I spent much of my lockdown summer managing a team of Edinburgh based team of volunteers for the Scotland wide group, NHS: For The Love of Gowns. Combatting the PPE crisis during the Coronavirus pandemic, I co-ordinate over 40 volunteers, each sewing gowns and scrub sets for essential NHS health services in Edinburgh and the Lothians. As the initiative expanded, I managed a fundraising project raising over £2,500 to support the purchasing of fabrics for further projects. 

This experience is something I often think about- how from the four walls of my home I was able to support the nation-wide PPE shortage that Coronavirus inflicted on the world. As the PPE pandemic progressed so to did the realisation that standard medical grade PPE worn by staff in the likes of the NHS was not suited to females. These items of clothing were designed for an a-typical European male body and not that of the primarily female workforce that makes up the health care profession in the UK. As the media picked up this story headlines spread the message that PPE was made for a '6ft3 rugby player' rather than a female body with masks and goggles causing sores and bruises on the faces of the very staff who are working to alleviate pain and sickness from their patients. 

Considering my current research into technofeminism I have begun to think about the ways in which design 'doesn't work' for women. From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, there is a plentitude of biased data that excludes women. This data doesn't stop short of protective clothing and equipment. 

As the PPE shortage levelled, awareness of this issue has developed and manufacturers are now learning to create garments for the frames of female bodies. Whilst the pandemic is a silent killer I began to think about historical instances of war and outbreak where women have been involved in bloody battles long before plastic capes and paper masks. Perhaps the most notable figure involved in warfare has been Joan of Arc. A women who defied conventions, entering battle dressed in male clothing at a time when women were only to be seen in dresses.  However, there are no surviving images of Joan nor female counterparts dressed in armour in the medieval period. 

If we are to interpret PPE as the 21st Century equivalent of armoury then to what extent have we progressed in considering female bodies on the front line? 

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