The XY problem

Technology is a profession entirely unsuited to women; the female constitution and intellect are not for the likes of code and cloud.

01 August 2023

In the late 1800s, there was an outbreak of a medical condition that only affected women. It was, said the doctors, identifiable by a complexion that is “unusually flushed, but sometimes pale, often with lips more or less drawn”, and by a “hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes”. It was a condition that caused great concern, particularly for one Dr Shadwell who, in an 1897 article in the London National Review, said: “I drew attention to the peculiar strained, set look so often associated with this pastime and called it bicycle face.”

Yes, bicycle face. An affliction created by men to prevent women from riding their bikes because they were giving women way too much freedom. They were right; the humble bicycle ended up being one of the key inventions that turned the suffragette tide.

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