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The modern revolution against the “default human”

14 October 2019

Topic: The gender gap. Why? - For various reasons, many solutions have not been designed specifically for women, such as crash test dummies, but also bulletproof vests. The artist, Ismay Schaduw, from WDKA Rotterdam art academy, will present this year on the Dutch Design Week her design of a bulletproof vest for pregnant women in order to cause a discussion in society about this topic.

In a world where man is the norm, women are at risk.


While searching for data on women, there is often nothing but silence. In this world, a Caucasian man is the norm (the default human) and due to that norm, the world is built for men. This means that we disregard almost half of the population: women. This lack of information about women is called the gender data gap.


In Ismay Schaduw's research the following question is explored:

“What is the effect of the gender data gap on the safety of women?”


The consequences can be seen everywhere: from receiving an inaccurate dosage or prescription of medication because it was based on the male body to safety equipment that is not suitable for women and to all-male car crash test dummies.


Essentially, bulletproof vests are designed to protect you in life-threatening situations.  However, there are no designs suitable for women. This is because the current vests are based on the body shape of the default human, which is the Caucasian man. As a consequence of the gender data gap, the design of bulletproof vests doesn’t provide women with the same comfort and protection as they do men.


Why is the artwork innovative?

Data has become an unthinkable concept in our digital era which is always growing because of algorithms. If we never provide the right data on women, it will automatically evolve with the Caucasian male as standard, leaving women behind at risk.


After doing extensive research on the “default human” in order to find a solution that could make these designs more suitable for women, Ismay designed bulletproof vests based on different female body types. The vests show the critical effects of the gender data gap and the challenges of our deeply rooted view of the male being the norm. You can expect to see different sizes, including a vest made for a pregnant woman.


Why is the artwork critical?

This artwork work criticizes society in which the Caucasian male is the norm (default human). This standard excludes women in the way we measure data and make decisions. Because of this, design can fail women: harmless, but also life-threatening.


We live in a time where it should concern everyone, regardless of gender, if women are being ignored due to a gender data gap. Therefore, alongside the work of designing bulletproof vests, the artist also wanted to motivate women with a short film that illustrates the mission that lies ahead in moving design to a place more inclusive of women. The film explains the scope of the gender data gap issue by providing the facts and statistics alongside women wearing the vests, marching to close the gap.


This work has been nominated for the Manifestations Young Talent Award: graduate 2019 Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam




More information:


Location and opening times:


Veem building, 9th floor (side entrance)

Torenallee 100

5617 BE Eindhoven

19 to 27 October, every day from 11:00 a.m to 18:00 p.m  

Accessible for the disabled and fun for the kids

Free access


Author: Denitsa Peneva