition.

So I want to repeat this, because it seems to be hard for some people to grasp. Men who are outliers are treated like outliers, which often stinks and is unfair. But women who are typical are treated like outliers, because women as a category are not valued, and therefore the definitions of normal and typical do not take women into account. And that idea, that women are not normal and neutral, hurts all women, even women who are outliers in ways that make them fit into car seats or able to wear protective gear or whatever.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:30 PM on February 26 [37 favorites]


Days later, facts from this article still haunt me. The standard crash dummy is not designed to be a 50th-percentile person: it is designed to be a 50th-percentile man. We've literally not even been factored into the equation.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:21 AM on February 27 [8 favorites]


What the fuck. We can hope that safety equipment protects tall people like you, Megafly, but that doesn't mean that this is just us "tiny people" are "complaining about things." The dismissiveness in that comment is frankly bullshit.

It sucks that people of all shapes and sizes aren't accounted for when it comes to safety equipment or other everyday items that cause detrimental health. We should do better for everyone, and one is not more important than the other. But you missed the entire point of the article which is that we don't even know the untold number of women or people in smaller framed bodies who die because medicines aren't tested on women, safety equipment isn't made with us in mind, etc.

We're not just little ladies sitting around bitching and moaning while the real problem is that we haven't considered tall people either. We're all actually on the same side as you.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 9:57 AM on February 27 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sorry that extreme outliers also have difficulties, but dismissing us all as "tiny people complaining about things" is really obtuse.

Like many who posted above, it took me a while to realize I'm not actually short, since my environment has been telling me I am for my whole life. I'm 5'5", which is taller than the average adult woman in the US. But I am still only comfortable in my standard-issue desk chair at work when it's lowered all the way down. The arm rests don't adjust far enough down for my torso. My car's steering wheel doesn't extend far enough out for me to sit back in my seat comfortably, and I've driven other cars where I can't tilt the rearview mirror far enough down to get a good viewing angle. It didn't even occur to me at all that some people don't have seatbelts constantly riding up to their necks, or that those large portfolios for architects can actually fit people's arms, since they're always too big for me to hold comfortably. I can't even count how many times I've dropped my phone because it's just a little too big to do everything I want to do one-handed. There are countless little ways my day has just a little more friction, and I didn't even realize that it doesn't have to be that way.

And I'm actually bigger than the average American woman, dammit.

Thank you also to Gymnopedist for the gentle reminder about trans folks and those who don't otherwise fit the gender binary. I'll try to stay mindful of that.
posted by j.r at 10:40 AM on February 27 [6 favorites]


I just read the book Doing Harm, about how the medical system specifically undervalues women in a lot of ways I knew about and a lot of ways I didn't, and it's probably a good, maddening parallel while we wait for this book to be released.
posted by jeather at 11:41 AM on February 27


Hey I don't have anything new to contribute personally, but I do want to drop in these links to Julia Child's countertops (tall) and Laura Ingalls Wilder's countertops (short).
posted by bq at 11:46 AM on February 27


> There is one set of items designed for women: cleaning materials like brooms and ironing boards.

Also strollers. At 5' 10" -- the average height of an American man -- I had to buy handle extenders to make my toddler's stroller usable.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:27 PM on February 27


Thanks for posting this, j.r. I'm 5'5" (and have always felt short), with a short torso, and I've had IKEA 29"-tall desks at home for the last decade. (There's a wide, deep, glass-topped built-in desk in my current digs... for working on jigsaw puzzles, or folding laundry, as it is 31" tall.)

Still raising the desk chair, still using a bolster and a footrest, of course.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:52 PM on February 28


So, regarding those seatbelts being on our necks.

Here is an article showing probably NSFW photos of people who survived car crashes. [Warning: these are images of people with fresh seatbelt rashes and facial injuries, so if you don't like that stuff, don't look.] They are all men with major seatbelt injuries, which presumably prevented much worse injuries.

I am imagining that kind of injury across my throat, and AHHHHHHHHHHH
posted by Emmy Rae at 1:34 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Well I picked up and read the book -- really nicely written -- and I definitely recommend it. There wasn't much more to the Viagra story than was on this thread, but overall it was fascinating and also exhausting.
posted by jeather at 2:38 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


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