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  • Writer's pictureChristine Stevens

Confessions of a Crash Test Dummy

I have to get something off my chest. Granted, it’s a chest that's been crushed by a steering wheel at least 87 times this week alone, but nonetheless, this dummy knows a few things and is ready to spill his guts. Which has also happened a lot this week, but you get my meaning. 

I’m Charles -  but the engineers here in Crash Test Central call me Chuck.  As in, “Woah, he got chucked right through the sunroof on that one!” 

Here’s what I need to tell you: I am the standard representation of a human body. 

Yup. A 5’9”, 173lb breastless, male-proportioned composition of metal, rubber and vinyl is what engineers have used to aid in the design of cars ever since they realized lots of folks were flying through windshields after they canceled Prohibition and maybe some kind of strap tethering the driver to the car would cut down on that  kind of roadkill. 

And so, since Henry Ford really couldn’t get away with using, say, the incarcerated for those crash tests, I was invented.  That’s right, all car safety design has been driven by tests on my body type. Despite the fact that women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident. Guessing that’s why we still have that infuriating statistic… 

But now they’re shifting gears. That’s right, ladies, you’ve finally crashed the party - it’s only taken 100 years for car manufacturers to recognize that you drive their products! 

The engineers here at CTC have dubbed her Minnie Driver (she tells me she prefers Minerva, may have found my soulmate) and…no wait, sorry, it looks like female dummies are only being tested in the passenger seat, my bad. But still, at least you’ve got representation! Even if you're represented as a scaled down male body because, well, aren’t you? I only have my new lady dummy friend as a reference point, what do I know?

But I do wonder how many sisters, wives, moms and best friends would still be alive if they had a seatbelt (or, even crazier, an entire car) designed with the actual female body in mind?*  

Oh wait, I know exactly how many: at least 1,300.  Every year. Since that first jalopy rolled off the assembly line.

Now I bet you’re thinking, ”Pretty good with the factoids there, Charles - even after 9,652 brain- liquifying concussions. How do you do it?” (and by the way, thank you for calling me Charles) (even though I realize this conversation is all in my head) (now I imagine you’re thinking “isn’t his head made of sawdust?”) (oops I think I’ve gotten off topic) (did I mention I’ve been concussed?) (ALOT).

Anyway, the point is, maybe this is the start of some kind of trend where, I don’t know, females are included in all sorts of research on products and diseases that affect, uh, everyone?

And I’m learning so much from Minerva. The other day she told me she really wishes they’d turn up the thermostat here in CTC, since studies only recently discovered that a woman’s metabolic rate is different from a man’s, which means most workplaces are 5 degrees too cold for the ladyfolk. Being butt naked probably doesn’t help. I bet you’re wondering how she knows that. 

I mean, we’re dummies, not idiots.

*If you want to learn more about the gender data gap, check out Caroline Criado Perez and her book, Invisible Women:Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.

by Christine Stevens

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