Seatbelts are a lot less safe for women. Like, a LOT less

The world is built with men in mind, and that's not just irritating – it's dangerous

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

Last summer, there was a story that got a lot of publicity about misogynistic air-conditioning. I confess, even I rolled my eyes at that one. But the basis of the theory was solid: air conditioning in many offices is set too cold for most women to be comfortable, given that they tend to have smaller frames and less muscle mass than men. What this evidence could have done was force us to address the many small ways in which the world is built with men in mind, but instead it became something of a straw man – a "Look what these mad feminists are whining about now!" news piece. 

If you're still unconvinced by the air-conditioning research – and I don't blame you, if you are – then let me present another piece of evidence: seatbelts. 

So, in the 1960s, new regulations were imposed on car makers to use crash-test dummies when testing their vehicles. Regulators wanted the use of two crash-test dummies, male and female, but automakers pushed back to just use one, which had the proportions of the average American male: 5ft 9in tall and weighing 172lb.

It doesn't take an engineer to understand how crucial this is to women's safety. Everything about a car's safety features have been designed specifically with a man's proportions in mind. This may go some way to explaining the fact that women drivers are 47 per cent more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash.

This is starting to change. In 2011, the first female crash-test dummies were required in road testing. But it's just one example – along with air conditioning, and power tools being too heavy for many women to use comfortably – that even the best product design can come with an inherent bias.


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women's safety

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