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It is a Cis-Het-Man’s World (we’re just living in it)

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

There is a growing belief that the battle for gender equality is won because we are seeing a rise in the number of women in every room. This viewpoint doesn't take the range of gender identities into account and is more centered on cis-females. Even though we might be moving in the right direction, there are simple norms in society created solely with cis-het-men's anatomy in mind. They are so generally accepted and deeply ingrained in every structure of society that one doesn’t realize that it has been put in place by patriarchy.

Criado Perez in her book, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, argues that “most of recorded human history is one big data gap”, where women and their contribution have historically been neglected. According to her, women (cis-gendered) receive inferior services, goods, and experiences in many facets of their lives as a result of the world not being created with their needs in mind. This book gives extensively researched information on how cis-females have been treated throughout history, however, it misses the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community who also live and suffer in a cis-het-man's world.

Taking a simple example quoted by Sarah Gill - the 9 to 5 working day. In essence, the typical workday was created to meet the requirements of the anatomical man, whose hormone cycle corresponds to the sun. Testosterone and cortisol levels are at their highest in the morning, giving males more attention, vigour, and confidence. Hormone levels decline gradually throughout the day, signaling that it is time to refuel and recharge.

Contrastingly, the hormone cycle of menstruating people closely resembles the moon's cycle and fluctuates through various phases that frequently leave us feeling worn out when working under the constraints of a 9 to 5 production cycle. Menstruators have an infradian rhythm, in which they move through four phases in 28 days. Each phase has an impact on their energy levels, metabolism, immune system, and mood. They suffer these peaks and valleys in energy and hormone levels throughout the month.

Many such examples exist. For a long time, the test dummies for building the safety systems in cars were built taking an average male body into account. Today, even though a ‘female’ dummy is used for these tests, it is usually a smaller male dummy that doesn't take into account variations in the physical differences, centre of mass, placement of the organs, etc. Moreover, seating preferences are not taken into account by protective equipment (for instance, women often sit closer to the steering wheel due to shorter legs).

Taking a look into health and medical access, which are important for every human being, but managed to neglect female anatomy once again. Criado-Perez discovered that early warning indicators in female cases of heart attacks were treated as unusual since medical information about heart attacks was based solely on the symptoms presented in biological male patients. The mannequins used for CPR training do not take breasts into account and are made to resemble a male’s anatomy.

Gender discrimination in corporate settings does not just take the face of unequal pay, but also the difference in the treatment of female and male employees with families. A male employee with a family is more likely to get a pay raise and promotion while a female employee would be held back from the same with reasons such as, “her priorities lie elsewhere.” This not only points towards the discriminated ways of looking at the employees, but also to the idea that it is okay for an identified man to not make family his priority, or contribute less emotionally, physically, and psychologically to the family. The smallest example of discrimination in office settings is the recommended A.C. temperature, which is about five degrees too cold for female employees. These are just a few instances of how people who are not cis-het-men are discriminated against. Anyone who does not fit into their "ideal" mould is treated very differently from a cis-gendered male. When a man is very ambitious, he is commended for all that he does for the family, while when a woman is overly ambitious, she is seen as not caring for the family. Once more, this fits with their conception of a marriage or family. It is still a long way off before same-sex couples with children will be met with acceptance

With these and many other such scenarios still prevalent, we are far away from closing the gender gap in all settings of life. According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2022, it will take 132 years more to close the gender gap all over. COVID-19 has seen a drastic pattern of discrimination against women which has pushed us away from closing the gender gap by 30 years.

In this world, individuals who don’t identify as cis-het-men are either trying to fit in or adjust to the circumstances in numerous ways, be it for them to be taken seriously in rooms, to climb ladders in their careers, or to get basic care for their health. There have been times since I joined this organization that I have mentioned to people that the founder is my senior, and people have ended up referring to the founder as ‘he’. Although it gives me immense pride to correct them and say, ‘She’s a she’, it also makes me sad that people assume a C-suite member to be an identified male. It is deeply ingrained in us. The world is changing and so are the teams, but we are still very much living in a cis-het-man’s world. But hey, at least it’s not all men.

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