Women in Physically Demanding Occupations

Firefighting, construction, policing, sports,  and military occupations are very physically demanding jobs. There are more men in these positions due to physiological and sociological factors. There are arguments that women should not be in these occupations, because sex differences in human physiology and biology are too great. This argument lacks cogency due to the fact it assumes all women are the same. Physical abilities can vary from individual to individual regardless of biological sex. This means that some men and some women are qualified for these professions, but not the whole population. Then there are sociological factors holding some women back in these professions such as discriminatory practices and unequal pay. If those factors were eliminated, that would not mean that these profession would be completely gender balanced. The difference in strength, speed, and aerobic capacity make it difficult for the average woman to handle extremely physically demanding tasks. Women of exceptional ability can handle it due to the fact their genetics allow it. If women want to enter these professions they will have to train harder than a man. Besides technical issues in exercise physiology, there are other problems that must be addressed in terms of gender integration.

         The question of physical ability tests continue to generate controversy. There are two opposing views in regards to this issue. Some state that standards should be lowered to accommodate women. The other view is that standards should be tailored specifically to the tasks relevant to the occupation and women should train to meet the criteria. The most extreme view is to not even give women a chance to try or attempt.Lowering standards is impractical and only attracts people who are unqualified. Muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and  coordination of movement   are pivotal to these jobs. Movement quality also is another physical skill that cannot be ignored. Lowering standards only perpetuates the myth that  women are biological inferiors. This will create resentment among other colleagues who believe they were just given a job position, but did not earn it.Secondly, there are women through training who have increased their muscular strength. Women’s muscles do react in a similar manner to weight training, but they have less fast twitch muscle fiber. Men have more strength and cardiovascular endurance  in terms of  absolute magnitude. This is an average estimate, but studies have been conducted that included 113 research studies of firefighters, police officers, coal miners, and construction workers. Stephen H. Courtwright conducted the study for Texas A&M University. The results showed that men scored higher in strength in cardiovascular endurance. There was no difference in movement quality. Training did help women gain higher scores, but did not eliminate the gap.

A meta-analysis of sex differences in physical ability

Women performed better on visual acuity, reaction time, and dexterity. It is rare that a woman will reach  the same strength level as a man who is on the same training regimen. This does not mean women cannot acquire enough strength to meet certain demands. The problem that emerges is that some elements of the test may not have as much relevance to the job or standards are raised so high to exclude women. When standards are raised so high, this would also exclude a number of men as well. It has been attempted by a number of police and firefighting  departments, but they have failed to keep out women. This leads to the other perspective of having tests tailored to specific tasks. If a candidate can do lifting required ( a firefighter carrying a hose or person) why should a score on a sit-up count exclude a candidate? It would seem ludicrous to deny them the job based on one element of physical fitness. There are cases in which some exercises are not useful at all. Women were allowed to do the flexed arm hang in the US military, but this was not an accurate measure of upper body strength. Having training programs designed specifically for women could violate employment laws. Training should be designed to target upper and lower body strength. The Los Angeles Police Department has been experimenting with this for a few years. Applicants have the most to benefit from specialized training which will reduce the time it takes and possible injury.  Women must focus on their upper body strength. Knowing the standards before attempting the tests can help an applicant train specifically for such demands.

Women like this seem to challenge the notion that physical tests are naturally unfair to women.
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Through training women can gain strength.

  When examining these perspectives it seems the claim that physical ability tests are  discriminatory seems to lack credibility.  The major factor in regards to testing is how precise are the tests that are administered. There are obviously cases in which the way physical ability tests are used to exclude women. The American Civil Liberties Union has exposed this longtime time practice. It would be illegal for a job to declare no help wanted from a particular group so discrimination has to be covert. According to the ACLU employers have to prove that particular elements to a physical ability test must be relevant to the job. SWAT teams are nearly all male and the ACLU has noted tests, put more emphasis solely on upper body strength. These tests included timed runs, wall climbs, push-ups, sit-ups, and obstacle courses. Elite and tactical units have high standards, but not all are entirely relevant to the job. If a tests puts more emphasis on push-ups, it could be considered discriminatory toward women. If the test is not verified by experts in the field or physiologists it may not even be considered a precise measure of skills. Discrimination must be challenged legally and test must be designed for the purpose of fulfilling requirements of the job position. The extreme perspectives on the issue of physical ability test must also be rejected. Although they do not admit it openly, there are men who view certain professions as male only and wish to keep it that way. Their argument is that women are too different biologically to handle such work. Others just have a problem with women being in positions of authority or power. The opposite end of the spectrum is the third wave feminist argument. A faction claims that physical ability tests are just all discriminatory and that either they be eliminated or standards lowered. This is just as harmful as the extreme sexist arguments. Double standards that favor women is not an example of equality.

images (3) The original point of feminism was the promotion of equality   among the sexes. This notion of female favoritism that has emerged in a third wave feminist or post-feminist atmosphere has had more negative effects, rather than positive ones. Feminism was never meant to be a women’s special interest group; it was for the purpose of stopping social injustices against women in all realms of society. Using reason would help a declining movement. This requires acknowledging that men and women are biologically and physiologically different. Admitting so is not an indication of inferiority or superiority between the sexes. That is why physical ability tests must remain for physically demanding occupations.

           Women make up a small number in physically demanding occupations due to differences in human physiology. Men on average are stronger due to body composition and endocrinology. Testosterone allows for higher levels of muscular hypertrophy and a denser bone structure. Strength in the upper body is more pronounced, but this gap seems limited compared to women’s lower bodies. Myostatin plays a role in both sexes. This means that men and women with low myostatin could find it easier to build more muscle. The person with the mesomorphic body types may find it easier to do such demanding tasks that require strength. Men’s larger skeletal frame allows for more muscle mass to be stored on the body. When examining the upper body broader shoulders accommodates more mass in the trapezius and pectoralis major muscles.

Women can build considerable muscle on their upper bodies relative to their frame, but men’s broader shoulders allows for more mass to be accommodated.
Valentina Chepiga  has a powerful upper body, but her strength would not be equivalent to Arnold’s upper body.

Other than muscle and bone mass there is the difference in tendon strength. Women do have more soft tissue injuries. The reason could be that women may not elevate their collagen synthesis. Women could have a lower rate of tendon formation and lower mechanical strength of the actual tissue, which means it could be vulnerable to injury.  Both sexes are susceptible to harm if they over train, over exert their bodies, or use incorrect form. Women must be cautious when engaging in an intense training program. Men have more natural strength, which refers to the strength prior to a fitness regimen. Women who are considering entering careers of a physically demanding nature should train their bodies. Weight training has been the most effective method for increasing strength. Diet is also critical. Estrogen produces more fat, which means women metabolize food differently. Food is an essential fuel for the body , but the goal should be to increase type II fast twitch muscle fiber. Balanced and full meals can help with a training regimen. One element of sexual dimorphism that may be harder to overcome is running speed. The structure of women’s pelvises including smaller hearts and lungs would mean they would run slower. Utilizing oxygen is essential to running and aerobic capacity. It should be noted these observations are averages. There are women extraordinary talent that could meet these standards. While there are explanations that are biologically based why few women are in these occupations, the sociological explanations cannot be ignored.

    Traditionally, women have been kept out of the workforce. If they did have presence in the workforce, like other discriminated groups it was either low paying or menial. Physically demanding jobs had a unique masculine mystique to them. The ethos they generated was that of the male hero. They were idolized and young boys would dream of becoming a fireman or policeman. The image that was projected was a brave, invincible, and forceful man who was master. This image was one based on a traditional masculinity and women were not to adopt it. Besides just not being acceptable, it had a misogynist overtone. Women were considered “too timid” and “too weak” for such dangerous work. Women were also considered to be too incompetent for certain occupations. These convictions emerged out of the industrial revolution, when gender roles became more strict in regards to labor.

The idea that women are too cowardly, incompetent, or weak for certain professions continues to be used as a justification to exclude them.

Legal protectionism was a concept designed to “safe guard” women from a harsh society. This was not about legal protection, but excluding women from certain jobs or having equal rights.  The belief that man was woman’s defender and could not function without one was common. This not only kept women out of physically demanding jobs, but excluded them from white collar professions. There were certain convictions that women could not be doctors or scientists, because they were not intelligent enough. Protectionism reach its height in 1908 when the Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s law prohibiting the number of hours a woman could work. Legislation got so ludicrous that it prohibited women from working  more than 48 hours a week  or working jobs that required them to lift more than thirty five pounds. Some jobs had a fetal protection policy, which banned women for fear it would harm a developing life. This ban has problems when examined critically. First, a work environment should be safe enough that employees can perform their duties with out harm. If this is not done it is an occupational safety violation. Second , if a woman is capable of performing the job there is no legal justification for discrimination. Besides the law working against women in certain professions, conservative culture did as well. Women who entered the physically demanding occupations were either deemed unfeminine or in a homophobic manner had their sexuality questioned. Although these prejudices and hatreds have been challenged, there are problems with integration. Sexual harassment is a constant problem in any workplace. Chivalry although it seems harmless creates complications. Men may baby their female counterparts, because they believe they need protection or that they are the equivalent of children. A man may lift something heavy for a female co-worker even though she should be able to do the same. Women may even take advantage of this enlightened sexism, to their own detriment. Equality does not mean special privileges for a group; it means fair treatment for all. Women should not expect chivalrous or special treatment. Men and women must function as equals if full integration of these physically demanding occupations is to work.

          Women involved in construction can reveal much about women in traditionally male dominated occupations. Women often have their credentials question more, due to the fact it is assumed women have no skill or  the physical strength in building. Building and engineering has been considered a man’s job.


The truth is women are entering this profession, because many of the legal barriers and social stigmas were eliminated.  There were some rare cases in history in which women were involved in some construction work. The Soviet Union did allow women to work in construction  or factory jobs. It was guided by the notion that socialism should challenge strict gender roles, because it reinforced bourgeoisie values. A classless society in their belief system meant that men and women would contribute to the collective economic welfare of the state. However, women still remain a small number in the construction workforce. This is again not entirely biological or sociological. It can also be economic. Construction’s well being depends on the real estate market. If it is in decline, this will automatically harm construction workers. The subprime mortgage loan crisis of the mid-2000s  was what caused a large number of US workers in the construction industry to lose their jobs. According to the United States Department of Labor from 1985 to 2007 the number of women employed in construction rose to 81.3%. This was great progress. It was set back by the loss of 2.5 million between 2007 and 2010. It has been estimated that about 300,000 women left the industry. Women only consist about 9%  of the construction industry. There are about 800,000 women still employed in the construction industry. Women now work as electricians, plumbers, laborers, managerial, professional, administrative, and production employees. Men and women do face similar risks or hazards. There are some issues that effect women more so.

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Women doing construction work in the 1940s.
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Woman welder working in a factory in the 20th century.

Women who have smaller tendons, ligaments, and muscle tissue could be more susceptible to injury. Decent healthcare  may not be available to workers or if there is coverage it is not substantial considering possible hazards to well being. Women who are hypertensive and are involved in physically demanding occupations could be at risk for heart disease. Health and physical condition on the job is pivotal. Progress according to current statistics is slow for women entering construction jobs. The Women’s National Law Center has reported only 200,000 women are in construction out of 7.6 million male workers. Gender segregation has declined in the workforce, however there are persistent barriers. Child care and maternity leave pose problems, which men do not have to worry about. Companies and various corporations cut benefits to maximize profits.  Single mothers involved in apprenticeships may have trouble graduating due to limited options for child care. Sexual harassment and bullying by supervisors also constitutes more stress. The women in construction report revealed by the US Department of Labor that 88% of women experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Gender stereotypes also play a role. Men think women cannot build or construct anything. Older men believe that this is a role not for women.

Seeing as women can no longer be banned from such work , men attempt to make an unpleasant atmosphere. This can be detrimental to the industry on multiple levels. Discrimination excludes capable women which will harm the quality of the work. Less workers means lower productivity and overworked staff that may just leave due to unreasonable demands.Women entering the construction industry may also help with economic recovery. The United States has for decades ignored  its physical economy, letting its factories, infrastructure, and automobile industry struggle. As long as wages are not stagnant, there will be growth. A strong construction industry with workers enthusiastic to be a part of it will become essential to economic health. While it is important to understand discrimination, personal choice is also a factor. Another reason why women do not enter this field is because they may feel that physical activity is something they should not have to do.The mentality that men should do heavy lifting for women must be repudiated. It is not uncommon for women to ask men to open jars for them or move objects, without even attempting it themselves.


Construction is not solely reliant on manual labor, but also the use of tools and heavy machinery.

  Women will under extra criticism and scrutiny in professions such as these. Their performance has to be of high or higher quality.  This attitude may not be completely related to gender politics. It could be both generational and class related. Traditionally, construction was seen as more of a working class type of occupation. When technology advanced machine power replaced human muscle power. Heavy equipment made construction more semi-skilled. Men and women part of a middle class background and who are younger may not want to do manual labor jobs. The post-World War II  middle class values emerge with the concept men and women should aim for white collar professions. It is unfortunate that construction work would not get as much respect as lawyer or someone working in the financial sector. After all, everyone needs a structure to live in and conduct business. Every job counts from the most menial to the highest paying . Construction is a pivotal part of the economy that cannot be neglected.

           Firefighting is another predominately male occupation. There were points in history just like construction, in which women did serve as firefighters in the US, UK, Pakistan, India, Norway,  and later on in the 20th century. What can be noticed is similar problems. Institutional  discrimination and the physical challenges complicated by sexual dimorphism. The US according to data only has 3.6 % of women as firefighters. The challenge that is the most visible is the physical tests. Applicants must hang from a pole, go up stairs with heavy equipment, and carry  large fire hoses. Some tasks are timed. There has been an attempt to modify the tests to get more women to join. These modifications were questionable and many wondered if this was simply lowering standards. This would not be an effective policy.

Here is a female firefighter. Prejudice against her would assume she is not strong enough or has the courage for such work.

   There are women who are strong enough to meet the requirements necessary. Women would need extra training before attempting the physical ability tests for fire fighters. Knowing the requirements prior and help a woman on her own train specifically for it. The stair climb requires a trainee to run on a continuous rotating staircase referred to as a step mill. The applicant has to stay on it for a total of 200 seconds. The ladder event requires the removal of  a ladder that weighs about 45 lbs. A distance will be set on how far it will be carried in the 35.6 second time frame. Hose advance is a demonstration of how the hose is to utilized when active. It must be done in a 20 second time frame. Forcible entry has applicants use a 12 lbs sledge hammer to knock down a rubber pad on a movable post. It is designed to simulate forcing open a door that is locked. The search event has applicants go through a tunnel simulating the actions involved entering a smoke filled building. The ceiling hook event helps an applicant find fires in hidden places, by learning to pull down walls. The most challenging event for women in particular would be the rescue through doorway. This requires carry a 125 lbs dummy through an obstacle course and getting it to safety. Examining these requirements, women who want to be firefighters must be able to carry and lift above the weight of 182 lbs.

The previous picture was Erica Blockman  in her firefighter uniform. It would be a mistake to assume that because she is a woman she is not strong enough for fire fighting.  Her strength statistics show she has a 285 lbs squat, 175 lbs bench press,  and a dead lift of 365 lbs.

  It will take women longer to amass such strength required. Lowering standards is not only a horrible idea for firefighting, but it underestimates women’s capabilities. Erica Blockman who is a firefighter, personal trainer, and bodybuilder did fifteen years of training to gain the strength she required for her job. The most impressive aspect is that she only stands at 5’1 and weighs 129 pounds. Even smaller women can succeed if they try hard enough. Women with a naturally higher physical fitness level will find passing these tests much easier. Although strength and endurance is important just how accurate is it for job performance success? It may give some idea, but not the entire picture. Flexibility, coordination, and balance are not emphasized as much. These are critical elements of fitness that should also be tested. Rather than modification or lowering of standards, there should be precision analysis. This would examine every aspect to the best exercises to the most essential tasks.

Sandy Ridell was also a firefighter. It would be ludicrous to hold her to lower standards.


The ultimate priority is not just to put out fires, but to save lives. lowering standards only puts people at risk in this type of profession. Women must learn not to fear weights or building muscle. The notion that strength is an attribute a woman must not have has to disappear. Strength and muscle will help with heavy lifting. The few examples mentioned here would have probably not been successful  if they did not train before they entered their firefighting duties. If we were to do an experiment of non-trained versus weight trained  the results would reveal much. If these women did not weight train they would either fail the fitness requirements or not even finish the test. The athletic women who maintained a consistent regimen would be successful.

Fire hoses can be very heavy, but she can do it just fine.
This explains how she can handle the fire hose. She has an extensive  strength training regimen .

Like other professions of this nature there are also social issues that are present. Fire stations for example were designed solely for men in their facilities. Restroom and sleeping quarters were not separate for the first women entering firefighting.  Older stations tend not to have the gender modifications for women living in a firehouse. This can be a real frustrating problem for women in firefighting. Women do not enjoy the unrelenting stares of their male counterparts in stations that do not have the facilities modified. Some facilities refuse to have their stations modified, because of the cost involved. Stations are going to need repairs over time, so this excuse seems to lack cogency. There are men who have been involved in firefighting for years , before women gained entry and still believe they should not be there. Only a strong human resources department can challenge sexist discrimination in the workplace. Other skills that a firefighter must have besides physical ones include passing knowledge based tests and a psychological evaluation.  Emergency rescues require teams and units. Full-time fire fighters have a requirement of knowing CPR and paramedic training. There is a mental aspect to this occupation that needs an individual to be calm and brave in perilous situations.


Women are not just becoming fighters in the field, they are also becoming fire chiefs.

Seeing as the profession has become more skilled it requires more education. If one wants to become a part of senior management, a master’s degree or higher will improve the chances of mobility through the ranks. A university education will help with any career. People skills and communication is also important. Firefighters work with the public and having some experience in community outreach can help. Women are going to entering this profession it appears in larger numbers, so adjustments must be made.

          Law enforcement is another physically demanding profession, but not as much as firefighting or a military career. It is an occupation that has lost much respect and prestige due to police brutality, institutional racism, sexism, and a culture of general corruption. The United States has a problem with police either targeting African Americans or the use of excessive force against the public. Other nations which have authoritarian governments the police are seen as oppressors. Solutions to police misconduct and criminal acts  range from reform to adding more women to the police force. Adding more women to the police force will not be effective, seeing as there are cases in which women have engaged in excessive force or murder on a police force. This seems to be reliant on the sexist stereotype that women are more peaceful and less violent than men. To understand women on police forces, some myths must be addressed. There is an idea that a police officer  must be imposing super strong he-men to be effective. Policing is not about beating people, but it is  part detective work and solving crimes. This leads to another myth that could have more lethal consequences. The belief that women cannot defend themselves may be in a female officers mind and she may be more willing to use her gun if confronted by a male criminal. An exaggerated idea of men’s strength could cause them to use lethal force when it is not necessary. Male police officers do that even when people are unarmed.

This woman would have her credentials questioned because of her gender.
This male cop is so out of shape he resembles Chief Wiggum. However, no one would question his competence because he’s a man.

The conviction that police officers are faced with constant danger is another exaggeration. Law enforcement depending on the area is a safe profession. It is rare that there are huge numbers of police officers being killed in the street .There is also the problem of varying standards.Some police departments do not even require a college degree and settle for only a high school diploma or G.E.D equivalent. Police departments would be best if they had staff with at least a bachelor’s in criminology. This may be at the root of many problems in US police departments. An uneducated workforce is not helpful in a global economy.  The police fitness test also pose issues for women. Some observers noted the initial hiring standard was higher than the post-hiring standard. This seems backwards id one is attempting to have a certain level of retention. Then there are physical tasks that may not be related to the function of the job. Some police departments ask that applicants be able to bench press the equivalent of their weight. A more accurate estimation of upper body strength would probably be pull-ups rather than bench press exercises. Then another challenge is that the criteria varies depending on what area of the US. Here it become obvious that police departments can use physical ability tests to discriminate against women. Police departments are like firefighting departments investigated by the US Justice Department to make reasonable standards.

This is an example of a physical ability test for a police department. It is done on a point system of how many of the particular exercise can be performed. There are women who could do this easily, but may not reach the highest scores of the highest performing man .
If one goes off the assumption physical strength is the only attribute need to be a police officer, then this woman would be more qualified. Being a police officer involves more than just that attribute.

It is clear that there is institutional discrimination in America’s police departments. Large law enforcement agencies employ only about 15% of women. Other ethnic groups on police forces are underrepresented. What the US has is an overwhelmingly white male law enforcement establishment policing a nation that will be more diverse in the future. The lugubrious fact is that modern day policing has its roots in the slave patrols in the Antebellum South during the 19th century. There is a system of white supremacy that operates in US law enforcement that must be overturned. Combined with a culture of hyper-machismo and hate the police are seen as a menacing force. History and culture have created an atmosphere of acceptable violence. Critics and observers have claimed that if more women were on law enforcement agencies, police killings would be reduced. Statistics do show women police officers are least likely to use their weapon and first use communication to diffuse intense situations. Although this seems promising there are also instances in which women have killed on police forces. The small number of women on police forces can also distort this data. One example is Alicia White, one of the six police officers charge with the murder Fredie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland. She was the only female killer police officer, which is a rare. However, if more women were to join law enforcement crimes like these would increase. Diversifying a police force will not change behavior unless the law is equally enforced for wrong doing in a law enforcement agency.

There has been progress, but it has been minimal. African American women are more underrepresented on US police forces. Other ethnic groups or religious groups are as well.

Only after multiple police acts of murder and discrimination suits has the Justice Department begun to take action. This is happening at a time when the US is at a cross roads. Law enforcement agencies are undergoing militarization which is causing a level of discomfort for people concerned about civil liberties. Influenced by an irrational fear of possible terrorist attack, this will become a major legal battle.  There must be more efforts made to recruit women  and other ethnic groups into law enforcement and have officers be accountable to the law.

    The military has been shown to be more resistant to women being in its ranks. Women in combat has become another wedge issue that both the political right and left try to capitalize on. Women soldiers not only face war, but sexual abuse and rape from men in their own army. As noted earlier sexual harassment is present in both law enforcement agencies and firefighting, but the US  military has a prevalent crime issue of rape and sexual assault. Then there are the detractors who state women are not designed for combat roles. The fact is women are already in combat. Iraq and Afghanistan are not traditional wars in the sense that there are front lines. Women were fighting already in an unofficial and support capacity. Now women have the option of entering a military occupational specialty (mos). This may be a more difficult place for women to excel at. The physical tests are difficult and it is a military culture  that seems to be misogynistic in attitude. The marines have a problem with this, which seem to have a fraternity mindset and engages in hazing behavior. A general lack of professionalism seems to plague the US military at the moment.

Women in cultural engagement teams may see combat unexpectedly. Afghanistan continues to deteriorate and is analogous to America’s defeat in the Vietnam War.

 The physical challenges are a burden to women. If a woman is anticipating a military career, its best they exercise before they join. Women do not have as much natural strength, which explain higher rates of injury. This means even basic training can be difficult. Getting the muscles physically ready for vigorous activity is critical. The Army Physical Fitness Test has standards that are adjusted according to age and sex. Other branches of the US military have different standards which include the Navy, Marine Corps, Navy Seals, Green Berets, and Air Force. Depending on which branch an individual wants to fight with, it’s best to train on your own time for it to meet the physical fitness standards. Women’s smaller frames and lower strength does not explain all the higher injury rates. Musculoskeletal injuries have been increasing due to heavy gear. This not only hinders mobility, but harms a soldier’s health. It becomes worse for men and women marching under load. Marines could on average carry up to 135 pounds of gear or more, which ergonomic standards is not best for human movement. A 2001 Army Science Board study found that overloaded gear caused fatigue faster and injury as well. Soldiers came back with connective tissue issues, spine injuries, and arthritic conditions.

An Australian soldier carrying gear. This could cause health issues if not addressed.

     Loads need to be reduced to prevent soldier injury. Women could be at risk for more of these medical issues because of their smaller size. Developing upper body strength could help with prevention of injuries in the chest and neck. Programs such as Executive Office Soldier have been leading efforts to lighten gear and protect soldiers from health risks. The progress has been slow with PEO  gradually producing armor that fits the female frame. Ammunition can weigh up to 70 pounds in total  and water containers are up to 17 additional pounds. If women are to carry large loads or injured soldiers fitness double standards must be challenged. The pull-ups controversy has been hounding the women in combat issue since 2013. There was a three pull-up requirement that has since been reversed. There are women who can do more than three pull-ups if they train hard enough. The flexed arm hang seems useless, but women are given this as the only option. Changing the standard only gives detractors more talking points. The persistent argument against women in combat is that they are too weak and not capable. Normally the statement is a “a woman is not strong enough to lift a man who is injured.”The casualty drag is preformed by all soldiers and women have shown it can be done. One simple method is the use of the fireman’s carry. Although this is not done in full combat gear,  adding weight could make it more difficult. If a woman has a high enough level of strength and proper fitting armor it will not be a failure.

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There has to be a change in convictions. The notion that warfare is male only has to be challenged. Through out history women did fight in wars. This has not been studied as thoroughly, but Dahomey, Russia, and Vietnam at certain points had women in combat. Despite these facts, Westerners in particular automatically think warrior means male. This goes back to the masculine hero image that these occupations present. It is not only in cultural attitudes, but in advertising, film, and other forms of entertainment. The US military wants to present an image of a force of strong dangerous men who are invincible. This does not represent the truth, but an idea they want the public to have. Many who are in the US military are not there for financial reasons or young people seeking a method to get to college. There are also families who have a tradition of just participating. For men it was considered honorable, but women were given limited praise for their contributions.

These World War II posters from the US demonstrate a level of subtle sexism. The soldier who claims he “throw’s like a girl” indicates women do not have that ability. The other poster takes a hit at a man’s masculinity by having a woman in a Navy uniform, implying that  a male that does not join is woman like. 

Women have been increasing in numbers in the US armed forces since 1978. This trend will most likely continue considering the US military does offer benefits and a pathway to pay for a university education. Adjustments must be implemented before possible disasters happen. This means the US military must prosecute sex crimes, stop fitness double standards, and end banning women from combat positions. Most importantly, the United States must stop nation building projects and conducting aggressive war.

          Professional sport is another physically demanding occupation that women have entered. There is not an equal playing field. Women still make less than there male counterparts in professional sports. Women’s sports get less media and television coverage. Detractors say that women do not perform to the same level as men and therefore will not be marketable. This argument lacks cogency for several reasons. While it is true that women do not perform to records equal of a male athlete, there are many who are extremely talented. The Williams sisters, Ronda Rousey, Dafne Schippers, Allyson Felix ,Simone Biles, and Michelle Carter prove they have a great amount of athletic skill. These are just a few women who prove who can achieve athletic strength and feats. It also has to understood sports is more than just about records and performance; you have to be an entertainer. This adds to the excitement of the game and woman have shown they can entertaining. Also some sports that women participate in do generate a fan base  in mainstream and subcultural circles. Female bodybuilding has a subcultural following although not popular among the mainstream public. Serena Williams has generated positive publicity for tennis.

The problem here is not the lack of talent, but corporate media gatekeepers and detractors that want to keep women out of sport. Then there are some sports that do not have a female equivalent. American football does not have a female division in the NFL. There are women who have been attempting to organize professional football for women in the United States. This also poses a problem with sports such as wrestling. This small sport is normally overshadowed by football in middle and high schools in the United States. The funding for it is limited and many times there is no female division. Girls can play and try out on these teams if a female division is not present in accordance with  Title IX. However, coaches and parents still want to prevent girls from participating, even though they have no intention of forming a girls team. There are critics and some feminists who say that separating sports between men and who is naturally unequal. The differences in physiology and biology  in regards to strength, speed, and aerobic capacity would mean large numbers of women could be shut out from sport. There is obviously a level of overlap between individuals, but if full mixed competition were to happen women’s number would resemble that of the police and firefighting. Sports such as boxing, weightlifting, and mixed martial arts would but women at a disadvantage due to the emphasis on upper body strength. The solution is simple. Women must be provided an division for each sport. Just like their are weight classes for various sports, there is no reason this cannot be done for the sake of fairness.

Jackie Mitchell  is an example of overlap. She was the only woman to pitch out Babe Ruth in baseball.

 Women who have the strength and power to compete directly with men in sport should not be discouraged from doing so. If she feels she is not being challenged enough with her female colleagues, she should at least have the opportunity to try. This approach seems more practical in the long term. Although more women are involved in sports traditional prejudices and barriers remain. Sex verification tests still are present. Notably, Caster Semenya had to take one, which generated much criticism and backlash. Young women may not have access to equal training facilities as their male counter parts. Women are intensely scrutinized  for their athletic and muscular appearance.  Low pay and limited career opportunities make retention difficult. Women’s team sports do struggle. Even if this is so women continue to perform well under stress, pressure, and an unsupportive environment.

         A basic analysis of women in physically demanding occupations reveals that there are biological and sociological reasons why they are underrepresented. A sociological perspective reveals that women were legally barred and discriminated against in the workforce. This was holding them back as a group. It has been somewhat reversed, but elements of culture needed to be discarded. The emphasis on women’s gender roles and being kept in a state of domesticity is not compatible for today’s modern global economy. Anyone who is able to work, must to maintain economic health of a nation. This means women must be full participants. The days of a man being the sole bread winner have ended due to  the social changes brought about by globalization.  Both parents in contemporary America have to work if they are to pay bills, send their children to college, and have a comfortable retirement. The biological reason for women’s low numbers is clear. Men are on average stronger than women giving them  a bigger chance to pass physical tests. Women who are stronger than average or train hard to reach a fitness level required can do these jobs. They do face more harassment, bullying, and an unpleasant atmosphere, because of the intolerance of their male counterparts. Lack of strength or other qualifications does not explain why women may quit at higher rates.  There are efforts to push women out of firefighting, law enforcement, sports, and the military. Similar arguments of biological inferiority were made when women began entering higher education. It was believed that women were less intelligent and could not excel at the sciences or mathematics. This has changed and even though the numbers are small women are making progress in the scientific fields. Although those fields required mental skill and deep thought biological arguments were made to exclude them. It is widely accepted that neither sex is more intelligent than the other. Sexual dimorphism is  not enough to exclude someone from an occupation, if they are qualified and capable. The best approach to this problems regarding women involved is to start recruitment efforts, get women more involved in fitness regimens, and enforce anti-discrimination laws. If feminists want to be helpful in reducing the wage gap, they need to encourage women to go into male dominated occupations. Lowering standards is not equality, but insulting to women who are capable. Only when barriers and social stigmas are removed, women can reach their full potential in these fields.


Prinzivalli, By Leah. “This Woman Is Fighting Fitness Double Standards in the Marines | VICE | United States.” VICE. Vice News, 26 May 2016. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://www.vice.com/read/this-woman-is-fighting-fitness-double-standards-in-the-marines&gt;.

Chemaly, Soraya. “Would Fewer People Get Killed If More Police Officers Were Women?” Womens ENews. Women’s ENews, 20 July 2016. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://womensenews.org/2016/04/would-fewer-people-get-killed-if-more-police-officers-were-women/&gt;.

Cox, Matthew. “Heavy Loads Could Burden Women’s Infantry Role.”Military.com. Military.com, 5 Apr. 2013. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/04/10/heavy-loads-could-burden-womens-infantry-role.html&gt;.

Lee, Mara. “Progress Still Slow For Women Breaking Into Construction Jobs.”Courant.com. Courant, 11 Jan. 2016. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://www.courant.com/business/hc-women-in-the-trades-20160111-story.html&gt;.

Vatelli, Romeo. “Do Tests of Physical Ability Discriminate Against Women?”Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 02 Sept. 2013. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201309/do-tests-physical-ability-discriminate-against-women&gt;.

Fields, Cassie. “Are Physical Tests Fair to Females?” – Women in Law Enforcement. Women in Law Enforcement Blog, 13 July 2012. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://www.policemag.com/blog/women-in-law-enforcement/story/2012/07/are-physical-tests-fair-to-females.aspx&gt;.

Annilo, John. “The Police Physical Ability Test: Would You Meet the Requirements?” Breaking Muscle. Breaking the Muscle, 7 Feb. 2016. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://breakingmuscle.com/military-first-responders/the-police-physical-ability-test-would-you-meet-the-requirements&gt;.

Spillar, Kathy. “The Nation’s Police Have a Sex-Discrimination Problem.” Ms Magazine Blog. Ms Magazine, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://msmagazine.com/blog/2014/09/30/the-nations-police-have-a-sex-discrimination-problem/&gt;.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.” Construction Industry. United States Department of Labor, 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <https://www.osha.gov/doc/topics/women/&gt;.

“Women and Physical Ability Tests.” American Civil Liberties Union. American Civil Liberties Union, 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <https://www.aclu.org/issues/womens-rights/womens-rights-workplace/women-and-physical-ability-tests&gt;.

Fredman, Josh. “What Does It Take to Be a Woman Fireman?” Houston Chronicle. N.p., 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. <http://work.chron.com/woman-fireman-15474.html&gt;.

Women in Physically Demanding Occupations

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