Can Women Close the Athletic Performance Gap?

There exists a gap in athletic performance between male and female athletes. Women were relative late comers to the world of professional sport having to deal with restrictive social and discriminatory barriers. While these sociological explanations are apparent for the differences in performance, the biological ones are being further studied. Women’s athletic performance has improved compare to earlier records, but has remained stable since 1983. There were predictions that women’s records would either reach or be equal to men’s by some. It is not impossible that some women may be able to perform equal to a male athlete. As a whole the athletic performance gap is large. The question still remains can women close the gap? This may seem like a simple answer, but it requires a scientific approach. Using biology, physiology, anatomy, and biomedical science can reveal a lucid answer.  Many say women’s bodies are not designed for strength or durability, but it appears that is not entirely true. Exercise physiology has only recently began to examine female physical capability. The question may not be as simple as once thought.

           If this question is going to be approached from the dimension of the scientific method, there are factors that must be considered. Precision should be the goal be may not be reachable in this simulated experiment. More men compete in sports, which distorts the sample size. A large number of potentially athletic women could be excluded from competition  due to certain barriers. Then there is the presence of performance enhancing drugs. Men tend to be using more performance enhancing drugs than female competitors. This will again cause problems in the data. Also, comparisons in the experiment should be based on height and weight. Comparing a 180 lbs male athlete to 130 female athlete would not be accurate. Sports function on weight classes, for the sake of  fairness. There for comparing an athletic female to an average man would not helpful to the experiment. The men and women in the sample would have to have the same training to give  precise information on athletic performance. Boys get a head start learning physical skills early. Girls have to catch up in developing physical skills. Once these factors are established a hypothesis can be formed. Women as a whole may not be able to close the athletic performance gap completely, but individual women could reach the level of some of their male counterparts. The gap could be narrowed, but not erased.

    This would not be a fair comparison. The man does train like Kana Ichikawa. 

Women could narrow the gap that existed between average males in terms of strength. This would be harder for a woman who engages in similar weight training activities. Age and biological sex do play a role in the level of athletic performance.

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 It would not be hard to guess who is the strongest one among these two (top). Margie Martin would have difficulty beating these trained men (bottom).  

With these factors under consideration one can proceed to expound upon what is known about male and female athletic performance. This will then result in a conclusion.

         There is a point in which there is the athletic performance gap is non-existent. Before puberty boys do not have a strength advantage. Boys and girls can compete with each other on sports teams because the changes induced by the endocrine system and pituitary gland have not taken effect. A study by Indiana University conducted a study that examined boys in girls in swimming between the ages 6 to 19. This seems obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of the anabolic properties of testosterone. The sample was large collecting 1.9 million swims. This was done between the period of 2005 to 2010. The study found that boys and girls ages 8 to 12 did not show any difference in performance. However, around age 13 boys started to surpass girls in strength, height  and speed. It seems odd that rarely boys and girls compete in mixed competitions, considering boys do not have the physical advantage at this stage. The study also showed that performance was not influenced by a specific form of training, but by muscle function. Estrogen does not provide the strength spurt that men get during puberty. Women will acquire more fat and their hips will widen. Examining the physical transformation of female teen athletes reveals the influence of sexual dimorphism. Rough estimations show that the strength measure gap widens by age. Girls ages 3 to 10 can have 100% the strength of a boy. Around 11 to 12 it still remains a close 90%. Girls around ages 13  to 14  can have 85% of boys strength. When boys reach their full strength spurt by 16 it will be only 75 %. These estimations are between similar sized male and female athletes.

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It is true that weight training can increase strength in the female athlete. The extent of muscular hypertrophy may not reach the level of males. Girls hearts and lungs do not see a significant increase in size. This therefore limits aerobic capacity. Narrow shoulders means a smaller articular surface. It would seem that the physical maximum is reduced in women upon puberty, but there are advantages. Women gain more balance and flexibility which can help with skilled movements. It looks like at the early stages of childhood and adolescence the sexes are on a physically equally playing field. When look at the changes in female track athletes during high school, it shows physical changes to effect performance. Weight gain and the pelvis change reduces speed. Some girls get discouraged and drop out of competing completely. There are methods used to counter and circumvent changes. Building the hip flexor muscles can prevent injuries and provide much needed reinforcement for the pelvis.The women that continue to the elite level in track make it due to their individual genetics. When girls become women jumping over hurdles becomes more difficult. The average runner would struggle to remain competitive. The women of elite competitive caliber handle the physical changes of puberty better in relation to sports performance. Girls mature faster than boys and experience puberty between the ages of 10 and 14. It should also be understood some boys and girls could start puberty earlier or later . Wrestling also shows the dramatic physiological changes. Boys and girls wrestling shows that females are not at a disadvantage. The strength level is equal at that stage, but by the late teens and early twenties males gain more type II fast twitch muscle fibers.

  There may be girls competing on boys teams in middle school and high school, but rarely at the university level. There are exceptions, but it means they will have to be reliant on technical skill to substitute for the larger male opponents. This means a woman in the same weight class would have less type II fast twitch muscle fibers.

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Deanna Rix wrestled boys throughout high school. She is one of the few that could do this, because of her skills.

  The process of aging effects all organisms. Athletes do age and it effects performance. There is a point in which an athlete will improve and continue to do so. When there can no longer be improvements in strength, speed, or endurance an athlete will reach their physical peak. Men and women reach their physical peak around their late 20’s to early 30’s. Peak accumulation of muscle mass can happen between the ages of 20 to 30. When an adult reaches middle age muscle mass can declines 5% every ten years. As age progresses both men and women can lose up to 40% of their functional strength. This can be reduced by strength training. Athletes now can remain in competition longer by using different training methods. Bones are also critical and continue to build themselves until age 30. Women complete their bone mass development earlier and have a lower bone density. Women can lose a degree of bone mass due to menopause and lower bone mass means a higher osteoporosis risk. Metabolism  changes also effect the body. It can decrease 10 percent  as a result of the increase in fat and the loss of muscular tissue. The heart rate also decreases. Flexibility can also be lost from the hips, lower back, and hamstrings .  These changes are part of the process of senescence.The changes in body composition, the pelvis, and general bone structure do not increase performance out put. Puberty does not benefit girls in terms athletic performance, like it does boys.

           Muscular strength has importance in contact sports. Women have smaller muscles in comparison. Women can respond to weight training, but this leads to what is the muscular potential of women. This is dependent on age, level of fitness, diet, and specific body type. An average person can gain at least a half pound of muscle per week if training is consistent. Women can see at least a 40% increase in muscular strength after several months of consistent training. Women of mesomorphic body type will find this easier to achieve. Men have less body fat, which gives them a higher magnitude in total gains. The average untrained man can in rough estimates be capable of benching 135 lbs, squatting 125 lbs, and deadlifting  155 lbs. There are different stages to lifting which include untrained, novice, intermediate, and advanced lifters. Women could expect to reach the male novice or close to the range of intermediate level of records. Christy Resendes  a strong woman and lifter has a 205 lbs bench press, 405 lbs squat and deadlift.  The average male novice weight lifter can bench 175 lbs, squat  230, and deadlift 290 lbs. Christy surpasses that range and  reaches apart  the intermediate range.  This range for intermediate male weight lifters includes 215 lbs ( bench press), 285 lbs ( squat),  and 385 lbs (deadlift).  Reaching the highest male range 290 lbs ( bench press), 390 lbs (squat) and 460 lbs ( deadlift).

 It appears that men have more absolute strength even when the height and weight are the same. Determining strength depends on what test is given. To measure a specific item muscular strength must be defined. Muscular strength by definition is the total force generated by muscle when performing an action. When measuring tension of the cross section of muscle per square centimeter it shows that men and women have similar strength. When looking at it from the upper as compared to lower body the disparity becomes clear. Women have lower upper body strength even when weight and height are equal to her male counterpart. Lower body strength is closer, but not equal. This means that strength differences between men and women of the same weight are diminutive.  The one method to determine strength is by static and isometric measurement. Dynamic measurement can also be utilized. The one repetition maximum, which requires lifting the heaviest weight one time in perfect form. These seem more precise than an analysis of hand grip strength.

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A study was conducted that examined hand grip strength by The European Journal of Applied Physiology. This was known as “Hand Grip Strength of Young Men, Women, and Highly Trained Athletes.”  The sample was not entirely perfect.  Only 60 female athletes were used including 533 average women with no athletic background. Men out numbered women in the sample at a total 1,654. Already this shows how an experiment has challenges in precision. The conclusion was that the elite female judo and handball players only reached the 50 percentile of the male group ( untrained and specifically trained ). The study claimed that hand size was not a factor. This could not be the case. Men and women have differences in the size of there hands. The hand possesses bones and tendons that also play a role in strength.

The mathematics were correct in data accumulation. The results give only an estimation of strength in one particular part of the body. It becomes obvious that tendon and hand size did play a role in the results. While they selected mostly young people it leaves one to wonder what the results would be with female athletes 25 years and up. If this was about examining strength weightlifters would be better subjects. This only gives a rough estimation. One example would be to compare crossfit records as a more precise measure. This sporting event has men and women lifting weights utilizing all of the body.

0b3381a869fd3875139433818ed83c7f The records show that male values are higher in terms of squats, deadlifts, snatch, as well as clean and jerk. These are values of  a male and female crossfit competitors of the same age. The highest value 225 lbs for squats for our female subject. The male subject has a deadlift of  508 lbs as the highest value. Our female subject would have to lift a total of 635 lbs more to match the male subjects records. Regardless of sex athletes can improve their performance.

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The records above show that women did improve, but did not reach the 635 lbs target. The aggregate reached was 623 lbs. Men did see improvement at a minimal level. Their values still remained higher. The explanation has to do with fat levels. Even the most muscular woman still retains more body fat compared to a man. While basic physics dictates force equals mass times acceleration fat does not contribute to strength. Muscle fibers recruiting one another do. This means that the strongest man would be stronger than the strongest woman. Basic anatomical differences also contribute to this.

  Women on average have 11% more body fat. They store fat more efficiently despite consuming fewer calories. Women tend to burn more fat during exercise, but do not lose as much as men. This seems peculiar because the metabolism of muscle cells is the same in both sexes. The hardest part of bodybuilding is many women reveal, is getting body fat down from the off season.  This conundrum can be explained by human evolution. Fat is critical for child bearing. The nervous system does play a role in muscular power. The nervous system activates muscle fibers for movement. Men can activate the electrical impulse to the fiber faster compared to women. This also relates to neuromuscular efficiency .

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The body fat percentages for women of multiple body types. The lowest is at 8%, where men reach lower than that.

What this also includes is sex differences in metabolism in both the male and female body. Fat is stored in the form of triglycerides  composed of three fatty acid molecules. Gylcerol  has the responsibility of binding them. The adipocytes store most of human body fat. Fat can also be stored in muscle. This stored source known as intramuscular triglycerides. they can contain at least 3000 kilocalories. During a process known as lipolysis triglycerides are broken down. For women adding muscle and strength becomes a longer and more complicated process.

       The skeletal stricture and tendons also contribute to strength. Women’s tendons may not respond as much to training as men’s tendons. Collagen synthesis in women appears to be far less pronounced in women. A study from the Institute of Sports Medicine found in a 2007 study that the mechanical strength of the collagen fascicles was higher in men. This explains why women have higher connective tissue injuries compared to their male counterparts. This provides answers to the high rate of anterior cruciate  ligament tears. Hormones may have an effect. Oestrogen could reduce the total amount of collagen synthesis. Estodial which is a monitor of Oestrogen receptors and can influence tendon hypertrophy. A tendon is a flexible tissue composed of collagen matter connecting muscle to bone.

what also should be taken into consideration is the specific attributes of the male and female skeleton.The male skeleton is denser compared to the female skeleton. The shoulders are broader and add to mechanical advantage. The pelvis is wider in women which can effect running speed. Load bearing activities can come at a risk of musculoskeletal fractures.

The q angle of the legs is wider in women also due to how the legs are attached to the wider pelvis. The reason women have wider pelvises is for child birth. Bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments contribute to body strength.

        Aerobic capacity is imperative to an athlete. Normally, when asking the question of the possibilities of male  and female performance running records are used from the Olympics. Other events are recorded as well. The reason being the Olympics provide the highest number of female athletes in one setting and they are their nation’s highest caliber performers. The utilization of oxygen is important to running. Oxygen allows for the muscles to produce adenosine triphosphate which contributes to muscle contraction. Smaller lungs and hearts mean lower aerobic output. Hemoglobin has to transport oxygen from the lungs to other areas of the body. Women’s hemoglobin levels are 15 % lower than men’s. A woman has fewer red blood cells compared to a man.

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Given what is known about anatomy and physiology one would expect these percentages to be higher. The largest one is in weightlifting. This seems obvious due to the fact men have more upper body strength and more muscle fibers concentrated in that area.
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Being different does not mean being unequal.  There are advantages women have that men do not. Women due to their flexibility have an advantage in gymnastics in figure skating. Keeping these separate would probably be more fair to men.

Our respiratory system is not only important to athletics, but to sustaining our life. The problem with examining Olympics records is it may not give us the fullest sample. One problem is that there are still countries that do not send female teams to the Olympics. Saudi Arabia only recently began to do so. Then there is the problem of unequal resources. Nations that are of lower income may be at a disadvantage, when attempting to assemble teams in sports that require more capital. Women would be effected worse than men in this regard, due to past discrimination. Performance can be a product of both biology and environment.

      When women were entering professional sport and international competition some exercise physiologist assumed that women would reach and even surpass men’s records. These claims when examining runners do not seem to be the present reality. During the 1970’s and  1980’s women were making new records in running events such as sprinting. One theory suggests that it was because of performance enhancing drug use. Testing was not as intricate as it was today. There were also nations that had state sponsored doping programs. East Germany was notorious for this giving athletes drugs without their informed consent. Marita Koch admitted that she did use drugs to reach that record under East Germany’s program. Florence Griffith Joyner’s record had been under suspicion as being wind assisted or drug use. She never failed a drug test and there was no evidence to prove this claim. Women when they do perform at high levels are normally suspect. The only difference Joyner made was adding weight training to her regimen. This was probably improved her performance.

There would be no other explanation for why Carmelita Jeter came close to Joyner’s record. She did not break it, however it leads one to assume that Joyner’s victory could have been partially wind assisted.  If Joyner did use, then the women of the 21st century would not have come close. What it reveals is that individuals may have a unique physiology in terms of athletic performance. Women are training harder and may be getting more powerful, which may explain Genzebe Dibaba. She ran the fastest 1,500 meters of any woman in 2015. This may be unique to their genetics. Athletic ability or potential could  be genetically inherited.

Although the anabolic steroid explanation may demonstrate that their was an increase in performance, women’s records still did not reach males levels. One must account for the fact that more men are involved in sports and also used more drugs than women. Professional athletes are not even the majority users of anabolic androgenic  steroids. It is average people who want a fast solution to weight loss. Testosterone provides huge advantages in terms of muscular strength and steroids are a synthetic derivative from that hormone. A woman on steroids would probably not perform as well as a male athlete.Simply taking drugs will not ensure maximum performance. Anabolic steroids alter the endocrine and muscular system, but will not radically change genetics. The only way for that to happen is by gene doping or genetic engineering. It is said that women benefit more from drugs, but that does not seem to be the case. Men  produce ten times the testosterone due to the testes. Hormones also explain the differences in swimming and running. However, endocrinology  reveals that it is not entirely the total amount of testosterone. It the amount of free testosterone that is not bounded to a non-specific protein or sex hormone binding globin. Men have  a total of 5% available which allows for a higher level of muscular hypertrophy. All these factors influence data.

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A sample of athletic women and men’s performances.

When the 1990’s came to a close it appeared as if women were not catching up to their male counterparts. When examining the records women’s performances were 90% of men’s performances. There is a type of ratio that exists in various sports events. This golden ratio seems to project itself in rowing, swimming, track, and other athletics. The 90 percent ratio seems to hold after the 1983 stabilization. Comparing long distance runners show  a 72.7 average fro women and a 82.1 average for men. The value of 72.7 is 89%  of 82.1 meaning there is evidence of a the 90% ratio.Ira Hammerman  a physicist presented these findings at the 2010 Wingate Congress of Exercise and Sport Science.

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This again appears to be a marvel considering sex differences. The assumption would be that they would fall at least 50% or less. Hammerman examined 82 events in total, which gives more precision. The mathematics are correct which gives this examination  more credibility. Compared to the men of forty years ago, it would appear that women of today would surpass men of the past. There are two possibilities. The first is that women are still not reaching their full potential. The second could be that men have to reached their stabilization rate in athletic performance. Some observers claimed that by 2031 women would be out running  men. The 90% ratio demonstrates there is some room for improvement. If the women’s average record stands lower than .85 then improvements can be made, but men seem to remain ahead.

           There were women who were running faster again after the more strict drug rules. Paula Radcliffe broke records in marathon events in 2003. The fact that such women continue to break records means that drugs cannot be the only explanation for the sudden surge in performance in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It is thought that women would surpass men in ultramarathon events. Looking at the time differences there still is a gap. This results in another question about sex differences in fatigue. Research has suggested that women may manage pacing themselves better in marathons. Fatigue depends on the type of activity being performed. Women could be less fatigue prone than men, but it is still unclear if this is actually true. Type I muscle fibers, which women have more endurance. The trouble with type II fast twitch muscle fiber is that it has power, but limited endurance. This could explain why women are improving in marathon events including marathon swimming.

       There are rare cases in which some athletic women can out perform athletic men. Unique genetic physiology and technique provide an answer. This can happen in swimming and gymnastics. Ye Shiwen’s performance was incredible in swimming events at the Olympics. Her record was faster than Ryan Lochte. Mckayla Maroney  reached a high level in the women’s vault event. This means their biological sex does not hinder them in terms of athletic performance. There are instances that women in tennis even can serve as fast as men.

Sabine Lisicki  gave a serve in tennis at 131 miles per hour. That is faster than some male tennis players. It seems that women may put emphasis on technique to substitute the lower levels of strength. However, there are women who are stronger than others. Sabine Lisicki or Serena Williams are  more muscular and  have longer limbs. That natural advantage contributes to their success. Athletic skill is just as important as the biological and physiological elements of performance. Women would have a better chance of out performing a man in an endurance event than a competition of pure brute strength.

         It should also be understood there is a psychological aspect to performance. Competitiveness is essential to any sport. Some observers are convinced that women are not psychologically as competitive as men in sports. Motivation is also a factor. A study of varsity intercollegiate distance runners revealed that women trained less, having less competitive drive,  and less of a desire to train for an event. Before accusing this finding of feeding into sex stereotypes, consider the sociological dynamics. Prior to Title IX   the model of women athletic participation was to just encourage exercise, not athletic competition. Women were not encouraged to be competitive in school, public life, or get interested in a career. The biological factor is that androgens, which are higher in the male body make men more competitive. This may be a relic from human evolution over millions of years in which our early primate ancestors had to compete for mates. The question then becomes are women really pushing themselves to their full potential? They have come far in just a few decades in the sports world. There are a multitude of talent women athletes in the Olympics and professional arena. What it comes down to is risk. Men are willing to take more risk than women. This can be seen in distance running in which men use techniques that could be harmful in the long term. Although there may be a difference in competitive drive this still would not negate the sex differences in biology.

        The athletic performance gap may not be closed. This does not mean that some women cannot outperform some men. Overlap can happen no matter how small. There is no way to predict the future or how other records will turn out. There could be a possibility of the narrowing of the athletic performance gap. It may also indicate that women have reached their maximum physiological output. Men are still attempting to reach theirs. Their are both environmental and biological factors that work in producing an athlete. It cannot be ignored that girls are not really taught physical skills at an early age. This does not explain all the differences in performance. Biology is never static, because evolution could be constant. It would not be outrageous to say that women of the future could become bigger in stronger. However, human evolution as demonstrated by australopiths takes millions of years. Women are not biologically changing themselves yet. Women of unique genetic ability can compete with male athletes, but they are the rare exception. The great aspect about the human species is that it has genetic diversity and variation. As long as there are differences in biology, physiology, and endocrinology the athletic performance gap will be difficult to close.

Further Reading

Robinson, Meyer. “We Thought Female Athletes Were Catching Up to Men, but They’re Not.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/we-thought-female-athletes-were-catching-up-to-men-but-theyre-not/260927/&gt;.

Robert, Deaner. “Distance Running Is a Perfect Lab to Investigate Whether Men Are More Competitive Than Women.” The Epoch Times. The Epoch Times, 05 June 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1377389-distance-running-is-a-perfect-lab-to-investigate-whether-men-are-more-competitive-than-women/&gt;.

Owens, Timothy. “How Much Weight Can the Average Man Lift?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 08 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/380767-how-much-weight-can-the-average-man-lift/&gt;.

George, Brandon. “Track Skills Often Decline as Girls Mature into Women.” SportsDayHS. Dallas News, 19 May 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/high-school/sportsheadlines/2010/05/19/20100513-Track-skills-often-decline-as-girls-6083&gt;.

Kerlan, Robert. “Which Sex Is Stronger? It Depends On the Test.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 23 June 1988. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-23/news/vw-7049_1_body-fat&gt;.

Sillery, Bob. “Will Female Athletes Ever Beat Their Male Counterparts?” Popular Science. Popular Science, 25 July 2002. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2002-07/will-female-athletes-ever-beat-their-male-counterparts&gt;.

Tang, Kay. “When Do Men & Women Reach Their Physical Peak?” When Do Men & Women Reach Their Physical Peak? | Chron.com. Houston Chronicle, 8 Oct. 2008. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://livehealthy.chron.com/men-women-reach-physical-peak-2652.html&gt;.

Indiana University. “Who says girls can’t compete athletically with boys?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102201.htm>.
Ridder, Georges. “Hand-grip Strength of Young Men, Women and Highly Trained Female Athletes.” European Journal of Applied Physiology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 5 Oct. 2007. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17186303&gt;.
Kolata, Gina. “Men, Women and Speed. 2 Words: Got Testosterone?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Aug. 2008. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/22/sports/olympics/22women.html&gt;.
Zehner, Emma. “It Took 22 Years for the Women’s 1,500-Meters Record to Fall. What’s the Fastest Humans Can Possibly Run?” Slate Magazine. The Slate, 23 July 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2015/07/genzebe_dibaba_1500m_world_record_what_s_the_fastest_humans_can_possibly.html&gt;.

Can Women Close the Athletic Performance Gap?

Yolanda Hughes

Yolanda Hughes was a bodybuilder active in the 1990s. Fans of the sport remember her impeccable size and conditioning on stage. She was one of those athletes who should have won at least one Ms.Olympia. The competition was fierce in the time of Lenda Murray and Kim Chizevsky. While many competitors were great, it made it extra difficult for judging. Yolanda was born in 1963. She was raised in Murfressboro, Tennessee. This was the era of Jim Crow and the civil rights movement. Being African American in the US South was not a simple affair. Despite this, her grandmother was determined to raise her and her five other siblings. At an early age Yolanda became active in gymnastics. The local youth center in which she spent much of time, generated her interest in sports. Besides excelling at gymnastics, her academic performance was high. She excelled at subjects such as geography and psychology. Yolanda Hughes then gravitated toward track and field. Yolanda had mastered the 100 hurtles, 400 relay, and 100 meters; it seems that she was going to be on an athletic career path. Yolanda originally wanted to an Olympic gymnast. She competed at both the state and national level. She went down another path at Western Kentucky University.

youlanda-hughes  When she was a college student, Yolanda met a wrestler by the name of  Hillbille Jim. He was attempting to get her involved in bodybuilding. Yolanda showed skepticism. After further discussions Yolanda then decided to try bodybuilding. The periods of 1981 to 1982 brought many changes to Yolanda’s life. She transferred to Saddleback College in California, while helping her family. A combination of her scholarship running out and family obligations forced her to make a tough decision. Either continue her degree or start a full time athletic career. Yolanda Hughes decided to pursue her athletics and trained to be a professional bodybuilder. Yolanda trained at the San Clemente Gym building a powerful body. Yolanda was so dedicated, she had little time for leisure. The year 1984 saw her earn the right to compete in a national qualifier. There she caught the eye of Thomas Heying a German national who would later become her husband. She would then go and reside in Germany learning the culture and language. She only lived there briefly. Yolanda was accepted more there than she would be in the country she grew up. Yolanda also taught aerobics while living in Guthersloh. She was the only African American among Europeans. She would eventually move back to the United States with her husband in the mid-1990s.

Yolanda would come to love the extreme competitive nature of the sport and would compete from 1984 to 1999. Yolanda’s competitive longevity was impeccable and she became a regular on the Olympia stage in the 1990s.

        Yolanda appeared in as many as twenty three competitions. Her best wins include the NPC  Orange County Classic (1988),  the World Amateurs (1992),  and the Ms. International ( 1997 and 1998).  She was usually in the top ranks only slipping to 10th in the 1995 Ms.Olympia. It seemed that she was really rising up, but retired in 1999 after only a third place finish. It seems peculiar that an athlete would just stop competing at that point when it looks as if you could rise higher. It could have been at that Yolanda realized that her physique could not be improved upon further and the competitors were becoming more of a challenge. It was a spectacular physique she presented. At 5 ft 6 1/2 inches and at 145 lbs in competition weight she was a real power house.

 Her off season weight was a total of 164 lbs. What best describes her body is the fuller and robust look. The female bodybuilders of the 1980s were more sleek in development. The 1990s was about size. Yolanda had both the size and the symmetry. The judging has always been controversial and it was more difficult with many talented women appearing on stage. Her rankings did fluctuate, but she was able to get notoriety in bodybuilding circles. She appeared on the cover of Flex and Women’s Physique World.

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Few at the time of the 1997 Ms.Olympia could have predicted that Kim Chizevsky could have dethroned  Lenda Murray. Getting third place was actually a great accomplishment considering such formidable challengers. Yolanda returned to the Ms.Olympia stage in 1998 getting a second place ranking. Maybe if Yolanda remained persistent she would have become Ms.Olympia. Even some fitness magazines recognized a level of bias. Some viewed her as an under valued competitor.

799563637 Yolanda was not there to just win awards or get recognition. She did it because she loved the sport. Yolanda stated in a magazine interview “I enjoy the time on stage and the opportunity to perform.”  To her it was personally rewarding and fun. Her posing on sage was more playful in nature and choreographed in such a manner. The body she developed caught the eye of fans and photographers making her very popular. She would regularly appear in Bill Dobbins and Steve Wenherstorm photo sessions. These pictures were both black and white including color renditions. It makes the viewer truly appreciate the strength and the beauty of the athletic female form. It also demonstrates how bodybuilding is literal sculpting of the human flesh. Examining the photos many can see her best feature was her legs. They were clearly built up from years of track an gymnastics.

  Yolanda announced retirement in 1999 from bodybuilding, but continued to be involved in fitness and the industry. Yolanda would also start her own business. Her occupation besides bodybuilder is a personal trainer.

      Yolanda open Fitness Exotica in 2001. There she offers training in pole dancing fitness. She also continues to be a trainer for other fitness athletes. Yolanda offers training and nutrition advice to novice competitors.Yolanda also gives seminars to athletes who are attempting to start bodybuilding. Yolanda Hughes also had a brief film appearance. she was in the 2002 film Rollerball . It was small, but it is nice to see female athletes in films. Yolanda Hughes resides in Bellingham, Washington currently. She has competed in pole fitness competitions. Yolanda who enjoys competing won the Ms.Pole Fit Championship. She won the best contortionist category. Although she is not as visible, fans still fondly remember her posing routines, photo shoots, and guest appearances. Yolanda Hughes and her contemporaries were the epitome of the second golden age of female bodybuilding.

Yolanda Hughes

Schmoes Who Love Session Wrestling FBB & Why!!! By Marcie Simmons

Marcie Madness

It has been known within the bodybuilding subculture that schmoes enjoy session wrestling. However, there is never a full explanation to why this occurs. Every action has a motivation and reason behind it. Marcie Simmons a female bodybuilder herself provides some in sight into why schmoes love wrestling women who are immensely strong. From her youtube channel she gives several reasons. She also speaks from experience. Marcie has appeared in wrestling videos and has done a semi-competitive wrestling session She has not only wrestled men, but other women. She has said that it does test athletic skills intensely. This video in a way is both a documentation and ethnographic study. Marcie proceeds to explain the different types of wrestling. Then goes further about what makes men seek such activities.

The basic categories include fantasy, semi-competitive, and competitive. Fantasy is about the strong woman having complete control. The man will not resist her wrestling moves or actions. Fantasy wrestling is not meant to be real. The important part is that the woman is demonstrating her full physical power. The client may want to feel the strength of their thighs or if they can lift them up and carry them. Some even like the women to sit on top of them.

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This is not exactly sadomasochistic, because the purpose is not to experience pain. The client wants to feel the full power of the athletic woman. There is sexual arousal from this and it mainly comes from the demonstration of physical strength. The semi- competitive matches are when a client puts up some resistance. They simply will not remain down, put try to make contact with the female bodybuilder in doing wrestling moves. They are not really trying to win, put more so play. Like children it is a fun game, nothing serious. The other dynamic is that client is curious to see how high the strength level is of the female bodybuilder. Many times when there is a wrestling video of a male versus a female, generally it is assumed it is fake. There are many who still think that no woman could be stronger than a man. This is the exception. Curiosity about women like this and their abilities excites fans. The client wants to test the wrestler to see if it is possible they can overpower them. Therefore this type of wrestling session will have more energy.

 While it is true that there are fake videos, some are real. The unrealistic ones are of course fantasy. Then there are videos that have a mismatch with an unusual outcome. A 130 pound woman would have difficulty beating a 180 pound man in a wrestling match. Some videos feature women who are slender doing this. Looks can be deceiving considering they may actually have martial arts experience. To any viewer it is obvious that the strength gap would be vast and the woman could not beat a man if the match were real. A woman with a strong body it would not be a challenge. There is the element of power exchange. Both the client want to see who tires first and struggle for dominance.

 This back and forth can be fun for both the client and the wrestler. The stronger woman may find pleasure in  knowing she can toy around with a weaker man. The client may just be in a state of euphoria seeing the strong women they have only seen in pictures and videos up close. The competitive sessions are rare. This is when men  and women wrestle to win. Marcie Simmons also exposes there is a dark side to this. Some of these men could be women abusers incognito who express misogynistic beliefs  through going to sessions. The difference between being competitive and harmful is that the intent is directed at physically doing damage to women. This demonstrates that sessions do have a level of risk . Women take a chance meeting men they do not know. Women no matter how physically strong they could still be vulnerable if they are not trained in self-defense. For some athletes this is not a problem because they have trained in either judo, karate, or jujitsu. If a man gets too rough, they could certainly end it. Brigita Brezovac  had a martial arts background and  did not fear doing competitive matches. Women who do sessions travel not only in their nations of origin, but all around the world. It can be dangerous, but it is unclear how many incidents have happened.

  Although there are cases of issues with competitive wrestling, most just like the challenge. Some men either competed in wrestling themselves and just wanted to test their skills against another woman. Clients even seek women who specifically have wrestling skills for sessions. There are female bodybuilders who do not have backgrounds in wrestling, but known enough moves to do sessions. This type of competitive session is directed more so to the athlete. Men and women of athletic backgrounds want to be challenged. It seems the fetish element is not emphasized, but rather the sporting activity. Marcie adds one more type of session wrestling classification. This is known as submission, which involves the client merely taking the wrestling mores with no resistance. The goal is to be pinned and immobilized by the female bodybuilder. There will be no attempt to escape the hold. It could be a headscissor, grape vine, or headlock the client will not attempt to escape.

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When the wrestling move is fully employed it is total submission. The desire is to not only feel the woman’s physical power, but to be physically helpless. The cat of being overpowered becomes a sexual turn on. This is a stimuli to certain men.

       The biggest question remains to observers is why would a man want to be wrestled by a physically strong woman ? It is a fetish as Marcie explains. The fact that a muscular woman and women who are extremely muscular are still taboo may add to the thrill. They do not conform to what society believes a woman should be and instead developed a new model of womanhood. It combines strength with a new female aesthetic. These women are rare, which may also explain why schmoes treasure them the way they do. Their are few women who can lift and carry a man and perform strength feats. Even if a man wants his wife or girlfriend who is capable of such feats to do it, she may not want to. The fear of asking could make it seem as if the man is a sexual deviant as Marcie states.

If a woman is open about exploring different things with their significant other, then there is no fear and revealing such predilections. Then being ostracized as eccentric also becomes an issue for a man who likes this. It should also be noted that its not just the appearance of having muscle, but being strong. There are women who are not as muscular as bodybuilders who do wrestling sessions. They may not look strong, but are considering their size.

Marcie Simmons concludes that it is an outlet for sexual expression. This could be both biological and psychological. Human evolution just like it did for other animal species functions on both natural selection and sex selection. The reason human beings have these urges are based on the need to reproduce off spring. Sigmund Freud believed many psychological disorders were rooted in repressed sexuality. When discussing the role of sexuality and human development this caused major controversy in academic circles. While his theories and system of psychoanalysis can be disputed or at times discredited, there is some truth. People do go through stages of psychosexual development. This starts at childhood and accelerates during puberty. The changes in the brain and endocrine system prepare the human body for sexual reproduction. Men have different preferences in regards to sexual attraction. It could be rooted in childhood experiences. The appearance of a muscular woman in film, TV, or printed media may spark an interest. Sexual expression is the reason Marcie explains why people view pornography. This expression is displayed in a multitude of ways. The expression relevant to Marcie’s video is feeling the power of a strong woman. The problem is society does not accept other forms of beauty. Maybe its not that the lover of female muscle is odd, but a community that wants to impose a conformity of values.

        Too often their is only focus on what men are thinking during these wrestling sessions. It is important to understand what women think, seeing as they make this possible. Their motivations could be as numerous and complex. One reason for women doing sessions is that it’s a financial matter. Some do it to sponsor their competition fees. A sport that does not support its athletes has left them thinking of new ways to survive. It has become a business and one that is effective at keeping some women in the sport.

 The cost of food, training, and supplements can reach astronomical proportions. The session wrestling can supplement certain expenses. The financial motivation is obvious, but there are some women who do this for other reasons. Women who have wrestled men have said they have had fun doing so. Physically overpowering a man is something that few women experience. Society although women have advanced is still male dominated. It is rare that women can impose power over men, but in this case there is a reversal. This is merely on a physical level. Most of the women are stronger than the men they meet. This reversal can be fun for women who normally have to play a subordinate role in the societies in which they live.

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Marcie Simmons tried a wrestling semi-competitive match for Utopia Entertainment videos. 

Women can dominate a man with her physical strength without repercussion. There comes a sense of empowerment from this that women may experience. It breaks the myth that men will always be in control of women. For both male and female participants it takes them back to childhood. The act of free play was an activity every child enjoyed. Girls and boys could play together with minimal concerns about gender appropriate behavioral conduct. These strict cultural mores disappear in this milieu.  There is a misconception that sessions are the domain of female bodybuilders only and that it symbolizes a dying sport. The truth is that even women in physique, fitness, and bikini do wrestling or wrestling sessions. These categories are considered more popular and marketable according to the fitness world, but the women are still paid less. Again, money is part of the motivation. It seems the other competitors in categories have taken the lead of bodybuilders. It has become a trend and exciting activity for some.

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Yasmin is a grappler.
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Roxy is a figure competitor.
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Maria Garcia competes in physique.
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Storm is a fitness competitor.
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Skylar Rene  is a bikini competitor.

It appears that women of various athletic backgrounds are doing session wrestling. Women who are not even session wrestlers or participate in the circuit try it just out of curiosity. It is activity new and unknown especially to women just entering the subculture of the fitness world. The unknown can either be an exciting adventure or cause some trepidation. Women who are more adventurous and open minded to new things are willing to at least try it. When some do, they find it fun and may doing some wrestling videos for websites.The women come to the realization that they are more powerful than they thought. The weaker sex stereotype is still prevalent and in this case women can break out of it. Women are taught that men are so much more powerful and physical pursuits for women is a worthless effort. Despite the negativity, these women have reach a high level of strength and can challenge men in physical activities. Doing this could provide psychological relief from a world constantly preaching the concept of female inferiority. Not only that, they get admiration that is not given by representatives in the fitness industry. The women may be happy to know there are fans out there who appreciate their efforts. Women may also have a turn on by doing these activities. Men do seek out these activities due to sexual fetish, but it could also be similar for women. Some may be aroused by the fact they could crush a man’s rib cage with their legs. Power either mental or physical is attractive to people.

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Women also may find the physical contest rewarding. Athletes such as these crave physical challenges. Challenging a man in a physical contest seems like something that would attract some women. There are men of different sizes who are clients and some women just want to see how many they can beat at a wrestling match. There are women who wrestle both large and smaller men sometimes having multiple sessions in a day. There are women who want to test their skills to the maximum and see how much they can endure. Intense workouts are thrilling to them and wrestling is a high energy activity. It has been done that some women spar with men to improve their athletic performance. However, this just seems like more of physical play rather than serious workout. Women are not just passive actors in this session wrestling activity.

         Their is a level of hypocrisy when criticism is directed at session wrestling or liking muscular women. There are claims that its the equivalent of prostitution  or exploitative. These claims can be discredited. Prostitution involves payment for intercourse. The session wrestlers do not offer that  to clients. That does not mean it does not happen, but wrestling would hardly count as prostitution. There is an erotic element and other instances its purely about men and women wrestling. This stems from the whole concept of men who like muscular women are sexual deviants. It is also combined with a subtle sexism. Women can either fit into the whore or mother dichotomy in a narrow minded misogynistic perspective. If a woman does not follow the proper gender script, she is banished to being labelled as whore. It effects men negatively as well, because it insists there is only one model of beauty men should be attracted to. The slender body type has been valued more ( at least in Western society )  over others. Men who like muscular also like women who are not strong or athletic at all.

  Men who are fans of female muscle would still find the woman on the left as attractive as the athlete on the right.

As Marcie Simmons expounded half way through her presentation, men who do sessions could be married or have girlfriends. The strange part about this is that female athletes are more visible and showing muscular physiques. Then there is a small movement of “strong is the new skinny” prevalent in fitness circles. There is a size acceptance movement directed at women who are larger. The question still remains why there is no muscular acceptance for women. The movement to accept larger and curvier women is a positive step forward. It has to understood that women’s bodies come in different shapes and sizes.

These two here prove bigger or muscular women can be pretty too. 

Women can either be thicker, more muscular, or naturally thinner than others. Society dictates beauty standards on a gender basis. The ideals are unattainable to most. There is a profit motive in this obsession. Slowly, women are beginning to reject dictated beauty standards. The muscular woman is condemned to the fringes in the spectrum. This comes as the small, but growing movement toward a more muscular appearance ( “toned”) becomes fashionable. Before “strong is the new skinny” women in athletics have been presenting powerful physiques. The women of the Olympics present strong looking bodies in track and field  events  including weightlifting. Women in other athletic events do too. They were the pioneers of this new body image  paradigm, when it was not acceptable. Society has at least some acceptance, but not completely.

These women are more visible, even though women’s sports get less media coverage. This higher level of exposure may help stem negative prejudices. The hyper-muscular or female bodybuilder does not get as much exposure to the general public, which may explain  the public’s reactions. It is a double standard due to the fact these are both muscular women to varying degrees. The larger women are accused of “going too far.” There are some men who like muscle on women, but say it has to be limited to remain feminine. A woman being bigger or muscular does not mean she has changed her sex. This is derived from sexist beliefs that women should limit themselves. If you are an athlete in strict competition, the point is to enhance your physicality to the maximum. The criticism is never directed at men. The vexing aspect is that no one ever states ” you have a skinny woman fetish.” That is considered as normal. The world is different in a post-sexual revolution era. It seems many elements of entertainment and culture are sexualized to an immense degree. Compared to other activities, session wrestling seems harmless. The sociological and ethnographical dimensions of this practice are fascinating. It is an interaction between sexuality, entertainment, and gender relations.

Schmoes Who Love Session Wrestling FBB & Why!!! By Marcie Simmons

Dafne Schippers

Dafne Schippers is a dutch athlete who mostly competes in sprints and heptathlon. She is a relative neophyte to the Olympic stage, gradually working her way up through the European Championships. The track and field athlete was born in 1992 in Utrecht. At a young age she exhibited athletic talent and has been active in sports since the age of nine. The twenty-four year old track athlete began being noticed when she won the 2015 World Championships. Her first Olympics she won a silver medal at the 200 metres. Schippers’ improvement has been dramatic. It is still early in her career, but it is clear she will be around for a while. This athlete still is an unknown figure.

         Dafne Schippers is unique in the fact she is tall for a sprinter. She stands at 5′ 10” and a weight of 143 lbs. This has earned her the nick name ” the flying Dutch woman.” After the 2105 World Championships, she now devotes her career to sprinting. Schippers may never return to doing heptathlon. She already has an impressive set of personal bests. Her outdoor javelin throw was 42.82 m and a shot put 14.66 m. Her high jump is 1.80 m (out door)  with a long jump of 6.78 m (indoor). The 600 metres was 7.00 and 600 metres hurdles was 8.18. Her accumulated wins include the World Junior Championships (2010), European Junior Championships ( 2011), European UT3 Championships (2013), and European Championships (2014, 2016). Her Olympic debut saw her come in second. Considering that was her first Olympic competition it was not bad.

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These successes put athletes under scrutiny. Danfe Schippers although new to the sports world has already faced accusations of performance enhancing drug use. The 200 m 21.63 seconds record that amazed spectators caused this criticism. Schippers now holds a record that only Florence Griffith Joyner and Marion Jones had reached. These clams of performance enhancing drug use are baseless without testing. It is true that athletes have circumvented test results, but merely accusing an individual is akin to a witch hunt. Women face extra criticism when their athletic performance improves. It is ironic seeing as men account for the largest number of steroid users. Schippers has said “that it takes away the fun of winning sometimes.” She explained further in a The Guardian interview ” You run a good race, you win and it’s one of the most amazing moments of your life and then you face the questions.” The reason some women athletes are targeted like this is because of their appearance. The sports world still views a muscular woman as an anomaly . They should not be and it demonstrates the amount of sexism still present.

 Her coach Bart Brennema  has put her on a training regimen of weight lifting. This could explain her more muscular appearance. The press however does not care about this fact. Dafne Schippers when competing in Beijing  had acne on her face and back. Dafne claims she has skin health issues. This has been a problem with her since childhood. Schippers has iterated “when they talk about my skin it is painful.” Women athletes are criticized more for their looks rather than their performance. At present there simply is no evidence to suggest she has violated banned substances rules. Dafne Schippers believes that it is more important to keep the spot clean, rather than be critical of the press coverage.

Despite this negativity she continues to move on.  Her new found love of sprinting has given her new perspectives. When asked if she missed heptathlon, she exclaimed : “the girls in the heptathlon are definitely more easy-going and much friendlier.”it appears she desire more challenging competition when she said ”  The sprinters are more like gladiators but I don’t really miss the heptathlon.” Schippers also claimed “she wanted to beat the tough girls.” It is thought that women are not as competitive, but this is not the case. Schippers has told in interviews that some sprinters will give an intimidating stare down at other competitors. She has articulated that it not her style. There are times she showed her frustration at the Rio 2016 Olympics. However, there was no hostility towards fellow athletes. The intensity of international competition causes people to behave differently.

         Dafne Schippers of the track has other pastimes. She has an interest in cooking, food, and nutrition. Schippers   has an affinity for Italian food, but admits pasta is not the healthiest food to consume. She is also is a blogger and regularly writes about recipes. Her athletic talents have given her a new found fame. The new fame Schippers admits takes awhile to get acclimated to. Dafne Schippers  also in her spare time enjoys spending time with her family.  Her mother, father, and siblings have provided a system of support to her . Schippers also loves pets saying walking her dog is one of her favorite pastimes. She has become a Dutch icon in a way. Fans remember seeing her in her teens and it is as if they are growing up with her.

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She does not mind the occasional photograph with a fan. Yet, it still can be overwhelming to a young athlete. The reason her skills are so advanced is that she started at a young age. At age nine she was doing multiple events. Dafne Schippers  played tennis and did gymnastics. Her participation in athletic clubs lead her to a sports career. She admits she never considered doing athletics seriously until she was invited to train with the national team. At age 16 she began to love it and wanted to improve her physical skills.Dafne Schippers also has aspirations of becoming an elementary school teacher. That as she explained had to be put on hold while she was doing training. Schippers is also planning on taking courses in the English language . This sprinter seems to be speeding up on and off the track.

Dafne Schippers

Even the IDF Agrees: Men Are Better Suited Than Women For Military Combat

Even the IDF Agrees: Men Are Better Suited Than Women For Military Combat

This blog post from Big Bad Uber Mother Hen gives the reasons why women in their view are not suited for combat. It was originally published in 2013 when the Pentagon announced that women were no longer banned from military occupational specialties. Women have been in combat before this announcement, because the nature of warfare is changing. The frontline has disappeared and conventional warfare may no longer be the standard. Women have fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq with little recognition. While it is clear physiology and sexual dimorphism can be a factor in combat performance, the argument to maintain the ban or exclude women completely lacks a forceful basis. The author seem to want to prevent women from at least even trying. The ironic part about this is that this post was written by a woman.  She state “while there are undoubtedly some women who are quite capable of performing combat duty, men are better suited to combat duty.” Then goes on to say  “It’s not a matter of discrimination, it’s a matter physiology.” There are been numerous cases through out history that women have served in combat roles across the globe. Being female does not make you a less effective soldier. Training and strategy are essential in producing a functioning military.

           The evidence she provides is accurate in terms of physiological capability. The problem is she uses it to distort information in favor of her position. The muscular strength difference is apparent even in equally trained men and women. The approximations given by physiology academic papers show women were 52 % as strong in the upper body and 66% as strong in the lower body. The difference in skeletal mass is also greater in men. Men can have up to 33 kg, while women have 21 kg in absolute terms. When the weight is the same or relative it can be estimated 38.4% (men) and 30.6% (women). Endocrinology is a factor, because testosterone allows for more protein synthesis. Type II muscles fibers are larger in men, which are responsible for more explosive power. The author fails to recognize that women can gain strength through a weight training regimen. The amount of strength a woman can gain through weight training depends age, fitness level, diet, and specific exercise program.

Mesomorphic body types will have an easier time doing tasks that require strength. Ectomorphs may not be able to build large muscles. They can still build strength through weight lifting. Women and men’s muscles at the cellular level are identical. This means they still respond similarly to microtrauma induced by weight lifting. The training must be consistent to be effective. The rate of gain documents the total muscle mass accumulated from exercise. The American Council on Exercise has reported a woman can gain 40% muscular strength after months of weight training. It is possible for a person to accumulate a half pound of muscle per week. Diet is critical as well from gaining strength. Protein, unsaturated fats, whole grains, and fresh produce contribute to muscular hypertrophy. Sugars, processed foods, trans-fat, and saturated fats will cause the increase in fat. Women seeing as they produce more estrogen, need to pay extra attention to diet. Training must be conducted in a specific manner. Women must lift heavy enough to cause fatigue. This has to be done in 8 to 12 repetitions. Lighter weights will only improve muscular endurance, rather than muscular strength.

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Adding new exercises and gradually increasing the weight will help in improving strength. Increasing the weight every 4 to 6 weeks will help stimulate the muscle and allow for greater hypertrophy. If women are seeking to get into a military occupational specialty, they should look at the physical standards and design an exercise regimen specific to the job. Even before basic training women should exercise prior to entry. The author presents an the frailty myth in a new way, attempting to be objective. It has been discovered that women’s involvement in resistance training  allows for significant gain in strength. Proportionally, their muscular strength gains are greater. Men are still stronger, but comparatively further muscle strength gains are lower. The reason for this may be that women have lower strength levels initially, which makes the data seem immense. Then again, it could be genetic uniqueness specific to certain women.

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The influence of periodized resistance training on strength changes in men and women.

Having the right training and exercise plan can reduce physiological barriers. The author wants to make a convincing argument but never mentions other elements of physiology.

        aerobic capacity she failed to mention. Oxygen consumption helps tissues during work. This also is essential in running. There are physical standards in which women have to run at a certain distance and time, which could be a bigger challenge. Women have smaller hearts and lungs than their male counterparts. The heart allows for the transport of blood and oxygen to transported to muscles of the body. This means their aerobic power is lower. It is established that women have legs muscles that are closer to men in strength. The assumption would be that they could run just as fast. The structure of the pelvis makes women’s running speeds slower as well. The heart is a muscle and through aerobic training it can increase in size. Males see greater increase in heart size through aerobic training. This also has a risk of cardiac arrhythmia with increase in heart size. This seems to be a physiological difference that may no be overcome as easy as strength gain. One method is to tailor training specific for women. Knowing these differences can help design such programs. Lactate threshold training allows a runner to store enough energy to run at a maximal pace. Interval training with a lactate threshold pace 10 to 15 seconds per mile can improve performance.

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A woman does not have to be Elaine Thompson to meet the running requirements. Training like her could benefit women planning to enter military service. She was not born a runner, she had to work her way to gain Olympic accomplishment. Part of the problem is that exercise physiology mostly has focused on the male body. Women’s bodies through out medical history were either considered too taboo to examine or were not worthy of investigation. This has only changed in the last decades.

           Physical strength has been used as a justification to keep women out of combat occupations. These similar arguments were used by fire fighting departments, police, and construction. The common argument is that a woman does not have the strength to lift a grown man. There are women who can perform a fire man’s carry and it can be easily learned. The issue also is combat armor and gear. This has caused a high number of musculoskeletal injuries.

Detractors use this as evidence of  why women should be banned from certain MOS. Women have higher injury rates, because they have less natural strength. Men’s injury rates are higher now due to the fact the gear weighs more. This by all ergonomic standards is not healthy and is causing osteoarthritis in many soldiers. Armor has to be reduced in weight so it does not effect mobility or bone health. Women must pay extra attention to their joints considering they are looser in comparison to their male counterparts.

ACL tears should be prevented through training. One solution to this issue is that women must train also to gain as much upper body strength. There is a limit. Men have broader shoulders allowing for more muscles to placed there. That means more muscle tissue for recruitment. The disparity can even be seen in men and women of similar size. Women will have to work harder to achieve certain results. Women must acquire enough strength so that they can perform casualty drags, while not fatiguing quickly.

 The added weight of gear and the combination of poorly fitting armor are a problem for the US military. The production of armor that fits the female frame better has been going on since 2011. Armor that actually fits will prevent injury and reduce weight burden. If weight load is too much the result will be a stress fracture. The good news is that progress has been made now that women are entering combat jobs. The vests needed a redesign especially. The upper body section was so wide in the Kelvar vests women when they sat down it could rise up ti their chin. A colloquial term known as turtling  was developed by female soldiers to describe the phenomenon. The torso length had to be adjusted as well. The update means the shoulders are narrow on the armor and the torso fixed. This redesign has gotten praise from women in the military. Armor that fits has allowed them to run faster and do it efficiently through obstacle courses. This will reduce injury rates. This distribution of armor will take time. As more women enter the military, the rate of production will have to drastically increase.

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A notch will be added to accommodate the bun and pony tail women wear, while securing the helmet. Hip injuries from armor will end due to two inches being removed from the waist line. The waistline was also an issue. Women’s waistlines are not as large as men’s. The waistline in this version of armor has fewer plates. They will weigh about 25 lbs each. They are lighter than previous versions and that will take strain off the body. It will fit tighter in the structure of the darting.  It will be built into several sections of the vest. These improvements are welcome and should be lauded. Technology is helping soldiers in new ways. This is only in an experimental phase, but is possible that wearable technologies would solve the overload in terms of military gear. The Natick Soldier Development and Engineering Center are continuing to explore various technologies. What sounds like something out of science fiction will become a reality. This is known as soldier-borne  energy harvesting technologies.  The Bionic Power’s Knee Harvester collects kinetic energy. It makes of the loss from walking. That is not the only capability, but it can recharge electronic devices. It will help with communications equipment, sensors,  and battlefield situational displays. This technology was first shown to US government officials on Fort Devens, Massachusetts in April of 2014. Marching under load can be less of a strain for the average soldier. This becomes more of a problem for women. The gear that that they carry is close to their body weight. Hip and leg fractures are common in the Marine corps  experiments in 2015. Marine corps jobs include armor, artillery, and infantry. Soldiers are expected to carry up to a 100 lbs or more.

  Women who are smaller may be at a disadvantage. However, some solutions involve shifting the weight of the pack off the hips and closer to the shoulders. This means the upper body would need significant conditioning. Doing so would reduce injury rates. Women who are used to intense exercise or have athletic backgrounds would probably perform better than the average woman. The numbers will most likely be lower, but that does not mean there are few women out there would could be capable combat soldiers.

         It should be noted there is a level of biomechanic skill in lifting a person. The fire man’s carry does not require mass amounts of strength. The there are other methods, which would be less comfortable for the person injured. There are cases in which a soldier could be so badly injured ( neck or spinal cord damage) moving them would do more harm than good. Sliding a person on to the shoulder takes minimal effort. The over the shoulder method puts more pressure on the rib cage of the person injured. Depending on the nature of the wound it could cause an exacerbation of condition.

Using one shoulder, just puts more strain on that shoulder and the neck. Distributing the weight is the only way to prevent injury. That is why the fireman’s carry is preferred. It places weight on both shoulders.  This way one arm is not doing all the work. Narrow shoulders means it will less space to house weight when a woman is performing a casualty drag.

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The ability to lift someone in a particular situation depends on certain factors. The weight and height of a person should be considered. A larger person will not struggle carrying a smaller person. A short person carrying a tall person could pose problems of its own. The legs and arms of the tall person could end up being dragged stifling movement. Weight needs to be considered to. If the person is so large and outweighs the person who is lifting it make beyond their physical ability. The Marines are concerned about weight. The US has a physical fitness issues with obesity and weight problems at record levels. Most Americans would probably require a weight management program before basic training. The body fat percentages are being adjusted so that women can have higher weight. When women stated doing weight training it caused them to gain more lean body mass, but disqualified them because they fell out of the acceptable weight range for women . These weight ranges are dated. People are much larger now, women included. They should not penalized for gaining extra muscle that will help them doing physical task.

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Cindy Phillips ( from Canada, which allows women in combat positions) would be cut even though she appears to be physically capable. Her weight would be considered too high for her height read here : Marines Permit Women to Bulk Up.

This has to be practiced several times, so it is almost ingrained into muscle memory. Women would therefore need to have enough strength so that they do not utilize reserve strength in their bodies.  Maximum strength is the total force the body can generate from the recruitment of muscle fibers. If a woman has to use all her maximum strength, she will fatigue quickly. Holding enough reserve strength will allow this. Once the biomechanics of the evacuation are understood, women can be more effective as combat soldiers.

         The author discusses endocrinology, but does it in the context of gender stereotypes. It cannot be denied that sex hormones do influence behavior. They have an immense influence on the body after puberty. What the author says is that women and men are emotionally different and that women may not be able to handle stressful or precarious situations. She indicates that indirectly that men are more aggressive due to their testosterone levels and that aggression in women is lacking. Aggression is needed to be a combat soldier. It is true that testosterone could cause men to seek dominance in social circles. This is not really aggression, but establishing status. Competition is more of a psychological need to accomplish a goal rather than a product of endocrinology. The desire and motivation are mentally based. Testosterone is not the sole factor in aggression. Violence cannot solely be explained by high testosterone levels. Violence can be learned and taught to children. A combination of biology and environment create the differences in the sexes in regards to aggression. Boys at a young age are taught that fighting and anger is normal for them.Girls are taught that fighting or expressing discontent is inappropriate. Sex hormones fluctuate through life and it is now understood. Testosterone levels rise in responses to certain situations in men. This can happen even to women in positions of authority or competitive environments. The idea that women cannot be violent and that nurturing is natural to them is based on a sex stereotype.

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There are women who can be aggressive and men who are peaceful. The best way to explain this phenomenon is through fight or flight response. Military training is designed to deal with such a psychological response. Women going through military training will not be peaceful. Hand to hand combat and weapons training are part of every soldiers program. The argument women are not emotionally stable enough seems to be lacking considering women have been in combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

          Through out history, women have served in combat. Although recently scholarship has uncovered this often ignored fact. This brings into question of men being better combat soldiers. If training and determination are of high quality there are women who can handle it. There are examples of women warriors in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. This starts from the ancient world to the contemporary period. Queen Zabbi ruled Palmyra (modern Syria) and led her troops into battle against Rome. She ruled the Palmyrene Empire from 267 to 272 C.E. and refused to be Rome’s client. During her rule, Palmyra’s territory expanded. Nzingha  was another warrior queen who ruled Ndongo and Matamba ( modern Angola) from 1631 to 1633. She successfully fought the Portuguese, while using the alliance with the Dutch to her advantage. When she died, their was nothing stopping  Portuguese  colonization. Africa and the Middle East have had  long traditions of warrior queens.

Boudicea and Joan of Arc were European women warriors who are well known to historians . Boudica  was  the queen of the Iceni tribe that rebelled against Rome. This tribe in what is now the UK  decided to turn against Rome, when the kingdom was gradually being annexed. Boudica’s  husband died and Roman legions came. Boudica was according to accounts flogged and her daughters raped. She then waged a campaign to punish Rome and take back the kingdom. Joan of Arc was known for her service in the Hundred Years War between England and France.

These are only individuals, but women have served in combat units. The mino warriors, were fierce soldiers of the Kingdom of Dahomey ( modern Benin). Women were formidable and in the 19th century they were instrumental in expanding holdings of the kingdom. King Ghezo was confident in their abilities to fight and undermine his enemies. The Dahomey amazons a name they would later be called were critical to his success. The Oyo Empire was defeated by Ghezo and his newly expanded armies. The Dahomey amazons were initially place guards, but Ghezo wanted their full loyalty to prevent internal dissent and coups. Abeokuta was never fully subdued, but that never stopped the Dahomey amazons.

ahosi-or-mino-dahomey-amazons During the 20th century, women still fought in wars. The Soviet Union had women in combat as snipers and in the air force. Soviet Russia faced the worst onslaught by Nazi Germany compared to the other Allied powers. Their loses were immense an the vexation grew. Soviet women could no longer watch their land be destroyed and got involved in combat.The Yugoslav partisans had women fight in their ranks. Nazi Germany invaded in 1941 and a resistance movement emerged. Just like the Russians the outrage of occupation by German and Italian forces induced action. The wars in Indochina (1945-1975) saw women fighting on both sides of  the Cold War conflict. The Indochina war included the countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

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Women fought in the Sandinista uprising against the Somoza regime in Nicaragua. It was estimated that they composed 30% of their fighting force. Women in Latin America were also involved in the wars of independence in the 1820s. Women served as spies and messengers in Argentina, Peru, Columbia, and Brazil. Women were more active in wars of liberation and revolution. Women have been in combat at multiple points in history. It should be understood that this history has been either ignored or forgotten. Only in recent decades has military history taken an interest in the women warriors of the past. Women warriors are not just something of legend, they are around the world. The Peshmerga has been fighting ISIS since 2014. What is not known to the general public is that the Kurdish force mobilizes women. The Kurds have faced ethnic cleansing  during various periods in Iraq. The recent outbreak came from ISIS seeking to take over Iraq.

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The Peshmerga appears to be doing more of the fighting against ISIS. The US is arming factions of ISIS a way to depose Bashar Al-Assad of Syria. Once again ,US foreign policy has destabilized an entire region.

 The Kurdish women in a similar manner of the Russians and Yugoslavs decided to arm themselves to challenge what could escalate to a larger genocide. This is fascinating for a number of reasons. While the United States constantly questions women’s competence, the Peshmerga has no problem having women fight ISIS. The West normally looks down on these nations and people as being backward or misogynistic, yet they are fixing a mess created by military intervention. Iraq’s army and militias have been weakened since the fall of Saddam Hussein. They are ineffective and have limited progress. These women of the Peshmerga are fighting and well against an extremist movement.Murder,oppression, and violence is what ISIS spreads. They are a dangerous fighting force and certainly it takes great courage to confront them. These women fight, because there is the hope it will lead to a better future. The a Kurdish nation  is a longtime aspiration. Combat takes many forms and modern warfare has reached a new apex.

          The author has a limited understanding of combat. She attempts to use the fact that women’s low numbers in the IDF mean that women are horrible at combat positions. The reasons for low numbers are part sociological and biological. Women have been banned from certain occupations on the basis of legal protectionism. This meant even if a woman was qualified for a particular occupation, she would still be banned. The idea was that women needed too be protected from the harsh realities of the world. This was more so an excuse for sex discrimination and to guarantee men would not have to compete for jobs with women. There were also cultural beliefs. Women were not expected to do anything physically demanding or have dexterous skill. Biologically, men have more natural physical strength. Having more type II muscle fibers, denser bones, and more height give men an advantage. The average woman has a smaller frame and less upper body strength. Low numbers do not mean there are not women who can fight. The author provides statistics  at the time of the post(2013). She says “only 3% combat soldiers are women.” Since that time 7 % of women serve in a combat role in the IDF. There are a total 2,100 women serving in combat roles as of August 2016. That is a 400% increase in comparison to the previous decades. When the Defense Services Law ruled in favor of women having the right to serve in combat in the year 2000, the numbers increased. Women fought in the Anglo-Jewish War, but after 1948 were banned from combat. Israel is not progressive on women’s rights and  being an extremely religious country it does not believe in them having wider roles. When legal barriers are broken, nothing can stop people from achieving their potential. This data shows it. If progress is not reversed the numbers may go up. The US could learn from this model, if it can swallow its pride. War involves fights from the land, air, sea, and in the modern age cyberspace. Hacking and cyberwarfare are going to be conducted against belligerent nations in the future.

              When the author tries to undermine the positions of combat it demonstrates a lack of knowledge. She claims certain roles, which involve fighting are “hardly combat.” Air force pilots are more imperative than   ever. One US strategy is to bomb selective targets such as military installations and communication centers to undermine a country’s ability to fight. When that is done ground troops are deployed. Air power can be an alternative, if ground invasion is too much of a risk. Dogfights and secret missions are the common form of combat an air force pilot will see. During World War II  when Germany lost control of its air space its factories became vulnerable. American, British, and Soviet bombers hit war production plants essential to Germany’s war effort. Striking targets degrades a nation’s ability to fight. Air power is just as pivotal as sea power. A nation cannot be a powerful military force without a Navy. Controlling the sea means having access to strategic trade routes and areas. The reason the British Empire was so potent was that it dominated the sea. Through their navy they were able to have colonies in Asia, Africa, North America, and Oceania. When Germany started to build its Navy to compete with the British Empire in 1900, this caused alarm. The air force, navy, marines, army, and special forces work together in a synergy in combat. Wars are also going to be engaged in cyberwarfare. The wars fought will not only be fought in physical space, but on the internet. Hacking will become a standard in warfare. It is in a prototypical phase as the US, China, and Russia attempt to hack one another to steal intelligence secrets. The definition of combat has expanded as warfare has become more intense.

          The author does not understand the importance of the combat divisions. The units have specific jobs, which are still dangerous. The labor is distributed differently depending on the situation. The Caracal Battalion’s role has expanded with the political changes in Egypt. The Sinai insurgency could spill over the border, which the battalion has to guard. The fall of Hosni Mubarack  caused mass destabilization and armed groups are becoming bold. What is fueling the insurgency is the discrimination against Bedouin. Simultaneously, the Palestinian people are resisting Israeli occupation in the West Bank and attacks in the Gaza Strip. This battalion will clearly be engaging in conflicts in Egypt and Palestine. Their responsibility is to patrol the border, but if Israel continues an anti-Arab foreign policy and general belligerence this will conflate.

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Women in the IDF are held to the same standards as men. They have tour requirements of 36 months.

     The Snapir units are critical, because the attack on naval bases could undermine war efforts. OKetz functions more like a police force searching and arresting enemy combatants. The 76th Battillion of the Combat Engineering Brigade have the task of disabling unconventional weapons in the battlefield. ABC weapons are the major target for destruction. This makes it difficult to resist Israeli aggression. Opening up these positions to women just allows for more soldiers in the Israeli military. The author then in a condescending manner states : ”  all these jobs are considered ‘combat’ by the Israeli army, and many of these jobs are already available to women in the U.S. military.” Women before 2013, were excluded from 22,000 combat jobs in the US military. This does not make sense. Since 1978 women entered the US military in an official capacity. There is no reason to ban a woman who is qualified from a combat job. This obvious discrimination was legally challenged. The author sees that these occupations are part of combat, but then says its not genuine due to her bias. The roles both support  and direct fighting are part of waging war. It is a mass collaborative, coordinated,and  meticulously panned event. That means all soldiers must do their part to make it function. Then the most contradictory statement comes in the conclusion : “Jobs should be assigned by who can perform the job better, not because someone wants to do the job and it would be politically incorrect or discriminatory not to give it to someone because of gender. ” The women who apply and meet the standards are not doing this for the sake of political correctness. Women will not be handed these jobs, without qualifications. Ray Marbus Secretary of the Navy said he was not looking for average women to enter these jobs, but those who meet the physical demands. Jobs are not given in a workforce they are selected out of pool of applicants. The conservative or traditional perspective has an argument lacking factual support. Israel is used by both the American left and right to justify their stances on women in combat occupational specialties. The left says it is model that should be replicated, while the right  says that is an unrealistic assessment. These two perspectives do not fully grasp the rapid changes occurring. Warfare will become more technological and expansive. Israel is one of the most powerful regional players in the Middle East, but it will struggle not because it allowed women in combat. It continues to fight wars of aggression and expansion in the Middle East. It will fall into wars of attrition and the Israeli public will no longer stand for it. A nation can have high performing soldiers and still lose wars if their strategy is flawed.

           The physical strength argument is used by detractors constantly,but one must consider other factors. It is important in these occupations including a high level of physical fitness. The only problem is that muscles become worthless when fire arms are involved. Assuming a stronger person could yank away a rifle fast enough, before the trigger is pulled, the situation is still precarious. Physical strength is almost impotent compared to the power of tanks, bombs, grenades, mortars, fighter jets, artillery cannons,  assault rifles, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. No longer do armies fight with simple swords or chariots. It is more efficient to kill with weapons rather than with one’s bare hands.

A smaller person with little strength could still kill a stronger person. The scenario women would be rendered helpless without weapons does not hold merit. If they go through the same training in hand to hand combat, this would not be a problem. Training is being updated to reflect these changes in procedures. West Point finally allows women to take boxing as a requirement. When women first entered West Point it was not offered to them .   Women face women in matches during these classes. There is also sparring between men in women in a controlled setting. Learning to punch and take them is essential for women. The same principles that are emphasized in self-defense courses are implemented into training. The more aggressive the better chance of a woman soldier fighting off a male combatant. Women’s punches can still hurt if they are taught how to do it effectively.The martial arts such as karate, judo, and aikido are useful fighting styles that should be incorporated into training. This can help in narrowing some of the strength gap if a woman soldier finds herself disarmed and in confrontation with a combatant.

It should be noted simply being strong does not make a great fighter. Skills and body movements can make a difference in the outcome of a physical confrontation. A bodybuilder may have more muscle, but they would have trouble fighting a boxer in a ring. These two types of athletes would both have trouble fighting a mixed martial artists. The physical skill set is different. What the US military can do is teach soldiers multiple fighting styles in hand to hand combat, which can be utilized by a soldier given a particular scenario.

        The only rational statement in the writing is what readers already know. She states “If the United States is going to allow women in combat roles, those women must pass muster with men equally.” The author then expounds further: “they need to perform the job as well and not be allowed to perform on a lower scale than her male counter-part.” Standards should not be lowered. They are normally adjusted overtime to the specifics of battlefield conditions. Technology also alters training overtime. There are a minority who want the standards to lower for the sake of equality. There is a problem with this for two reasons.The first problem is that it creates a group of under performing workers. As a result the fighting force will be less effective. It also is an insult and a disservice to women who can meet the existing standards. The only way physical tests could be discriminatory to women is if the standards are immensely high. Many times occupations such as firefighting and law enforcement would do this to stop women from getting jobs. This eventually backfired, because they made physical standards so high  that many men were excluded as well. The argument that standards need to be lowered lacks logical basis. Kristen Geist was one of the first women to graduate from Army Ranger School. She participated in the same training and obstacle courses as her male counterparts.

0615rangers-630x473 She will now be serving as an infantry officer. Officer Geist was able to meet these standards, but if the ban were still in place that talent would have been lost. Then there are restrictions in the US military that are now being lifted. People who have tattoos, are slightly out of the BMI requirement, or have some drugs in their system could be accepted for service. The military is targeting women and other ethnic groups in the United States for recruitment. The unfortunate aspect is that the poor mostly are going into the military, so they can get access to a university education. The white men of the US military despise the presence of women and non-whites. When ever an oppressed group enters an occupation that has been historically guaranteed to white men there is both fear and hate. They fear that women and non-whites are taking their jobs. The hate comes from a pathological racism that views anyone different from them as lower beings. People will no longer be restrained by dated intolerance. If anything, it is a vast improvement to the US military. Citizens of various backgrounds can enter and decide a military career.

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Marcia Anderson became the first African American woman major general in the US Army.

Doubtless of what the author believes women are not performing at a lower scale. Their numbers have been increasing in various branches in the US military. The air force, navy, marines, and army have seen more women in their ranks in the past decades. Although the ban was lifted in combat jobs, the numbers may not be that large. This depends on several factors. Choice is an element and whether or not these occupations are positions women want entering the military.Then there are smaller pools of women in the US military, which also gives a limited amount for women in certain military occupational specialties. Recruiting efforts have to reached the same levels like males. Then the biggest challenge is finding women who can handle the physical fitness standards. The average man may find it easier to handle tasks of physical strength. Women would either have to train before basic training  to be successful. It should also be understood that gender integration will take some time.

          Given the long history of women’s participation in warfare, it is not accurate to say women are not as high quality as males in combat. The changing nature of warfare means that women will be a part of it. Frontlines are disappearing and world powers are readjusting to erratic shifts in the geopolitical climate. Maintaining sexist or traditional values in the military is unrealistic. Individuals regardless of sex can be capable combat soldiers. What makes a great combat soldier is a person who is intrepid, resilient, resourceful. and  tenacious. If low quality soldiers are able to reach high levels in the military, then training must be adjusted to screen for better candidates. Instead of disparaging women in the military, they should be encouraged. Integration of the US armed forces has always been a difficult challenge from desegregation of the races to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Women’s entry into combat jobs is just another saga. It will happen and be a success, if it is conducted in the correct manner. The US military has the ability to adopt and acclimate its self to rapidly changing environments. Women entering combat will just be another addition in a powerful military machine.

 References

Jones, David. Women Warriors. Washington D.C. : Potomac Books, Inc., 2005.

Nanos, Janelle. “Armor All: New Body Armor Issued for Women in the Military.” Boston Magazine. N.p., 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2016. <http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2013/09/26/new-body-armor-women-military/&gt;.

Sisto, Jeff. “Soldiers of the Future Will Generate Their Own Power .” Soldiers of the Future Will Generate Their Own Power |. N.p., 4 July 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2016. <http://armytechnology.armylive.dodlive.mil/index.php/2014/10/31/wearable-technology/&gt;.

“Women of the Israel Defense Forces: History in Combat Units.” History of Women in IDF Combat Units. N.p., 16 Oct. 2016. Web. 11 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/femcom.html&gt;.

Cespedes, Andrea. “How Much Muscle Can a Woman Gain With Strength Training?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/198318-how-much-muscle-can-a-woman-gain-with-strength-training/&gt;.

Even the IDF Agrees: Men Are Better Suited Than Women For Military Combat