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Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men

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It all starts with a rolling suitcase. Though the wheel was invented some five thousand years ago, and the suitcase in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that someone successfully married the two. What was the hold up? For writer and journalist Katrine Marçal, the answer is both shocking and simple: because “real men” carried their bags, no matter how heavy. It all starts with a rolling suitcase. Though the wheel was invented some five thousand years ago, and the suitcase in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that someone successfully married the two. What was the hold up? For writer and journalist Katrine Marçal, the answer is both shocking and simple: because “real men” carried their bags, no matter how heavy.   Mother of Invention is a fascinating and eye-opening examination of business, technology, and innovation through a feminist lens. Because it wasn’t just the suitcase. Drawing on examples from electric cars to bra seamstresses to tech billionaires, Marçal shows how gender bias stifles the economy and holds us back, delaying innovations, sometimes by hundreds of years, and distorting our understanding of our history. While we talk about the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, we might as well talk about the “Ceramic Age” or the “Flax Age,” since these technologies were just as important. But inventions associated with women are not considered to be technology in the same way.


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It all starts with a rolling suitcase. Though the wheel was invented some five thousand years ago, and the suitcase in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that someone successfully married the two. What was the hold up? For writer and journalist Katrine Marçal, the answer is both shocking and simple: because “real men” carried their bags, no matter how heavy. It all starts with a rolling suitcase. Though the wheel was invented some five thousand years ago, and the suitcase in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that someone successfully married the two. What was the hold up? For writer and journalist Katrine Marçal, the answer is both shocking and simple: because “real men” carried their bags, no matter how heavy.   Mother of Invention is a fascinating and eye-opening examination of business, technology, and innovation through a feminist lens. Because it wasn’t just the suitcase. Drawing on examples from electric cars to bra seamstresses to tech billionaires, Marçal shows how gender bias stifles the economy and holds us back, delaying innovations, sometimes by hundreds of years, and distorting our understanding of our history. While we talk about the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, we might as well talk about the “Ceramic Age” or the “Flax Age,” since these technologies were just as important. But inventions associated with women are not considered to be technology in the same way.

30 review for Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lilli

    Swedish financial journalist and author Katrine Marçal writes about the intersectionality of gender and economics in Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men, and she does so in a way that makes the eye-opening content within not only revelatory but also fun and fascinating. From the idea to attach wheels to luggage to electric cars to the modern walker, many inventions and ideas have been held back by gendered perceptions of their utility. Masculinity has ofte Swedish financial journalist and author Katrine Marçal writes about the intersectionality of gender and economics in Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men, and she does so in a way that makes the eye-opening content within not only revelatory but also fun and fascinating. From the idea to attach wheels to luggage to electric cars to the modern walker, many inventions and ideas have been held back by gendered perceptions of their utility. Masculinity has oftentimes trumped innovation; I had no idea until reading this book that the history of electric cars goes back as far as the history of the gas-guzzling cars we are more familiar with today, but their evolution was halted by the perception that electric cars were meant for women, and to be a man seen driving one was to be less than a man. How weird is that? Gender roles are so cemented in our psychology that people couldn't even be objective enough to realize how preposterous this is. It's hard not to wonder what the climate crisis might look like today if electric cars had been received by society in the same way as gas-fueled cars and had similar opportunities for advancement. Gender bias has for millennia stood in the way of innovation. When society deems one half of the population as inferior and therefore not worth listening to nor catering products and new concepts toward, it is only natural that a plethora of potentially world-changing ideas go untapped. As Marçal herself notes, innovation merely requires the right person to be in the right place at the right time. But how many times was the right person considered the wrong one simply because of their gender identity? After spending the first half of the book recounting examples in history of times that an invention or significant innovation was overlooked because it was designed by or for women, Marçal switches gears and launches into a more academic consideration of women's role in the international economy. She notes how financial institutions worldwide were never constructed with women in mind, and therefore, women hold much less venture capital than men. It is far more difficult for a woman to own land, get a business loan, or have her contributions taken seriously, in part because of the fields and skills that women tend to dominate over men. Those skills, demeaningly referred to as "soft" skills, are going to become increasingly invaluable as jobs shift towards automation; AI and robotics are not yet at the point where their fine motor skills or soft skills are developed enough to overtake certain sectors such as childcare, hospitality, human resources, etc. That's not to say they might not get there eventually, but as of right now, futurists that highlight the doom and gloom of losing our jobs to automation are overlooking jobs that are primarily held by women. As with the first machine age, the second machine age will extinguish old industries, but it will also bring about new ones. Who will adapt? I didn't necessarily need this book to know that the contributions women have made to society have always been overlooked, but it provided so much new context to bolster that argument. Katrine Marçal swiftly became a favorite feminist author, with her command of her theses and her ability to walk the line between entertaining and informative. I learned a ton reading this book and I had a lot of fun along the way, and even though the content and reality of it can be frustrating and disheartening, I somehow came away from this book with hope, because there are so many bright and amazing women in the world just like this author. I trust that we will be the ones to bring so many solutions to the table regarding climate crises, automation, and other looming threats to the advancement of society. I would love to take a class taught by this women or one in which this book and topics are discussed. Highly recommended to any feminists/egalitarians out there who have an interest in sociology, economics, or the future. Fans of Melinda Gates or Yuval Noah Harari's writing in particular should enjoy this one!

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    When I reviewed Katrine Marçal’s first book Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner, I was most pleased with her directness, her mastery of her theses and her comfort in landing punches. I very much looked forward to her next book. Four years later, I am not only not disappointed, but delighted to have her take me down another path to make basically the same points and more. She is adding great depth to feminist positions. Mother of Invention bemoans the all but total lack of respect for women as valid co When I reviewed Katrine Marçal’s first book Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner, I was most pleased with her directness, her mastery of her theses and her comfort in landing punches. I very much looked forward to her next book. Four years later, I am not only not disappointed, but delighted to have her take me down another path to make basically the same points and more. She is adding great depth to feminist positions. Mother of Invention bemoans the all but total lack of respect for women as valid contributors to the economy. Only 3% of venture capital funds go to women. Women are relegated to so-called women’s work, which is paid far cheaper than men’s work. Their inventive and innovative skills are dismissed out of hand. Far worse than merely insulting, it means that humanity misses out on all kinds of leaps forward because only half the populations gets to contribute to growth. The book begins with several intriguing stories to show just how much we might be missing. Karl Benz’s wife Bertha took the first Benz car on the world’s first long distance trip in 1888. She didn’t tell her husband, but took the kids to visit their grandmother, 56 miles away. With no highways and a car capable of going 10 miles per hour, it took 15 hours to get there. There not being telephones in common use yet, she had no idea her mother was away herself, so they turned around and went home. But along the way, she had to deal with a clogged fuel line, which she cleared with her hatpin, running out of fuel, which she remedied by buying a jar of a chemical mix from a store, using a garter to insulate an ignition wire, and asking a shoemaker to make leather covers for the brakes, which had never experienced such work as going down hills. Not only could she drive, but she knew the car inside out. Bertha Benz had invested her whole dowry in her husband’s wild automobile dream, and then persuaded her parents to advance her some of her inheritance. The .75 horsepower, three-wheeler worked, and Mercedes-Benz soon became the biggest automobile brand in the world, thanks in no small part to Bertha Benz. Marçal also spends a lot of time on electric cars, which are now coming back into use. The first versions were relegated to women, because she says, they did not: make the exciting automobile noises, require the strength to crank them into running, or break down and need manly attention to get them going again. Electric cars came with plush seats and glass vases. And roofs, which gasoline and diesel cars only adapted later on. And it’s because of women that we have electric starters on gas cars, after a man tried to help a woman start her car, only to have the crank fly off and hit him in the face. He died of gangrene not long after. Another story tells how women were finally able to fly alone thanks to the addition of wheels to luggage. The invention of the wheel itself apparently was no eureka moment, but a 5000 year tale of incremental steps –ending with wheels on luggage. The rollator, the wire basket on wheels used by the elderly and disabled to help carry stuff and also to rest on, was invented by a Swedish woman suffering from polio. She couldn’t make herself into the aggressive CEO her invention needed to succeed, and ended up selling it to a local manufacturer for a pittance. There’s a wonderful story about an army of master seamstresses sewing together the 4000 pieces of early astronauts’ spacesuits, and all the trouble NASA had with them because they weren’t engineers or bureaucrats. They did not fill out the forms, report the progress or prove the spaceworthiness of their work. But there was no question they had the best design, the best materials and the best workmanship of all the firms wanting the contract. Their company was Playtex, which had women front and center from the beginning. The biggest reason they had the jump on everyone else was latex. Decades earlier, latex began to appear in women’s corsets and bras, giving them flexibility they had never known before. This same flexibility was key to astronauts being able to bend and maneuver, and differentiated the company’s bid for spacesuits from all the others. The fact that a bra maker beat out all the macho engineering firms was not a proud moment, apparently, because women’s underwear was hardly manly space-age stuff. Marçal puts it in her terms: “ILC (International Latex Corporation) understood that the bra was a piece of engineering, just as they understood that their latex patent could allow astronauts to move on other celestial bodies—in addition to streamlining a woman’s waist. They understood that sewing was a technology, and that soft things can perform hard functions. “Above all, they managed to build an organization that reflected this. “And that is why they could innovate. And that’s what took us to the moon.” There’s also the story of Paulette Grégoire, who took Teflon and used it in a pan - in 1954. The company her husband built out of that concept was and is called Tefal. The point is, given the chance, women have contributed mightily. Imagine if they were treated as equals. From these stories, Marçal eases into inequality and all its ugly aspects. Her command of this feminist realm is total and comfortable. She can be sarcastic and damning, or firm-minded and evenhanded, as required. It is a pleasure to read her confident and self-assured take on everything: “In 2019, just over one percent of Swedish venture capital was invested into companies founded by women. The choice of the word ‘skewed’ here is in itself interesting: We’re talking about money in more than ninety-eight percent of cases going to men. But fine, let’s call it ‘skewed.’” And “The problem isn’t that the men have snatched all the high-paid jobs: The problem is that certain jobs are high paid because they are filled by men.” She then presents her analysis of how women got to be paid so much less than men. Women’s work was considered having to do with the body, which required no salable skills, as everyone could and did do it. So cleaning, childcare, elder care, housework and salons were cheap women’s work. “The body reminds us of all those things we find uncomfortable: our vulnerability and our reliance on others. The very things that we have been taught to see as ‘female.’ After all, this is what the patriarchy has always been about—taking the parts of the human experience that scare us, labeling them as female, and marginalizing them,” she says. Art was produced by men; women made craftwork. Wizards were employed by kings. Witches were burned at the stake. Men’s work required education, experience and skills that women’s work did not. Employers took terrific advantage of this attitude by breaking jobs down to tiny increments and underpaying women to perform them. This is the system the world still operates under today. “Human exploitation isn’t anything particularly new. It’s basically the oldest business model in the world,” she says. Worse perhaps, is the whaling model she says rules capital. In the 1800s, when whale oil ran everything that was important to commerce, whaling expeditions were risky, dangerous and a terrible gamble. Innovative capitalists invented a new way to fund them. They packaged multiple whaling expeditions, figuring if just one out three made it back with a shipload of blubber, the profits would be more than enough to compensate for the total loss on the others (Marçal takes readers on a typical expedition to show how it all came together – and fell apart). This model has come down to us as venture capital, enabling billions to be made by a few hundred people in the world, who understand they will lose on most of their investments, but score so highly on one or two it doesn’t matter about the rest. This kind of aggressive investment also requires the recipients to be world-beating, aggressive, single-minded and fearless themselves. No holds barred, go for the monopoly ahead of all else, and never be afraid of offending. To Marçal, this is all but a pure prescription for males, or what we have driven them to be, and the numbers have shown it all along. Only women who can prove more manly than men need apply. I particularly liked her analysis of where “innovation” is taking us now. Marçal says we are not employing innovation to make things better for humans; we are forcing humans to adapt to innovation. She says 9-5 weekdays is not a natural or even beneficial state of affairs. Work should be adapted to the desires and requirements of humans. The book was written before the lockdowns eased, but we can see the same thoughts expressed by what amounts to a general strike by low-pay workers. They are refusing to go back to work under the pre-pandemic rates and conditions. US President Joe Biden has his own solution: “Pay them more,” but it clearly goes far deeper than that. Marçal’s take is more detailed: people want freedom from exploitation, like they see in the ultra-rich. They want respect for their lives. Keep your nights and weekends, one half of minimum wage waiter’s job. No thanks. She sees the new economy dividing into new segments: the ultra-rich, the people who service them, and the rest. And it’s so-called women’s work that will succeed. It’s the life coaches, caregivers, social workers and yoga instructors who will continue to be gainfully employed in the post pandemic, AI era. The truck drivers, machinists, warehouse workers and delivery guys are the ones at risk. How will men handle this reversal? She spends a great deal of time on Friedrich Engels and his discovery of exactly the same situation in mid 1800s, during the first industrial revolution. Brand new factory jobs went to lower-paid women, and skilled men fell into unemployment. From that, men learned to take over, become far more aggressive and ruthless in business, and push women back into running the home and family. It was good for 150 years, but now artificial intelligence, robotics and automation are again putting men out of work. Or, as Marçal puts it, “Serena Williams beats Gary Kasparov.” The evidence she presents shows we have always favored new tech. It colors our language and approaches differently from era to era, whether it’s in religion or business or relationships. We now speak of our brains as computers, needing to reboot and so on. We used to speak in farming terms, then in factory terms, and for the moment, high tech.) And that’s wrong, she says. We need to build an economy based on what is real – women giving birth not just to future generations, but to all the new developments we achieve along the way. “We aren’t used to appreciating how important feelings, relationships, empathy, and human contact are to the economy. Or how central these things are to humanity as a whole. We are used to thinking of them as some sort of cherry on top—the frills that everything else may eventually lead to, as opposed to perhaps the most fundamental social infrastructure of all. Which is precisely what it is. This is what the robots may come to show us, and with this the new technology actually has the potential to make us more human, not less. “ The book, as you can see, is both varied and focused, entertaining and profound. All kinds of great stories are available to make Marçal’s feminist points. She’s not angry or embittered; she seeks to make her stances irrefutable and her outlook positive. This is a different kind of feminist writing, one that earns the reader’s respect and then even gratitude. Because the way she puts things, it’s a terrible loss to all of humanity that women don’t count. David Wineberg

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paulina Parzych

    Informative but too emotional. I could feel The author’s frustration over men which makes me think of her as an unstable emotionally

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah McCook-Weir

    Wow Marçal has taught me so much about how gender affects the economy that I’d never even thought about before. Great examples used throughout and I really liked the structure of this book and how each section builds on what came before to build a picture of where we’re at in the world right now.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Interesting study on how inventions that benefited women were not picked up, until they become something that capitalism to make a profit from. The example on the cover, that of suitcases with wheels, was largely ignored as a product, even though many women had jerryrigged their suitcases, so they could roll. The same thing with the walker, for the elderly, that came with a seat. It was invented by a woman who needed that feature in order to be able to get around. But this too was largely ignored Interesting study on how inventions that benefited women were not picked up, until they become something that capitalism to make a profit from. The example on the cover, that of suitcases with wheels, was largely ignored as a product, even though many women had jerryrigged their suitcases, so they could roll. The same thing with the walker, for the elderly, that came with a seat. It was invented by a woman who needed that feature in order to be able to get around. But this too was largely ignored, until there were people who needed it more. Frustrating reading of all the inventions that got stolen from female inventors, or were made later, once the men could find a way to make a huge profit from them. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sivvy

    I’ve long pondered why it was that, as a species, we put humans on the moon before we realised that suitcases with wheels would be a good idea. Turns out the latter existed back then but were deemed “too feminine” to be worth investing in . . . and so it begins. Marcal’s book is a fascinating review of how the undervaluing of all things female impacts our technological progress and damages us all. It seems to drift a little towards the end and could perhaps have benefitted from some more specifi I’ve long pondered why it was that, as a species, we put humans on the moon before we realised that suitcases with wheels would be a good idea. Turns out the latter existed back then but were deemed “too feminine” to be worth investing in . . . and so it begins. Marcal’s book is a fascinating review of how the undervaluing of all things female impacts our technological progress and damages us all. It seems to drift a little towards the end and could perhaps have benefitted from some more specific examples, but still an interesting, if depressing, read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Wilkinson-McKay

    This was the perfect follow up to Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner. It was far more detailed and in-depth and described how the “feminine” has been devalued and therefore any innovation concerned with “soft” values, such as love, caring, homemaking etc has been thought of as lesser than those concerned with tough technology such as cars, planes and computers. However, this is not a “men-bashing” tome. Katrine explains that anything that makes women’s lives easier also makes men’s lives easier. The This was the perfect follow up to Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner. It was far more detailed and in-depth and described how the “feminine” has been devalued and therefore any innovation concerned with “soft” values, such as love, caring, homemaking etc has been thought of as lesser than those concerned with tough technology such as cars, planes and computers. However, this is not a “men-bashing” tome. Katrine explains that anything that makes women’s lives easier also makes men’s lives easier. There is a superb chapter comparing Garry Kasparov and Serena Williams, and another explaining the gig economy which was very informative. Great book. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Thank you to the publisher and Goodreads for providing me with a copy of this book. 3 out of 5 Stars This is a book with a lot of history I would imagine many people have not been aware of. For example, electric cars date back to early automotive history but had been branded as "feminine" so they did not take off like gasoline powered vehicles did. The first part of the book really gets into the idea of how different materials became associated with "male" or "female," gender stereotypes shaping Thank you to the publisher and Goodreads for providing me with a copy of this book. 3 out of 5 Stars This is a book with a lot of history I would imagine many people have not been aware of. For example, electric cars date back to early automotive history but had been branded as "feminine" so they did not take off like gasoline powered vehicles did. The first part of the book really gets into the idea of how different materials became associated with "male" or "female," gender stereotypes shaping what gets invented (or not), and how women's inventions may not receive proper credit or recognition. I thought this was where the book was strongest. As the book went on, though, the writing felt far less organized to me. The last chapter in particular felt more like a rambling opinion piece on the part of the author on climate change.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Pretty good one, draws really interesting connections from diverse fields to show how factoring out gender from our understanding of the world is a bit of a bummer for good decisions. I loved how it drew connections to care work, NASA, the pandemic, and witch hunts in different chapters to put across its point. It missed out on the last star for me, though, because sometimes it felt a bit all over the place within individual chapters. Feels like the lighter, easier to read, spiritual successor t Pretty good one, draws really interesting connections from diverse fields to show how factoring out gender from our understanding of the world is a bit of a bummer for good decisions. I loved how it drew connections to care work, NASA, the pandemic, and witch hunts in different chapters to put across its point. It missed out on the last star for me, though, because sometimes it felt a bit all over the place within individual chapters. Feels like the lighter, easier to read, spiritual successor to Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez, maybe?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris Aylott

    A thoughtful exploration of the many ways gender perceptions can influence innovation -- or more accurately, how they can create impediments to innovation. The historical material is excellent, full of intriguing stories and might-have-beens about the history of cars, spacesuits, and the kinds of artifacts that get preserved in the archeological record. At the same time, Marçal's perception of the possibilities of present and future seem a bit Pollyannaish. With great Swedish reasonability, she A thoughtful exploration of the many ways gender perceptions can influence innovation -- or more accurately, how they can create impediments to innovation. The historical material is excellent, full of intriguing stories and might-have-beens about the history of cars, spacesuits, and the kinds of artifacts that get preserved in the archeological record. At the same time, Marçal's perception of the possibilities of present and future seem a bit Pollyannaish. With great Swedish reasonability, she seems to assume that now that we can articulate the negative effects of sexism and late stage capitalism, we will of course take steps to address the problem. That seems to be soft-pedaling a darker truth: that these social blinders serve the interests of those in power, and those in power will do anything to keep it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Janet Hutchinson

    An analysis of how soft and caring in society is seen as lesser than, in the economy, in inventions and in life. Women held the majority of early tech jobs, as the jobs were seen as not important, until they were. And who holds the majority now? Her perspective on what will happen as technology takes over those roles that are deemed masculine is especially interesting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mayar El Mahdy

    I'm a simple woman. I see a feminist book with a cool angle, and I'm in. This book is so interesting, and the fact that I've never thought about its main topic is super surprising. I'm a simple woman. I see a feminist book with a cool angle, and I'm in. This book is so interesting, and the fact that I've never thought about its main topic is super surprising.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Emmett

    I was keen to read this book as I thought the subject would be very interesting - as it probably is, but I gave up barely a third of the way through mainly because I dislike the writing style. It is more like a book written for older children than one tackling a serious adult issue. Secondly, I thought that her arguments were unconvincing. Is it really true that men would rather be macho and carry suitcases that have wheels on them? Isn't it more likely that it was only in the latter half of the I was keen to read this book as I thought the subject would be very interesting - as it probably is, but I gave up barely a third of the way through mainly because I dislike the writing style. It is more like a book written for older children than one tackling a serious adult issue. Secondly, I thought that her arguments were unconvincing. Is it really true that men would rather be macho and carry suitcases that have wheels on them? Isn't it more likely that it was only in the latter half of the twentieth century that suitably strong yet lightweight materials were developed to enable wheels to be attached to suitcases? Is it really true that men gave up on electric cars because they were seen as feminine? Or is it that petrol cars could (and let's face it, still can) be produced more cheaply and run much more conveniently? Of course there are serious issues involving women and technology, but I don't think this book is the one to address them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    Thanks to NetGalley and Abrams Press for providing an ARC!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nitish

    I came across this book by accident. I just read a few sentences which someone had put up on the internet on some random website. I just googled around just to check where that paragraph came from, and then found out about this book. The title immediately drew my attention. The reason I picked it up is because I had thought not to go for a fiction. So considering that this was the only non-fiction book I had with me immediately I started reading. The book is about how male dominate the entire worl I came across this book by accident. I just read a few sentences which someone had put up on the internet on some random website. I just googled around just to check where that paragraph came from, and then found out about this book. The title immediately drew my attention. The reason I picked it up is because I had thought not to go for a fiction. So considering that this was the only non-fiction book I had with me immediately I started reading. The book is about how male dominate the entire world and women are most of the times ignored, neglected, not acknowledged, or not thanked enough. Emphasis on the subject is very strong. Good amount of background research has been put in to write this book. The writer tries to sell us the idea and justifies all along with narrative examples. Lots of examples from history, which are narrated in the form of stories, just so that the reader doesn't get bored. Although I liked the idea of this writing style, I feel sometimes the style in itself was a bit repetitive throughout the book. Also, sometimes there was a strong undercurrent of sarcasm while trying to prove her point. Overall, I feel its well written. But considering the fact that the writer is already in the business while writing for daily newspaper or so, I felt it could have been better. Had it been her first book, I could have even given a pat on the back. Good job for what it is, is all I can say.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Wow. I'm so happy I found and read this book! I had heard of it, what decided me was an article written by the author in the Guardian where she wrote about the invention of the wheeled suitcase. I was travelling to a book fair for a weekend with a friend while I was reading it, and I kept debriefing my friend after each chapter, so engrossed was I by this book. It's not only on invention but, more broadly, on the place of women in the economy. It opened to me many new fields of thinking like grea Wow. I'm so happy I found and read this book! I had heard of it, what decided me was an article written by the author in the Guardian where she wrote about the invention of the wheeled suitcase. I was travelling to a book fair for a weekend with a friend while I was reading it, and I kept debriefing my friend after each chapter, so engrossed was I by this book. It's not only on invention but, more broadly, on the place of women in the economy. It opened to me many new fields of thinking like great books do. There are the examples of inventions that were shunned because they were labelled "for women" (it's frustrating to think how our current world facing a climate-crisis could have been different, had electrical cars, which have actually been invented a century ago, not been deemed "for women" thus quietly shelved...). There is the problem of jobs being devalued and underpaid because being deemed "feminine", and sometimes the very segmentation of work made to devalue women's competence (the example of the doctors vs midwife is striking). There is the issue of women (and, more broadly, disabled people, people of color...) not getting access to credit, therefore not being able to fund their companies / innovation. And how all that is setting us all back collectively, as a society. A very powerful read that I cannot recommend warmly enough.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Harold Martinez

    I really enjoyed the book but I fail to see the reasoning behind the title. I find this a bit sexist because when writers break out by saying an idea or the economy is built for men.... I find it hard to believe. Women or females make or break the economy. They rule the households with a tight rein. If something is missing on a shelf or isnt present, they are usually the ones to point it out. As for dissention, like the saying goes, If mama aint happy, then no ones happy. Happy wife, happy life. I really enjoyed the book but I fail to see the reasoning behind the title. I find this a bit sexist because when writers break out by saying an idea or the economy is built for men.... I find it hard to believe. Women or females make or break the economy. They rule the households with a tight rein. If something is missing on a shelf or isnt present, they are usually the ones to point it out. As for dissention, like the saying goes, If mama aint happy, then no ones happy. Happy wife, happy life. The importance of women should be looked at and written about. Men can accept anything for what it is... the suitcase we carry. Woman would never have carried a suitcase. She would have expected a man to carry it. Women are capable and strong. Women have this need to change things in their lives. Their husbands, their cars, music, appliances furniture... So if you really think about things, Women and their good ideas are never ignored by men. They are ignored by other women who don't like the style, design, look or feel. Men put up with things until they find other things better then they switch. in ending, the book was great but it brought out this fighter in me saying that women build their own economies and ideas. Men just sit back and watch.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charul Sampath

    Well, this book started out really well and kept my attention. Lots of facts from history that I had no knowledge of. The entire book is trying to build a story, based on the facts presented, around how good ideas are ignored if they are considered feminine. While there may be many different stories woven around why historical events happened as they did, the author here presents a gender-based view. And that's fine for the most part because if it is argued well, one can at least accept that the Well, this book started out really well and kept my attention. Lots of facts from history that I had no knowledge of. The entire book is trying to build a story, based on the facts presented, around how good ideas are ignored if they are considered feminine. While there may be many different stories woven around why historical events happened as they did, the author here presents a gender-based view. And that's fine for the most part because if it is argued well, one can at least accept that the story presented could at least be one of the many possible scenarios that played out. However, a little bit over halfway through the book, the arguments get weaker and weaker until they totally fall apart. The section on "body" starts with something about how the pandemic could've been avoided if there was more gender balance in society (I think - I'm really not sure I understood what was meant to be conveyed). It seems like the pandemic has been mentioned in the book just for some sensationalism perhaps. Anyway, at this point and forward, it's quite difficult to get through the book. It ends up being a rant rather than a well-argued point of view.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The central premise of this book seems to be that innovation and invention get hijacked/twisted/coloured by what works for men. It took a long time for wheels to put onto suitcases because men could carry them, and women never travelled alone, so the man carried them. When cars were first developed, there were electric and petrol cars. But somehow petrol cars were seen as manly, so that is the direction cars went in. Marcal has assembled some interesting innovations to discuss how bias against wo The central premise of this book seems to be that innovation and invention get hijacked/twisted/coloured by what works for men. It took a long time for wheels to put onto suitcases because men could carry them, and women never travelled alone, so the man carried them. When cars were first developed, there were electric and petrol cars. But somehow petrol cars were seen as manly, so that is the direction cars went in. Marcal has assembled some interesting innovations to discuss how bias against women has meant some female inventors haven't gotten credit, and why female needs aren't considered important. But to be perfectly honest, I can't remember much about this book to write a review, and I finished it 3 weeks ago. I found it a bit dry; the chapter headings were funny, but I got a bit bogged down in the theory and analysis that was taking place. I think sadly, this is more about my frame of mind than the author (and translator's) ability to write. However it is certainly well researched, and full of references.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This was won in a Goodreads giveaway. I really like this book about how relegating women as second-class citizens in a man's world held back development and implementation of some really useful inventions. How electric cars were geared toward women who didn't want to go through what one had to do to start a car in the early days of the "horseless carriage." Thus, electric cars were labeled as "feminine" and since men didn't want to be classified as being too "feminine," there ended up not being This was won in a Goodreads giveaway. I really like this book about how relegating women as second-class citizens in a man's world held back development and implementation of some really useful inventions. How electric cars were geared toward women who didn't want to go through what one had to do to start a car in the early days of the "horseless carriage." Thus, electric cars were labeled as "feminine" and since men didn't want to be classified as being too "feminine," there ended up not being a market for them, and so, in the early days when there WERE electric cars, the development of gas cars won out. If men would have treated women equally, it would have been a better world. Unfortunately, thousands of years later, most women are thought of as inferior, as women still don't get equal pay for equal work. Very interesting, and well-written. Of course, there were some errors in capitalization, and some others, but this was an uncorrected proof, so it was expected. I highly recommend this, because I like history, and I am a feminist.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aubrie

    I listened to this as an audiobook. Content warnings: can't think of any. This review is going to be short. Overall, it's about how a lot of inventions often weren't relevant if it was a convenience for women until it gained favor with men. Wheels on a suitcase would have made women more independent. So men flew to the moon before wheels became commonplace on luggage. Women working in computing or having technical sewing careers weren't seen as important or worthy of more pay because they were wom I listened to this as an audiobook. Content warnings: can't think of any. This review is going to be short. Overall, it's about how a lot of inventions often weren't relevant if it was a convenience for women until it gained favor with men. Wheels on a suitcase would have made women more independent. So men flew to the moon before wheels became commonplace on luggage. Women working in computing or having technical sewing careers weren't seen as important or worthy of more pay because they were women. This and other examples can be found in this book. Honestly, it was slightly upsetting to read just because this kind of stuff fills our history and women like Marcal have written about things like this from past to present and yet things don't seem to change for us. Do I recommend? Absolutely!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Darlene Karalash

    At first glance, I was under the impression that the information in this book would be solely historical, identifying the woman inventors of a number of modern conveniences whose development have been solely attributed to men. That is true in the earlier chapters (wheels on suitcases, brake linings, Teflon coated pots and pans), but the narrative shifts to gender bias to explain all the problems in the world, from the moment human beings were able to stand upright, to the ongoing resistance to a At first glance, I was under the impression that the information in this book would be solely historical, identifying the woman inventors of a number of modern conveniences whose development have been solely attributed to men. That is true in the earlier chapters (wheels on suitcases, brake linings, Teflon coated pots and pans), but the narrative shifts to gender bias to explain all the problems in the world, from the moment human beings were able to stand upright, to the ongoing resistance to addressing climate change in our 21st century world. (Earth = Mother Nature...a mother's role is to subjugate herself to meet the needs of her children, not to make demands of her own!) The development of ideas is methodical yet the writing style makes for a very enjoyable and intriguing reading experience.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Juju

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I liked the first 2-3 ideas presented in this book but after that it went downhill. The book pretty much follows an extremely one-sided view of women's place in today's society and how to measure their worth. To argue that one needs to be an influencer to be economically successful is ludicrous. To measure success in dollars and not in societal impact or general happiness is ludicrous too. To blame climate change deniers, which can be female as well, on the fact that we say mother earth and not I liked the first 2-3 ideas presented in this book but after that it went downhill. The book pretty much follows an extremely one-sided view of women's place in today's society and how to measure their worth. To argue that one needs to be an influencer to be economically successful is ludicrous. To measure success in dollars and not in societal impact or general happiness is ludicrous too. To blame climate change deniers, which can be female as well, on the fact that we say mother earth and not father earth just ignores any kind of sensible explanation, say lack of information or misinformation. I am disappointed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Giovanna Walker

    Many interesting concepts, and thoroughly researched. For me it was the writing style, it came across as others have stated here as a book for students (with some very simplistic explanations), which is not mentioned at all. I also wouldn't say that it's 'smart and witty' as stated on the front cover by Caroline Criado Perez (I should have known, I struggled with her writing style too). Many of the concepts were quite interesting and reflections of the impact of gender on the economy. And I enjo Many interesting concepts, and thoroughly researched. For me it was the writing style, it came across as others have stated here as a book for students (with some very simplistic explanations), which is not mentioned at all. I also wouldn't say that it's 'smart and witty' as stated on the front cover by Caroline Criado Perez (I should have known, I struggled with her writing style too). Many of the concepts were quite interesting and reflections of the impact of gender on the economy. And I enjoyed the comparison stories (mostly). Just didn't click for me, writing could have been tighter to give more of an impact. (It does ramble at times)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Machaia

    I really enjoyed this one overall - particularly the historical section. It was fascinating learning about history that I knew about from a completely different point of view. It added so much complexity and layers to the reality I thought I knew. She lost me a bit in the future section simply because I felt like she wasn’t always truly relating it back to the thesis of how women are often left out of the equation in economics and technological advancements. Furthermore, it suffered from the sam I really enjoyed this one overall - particularly the historical section. It was fascinating learning about history that I knew about from a completely different point of view. It added so much complexity and layers to the reality I thought I knew. She lost me a bit in the future section simply because I felt like she wasn’t always truly relating it back to the thesis of how women are often left out of the equation in economics and technological advancements. Furthermore, it suffered from the same problem as many books like this - many problems are presented without really any potential and practical solutions.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I loved this book. It is well-written and certainly author Katrine Marcal doesn’t pull any punches. I liked the conversational tone and some of the great passages were worthy of re-reading. Although the book is not humorous, there is a certain cleverness to the writing that made the book a joy to read. Examples of this cleverness can be found in the titles of the chapters. And kudos to translator Alex Fleming for their excellent work on this book. This is a book well worth reading. Thank you to I loved this book. It is well-written and certainly author Katrine Marcal doesn’t pull any punches. I liked the conversational tone and some of the great passages were worthy of re-reading. Although the book is not humorous, there is a certain cleverness to the writing that made the book a joy to read. Examples of this cleverness can be found in the titles of the chapters. And kudos to translator Alex Fleming for their excellent work on this book. This is a book well worth reading. Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the advance reader copy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anni

    "Who will want to invent a self-cleaning house when we live in a world in which women earn their living by cleaning for eight dollars per hour? Who will want technology to solve problems that remain invisible, since they are currently being taken care of by women for free? What we value and don't value in society affects the type of technology that tomorrow will bring. There is nothing strange about this; we simply need to be aware of it. Then we will realise that we always have a choice, and th "Who will want to invent a self-cleaning house when we live in a world in which women earn their living by cleaning for eight dollars per hour? Who will want technology to solve problems that remain invisible, since they are currently being taken care of by women for free? What we value and don't value in society affects the type of technology that tomorrow will bring. There is nothing strange about this; we simply need to be aware of it. Then we will realise that we always have a choice, and that the best way to predict the future is to create it."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    The book starts off strong with a few examples of inventions made by/ tailored to women (rolling suitcases, electric (vs. crank) starters in the early 1900s which did not seem to take off until the menfolk saw their value (e.g., people occasionally broke arms (or jaws) cranking a car). Another interesting example was that female seamstresses at Playtex (yes, "the 18 hour bra and girdle" company Playtex) made the early space suits for US astronauts. Unfortunately, the book loses steam about 2/3 o The book starts off strong with a few examples of inventions made by/ tailored to women (rolling suitcases, electric (vs. crank) starters in the early 1900s which did not seem to take off until the menfolk saw their value (e.g., people occasionally broke arms (or jaws) cranking a car). Another interesting example was that female seamstresses at Playtex (yes, "the 18 hour bra and girdle" company Playtex) made the early space suits for US astronauts. Unfortunately, the book loses steam about 2/3 of the way through when the author tries to tie this theme into larger societal concepts.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    I feel this book has a undermining title. It is a fascinating look not just at inventions but how the entire structure of gender has impacted how we view both technology and modernisation. Also includes one of the best considerations of the 2020 year of the initial reaction to the Covid pandemic that I have read to date. Highly recommended.

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