The Myth of Female Physical Inferiority

There are still prejudicial myths that continue to be propagated in society. For women the weaker sex stereotype continues to be promoted. Sexual dimorphism is a biological fact, but to claim that this is evidence of women’s inferiority is ludicrous. While it is true on average men are stronger, this does not demonstrate biological inferiority. Advocates of pseudoscience attempt to justify this claim with the social darwinist statement ” the survival of the fittest.”  This concept was not developed by Charles Darwin; it was the product of Herbert Spencer. Charles Darwin stated “it is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent… it is the one adaptable to change.” Human evolution proves that “biological inferiority” never existed. There were various species of organisms that were dominant, but failed to adapt to change. The dinosaurs and trilobites were dominant, but could not acclimate themselves to environmental change. The fact that men and women are different does not imply that one is superior or the other is inferior. It is a product of millions of years of human evolution. Claims of women’s lack of physical skill and biological inferiority  has been used to exclude them from sports and other fields.

sexual dimorphism is the difference between sexes of the same species. These differences are both genotypic and phenotypic. Phenotypic attributes are related to external appearance of the organism. For the human animal the physical differences include the anatomy of the reproductive system, body composition, and skeletal structure. What is relevant here is the changes that come during puberty. This is a stage in the human life cycle when boys and girls transition to adulthood. The hypothalamus and the anterior pituitary gland start to produce more sex hormones. This will mature the body and as a result children will develop secondary sex characteristics.


Learn more about sexual dimorphism :

Boys will develop a greater amount of lean body mass due to the production of testosterone. There is a point in which girls mature faster than males. However, by the age of 13 boys will continue to gain strength and will grow taller. Estrogen mainly produces fat for the female body. It is fact that on average men are physically stronger, but this doe not give them a monoply on strength. There has been a belief that women are inferior to men on the sole basis of their lack of brawn. This argument is flawed. There are some women who have the ability to be strong physically and athletic. Genetics does play a major role in one’s physical capabilities. Alpha actinin 3 has been studied by geneticists and physiologists as having a role in athletic performance. Other factors when considering strength include bone mass, tendon, and ligament density. Men and women of a similar  weight and height could be close or equal in absolute strength. There is a disparity between upper and lower body. Sometimes the gap between physical strength is not always biological. There are sociological factors that cannot be ignored. Western society values a thin figure as the only form of beauty. Women either starve themselves or constantly diet to reach an unrealistic ideal. A woman who show visible physical strength is either ostracized or shunned. The lingering conviction is that everything a woman does should be for the sake of attracting a man. Weakness and frailty are feminine, while power and strength is considered masculine. Although these sexist views remain, there is gradual progress.


The idea that women are weak and men are strong demonstrates the level of gender inequality. The idea is to designate one as inferior.  The poster above is a subtle sexist joke. It almost illustrates the idea women are helpless without men. 

It is often highlighted that men have greater strength. Yet, women have some physical advantages that are not discussed. Women on average have a higher white blood cell count. This is extremely beneficial for fighting off disease and maintaining a strong immune system. Women also on average have a higher life expectancy than men. This does not mean that men cannot reach advanced age. Again, there are sociological  and environmental factors that contribute to this. Men are more willing to take dangerous risks, that could ultimately be deleterious.One question that arises is why do these differences exist? Mainly it is for the purposes of sexual reproduction. The second reason may also have to do with mate choice and sexual selection. Most primates do vary in size between the sexes ( excluding chimpanzees and gibbons). Men  are on average are 8% taller and 20% heavier  than women. The reason for this could be that our hominid ancestors were in tough competition for mates. Polygynous species require that the male be larger to fight other males for female mates. Secondary sex characteristics were traits that developed for the purpose of attracting mates. As humans evolved fighting directly for mates was replaced with other social rituals ( courtship and interpersonal development).  Natural selection has in this instance proven that the only way for the human species to survive is by having men and women compliment one another.

       The view that strength is male only is false. There have been cases of women of immense strength, before sports were socially acceptable to women. Although they were denied an outlet for competition, these unique women found other places for their skills. Strong women would perform in vaudeville, the circus, and wrestling venues. This was mostly in America and Europe during the 19th to early 20th century.


An example of a strong woman before modern day women’s sports.

 Today with modern training techniques women can gain strength. It can be acquired through isometric and isotonic exercise. What weight training allows for microscopic tears in the muscle fiber. They will rebuild and will become stronger than before. Women depending on their body structure may not see the same level of muscular hypertrophy as a man. However, women according to exercise physiologists do respond well to weight training. Women can see a increase in strength up to 50%. That is an incredible accomplishment considering they have very little to start with.

10422371_1045519842132042_956641031480259115_nrd3.0.009b.jpgExercising can built considerable strength.

It is obvious however, that a man and woman on the same training regimen would produce different results. Seeing as men have more type II muscle fibers they will have more absolute strength. Yet, when comparing a physically developed woman to an average man the woman would be stronger. When examining women’s capabilities it seems that strength is male only disappears. Social mores can prevent some women from reaching potential. Women for the most part are discourage from using a weight room. Cardiovascular and aerobic exercise is usually suggested to them by personal trainers or fitness experts. Even though there are numerous benefits to weight lifting people still view it as male only. The fear of appearing “mannish” has established a glass ceiling for some women. Women who are traditionalists themselves even criticize women with powerful looking figures. Sports that demonstrate strength and skill, women are put under extra scrutiny for their appearance. The reason some men object to this is clear. Besides aesthetics, men realize that women are advancing economically, socially, and politically. Physical strength they feel is the only item they have left in this time of rapid change between the sexes. This is even changing with more women participating in sports the ever before.

          It has been proven that the idea of women’s physical inferiority was never true. At one time it was believed that women were less intelligent than men. This idea based on eugenics was designed to stop them from seeking an education or equal opportunity. While male and female brains differ, this has no impact on intelligence. When that myth was exposed women could pursue higher education. The idea of female weakness still remains. It is so prevalent that it questions women’s roles in the military, police, fire fighting departments, or any other job that requires a level of strength. The only way this will change is if the social stigma of the strong woman vanishes.

The Myth of Female Physical Inferiority

2 thoughts on “The Myth of Female Physical Inferiority

  1. Joshua Worman says:

    I like that the ladies in the pictures are very fit and strong, but I did notice that, even with the black and white picture, they appear to have lost their breasts. I have only ever seen that in females that have taken steroids, so maybe that was the case, but a lot of built females I have seen seem to have a masculine chest. Is there any reason for that?


    1. Well if you say being flat chested is “having a masculine chest” I would say that is incorrect. The women above have low body fat levels meaning their breasts would not be that large. Breast size varies from woman to woman, however having smaller breast has noting to do with steroid side effects. The women above I’m sure have not taken any to my knowledge. The photo of the circus strong woman ( early 1900s) would have not had access to or knowledge of steroids. Also you have to consider that women’s breasts will look bigger in the off season when fat levels rise again. The simple answer is breasts consist of subcutaneous fat and when exercising at their level it will get reduced. While the fat is being burned the pectoralis major muscles are getting more developed. Sometimes this creates the appearance of smaller breasts, because they do not grow from weightlifting.


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