This is a blog entry from Thinking Girl, originally published in 2007. This is noteworthy because third wave feminist tend to take issue with biological and physiological differences. One difference is the gap in physical strength ( on average). Some try to say that is based on environment or solely on biology. The fact is it can be a combination of both. Denying biological differences is not constructive. The fact that women and men are different does not mean women are inferior by default. The writing makes this mistake, but starts off with a rational argument. She says that their is a relation in regards to power language. Eloquently the author points out ” why say “weaker” instead of something else, like “gentler” or “peacefuller” or something.” The author then questions the concepts of strong and weak in the context of language. It is the most cogent argument, yet it seems the author is hostile to biological facts. Many feminists would do well to embrace biology and physiology as a means of disproving the concept of female inferiority.
The author understands that power language here is used to designate the other. The concept of the other is used to either marginalize or exclude different groups. Using this type of language then becomes coded for treating certain people horribly in an inconspicuous manner. She poses a great question : “why should it be that “men are strong and women are weak,” instead of “women are not quite as strong ?” The answer is that it is a way to dehumanize women and denote a lower status. Saying a woman is weak demonstrates the belief they are not capable of various tasks. It also can serve to say that women are helpless and child like needing male supervision. Legally, many countries functioned of the idea of protectionism. This was a legal conviction that women had to be protected from the harsh realities of the world and relinquish their free will or rights to a husband or male relative. Power language as the author explains is designed to control groups and using a false binary to gain consensus among the oppressors.
The article does ask the question what is strong. It is obvious the discussion is in the context of physical strength. Then she states “those who like to point out the biological differences between men and women (as if that’s justification for the widespread social oppression women experience) usually like to point this one out, like it’s a given.” Anatomical and physiological factors show that on average men are stronger than women. Men have larger skeletons and bone mass. Their bodies contain higher levels of type II muscle fibers. Testosterone induces higher levels of protein synthesis. There is a period that boys and girls are equal in strength levels. When puberty occurs males experience a strength spurt in which skeletal muscle mass increases. Leydig cells produce more testosterone in the testes. The bones become more dense and the muscle fibers increase in length and width. The process is done by age twenty for men.
This however, is just an average. The author the goes on to say “And of course there are women out there who are plenty strong, stronger than most men, women who bodybuild and are athletes and things like that.” Oddly she then expounds further :”but of course, these cases are atypical, so shouldn’t be considered to be counter-examples. We’re talking about the general “truth”, so they say.” there are many women who are participating in sports or just average women becoming interested in strength training. Although their numbers are not as large, their is a sizable portion. This contradicts her previous statements because these women be good examples to her point. At this point the reader should ask one question: why are third wave feminists concerned about men’s physical strength?
There could be several explanations. The first has to do with power feminism. The basis of this feminism is that women should not seek equality as what is generally understood, but amass as much power as possible. Generally observers see this as gender antagonism rather than empowerment. The power feminist would seek to get women in a race with men for physical strength. This is an unhealthy mode of thought, because it believes might makes right. It functions on the notion all men are women’s enemies and must be challenged in every area of life. This area of strength would be difficult to antagonize men in due to biology. The other explanation is more irrational. There are some third wave feminists who could be jealous of men’s strength. They feel that nature made some error and that differences allow inequality to continue. There is either a feeling that they are missing out on something. This belief is ludicrous. It would be like men being jealous of women, because they can get pregnant. Some of the frustration can be understandable. There are men who complacently use physical strength as “proof” that men are superior. The one piece of information they do not speak of is that a woman can gain strength through a training regimen and can be strong as or stronger than the average man.
. A more accurate and plausible concern third wave feminists have is that women face serious abuse. Women face rape, domestic abuse, and violence from men. That why some obsess over the topic physical strength. If one’s physical safety cannot be guaranteed their can be no freedom. Women being smaller than men means they are at a disadvantaged when attacked by a male assailant. Even worse, women may have to consider possible danger scenarios when becoming close to a man in an amorous relation. Very few men worry that their wife or girlfriend might harm them. Women have to deal with this unfortunate reality.
There can be effective resistance to violence against women. Self-defense, tougher laws, and a change in mindset are excellent weapons at combating this problem. Knowing how to defend one’s self ensures your security. Tougher laws keep criminals in prison. A change in mind set allows women to stop seeing themselves as victims, but capable survivors. This may not eliminate the problem entirely, but reduce it.There is one dynamic the author never considers. When a physically powerful woman is compare to a man of less strength, why is he valued more. The author recognizes that a society does value men more than women, but does not ask why. The reason is based in misogyny and the conviction that women are only exist to serve men. This concept can be seen in religion and social order of society. Marriage throughout history was a property arrangement. Women were not allowed to receive education in many states at one time. Women had limited access to economic and political power. As Peter Farb stated in Humankind “none of the biological and psychological differences between the sexes would seem to account adequately for the dominance of males in all societies.” Physical strength is not a social construction, but an element of sexual dimorphism.
No one would call the much weaker man inferior, when compared to a stronger woman. She is faced with ostracism or public rejection. The double standard and over exaggerated reactions reveal that society still has a high level of sexism. This does not come just from men, but other women with a more traditional view point of gender roles. It is critical to understand, not reject biology of sex to better discredit false beliefs and extremist notions.
This written post does point out the social barriers, but some statements are not entirely truthful. The cogent arguments are undeniable. The first social barrier is ” girls are taught that sports are a bit “butchy” and unfeminine.” This is a combination of homophobia and sexism that turns many women away from sport. Real women in this view do not engage in “manly” activities. Women who do are considered by a sexist society lesbian or out of control. This has been challenged with a greater acceptance of people of different sexual orientations and women changing the context of what is feminine. The socialization happens at an early age encouraging boys to get involved in athletics, but not girls. Boys she points out a fed more and encouraged to play roughly. Then the author describes that body image is one issue that plagues women. It is an unfortunate state of affairs. There are problems with other aspects of the author’s argument. She disparages gymnastics as being “proper ways to express one’s girl self.” Gymnastics is a highly competitive sport and it is producing quality athletes. It takes strength, dexterity, and fast body coordination to perform such moves.
Gabby Douglass Olympic gold medalist has proven that gymnastics is a sport of talented individuals. Her performance in the sport dazzled and amazed an international audience. She rose to prominence in 2008 becoming part of the U.S. National Team. Dance is artistic being employed in the music industry and the performances arts. It can be useful to sports as well. One example is how some bodybuilding incorporate dance moves into their posing routines. Colette Nelson had a background in dance, which added substance to her posing routines. Besides just having size, shape, symmetry, and definition the way the physique is presented can make the difference in point accumulation.
Dance and gymnastics should not be seen as frivolous. The only reason someone would view these two areas negatively is because they dislike the idea of women excelling. The author then says that women have few role models and not every sport has a league or division for women to be active in. The claim is only a half truth. While it is true the mainstream media does either ridicule or ignore female athletes, there is a slowly growing interest. There are fans out there who are not getting access to events on TV and turn to the internet. That is the wave of the future for entertainment. It makes no sense why sports or entertainment corporations do not attempt to capitalize on this. Role models are prevalent, but the media does not want to promote them. There are some cases in which an athlete is so good they cannot be ignored. Rhonda Rousey has by her athletic successes and media appearances brought the UFC to mainstream prominence. Her efforts have made mixed martial arts more acceptable in a sports television line up. Now there is an interest in MMA by the public. Serena Williams continues to make strides in Tennis. She was name sports woman of the year in 2015 by Sports Illustrated. These are just two women who have had massive impact on the sports world. The problem is media exposure. ESPN does not broadcast as many women’s events. It’s not that do not exist, the media is not showing the viewers new athletes or ones that are emerging. The only solution is to either for women to start a sports channel of their own or generate interest through public relations campaigns.
There is a period of transition that is occurring. There is at least some level of recognition for physically strong women. This should not be confused with complete acceptance, but there are people who support what they do and are devoted fans. The concepts of body image are also being adjusted to a motto “strong is the new skinny.” The women of crossfit are even gaining at least some attention. The old problems still remain. There has been progress and it will not be stopped. Women are even becoming involved in American football. Women have organized their own teams and play. The NFL does not have a women’s division in which they can play separately. However, there are women who love the game that much they willing to start their own organization. It is probably for the best free of corporate or sponsor control.
The fact that the UWFL does not get recognition just demonstrates how women are marginalized by the entertainment and media industries. Women should start their own companies if the current mainstream business do not provide coverage. The world will soon realize that women are valuable. Economically, it has been realized because nations who do not mobilize women in the workforce will struggle financially. Change is happening, maybe not as fast as many would like it. As long as it is happening at whatever rate, this show that someday the objective of equality will be reached.
The author then poses the question “how much of this is biologically driven?” That is not a simple answer. Strength and or athletic ability is dependent on genetics and environment. Men have more physical strength due to endocrinology and traits of the SRY gene. This does not mean women cannot improve or enhance their physical strength. Muscle histology is the same for both sexes and both respond to weight training in a similar manner. It would be ludicrous to say that every man is stronger than every woman . It would be difficult for an average man to out run a female track star or out lift a female weightlifter. Biological differences have no stopped women from entering profession that require physical strength. The military, police, sports,construction, and firefighting have women in small numbers. The small numbers does not mean that women are horrible at these jobs, but that physical tests are more difficult for the majority of them. When adequate training and exercise is part of their regimen some of the difficulty is reduced. Even for women that do pass, they still face harassment and discrimination. The explanation is not purely biological or sociological it is a combination of both. The author should not use social construction theory as an explanation for all aspects of discrimination. Peter Farb once wrote ” males exhibit greater aggressive behavior than do females in part because of hormones- but in part also because of norms of a particular society .” This is interactionist theory. Understanding this can dismantle sex stereotypes and pseudoscience that is still prevalent.Third wave feminists should not try to deny biological differences or reject the life sciences; they should be embraced to discredit misogynistic convictions.