Mother Of Invention by Katrine Marcal

How good ideas get ignored in an economy built for men.

The tagline above and on the cover explains the basic premise of this book. We open on the story of the wheeled suitcase. Anyone who has had to carry heavy bags or luggage will know that your fingers get cut into by the straps and they just get heavier the further you have to carry them. It’s not fun. Why did it take us until the 70s to get wheels on luggage? Well, there were earlier cases that had wheels, but they didn’t catch on. Why? Initially, it was thought that men should be manly and carry the bags, without complaint. Putting wheels on luggage would be emasculating, and women shouldn’t be traveling without a man, so they didn’t need wheels. So none of us got wheels on our cases until it was considered no longer offensive to the current notion of masculinity, that is, when male pilots started to be seen using them.

And this book goes on to have not only many more examples of this, but to show how insidious the attitude is that if it’s for men, it’s correct or better, and if women like it or are good at it it must be flawed or less than.

It could make for pretty infuriating reading, honestly, but the author writes with humour. Which makes for a great narrative flow as well as cutting through the frustration. By that I mean that it’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’s got a light style and tone. And if you can find the humour in things, they can’t overwhelm you. (Like the way Chaplin made fun of Hitler in The Great Dictator). Because what this book is about isn’t funny. It shows how much and how far reaching this idea goes in our world, how it impacts everything, how it means we all end up worse off.

I was really impressed with how well the author explains things. This book could have been heavy and academic, and I still would have been interested, but it’s a really well flowing read and all the things the author talks about are explained beautifully and also really thoroughly. It’s a real page turner.

I highly recommend this book. I think we all should read it. It’s not preachy or conceptual, it’s about the very real and very concrete way that we ignore good ideas, how we do that and why. I hope that if we understand how we are not only holding ourselves back but also how these ideas are effecting our lives, society and environment, we can create a better way forward, a better future.

Read It If: this sounds of interest to you. This book is fascinating reading, it’s detailed and smart, a little funny, and covers a subject that effects everyone.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for the copy of this book for review.

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