Approximately half of all adults are women. (Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending in part on how gender is constructed in a particular culture.) Despite this, many of us have been socialized to forget that women exist when we’re trying to understand why things happen or how society works.
This is particularly striking in historical scholarship. Before female historians were common, most history books were written as though only men existed in the past. Historical theories that account for the existence of women are a fairly recent development. The gaping holes in older theories can be really shocking when you’re more accustomed to remembering that many people are women.
Implicit bias against noticing women isn’t just a problem in history, and it’s not just a thing of the past. Even now, many people (of all genders) forget that women exist when they’re thinking about “people”. If you want your theory to make sense, it’s worth explicitly checking yourself for implicit bias.
Some questions worth asking:
- Am I assuming that everyone is male?
- Does my theory account for the existence of women?
- Does my theory account for the fact that around half of all adults are women?
- Where are the women in my theory? Where are the women in the world I’m imagining?
- How might this issue affect men, women, and nonbinary people differently?
- How might men, women, and nonbinary people be playing differing roles in this issue?
- Are all of my examples men? Are any of my examples women?
- If I add some examples involving women, does the issue start looking different?
Tl;dr Women exist and make up around half of the population, but we’re often socialized to mentally edit them out. When you’re trying to figure out a theory about how society works, make sure your theory accounts for the existence of women.