Are Women The Weaker Sex?
Are women physically inferior to men?
I ask my students.
“Yes, isn’t it obvious?” some say.
“No,” say others. “A female bodybuilder is stronger than any guy in this room.”
“True. What if she walked into a room full of male bodybuilders?” I prod.
In fact, one of the few things you can predict by sex is who has more muscular strength. If you guess “the guy,” you’ll probably be right. That’s because women typically have two-thirds the upper body strength of men. The difference isn’t quite as wide when it comes to lower body strength, but men have greater muscle mass all over.
That’s because of testosterone. When men eat, more calories turn to muscle. When women eat, more turn into fat. In this fat-phobic society, that sounds like a bum deal.
Testosterone also makes men taller, giving them the basketball and high-cabinet reaching advantage.
So it seems like men are physically superior to women.
But we exaggerate the difference by doing things like encouraging sports for boys. And there is more than one way to be physically superior.
There’s more than one way to be physically superior
What about survival?
Someone who survives better is physically superior. And that’s where girls rule.
The height advantage turns on its head if there’s a famine: shorter people need less food. And suddenly, fat is a strength, providing nourishment when food is scarce. Fat even insulates in extreme cold.
But women have another ace up their sleeves: the XX gene combo verses men’s XY.
An X chromosome has 1,098 genes. The Y? About 78 — and it pretty much just creates male genitals and an abundance of testosterone.
Apparently, women have a huge advantage. Yet one X lies mostly dormant. So not so different after all.
But if an X chromosome has a problem, females have a backup. Males don’t. So females are more likely to be born alive, and to survive throughout the lifecycle.
Looks like mother nature works harder for female survival. And no wonder. If a severe famine takes out most of a population leaving, say, only one woman and 10 men, you end up with only about eight kids who make it to adulthood. But if 10 women and one man survive, you get about 80 adults in the next generation.
Taking a cue from Mother Nature, men’s muscularity and women’s ability to make babies led early tribes to assign men more strength-bearing and dangerous tasks like hunting and warring.
Women also have better balance, flexibility and endurance. Balance and endurance might aid survival, as well. Less likely to fall down and die or break something. Plus, an ability to keep going.
Balance, flexibility and endurance also give women the advantage in some sports. Like marathon swimming and 24-hour foot races. Or gymnastics and figure skating — huge draws at the Olympics.
Turns out, neither men nor women are physically superior. Each just has different sorts of superiorities.
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Posted on July 17, 2015, in feminism, gender, men, sexism, women and tagged feminism, gender, men, physical strength, physical superiority, sexism, the weaker sex, women. Bookmark the permalink. 60 Comments.