Athletries The Untold History of Ancient Greek Women Athletes

Athletries The Untold History of Ancient Greek Women Athletes is a monograph exploring the history of women athletes in Greek civilization. While any devoted follower of women’s sports and history knows about women’s participation in the ancient world, this is something new to the general public. For many the idea of female athlete is a new phenomenon that occurred with Title IX and the feminist movement. This obviously is not true, seeing as there are cases in which women played sports and were athletes. The reason this is not examined to the same extent as male participation is due in part to sexist prejudice and the fact that sports historiography is comparatively new. There are some who may not believe women did such things. Archaeology provides evidence of the ancient female athlete and the types of competitions they were involved in. Seeing as some civilizations either had an oral tradition of record keeping or few documents that still remain, artifacts help solve puzzles of the past. Authors Anne Reese and Irini  Vallera-Rickerson combine both history and archaeology to provide the reader with a vivid description of the female athlete of ancient Greek civilization. Originally published in 2002, at the time there was sill few secondary sources on this subject. The monograph discusses the Olympic games, festivals, and mythology in the context of women’s sports.While this is an entertaining and informative book, it does have some minor flaws .  Athletries The Untold History of Ancient Greek Women Athletes does successfully prove that the female athlete is not a recent phenomenon, but they are part of a long history of sports competition.

        The text does a great job of describing women’s status in Ancient Greece. it varied depending on the period and area. Minoan civilization was known to worship a mother goddess. This continued into Mycenaean civilization until Zeus became a replacement. Athens and Sparta were two extremes of the political spectrum. Women were restricted in terms of the laws in Athens. Their freedom was limited, yet they were allowed to attend some schools. However, women were under legal guardianship of the men in their lives whether it was their husband, brother, or father. Sparta gave women more freedom, yet this should not be seen as a conviction in equality. The monograph makes that mistake by implying it. The only reason women were allowed to engage in physical activity was so that they could produce stronger children. The males would become soldiers in this militarist society and the women would look after the home while men were at war. Citizens of Sparta male or female were raised to serve the state without question. Thebes and Korinth fell in a political and social middle ground between these two states.

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Seeing as each city-state was independent, the laws were different in regards to women. Accounts of Spartan civilization come mostly from Aristotle, Herdotos, Pausinias, Plutarch, and Thukydides. These were mostly Non-Spartans, so accounts could have a level  of bias.It was a common Athenian opinion that Spartans were rude, uncivilized, and rustic. The accounts do expose what training for women in Sparta was like. Their exercise regimen consisted of wrestling, footraces, javelin throwing, and discus. Spartan women also developed a type of exercise known as the bibasis. These were exercises of jumping in place. A Roman poet known as Propertius claimed that women also were involved in pancratium a sport which was a combination of boxing and wrestling. Maybe it could best be described as the MMA of ancient Greece.

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Spartans had a different attitude in regards to how boys and girls were raised. Girls and boys would perform physical activities in the nude. Gymnos the ancient Greek word in which gymnastics is derived,  means naked or without clothing. Athenians saw this and the fact that women had more freedom as vulgar. Athens was a place of the arts and culture. It was not compatible with the militarist and rustic society of Sparta.The fact that Spartan women had more independence did not mean the society valued gender equality. The idea was to have women become strong breeders and produce great warriors. King Lykurgos produced the foundation for a mighty power in the Mediterranean . This did not stop the state from falling to Macedonia and the Achaean League  around 195 B.C.E.. When The Roman Empire invaded in 140s B.C.E they divided Greece into provinces to be ruled directly. The Romans admired Spartan militarism and declared Sparta a free city. There was a small rival of the old Spartan culture. Women lived different lives in Athens and Sparta. Women were regulated to a domestic sphere in Athens, while Sparta allowed some freedom for them. Women’s status varied depending on the social and political circumstances of a city-state.

         Women athletes may seem like a new phenomenon, yet there is evidence that they were present in Greek civilization. Aegean civilization (3000- 1100 B.C.E) provides artifacts of sportswomen of the ancient period.  Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations reveal much about the activities of these athletes . Fresco fragments, clay seals, and reliefs found at Knossos are documentations of history of the sports Minoan participated in. Arthur Evans was the archaeologist responsible for uncovering the mysteries on krete.  His excavation allowed him to produce a four volume work called The Palace of Minos at Knossos. The art that Minoans left is a documentation about their society. Women just like the men were active participants in bull-jumping and bull-leaping. These sports were thought to be religious in nature as a way to honor the Mother Goddess. The Mother Goddess may be an indication that women in Minoan society had higher status. There is some disputes over how exactly bull leaping worked. The Toreador Frescoes depict bull leaping. Doing this action would require a huge amount of upper body strength and acrobatic skill. The text proposes theories, however it does not reach an answer. It could be that bulls were trained to perform in a certain way to allow acrobats to jump on them.

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The Minoan Mother Goddess was usually depicted with snakes in her hands. Goddesses were more common before the rise of monotheistic religion.

 If the bull was charging and an acrobat would grab it by the horns, this would be dangerous. To somersault for bull leaping would be physically impossible. It is possible that the fresco is being interpreted to literally. A more logical explanation may be that this was depicting bull fighting rather than actual leaping. The feats were just embellished for the sake of entertainment. One problem with archaeology is that there may be a rush to jump to a conclusion too soon. These scholars have to be detectives of the past gathering artifacts as their clues.

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The bull leaping fresco  shows two women  engaging  in bull sport with a man jumping on the bull.

 Iconography can be a useful tool in archaeological study. It has revealed that women normally in Minoan art were depicted with white or lighter skin and men with darker skin. Clothing differed in artistic depiction. The loin cloths that women wore had more designs and variation in color. The art also shows straps on the wrist and hands. The function was probably for getting a better grip on the bull. Frescoes were prevalent plaster based paintings. Pigments would be applied to plaster on buildings depicting sporting events or activities of daily life. Buon fresco required a method of applying pigment to wet plaster and the color will then sink into the wall. Fresco secco applies the pigment combine with an organic preservative ( such as egg whites ) to a dry surface.

Bull leaping as depicted from Minoan art would require a huge amount of upper body strength, acrobatic, and gymnastic skill. It seems unlikely that a person would be able to do this without serious injury. 

Besides frescoes, seals also leave evidence of female athletes in the ancient world.  Seals were carved as well as engraved objects made of stone, clay, or bone. The seals were used to make impressions on clay or wax. It was a means of verification of authenticity. It also was used to denote ownership. Normally seals were used in the home or market place. Seals were also used as symbols of identity among people.

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This is a seal depicting bull leaping. There were two types of seals which included the stamp and the cylinder. The stamp was flat and made the impression by pressing down. The cylinder had to be rolled over to make an impression.

Statues and sculpture are also artifacts that show that female athletes were active in the ancient world. The reason why serious study was not given to such findings was because many male scholars thought it was not important enough to give attention to. The 20th century saw the rise of women’s history as a major academic field. Since then, there have been efforts to uncover women’s roles in the past. There still remains more to be discovered and learned. Heinrich Schliemann only discovered Mycenae in 1876. Prior to that, there was no knowledge of its existence. There could be many lost civilizations globally, but there are limited remains or evidence of their existence. Artifacts, documents, and art are records of history.

Greek female athletes depicted in sculpture. 

Still there is a level of skepticism. It appears that the only sports women were involved in were bull sports. There are books and academic journals that state women in Minoan civilization also did running, swimming, and hunting.  Opposing views are that the women depicted in art were performing religious ceremonies. Both perspectives could be valid, but there needs to be more exploration and research.

       The monograph also reveals to the readers the myth of the Olympic rings. The rings did not have their roots in ancient history. David C. Young revealed in “Myth About The Ancient Games ” that the rings myth can be traced to two American authors. Lynn and Gray Poole had mistaken an inscription from a movie prop and others copied their work. The rings have their origins in the 1936 Olympics. Leni Riefenstahl was the film-maker responsible for their existence. the rings were part of a prop used for her film Olympia. The stone was paced in the film at the stadium at Delphi. The Pooles erroneously thought this was genuine. The Olympic flame runner may also be a myth. Yet, there is reference to hearth that would be lit in the Prytaneum  discussed by Pausanias. This building was in the Altis and led to the exit of the gymnasium.

The passing of the torch is a creation of the modern Olympics. This tradition was not needed in the ancient world because the games were held in the same place. The modern Olympics can be hosted by various nation-states around the world. The propagation of this myth just demonstrates how fast misinformation can be conveyed. Athletries provides an explanation into myths and common misconceptions about ancient sports history.  A modern day invention was thought to have ancient roots. Through a mistake and incorrect information a myth of the Olympic ring origin was born .What makes the book enjoyable is that it reveals these little known facts.

      There were multiple games that women were competitors in. This included the Panhellenic Games, Olympic Games, Pythian Games, Nemean Games, and Isthmian Games. The Panhellenic Games refers to competitions held across Greek civilization. These athletic competitions were local, but expanded to include other city-states. Women could have been charioteers. The evidence found of women being part of the games is revealed in inscriptions with the names of women athletes. The inscriptions found at particular sites also reveal which event they competed in and the game she won. The games were held in honor of gods and goddesses such as Hera, Demeter, Zeus, and Apollo. Games were held in different years to prevent possible conflicts of overlap. The reason this was done was to allow high participation and attendance. All the games ended by 394 C.E. due to Christian belief they were pagan rituals. Emperor Theodosios I wanted an empire of Christian culture. Relevant to women in sports, the Heraea Games was a competition for women. Athletics were also part of festivals, which included poetry and singing. The cult of Hera was widespread, so it was no shock their was a festival and athletic events organized in honor of this goddess. The inscriptions leave us names of the athletes, but other than that there is no other biographical information. One inscription reveals a winner by the name Hedea who excelled at footraces in both the Nemean Games and Isthmian Games. Queens also may have been chariot racers. One inscription commemorates Egyptian Queen Verenike’s victory in the Nemean Games.  Athletics served an important purpose in ancient civilization.  It was not only a sort of binding adhesive to these societies, but a religious celebration.

       The authors propose one theory about the exact date of the Olympic games . A reader should be skeptical of the information they receive. They base this theory on the end of Troy VII around 1190 B.C.E, using Homer’s Illiad  as a marker. They are right to assume that 776 B.C.E is correct for the first recorded Olympic Games. However, there are still questions.  There is a possibility there were records of previous games that were lost to history. If the authors were to make such statements more evidence is required. This is a challenge for archaeologists considering the Olympiads were at various points continued or discontinued.  The renewal date of the Olympic Games was 884 B.C.E.  This appears to be the least cogent argument the text makes. The reasoning may be sound, however it does not meant it leads to the correct conclusion. The most reliable sources are taken from the writings of Pausinias. He claimed that the games were discontinued by King Oxylos ruler of Elis. The origin of the Olympics is not entirely certain, but there are numerous myth surrounding  the ancient athletic event. One myth is that Hercules stated the competition with his brothers. Another involves Pelops and Hippodamia. Mythology and stories have served a pivotal purpose in the transfer of cultural value systems in various societies. Greek civilization was no different in terms of that function. The authors should have provided more concrete evidence to support their claim.

     The monograph concludes with delineating the history of the modern Olympic Games. The first attempts at revival were in 1859 and 1870. This was under the auspices of Evangelos Zappas. This was funded out his own pocket, so the games at a certain point were no longer able to continue. The successful revival would come only with the help of Demetrios Vikelas and Baron Pierre de Coubertin. These individuals had connections to sports organizations and news editors. It was mostly Coubertin’s contacts that made revival of the games possible. The Olympic Games were revived in 1896 with competitors from around the globe. Women were not banned from competing, but there were efforts to exclude them.

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This did not stop Stamata Revithi from participating in a marathon in the 1896 Olympics. The IOC refused to recognize her running time. Women were competing in the Olympics by 1900, but it was only in golf and tennis. Pierre de Coubertin made it no secret that he did not want women to be competitors in the games. Sexist prejudice was keeping women out of sports. However, by the 21st century more women would become competitors from around the globe.  Decolonization that followed after World War Ii created new independent nation-states in Africa and Asia. From there more athletes would appear on the Olympic stage. The female athlete is not a recent phenomenon, There were women who participated in sports during the ancient period. Athletries  is a great book for anyone interested in ancient civilization, women’s history, and sport. Although an academic text it is not so pedantic  or intricate that a reader would become confused about what they are absorbing. The brief discussion of Greek myths will entertain those with an fascination with the classics. Certain theories they propose should be questioned. It should be understood that there remains more to be discovered. Athletries The Untold History of Ancient Greek Women Athletes is a book worth owning.

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Athletries The Untold History of Ancient Greek Women Athletes

What Military Recruiters Aren’t Telling Women: You’ll Face Disproportionate Health Risks

What military recruiters aren’t telling women: You’ll face disproportionate health risks

This is an op ed from the Los Angeles Times originally published July 25, 2017 discussing the possible health issues women could face in combat roles. While there are legitimate concerns the articles raises, it is clear that they are not supportive of women have such jobs. It reveals that the Defense Department is undergoing a campaign to increase women’s numbers in combat jobs by 10 %.  Targets may be difficult to meet based on certain physical standards that the majority of women may not be able to meet. This explains why women involved in sports and physical fitness activities are being targeted for combat jobs. They would have the physical strength and endurance to meet the fitness standards. The article claims that there has not been a precise study to examine the disproportionate health risks of women in combat and also implies that combat integration would be an awful idea. It cannot be ignored that there are physiological and anatomical differences among the sexes. However, these are averages and what the military is looking for is women with the proper qualifications. If the standards are set, training is done correctly, and male soldiers see their female colleagues as valued members women in combat can will work. There are solutions to possible health risks to soldiers.

      There is the obvious statement of facts in the article in regards to physiology and fitness. These are generalities and averages that are well know to any individual with an basic understanding of biology. The average male can produce more testosterone which allows for greater muscular hypertrophy. As stated in the by the authors “the average woman can possess 55% to 58% the upper body strength of men.”   The difference in endocrinology also effects the skeletal system making bones denser. Larger lungs and hearts as well as a different shaped pelvis means men run faster. The difference translates to 40 % greater aerobic capacity compared to women. These are averages of men and women, but there should be consideration for women who have attained a high fitness level. The average woman would obviously be at a disadvantage. The female athlete would not have such a problem. Weightlifters, swimmers, as well as  track and field athletes would possibly be overqualified for some of the physical standards. There are of course health risks from injury,but stronger women are more likely to endure.

If the average woman is seeking to enter such a physically demanding job, she will have to train prior to basic training. Seeing as there is a disadvantage in muscle power it will have to be built. If a woman does not take this step initially, injury in basic training could occur. This has to be approached from a practical  physical fitness perspective. The first question is can a woman get stronger through a training method? It is possible and it requires weight training. This type of exercise also builds muscle and bone in women. Doing this prepares the body for rigorous activity of combat positions. Besides sex, there are other factors that effect physical fitness potential. There is the current state of health ( weight and diseases), genetics, and somatotype. Women who have mesomorphic body types will find vigorous physical activity easier and will respond to a greater extent to training. A woman of endomorphic or ectomorphic body type may have to train harder to reach a fitness target. Genetics play a role in athletic potential. Women who trains on the same regimen as a man will not reach the same physical fitness level.

Muscular hypertrophy is greater in males compared to females.  

If we look at averages, many men and women who would be drafted would either have to go on a weight management program. A  portion of the American population is either obese or overweight. They would need to be trained extra to deal with this. they state that “no training system can close the gap.” While women’s strength level would not reach the highest performing male, they could meet standards through training. Women who strength taring for several months can expect to see a 20 to 40 % increase in strength. The only way this will happen is if women lift weights heavy enough to cause fatigue can build muscle. Lighter weights are better for building muscle endurance. Women as the article points out may have to use most of their maximum physical fitness capacity. It should be noted there are men who may not meet the fitness  requirements either. However, no one would question their ability to be turned into a soldier.

 Women depending on which armor unit they are in are required to lift 35 pound shells and carry 100 pound packs. This may seem like too much, but it depends on the anthropometric measurements of the woman in such a position. Lifting 35 pounds repeatedly would not be a problem for a woman who has trained in strength building exercises. A woman who is 150 pounds with low body fat could have an easier time than a woman who is 122 lbs.The more type II muscle fiber the more endurance women will have to the physical strains of combat. These types of muscle fibers during recruitment provide more explosive power. Women have these muscle fibers as well, not to the same extent as men. At the cellular level and in the process of muscular hypertrophy, there is no difference. Women can build strength; the real obstacle is increasing running speed. Despite being closer to men in the lower body, the shape of women’s pelvis would mean they would run slower.

Training does not change the structure of the pelvis in women. It is possible to increase women’s running speed. Training must be done in intervals to be effective. When training to increase distance one should run slower during training. Increasing speed would involve require shorter distances while running to build up endurance. This would from a physical fitness point of view would be more difficult than building strength. The gap in physical fitness may not be reduced. but it can be narrowed. The only information revealed by this data is that women in peak physical shape would be better performers in physical tasks. The average woman would struggle without training. This means women would probably still remain in small numbers in the marines and frontline infantry divisions. The most physically demanding combat occupational specialties even if they open to women may not have equal numbers. Just like construction, firefighting, and law enforcement women will make a small percentage.

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This explains the ads targeting women who are fit enough for such tasks. The challenge for women is the higher the intensity the more strain they will face. Close combat units as the article explains have the issue of irregular meals, sleep deprivation, and low intake of calcium and vitamin D. The access to these critical vitamins can be distributed to soldiers in their supplies. Carrying such pills would not be an extra burden in terms of supplies. There are means to prevent the conservation mode in women’s bodies. Menstrual cycles could cease  and the possibility of osteoporosis could increase. Stress fractures the article states is from conservation mode, but is really from over loaded gear. Yet they attribute that to the pelvic injuries, urinary tact injuries, and pelvic organ prolapse. Designing armor and gear to fit the female body form can reduce injury during training and in battle.  The US military has began designing such armor to fight this problem. Women must focus on upper body exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, and bicep curls to strengthen those areas. Soldier loads must be designed to be ergonomically efficient. This way soldiers will not be overloaded with gear hindering their mobility. Soldiers need armor that is strong, but does not reduce their speed. Even the strongest people can get injured if the place too much weight on their body.

This reveals why soldiers feel the health effects after service. The military is ignoring health issues and providing low quality healthcare. Women should avoid taking contraception thinking that it will enhance performance. There is a myth that the menstrual cycle reduces a woman’s physical strength and athletic performance. Women take contraception not to prevent birth in this circumstance, but think they will perform better. This comes to having accurate information about women’s bodies. Not using contraception except for what it was intended to be used for can prevent weight gain and loss of bone mineral density. To prevent such health problems it is critical to monitor soldier health and to make sure they are aware of possible health conditions .

         There is a general fitness issue of weight management that the text does not discuss. The American population struggles with either obesity or weight control. The data could be exaggerated if calculated on a body mass index scale, which has not always been the most accurate. According to the National Health and Nutrition Survey  66% of American adults are either overweight or obese. Then was an increase from 53% a generation ago. There could be numerous factors in the spike. Food labeling may not be completely honest and the use of high fructose corn syrup contributes. Foods with enormous amounts of sugar and fats also sabotage weight loss efforts. Then it could be difficult if one does have the motivation to lose weight. Some try multiple times and quit. There has to be an atmosphere of encouragement to change habits. Another problem is keeping the weight lost off. Weight issues do not only effect adults, but children and youth. What this means is that the majority of the population would not be physically fit enough to meet military standards. That means many Americans would have to lose weight prior to starting any form of basic training. Besides that, there has to be a paradigm shift in how people view exercise and physical activity. The problem is people see as a chore, rather than something fun or enjoyable. This is why physical education classes should be structured  in that manner. Not only will it teach children to be active,but it will  encourage life long healthy habits. Relevant to women there is a challenge. It is harder for them to lose weight. Higher estrogen production and differences in metabolism make explain this. Women can lose weight through the right methods. Diet alone will not be adequate; there has to be an exercise regimen to burn calories. What also must be done is altering women’s perceptions about fitness and physical activity. There still is the antiquated belief that exercise,sports, and physical activity or skill is male only. When women understand that their bodies are not biologically inferior, they gain more confidence in their physical skills. Doing this would make it easier for women entering the service. The American population has to get its weight issues under control if it wants to assemble a larger fighting force.

        This op ed does have an agenda. While it does not resort to outrageous claims as detractors of women in combat make, it does believe in the frailty myth. The idea that anything physical women will fail at. Physical skill or strength or occupations that require it are places that women are not meant to be in accord to those who believe in women’s biological inferiority. Julie Pulley a former army captain and Hugh P, Scott a Navy medical officer have credentials as military professionals, who wrote this op-ed. However, they do not offer solutions to issues of women’s health. Besides that, they ignore women who have excelled. There have been women who were physically capable, but at the time of their service combat jobs prohibited them. Alley Miesch Nie was a military service member. Looking at her photograph one would assume the 5’4 woman would not be able to handle combat or physical tasks.

blog_alley-miesch-nie_military_435x290  Despite a person’s gender bias the reality tells another story. At 141 pounds during her competitive career as an athlete she was able to 225 lbs  bench presses, 350 lbs squats, 800 lbs leg presses, and 325 lbs deadlifts. She clearly developed an impressive level of functional strength through training. Based on these statistics, how would Alley do on a particular MOS standard? These new standards are called “gender neutral” yet there is a problem with that. Using this terminology makes people think that standards are lowered for women. What it really means is that there will no longer be a fitness standard target that is lower for women. It means both men and women will have to be qualified physically depending on which occupation. The standards vary depending on the US Navy, US Army, and US Air force job. After basic training, the soldier can make the decision which MOS they want to go to.

  The year 2017 has brought some updated combat arms fitness standards. The biggest changes came to infantry and armor. The test will be in four parts. It wants to specifically target who would best fit in a particular occupational specialty. This new test is called the Occupational Physical Assessment Test which went into effect January 1st. It has only one scoring scare and adjustments are not made for sex or age. The marines did have separate standards which are now being formed into one fitness standard. It consists of four fitness events which include a medicine ball throw, standing long jump, deadlift, and interval run. The scores are classified based on the results of performance labelled in color codes . The black (heavy) score means a soldier is prepared for the physical demands. Significantly prepared is gray. The moderate range is gold, while the lowest score is white (unprepared). Soldiers who make the black category will qualify for all MOS in the US armed forces. All recruits must meet the gold category. Infantry, armor, and combat engineer are what would fall under the black category. The gray category would include tank mechanics and helicopter repair mechanics. Many combat jobs are under the moderate gold category ( army medical occupations ). Based on this information it seems that Alley would have no problem reaching the black category. Women with the least amount of fitness would fall into the unprepared category. The majority of women could fall into either moderate or some in the significantly prepared. If a recruit wants to really be part of some occupation specialty, they have to make sure they are physically prepared for the test. Another problem is that the height and weight standards will have to be adjusted.

Height        Min Weight            17-20            21-27               28-39              40+

58                 91                           119                 121                 122                 124
59                 94                           124                 125                 126                 128
60                 97                           128                 129                 131                 133
61                 100                         132                 134                 135                 137
62                 104                         136                 138                 140                 142
63                 107                         141                 143                 144                 146
64                 110                         145                 147                 149                 151
65                 114                         150                 152                 154                 156
66                 117                         155                 156                 158                 161
67                 121                         159                 161                 163                 166
68                 125                         164                 166                 168                 171
69                 128                         169                 171                 173                 176
70                 132                         174                 176                 178                 181
71                 136                         179                 181                 183                 186
72                 140                         184                 186                 188                 191
73                 144                         189                 191                 194                 197
74                 148                         194                 197                 199                 202
75                 152                         200                 202                 204                 208
76                 156                         205                 207                 210                 213
77                 160                         210                 213                 215                 219
78                 164                         216                 218                 221                 225
79                 168                         221                 224                 227                 230
80                 173                         227                 230                 233                 236

Alley because of her height would fall out of the required weight range. The ironic part is that she is not overweight. The body mass index does not account for a person who has vast amounts of lean body mass. So a woman who built up muscle would be denied the position based on the weight and height standards. The Marines realizing women were fit enough, but did not fall in the range of the body mass standards had to make a change. These standards have also effected men who just are bigger. The average Marine is bigger than in the past and this has not been accounted for. A muscular strong woman would then fall out the weight and height regulation. This would put shorter women at a disadvantage, because under the old regulations.

 The women are going to need the extra lean body mass they have built up. The maximum weight for a woman of 5’3 is 141 lbs. Short muscular women even if they are capable would then disqualified. There was the option of wavier, but this process was long and cumbersome. Women could have been reducing their physical optimum to reach the weight requirements. This only harms success. Another problem being addressed is unequal fitness standards. Women must not be given lower standards based on ideas they will perform worse. That means having them so the same exercises. One issue that arouse was three pull ups controversy in 2014. Most female Marines struggled doing three pull-ups. Detractors took that as evidence women could not meet the demands of combat. Yet, upon further investigation the problem became obvious. Women were for a long time doing the flexed arm hang rather than pull-ups. That exercise in particular will not build the most upper body strength. When women were trained to do such an exercise it was not a problem. The mass media focused on women’s failures rather than their successes.

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Women are going to need the physical strength and fitness  to be in combat positions.

The article admits “women are essential in America’s armed services” yet the author may not truly believe that. The most vocal opponents against women in combat come ironically from conservative and Republican Party groups and individuals. They have become the party of war and yet they are condemning women who enthusiastically  volunteer for service. This is why the constant slogan that they preach “support the troops” is disingenuous. The conservatives and far-right Republicans cite sex differences as evidence women are incapable or inferior in terms of combat qualification. The reality is that women have been in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan in unofficial capacities. The reason for misogynist rhetoric or behavior ( the Marine cell phone picture scandal) is that men do not want to compete with women for combat jobs. the irrational fear that women are going to take jobs away from men in the military is ludicrous. The policy of  military intervention in various nations around the world. There will be no shortage of jobs in the military. There may actually be a time in which there may not be enough men to fill these positions. It makes no sense to ban women who are qualified for a combat job. The article states that army recruiting sites or recruiters themselves do not reveal reports about the health risks. Anyone with a basic understanding or physiology or anatomy would realize physically demanding jobs to have an attrition rate. Physical attrition can happen from repetitive motion injuries and factors due to range considering the intensity of  activity. This may happen to women faster over the years. The male body may be able to sustain more trauma, but no person of sex is impervious to injury. The only solution is to reduce soldier load for ergonomic efficiency and let recruits know specific standards as well as the best methods for training. The US military must stop present the frailty myth as fact and having low expectations for women in combat positions.

        The evidence used to make the case women are not fit for combat must be questioned. The one text that they do mention “Musculoskeletal Injuries in Military Women” is credible but the authors do not mention the solutions given after the study. The 2011 report has general prevention of injury strategies that the US military is finally implementing. The solution that the report states is to have modifications in the training programs. Running mileage has to be reduced, because many injuries occurred from this. The training method should involve progressive and gradual exercise stress. The report notes that higher fitness levels mean less injury. The reason why the Brigade Combat Team placed a fitness standard for recruits to meet before training was to solve this problem of high injury rates. Women must meet the three push-ups, 17 sit-ups,  and run 10.5 minutes for one mile before they can go train for the BCT. The reason it should be done gradually is that the body must adapt to the level of intensity. The report also notes that progressive loading exercises are the best for strengthening the lower body muscles. The muscles that should be targeted are the soleus, gastrocnemius, quadriceps, hamstrings, tibialis (anterior and posterior), and gluteus medius. The report found a solution yet the authors of this op-ed do not share this information.

Some solutions are also the most simple ones. Women require better running shoes. Having the proper running shoes can allow for avoidance of knee, ankle, hip as well as the back. These running shoes should be comfortable reducing as much pressure on the foot as possible. Shoes should contain Achilles Heel relief, strong midsole, fexiable toe box,  and enforced cushioning. The toe box should provide plenty of room. These attributes of a running shoe help make the shock of running less harmful to the feet and legs. This is critical considering women’s different pelvic structure creates a more q angle. This also indicates that soldiers require shock absorbing boots. Having these will allow for less stress fractures and lower extremity injuries. “Musculoskeletal injuries in Military Women” provides prevention suggestions to common aliments that could befall female soldiers. A combination of exercise, training adjustment, and proper running shoes will vastly solve the problem of high injury rates in women. Core stabilization exercises are also recommended to women in the report. The rectus abdominis including the external and internal obliques must be strengthen to prevent spinal conditions.

The report also cites the treatment, diagnosis, and management of multiple injuries.Not only that, the 2011 report delineates proper rehabilitation from injuries.   A soldier must be aware of  lower back injuries, patellofemoral syndrome, Achilles tendinitis ( or tendinosis) , iliotibial band syndrome, ACL tears and other conditions can be prevented. The training will have to build up bone and muscle mass in women. If one reads the report thoroughly it is not arguing excluding women; it provides practical answers to the disparity in health for military women.The second source regarding women in combat the authors cite ” The Physiological and Medical Aspects That Put Women at Risk for Overuse Injuries.” The only information it provides is what could be deduced based on the 2011 report for the Army surgeon General’s office. Women have to use more of their maximum physical capacity to perform on the same level as men. The only conclusion is that women must build their core strength and upper body to lift the weights required for physically demanding combat jobs. Both of these reports show the health risks, but provide solutions, rather than using them for justifications for keeping women out of combat. They identify a problem and scientifically assess the situation and formulate a answer. The conclusion is to have women train first before attempting tests for combat positions. Physical fitness level before entry is pivotal to success. However, the text cites one of the writings of Marine Captain Katie Petronio who makes it clear that she does not favor women in combat. Most of her writings are specifically against women in the infantry. Her agenda seemed to support the conservative cause of preventing the ban from ending, but claimed on a CNN interview in 2012 : ” I’m not against women in combat.”     Then went on to explain “combat readiness is going to be effected by this.”Women who enter combat are not going to reduce combat readiness or efficiency, as long as they meet the same standards. Petronio claims that her two deployments two Afghanistan caused her health problems. The first was muscular atrophy and weight loss . The atrophy only happens when muscles are not in use. This could have been another medical issue not part of her combat experience. Sudden atrophy would indicate some form of multiple sclerosis or at least symptoms of it. She may not have had this, but it was clear that she was not training her body to maintain muscular strength.

This is Mina Mituskoa which shows her during her athletic career and after. As you can see her muscles atrophied after not doing intense training. 

When you stop exercising such gains will be lost. This happens faster with women, due to the difference in hormones. The extreme weight loss was probably induced by irregular meals. Such low body fat levels from irregular meals may have caused her infertility. Endurance issue could have just been caused by the extreme environment of Afghanistan. Maybe if her training were different, she would have been able to handle such rigors. The time in which she entered the new standards had not been established. The footwear and equipment has to be designed for the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. Petronio has in a Phyllis Schlafly fashion promoted an anti-woman sentiment in the infantry. It is ironic that a woman is the one preaching such ideas. Citing her article for the Marine Gazette does not add to the image of providing an honest opinion.

The common health problems of stress fractures and spinal cord injury can be reduced by lighter loads and improving a recruit’s physical fitness level before entry. 

The numerous health risks are well know,especially the major one of death in battle. Those injured by gunfire, shrapnel, or suffer a traumatic brain injury are not mentioned in the text. Military recruiters do not tell the truth about the US. There is also a more pressing issue that has often been ignored rape and mental illness in the US military. Women face sexual violence from their male colleagues. Women also suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Hardship and witness the carnage of war makes it difficult to adjust to civilian life.

        The military has another health crisis of rape and sexual assault. According to the Pentagon statistics reports of sexual assault have reached an enormous high. Service members reported a total of 6,172 cases in 2016. This does not account for the women and men who do not report attacks.  The Pentagon also reported that 58% of victims said they faced some form of reprisal for exposing their attacker. Sexual misconduct is ubiquitous in the armed services. Only recently has the US military taken action, but this may not be enough. Sex based violence is a threat to health and personal security of the women and men who serve. Many times commanding officers may be involved, but are not brought to trial by a civilian court. A military court is more likely to be more lenient. The only way this scourge of violence can be stopped is if punishments are more severe. The problem is not just in attitudes; it is institutionally based. The Marines have this problem with online harassment. It had to deal with a Facebook group known as “Marines United” which often spread misogynist and lascivious commentary about women in the armed forces. There is a hostile work environment that requires dramatic human resources action. If not, this will hinder military effectiveness and productivity overall. A culture of mistrust is growing at a period when it is required to function as a unified fighting force. There has to be a way to challenge the strange hazing culture that is present in the US military. This involves fraternity like antics, which involves the harassment of women. It is no secret that the US military has an unwritten policy of rape of the populations they invade. From World War II, Korea, and the Vietnam War US soldiers have assaulted populations with sex violence. With Iraq and Afghanistan the numbers could be much higher. America now has a declining global image, due to the damage of aggressive and unprovoked war. The authors should realize this is just as much of a health risk to women as combat itself.

        Soldiers may leave the service without any physical injuries, but mental health can also be effected. Many soldiers are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. This could also put them at risk for depression. The challenge is there is still stigma surrounding mental illness. This is why  people do not seek the help they need. There is nothing wrong with a person seeking help. A study conducted by the US military revealed that soldiers have higher rates of mental illness than the civilian population. The worst case result after service is possible suicide. There are explanations for higher rates of mental illness among military personnel. It could be some had it prior to entry into the US military.  Data collected from the Study To Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members revealed that soldiers had six times as high episode of intermittent explosive disorder. This is a mental disorder when rage cannot be controlled and impulse is difficult to manage. The study surveyed 5,500 soldiers. There is the possibility of multiple tours of duty causing the problem. Younger soldiers are more at risk for mental illness. The reasons could be that they become home sick, stressed, or do not have the emotional support system.

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The military must take into consideration what multiple deployments will do to military families. It is critical for a soldier’s well being to stay connected to friends and family.

There needs to be an honest description of the hardships that will follow military service. However, it is not the case of false advertising. Some people like the idea of danger and adventure as well as possible risk. They want to explore the world, but do not have the means to travel. The military in some ways provides that opportunity for some who are economically disadvantaged. The shock of being in a new environment and acclimating can be difficult. There are reasons for the suicides, which are elucidated by particular experiences. It has been known soldiers may be forced to do unspeakable and unethical acts that were ordered by their commanders. If if violates protocol or basic rules of warfare. The guilt and controversy will eventually get to people engaging in such acts. Killing one’s self is an escape from some from constant mental anguish. Soldiers and the military must realize that getting help or consulting someone is not weakness. The military trained soldiers to be tough and self reliant, but even the strongest people need emotional support.

       There are certain realities that the US military has to come to terms with. Women are going to be a part of the fighting force and resisting this change will only hinder operation. Just like African Americans becoming integrated into the US military it will happen. The US armed forces are becoming more diverse and represent the demographic shift in America. The US will have to reevaluate its foreign policy strategy.  Women have a harder time due to the fact their ability is put into question. The frailty myth or the idea women just cannot be physically capable is still disseminated through out the mass media. Conservative outlets are the most vituperative. Their argument is that “you don’t see women playing in the NFL.” War is more violent and complex that a football game. A sports event does not involve someone being killed or imprisoned after defeat. The only concern is if a female soldier is disarmed some how. A larger man would have the advantage of strength that she is fighting. This means they would have to be reliant on martial arts skills. Judo and Krav maga are effective fighting styles that can be useful for a person who is smaller.

This is why women must be given the same hand to hand combat training. Doing so ensures women can fight out a precarious situation if disarmed. However, just being physically strong does not automatically make you a great fighter. Limited skill and maladroit movements could be more of a hindrance. Although this is a sports analogy consider this : a hand to hand fight between a MMA fighter and a bodybuilder. The more muscular person may have more strength, but did not learn fighting techniques. The MMA fighter has knowledge of these and knows how to avoid hits. This could be a decisive factor in determining who wins.

 Each fighting style has its strengths and weaknesses. As we have seen from women’s mixed martial arts and boxing they do have the ability to fight. There is the question can a woman carry a wounded man off a battlefield if the situation calls for it. The requires a significant portion of upper body strength. Women can lift men with an understanding of leverage. The approach should be to have them practice casualty drags both without gear and with their armor on. Carrying a person without gear is easier, because there is no extra weight. Having women do both can physically prepare them for the demands.

There could be simple solutions to this problem. Detaching some of the gear and removing the person could be one. Dragging the individual by there shoulders could be another. Yet, there could be situations that require medical evacuation and moving the person could cause more harm. Women who are in this situation should be able to do just fine if the passed their tests and met proper qualifications. Thus the argument “women are not strong enough” seems to lack cogency. Even ones that are qualified still are questioned about their competence. Women who work in mostly male dominated professions have to work extra hard to prove themselves. One simple mistake can be a representation of the group, which demonstrates the general sexist atmosphere in these jobs. The US military has to challenge this culture of women being less than capable. The frontline has been burred with warfare becoming more asymmetric. So, women who go to other locations around the globe may see combat without having trained for it. Physical fitness is important, however technology negates this in some regards. Muscles are of little protection against tanks, jets, bombs, guns, drones, biological, nuclear, and chemical weapons. A physically fit military is essential, however a state must have the technology and tactics to ultimately triumph in conflict.  Other nations are also allowing women to serve on the frontline. The UK and India are now in the process of allowing women to fight in combat roles. It is only a matter of time before more countries start doing the same.

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Countries that allow women in combat. This was a map produced in 2013. This however does not include women who fight in an unofficial capacity .

There are women who fight in unofficial capacities. This could be in paramilitary groups, liberation movement causes, or other armed insurgencies. The peshmerga and YPG has female fighters operating in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds do not have their own state,but seem to be attempting to carve out one after the battle against ISIS ends. It is clear that women will be a part of that fight as well. The Tamil Tigers also mobilized women in war during the civil war in Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009. FARC  when it was fighting the Colombian government did the same. These places were not states so that is why on the data of women in combat. It seems more women are involved in combat than previously thought.  A majority of Northern European countries allow women in combat. Australia and New Zealand are the only countries in the Asia-Pacific region to do so.

It seems people if inspired enough will pick up arms if they deem a cause worthy. Women who are born in countries with less resources do not have the same the training as the US military women and still fight effectively. There is no reason that women in the US cannot do the same. The biggest question is how physically strong can a woman get in order to meet the qualifications of certain military occupational specialties ? A sample from women’s weightlifting  scores could provide a hypothesized answer. The women who fall in a fitness category of advanced and elite would be more likely to handle more manual labor compared to the beginner or intermediate fitness level. This may complicate implementing a draft. Women would take longer to reach fitness targets.

female-strength-chart

The only solution is too either adjust the total goal target of the number women you want to serve or have a fitness program in place. This can be done, but another issue must be addressed. Women should register for the selective service. The fact that one preaches equality means that you also accept the responsibility that comes with it. Men do not have a choice, because they are forced to register. The option of being a conscientious objector is available, yet this may be ignored by a military that is becoming more desperate for a victory in a series of failing military engagements. There should be no objection from any advocate for women in combat to reject women being part of the selective service. By this same line of reasoning, this is not license to end a volunteer army system. So far, it has worked well sense the end of the Vietnam War and allowed  for higher skilled and higher paid positions to become available. Americans will not tolerate being drafted for wars that are either imperialist in objective or futile in execution. The point the US military is for security. The United States is more and far beyond capable of defending itself. Most of America’s military engagements have nothing to do with security at all. They either advance a business agenda or a geopolitical strategy of keeping America as the world’s sole superpower. Americans have been taught that its military fights for freedom and human rights when this is a fabrication. If there is a concern about military recruiters being extremely dishonest, this is the part that should also cause concern.

            There have been exaggerated claims that allowing women in combat will result in failure in US military operations. Women entering combat will not do this, because the US is continued a path that could lead to major social and political issues. Take the role of policeman of the world has caused much anger and distrust of the US throughout the world. The end of the Cold War gave the US immense power which it has abused. Without the Soviet Union,there was little justification for a large military. This did not stop interventions in Somalia, Iraq, or Yugoslavia. NATO and the US struck Kosovo not for humanitarian reasons,but to dismantle Yugoslavia further. Civil war and ethnic conflict was already tearing the country apart, intervention by other Western European nations furthered the disintegration. The US wants to maintain global hegemony even if it conflates into wider regional conflicts. China and Russia are clearly world powers and the US sees them as a threat. This may not be the case, if diplomacy was utilized. Instead there is a network of shadow wars and wars of proxy occurring between the US, China, and Russia. All these powers use the false narrative of fighting the War on Terror as a justification for reducing freedoms or initiating wars. North Korea, Ukraine, and Syria are countries that find themselves caught up in the nexus of wars of proxy. The United States must accept the that the world is moving to a multipolar  world power system.Military recruiters will never be honest about what America is really doing. They will never tell of the numerous atrocities, corruption in the Department of Defense, or the neoconservative war agenda for various countries. To say that women are being more so manipulated by being recruited for certain jobs is no more exploitative than any other aspect of the US military. Opening combat roles to women in a way was a public relations technique to improve the image of the US military. lost wars, war crimes, and the abuses of the military industrial complex have tarnish the institution’s image. Maybe a new generation of  leadership in the US military can reverse this. Women should not seek to be just combat soldiers; they should also aim to be generals of the highest rank.

Women should become part of the leadership and maybe with new perspectives some problems can be addressed from a different approach. There has to be also a change in political leadership. The system of world politics should adopt another mode of operation. There should not be preparations for war, rather a sustainable peace. All nation-states are guilty of competing with one another for military dominance of the globe. There are nations that carve out and become power centers in a particular region often bullying smaller nations. On a larger scale world powers bully the entire globe. The US-EU block has done such actions to Libya, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria. It has to be understood that liberal democracy or another governance system cannot be imposed upon people. The US military is an apparatus for security, not nation building. A complexus of skilled diplomacy can prevent war; intervention should be the last resort. These ideas are practical, but with more women and others joining the US military the possibility of peace seems hopeless.

           There were rumors that Donald Trump was going to reverse the Obama era measure allowing women in combat. It has not happened, but there is a possibility. He has already targeted transgender service members  who do not make up much of the US military. Blatant acts of discrimination are common in  America. Even if the individual is qualified hate and the status quo is favored. There are numerous examples that show women are capable.

Although women have proven that they can be capable, there will always be doubts and hatred directed at them for being in jobs that were male only. If combat integration is to be successful there has to be a massive human resources effort. Sexual harassment and assault should be punished quickly and severely. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs must work to provide a higher standard of healthcare . Veterans too often are not getting high quality care that should be every citizen’s right.If not the US could face a major public health crisis. Soldier health should incorporate mental and physical well being. While there is a movement to improving the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries, the care in regards to PTSD and depression are not adequate. Military recruiters should be honest about the health risks and the challenges involved. Honesty about the military should not discourage individuals with a strong desire to serve. Women should not be discouraged from serving just as long as they know what they are signing up for. A military health maintenance program can solve certain problems and reduce medical discharges.

Further Reading

  Reuters. “Sexual Assault Reports in U.S. Military Reach Record High: Pentagon.”NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 1 May 2017, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/sexual-assault-reports-u-s-military-reach-record-high-pentagon-n753566.

Healy, Melissa. “As Obesity Keeps Rising, More Americans Are Just Giving Up.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 7 Mar. 2017, http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-fewer-americans-diet-20170308-story.html.

Myers, Meghann. “New in 2017: New Fitness Assessment to Go Combat Arms.” Army Times, Army Times, 18 Oct. 2017, http://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2016/12/19/new-in-2017-new-fitness-assessment-to-go-combat-arms/.
Willingham, Val. “Study: Rates of Many Mental Disorders Much Higher in Soldiers.” CNN, Cable News Network, 4 Mar. 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/03/health/jama-military-mental-health/index.html.
What Military Recruiters Aren’t Telling Women: You’ll Face Disproportionate Health Risks

Women’s Sports Documentary

There are mass gaps in pay in professional sports. Basketball, soccer,  and tennis are bot extremely pronounced. This documentary exposes the economic inequality and sexism plaguing the sports world. There are solutions to these problems. Improving attendance to matches, having more media coverage, and women forming their own organizations could be possible solutions. Simply not making demands will not advance anything. There also needs to be a paradigm shift in attitudes regarding women. Women in sports are either trivialized as not being serious athletes or being less capable. Sexualization has been a problem with the media focusing on women’s appearance rather than their talents. Only when the corporate gatekeeper culture and media control is challenged can  the condition of women in sports can improve.

Women’s Sports Documentary

Anita Sarkeesian and a Gamer’s Response

Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes versus Women in Video Games” generated much controversy. While there is no denying there is sexism in video games her videos present the average male gamer as a misogynist and internet troll. The unfortunate aspect of this is that there are male gamers who fit this description.  Sarkessian’s analysis and the venomous responses of some individuals represent how extreme third wave feminism and men’s rights advocates seek to divide the gaming community. It is clear that there is an agenda to promote Feminist Frequency a website run by Sarkeesian. She claims to be a dedicated game enthusiast, but it has been rare to see her actually do so, rather than criticism. Her style of debate is to make small selections of data, rather than examining the entire picture. There are also people in the gaming community who also make such outrageous claims. The video “Anita’s “Myths” Versus  Real Myths ” also represents a distortion. A Youtube user by the name Prince Asbel responded to Anita’s video in the same irrational manner. The debate centered around the concept of women being the weaker sex. Users like him only give Sarkeesian fuel and paint a negative image of the gaming community. While sexual dimorphism is a biological reality, this does not mean gender stereotypes are based in truth.

         The video wants to challenge Sarkeesian’s claim  of women being stereotyped as the weaker sex. The problem is that Asbel uses a subject that actually disproves his point. The video shows Jill mills arm wrestling  three men and losing to two of them. One should realize that arm wrestling is not a precise measure of strength. This involves a level of technique as well as strength from the wrist, pectoralis major,  and biceps brachii.

His example was to demonstrate that women really cannot be strong. Jill mills has the ability to lift cars and do many feats of strength from years of training. She is certainly not weak. If this presentation wanted to be precise it would examine bench press, leg press, and squat records of female and male athletes. Men on average are stronger. This does not mean the female body cannot acquire strength. Jill Mills can deadlift 475 lbs for reps. Jill currently can bench 286 lbs and do a 442 lbs squat. These are impressive records and the reason she could not beat these men at arm wrestling is because she had limit training for it. It would be doubtful if the men in the video can do what Jill does without any training. However, it would not be possible that Jill could out lift the world’s strongest man.

The strength difference is not solely due to muscle. The male skeleton contains denser bones, larger ligaments, and bigger tendons. The video sites that Jill is covered in muscles and therefore she should have beaten the men. Large muscles do not automatically equal more strength. It has to do with the distribution of type II muscle fibers and the rate of muscular contraction. Type II muscle fibers are critical for explosive power. It is possible for a person with smaller muscles to be stronger if they are specifically training for that purpose. A weightlifter may be able to lift more than a large bodybuilder simply because one athlete is training for hypertrophy. The bodybuilder’s goal is an aesthetic one.

The notion that women are weaklings falls into the frailty myth. Physical weakness or lack of physical skills were thought to be women’s natural state. It seems Abdel falls into this perspective, but attempts to appear non-biased by mentioning his sister. Average does not correlate to all men being stronger. There are multiple factors that play a role in physical strength. Body type, endocrinology, body composition, and fitness level. Women produce more estrogen which allows for more body fat, rather than lean body mass. Myostatin in particular determines how large muscles can grow given a training regimen. Testosterone allows for greater muscular hypertrophy, which enables more protein synthesis. Genetics play a role in both sexes in terms of fitness levels. Men have more natural strength, but women also respond to the stimuli of weight training. At the cellular level, there is no difference between male and female muscle. Men just have more type II muscle fibers. The disparity is more about quantity rather than quality.

The difference in upper body strength is the greater compared to the lower body. The average woman according to rough estimates has about 55% of males’ upper body strength. Women have a closer range of lower body strength which is between 25% to 75%. This shows that men do have larger muscle fibers. This does not mean a man who does not train will be stronger than a woman who does. A woman who trains seriously could either equal or surpass the average man in strength. Then training method is also important. Training at high intensity allows women to acquire more strength and the use of plyometrics. The physiological and biological differences explain why female athletes have to train harder than their male counterparts. The differences in physical fitness potential change during puberty, when hormonal changes alter the body. Anatomically women have wider hips and narrower shoulders, which do effect athletic performance.

There is of course overlap between women and in men. The explanation for this is that each individual’s physiology is different, which gives then a natural advantage over other competitors. There also is the factor of technique in athletic skill. Strength and speed are critical, but if one has not mastered skilled movements for a particular sport, it will ultimately effect the total performance optimum. This may explain why some women could beat men in a physical contest if the skill and technique level is high.

This man clearly is stronger, but loses. The woman has a technique that nullified the strength gap. As you can see arm wrestling is not an accurate measure of strength. 

Sexual dimorphism is the product of millions of years of evolution. This does not prove women are inferior, but different. Humans are primates of a mammal order and usually males tend to be larger than females. There are exceptions seeing as gibbons are the same size for both sexes. The reason for size and strength differences between men and women may have to do with mating strategies. Our early ancestors of the past had to compete for mates. Size and strength would have been an element of natural selection to spread particular genes. There is vast amounts of genetic diversity in the human species, which allowed it to survive. Relevant to this discussion of female representation being a woman does not make one biologically inferior or physically weak by default. Stereotypes and negative attitudes do effect peoples’ behavior  and conduct in regards to certain groups. This is why women face extra scrutiny in occupations that are physically demanding like the military, law enforcement, firefighting, and sports. The assumption is that they are too frail and incapable of such work. Men are stronger, but that does not mean they have a monopoly on  physical strength. Asbel seems to present a distorted argument just like Sarkeesian.

        The problem with Anita Sakeesian is that she does not acknowledge that women in video games do not all fall into the damsel in distress trope. This trope is older than electronic entertainment and can be seen in film, television, and literature. There is a progression which features women characters as the stars of their own games. Fans are responding positively to this new development. The Tomb Raider reboots and Uncharted Lost Legacy  are great examples of this change. They fight, shoot, and march their way through danger in their new adventures. Gamers do not care that they are women.

The wonderful aspect about Uncharted Lost Legacy  is that it features non-white characters staring in their own game. Black and Asian representation has been lacking and this was a excellent remedy to that problem. While it may be true their is a social construction that women are helpless and ineffectual, there has been a change in particular beliefs. A female heroine is not such a shock to people anyone when consuming various forms of entertainment. When gamers  found out that Samus was a woman at the end of the first Metroid  game it shocked them. Samus continues to be one of Nintendo’s most popular characters. There are male gamers who do fit the archetype of woman hating trolls who want to exclude them from the culture. They are the minority, but are vociferous and get more attention. The reason the negativity appears is because women are having a greater presence. What the maker of the video does not understand is how some people operate on prejudice. Despite this, there has been progress. Sarkeesian does not help her case by painting all men as vicious misogynists. There are many gamers who do not approve of such convictions. There are many female characters that are strong and show character development.

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What should be avoided in female character creation is tokenism or predictable tropes. What Asbel calls reality actually is what he perceives. This is the same manner in which Sarkeesian presents her arguments. Ignoring that there is a problem will not magically make the issue of subtle or blatant sexism go away. Asbel want one to believe that there is no such issue. Sarkeesian wants to convince people that all gamers are rude misogynists. These are two extremes of  a spectrum. Video games and electronic entertainment should be an inclusive community. People promoting political or social agendas should look elsewhere to do so. The challenges can only be addressed if more women get involved in game design, start their own companies, and become leaders in the industry. Mere complaints will not lead to change; action must be taken to redress such grievances.

Anita Sarkeesian and a Gamer’s Response

No love for women’s sports? RT Segment (2011)

This segment from Russia Today exposes the often sexist treatment women face in sports. While men’s teams normally get invited to the White House, while women’s teams on rare occasions do. There is also structural challenges. There are no professional leagues for women’s baseball or  American football. These are the team sports which get much attention and commercial investment. Then there are those on the extreme end of the spectrum that say women should not play sports, because they were designed for men. James Preacher a  religious fundamentalist believes that women should not be involved based on scripture. Such archaic ideas are still prevalent. There is a level of misogyny that has been a part of the sports world and women’s entry as professional athletes has not erased it. Only when women become owners of teams, develop their more organizations, and challenge the pay gap can women reach equality in sport.

No love for women’s sports? RT Segment (2011)

Amazon Feminism Erasing Biology as A Barrier to Equality

Amazon Feminism Erasing Biology

This writing from the Being Feminist Blog examines what is amazon feminism and its wider meaning. At first this term and ideology may be perplexing when first heard. This type of feminism falls under the third wave and promotes the idea that developing women’s physical prowess is a means to achieve gender equality. Its origins are ambiguous, but some link it to ideas by Ayn Rand the 20th century Objectivist philosopher. There is a dedication to the image of the female hero and female physical strength. Like any belief system it has particular flaws. Sexists tend to use the fact men and women are different as evidence that women are inferior. This is a fabrication, because human evolution disproves such notions. The other end of the spectrum wants to believe that men and women are not different in terms of their biology and physiology. Thomas Gramstand explained this belief ” Amazon feminism is concerned about physical equality and is opposed to gender role stereotypes against women based on assumptions that women are supposed to be, look, behave as if they are passive, weak, and physically helpless.”While it is rational to challenge gender stereotypes, the concept of physical equality has issues. It assumes that women are in their natural state are physically inferior and therefore must work to compete with men on a physical level. There is a misconception that the reason men dominate society is that their greater physical strength allows them to do so. Some third wave feminists believe this too and think if women were as physically strong as men this would erase inequality. This is not true due to the fact it is property ownership and unequal incomes  are the root of much of the oppression in society. Taking such a position in the concept of physical equality means one assumes the female body is biologically inferior. There are plenty of physically strong women, but they are still subject to sexist discrimination like other women. Amazon feminism is great in the belief that a physically strong woman is not an abnormality, but an admirable role model.

          The Randian origins of amazon feminism are questionable in regards to whether they are really progressive. There are some interpretations in which Rand is described as  rejecting gender role collectivism and embracing absolute freedom. The basis of Rand’s Objectivism was that pursuit of one’s happiness is paramount  and that our reality is independent from consciousness. This emphasis on self over others and absolute freedom does not seem as enlightened as one would assume. Rand ideas have become popular with American libertarians and conservatives, even though she may not have described herself as such. Maybe women who do develop themselves physically to an extend are following a path of objectivism. Many women participate in sports or nontraditional jobs doubtless of what society thinks. To them they are pursuing what makes them happy or making rational self interest a priority. However, man is not an island to himself, people are part of communities and wider societies. These bonds cannot not be broken, simply because humanity is a social species.

This extreme individualism could be applied to how some women do not want to conform to societal expectations of what a woman can be or do. This takes on a version of heroism that Rand exalted in her works.  The hero struggles to produce art or achieve a goal in which society may reject, but ultimately the individualist will triumph over the collective. This was emphasized in The Fountainhead  in which Howard Roark would not sacrifice his architectural artistic vision. From this perspective women athletes and those in physically demanding professions seem like a paradigm of a Randian hero. It should be understood that Rand was not a feminist. Ayn Rand said that she would never vote for a female president. It seems that she believed that type of job would not be suitable for women based on their nature. She once stated that “women ruling over men  puts them in a very uncomfortable position.” Clearly she believed that that would be too much for women to handle. There have been other nations that have had female leaders both in the past in present. Good leadership comes from reason, patience, perseverance, and understanding. One’s sex would have nothing to do with these qualities. Rand also thought that feminists were looking for hand outs and were harming men.

This is an example of how some ideas from not so progressive people are either adopted or used for other ideologies. Rand would probably not agree with amazon feminism entirely seeing as she would think its just women trying to compete with men for the sake of it. However, she might agree with the concept of not being conformist or part of the collective perspective on women’s proper roles according to society. While amazon feminism does have elements of objectivism, it cannot be counted as a Randian philosophy.

        Sex differences cannot be counted a barrier. They are not going to be erased unless human evolution or genetic engineering make that possible. The only way physiological and biological differences create barriers is in physically demanding occupations. The average woman will have a more difficult times passing physical tests, especially ones that require upper body strength. The average man has more muscle mass and greater aerobic capacity giving them advantages in jobs that require high levels of physical fitness. However, with training women can reach physical fitness targets or requirements. The fact that they are female does not stop them from either becoming firefighters, law enforcement officers, soldiers, or athletes. There will continue to be lower numbers of women in these professions.

There will be in the future more women in athletics seeing as they compete in their own leagues. Still some sports for them have to reach a level of development. Baseball and football is a small area compared to other sports for women. It should be understood women’s lower numbers do not have to do solely with biology. There have been historically jobs that women have been banned from. Front line infantry is one example . Women even if they were qualified were not allowed in combat jobs simply on the basis of their sex. The weak sex stereotype was influencing officials’ decisions, but since it has been reversed. The idea of female frailty is still stuck in peoples’ minds, even when there are physically strong women who refute this idea. Yet, biology cannot be ignored entirely . The average male has about 40% muscle mass compared to women’s 30%. Women contain a higher body fat percentage, which also explains the differences in strength. Estimates vary, but women can have close to 60% of the upper body strength of a man and 80% of the lower body strength when the size is held constant. Other that maximum physical fitness capacity, women still experience muscular hypertrophy under an exercise regimen.

When one see women in professions that require physical skill this proves that biology is not a barrier. Their are eugenic concepts that are still presented as fact about women’s bodies. The persistent belief is that women of such a physical fitness level cannot have children or that it damages the reproductive system. Women’s bodies were never designed to be strong or powerful. These ideas that developed during the Victorian age in medical circles have since been discredited. There still is a work to be done studying how design the most effective training regimen for women in terms of exercise physiology. Most studies have been conducted on male athletes. Sex differences are not proof of inferiority, rather the product of evolution.

       The physical equality concept seems to fall in the realm of power feminism. This faction of the ideology believes not in equality, but that women should just amass as much power and challenge men at every level.  This is nothing more than gender antagonism that is promoted by men’s rights advocates. This hostility is attempt for one group to either impose patriarchy or matriarchy on society. If gender bias were their real concern they would favor a sex equality movement rather than feminism or men’s rights . While women in some countries have made progress in business, science, and politics there is one arena that power feminists want to infiltrate. Sports and the fitness world are areas they want to compete with men directly. Some claim that women’s divisions in sports is an example of sex segregation and differences in women’s performances are sociologically based. The power feminists think that women’s lack of physical strength is the only aspect that is holding them back. This view point has multiple problems.It assumes that all men are stronger than all women and that is how men maintain control . Society is controlled by economic and political structures, which women have been excluded from in various periods of history. The hostility to basic anatomical and physiological science mirrors religious fundamentalist hatred of evolution. Prior to puberty girls and boys are similar in their physical fitness capacities.

Puberty Growth Pattern

Boys and girls development

The changes in the endocrine system alter the bodies of girls and boys. While boys are slower to develop , ultimately they become larger in size and have more muscle mass. By the end of the process males have 150 % more muscle mass and twice as many muscle cells compared to women. Lung and heart size also effect aerobic capacity with men having more hemoglobin. The bone, ligament, and tendons are larger adding to total body strength. Women’s physical capacity would not match that of the highest performing males. There are exceptions to this, due to the fact there is variation in human populations. These developments are a part of sexual dimorphism. While it can not be ignored that there are sociological factors such as body image, access to exercise facilities, and lack of opportunity  that contribute to a difference in women’s athletic performance biology does play a role. The highest performing women still do not perform to the level of the highest performing men. Having women play with men would eliminate large portions of women form sport. This would be true of sports that involve more upper body strength such as weightlifting or boxing. If a woman is strong and skilled enough to play on a men’s team there should be no reason to prohibit her from doing so. Power feminists have brought up perspectives that contradict proven scientific knowledge.

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There are sports that have already have done mixed competitions. Tennis, korfball, race car driving,  and bodybuilding have done competitions in which have male and female players together.This has not generated any controversy of any kind. It should be realized that the physically fit woman would be stronger than the average man. Considering that it would seem the goal of physical equality has been achieved. Women participate in  just about every sport that exists.

The biggest problem is having equal coverage and sponsorship in media outlets. That seems to be the biggest challenge to women’s sports. The internet has helped in many ways in which the older media outlets have not.  Media coverage and fair portrayals could improve the financial situation in women’s sports. Women’s divisions are not sex segregation in the vein of apartheid South Africa or Jim Crow America. They were made so that women have a fair chance at athletic competition. It is the same for weight divisions. This is not discrimination against smaller people, but making sure they can compete on an equal basis. A 120 pound woman would be at disadvantage against a woman who 150 pounds in a particular athletic contests.

   There are other factor that are are part of athletic performance which include skill, speed, and experience. This could possible negate some of the advantages, but not all of them. The strongest women would struggle to compete with the strongest men. The desire to compete with men in that sense does not seem possible, despite power feminist  rhetoric.

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This book asks can women be equal as long as men are stronger? Well it should be noted inequality had nothing to do with strength. Property ownership, job security, and education were out of reach for women. The lack of freedom and independence kept women subordinate.

The reason for this perspective is that women of think like this believe that men would use their strength to violently subjugate women. Self defense and strict laws against domestic violence can prevent such events from occurring. Part of this is overcoming some women’s fear of men. There may be an element of internalized self hatred that induces an inferiority complex. This may explain why some women may feel the need to constantly prove themselves, even when it is clear they have ability. There could be a small and extremist section of power feminist who seek to see men treated awfully. They merely want to acquire power form themselves with the intention of abusing it. It seems that the power feminists have a desire to replace patriarchy not with an equal society, but with matriarchy. This is the wrong pathway and has caused many to reject feminism entirely. Women who even believe in women’s rights do not want to use that label. The stereotypes of angry woman or man hater then appear constantly in media, which also causes people to reject the ideology.

Rational arguments and debate is what is needed in society. It is not sexist to say that men are stronger than women . It is misogynistic to say this gives men the right to rule over women. This is why physical equality is a bizarre concept. There are obviously men that are stronger than other men and women who are stronger than most men. Equality does not meaning being the same. People vary in their abilities and talents, but that does not mean any one group is superior. Maybe the term physical equality is more of a misnomer. The accurate description is that women are gaining the benefits fitness and  control of  their bodies.

       Amazon feminism is having an impact on society. The vision of heroic womanhood is emphasized in the acts and bodies of women of great physical strength. There is a new image of power that celebrates sportswomen, soldiers, astronauts, firefighters, and women of great power. It has cultural roots in ancient myth and modern day pop culture .The amazons of ancient myth were warrior women who lived in societies apart from men. These myths did not always glorify the bravery and strength of women. Scholars of literature and the classics believe it was a way to deter women from independence. Greek myths have male heroes either defeat or kill amazons in most of their adventures. Hercules combated amazons and specifically to Hippolyta’s girdle. Theseus was said in one Greek myth to have encountered the amazon queen. One version was that he was able to abduct and marry her after being defeated in war. Another notable myth was that of Achilles and Penthesila during the Trojan War. Achilles kills her and falls in love with her. He lamented what he had done sobbing over her cadaver. The creation of the amazon in myth represents man’s desire for a strong woman, but also simultaneous fear . There have been cases in which women warriors have appeared in history in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is only now that nations are officially letting women in combat positions. The image of powerful female is radical because at no point in history has it been so visible. This is the first time in history women have developed themselves physically to a maximum extent.

There is a slow, but gradual acceptance of women developing themselves in a way that was not considered appropriate. As women gain more freedom and independence, they no longer fear doing something that challenges traditional culture. The most fascinating element is that strength and physical power are no longer considered a male only attribute.Women who are strong are not considered unfeminine. While their resistance to change, it is clear it cannot be stopped. As for popular culture, there are more female heroes that appear on television and film. Women characters are becoming more diverse in personality and roles. It seemed that the only role was the commonly used trope of damsel in distress. Wonder Woman one of DC’s popular characters was one of the first successful female  superheroes. Other existed before, but none reached a high level of success.  The new type of female character is no one dimensional and does not need male assistance to complete a task.

      While there is change in the world of entertainment and fiction, there has been in perception. There are a group of men who are finding the idea strong woman attractive. Although there is not a specific number, the physically fit woman has gained attention. The internet has given the female athlete more exposure. Although the traditional media outlets such as television have failed to cover their sports, athletes can use social media to  promote their sports and themselves.Maybe these women could be considered modern amazons. To say that women were victims of man-made or biological circumstances does not seem to be accurate. It is just that women now have more control of their own bodies. Yet, there still is a battle for women to maintain basic reproductive rights. Access to contraception and abortion are still out of reach for many women in the world. The last stage of  women’s complete liberation is control of the body. Relevant to the amazon feminism concept, women are choosing how they should. Societal beauty standards are ignored in favor of a woman’s own version of beauty. This emphasis on fitness and exercise had a positive effect on women ‘s health.  Diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease are risks to women in later life. Title IX was a major opportunity for women to get involved in sports, but it as became an important measure in public health. As more women engage in exercise and physical fitness activities this has changed how women view their health and image. Most importantly, it done for themselves rather than to please men or satisfy society.

The female athletic body is making an appearance in sports magazines and advertisements. This mainstream exposure is becoming larger, even though many do not seem to notice.  There could also be some boost from a loose movement of body acceptance. It is not just the presence of female athletes, but women are now more active in gyms. There women in personal training and their are women’s only operated facilities. This however is not even distributed. Nations that are developed economically  have more time for leisure compared to one attempting to modernize or industrialize. There is a female fitness culture that is developing and it is having an international reach.

      Human evolution produced immense variety in the world’s population. This can be said of human body size. Sexual dimorphism could be the result of sex selection and environment. Early primates may have selected mates based on particular features. Therefore propagating sets of genes. An environment with more food would mean better nutrition and more growth. The more fossils discovered the more humanity learns about  itself. The genus homo had other members which included homo erectus, homo habilis, homo rudofensis, homo floresiensis, homo neanderthalensis, homo heidelbergensis, homo antecessor, homo nadeli,  and homo sapiens. All these organisms had sexual dimorphism. The fact that males were stronger did not account for the rise in inequality. This can be discredited, because there could have been women stronger than men but did not seek to inflict violence or domination.

 

 Hunter gatherer communities needed the labor of both men and women. These societies required more collaboration. There was not a system of hierarchy that labelled people as subordinates or lower status. With the rise of agriculture, permanent settlements, and land ownership this created the inequality that persists to present. Women were excluded from this process by law and discrimination. The formation of government also contributed to societal inequality. Civil and human rights are a relatively new concept to human history. The citizen of the ancient to medieval past had limited legal protection from the state. Human evolution proves that their is no inferior group of people. Men, women, and people of different ethnic backgrounds belong to one human species. While it is difficult for religious fanatics and racists  to accept this, it is more puzzling why some third wave feminists also reject science in a similar fashion.

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Sex differences or understanding sexual dimorphism is not being anti-woman. There exists a faction of third wave feminist who see it as endorsing the idea of male supremacy. This wrong if anything the study of biology, physiology, anthropology, and anatomy prove that female inferiority is a myth. These critics often confuse actual science with social darwinism  and eugenics. These ideas born out of Europe and North America were produced by individuals who were not even scientists themselves or scientists that were motivated by political agendas based on their prejudices during the late 19th to mid 20th century. Such mendacious theories could not sustain the process of the scientific method. One should not confuse being the same with being equal. The reason why the human population is diverse is that it protects from genetically inherited diseases. This may explain why humanity has become such a successful species. When some see a strong woman they say it is “unnatural.”  Nature is in fact very random, erratic, and unpredictable. Ecosystems can change and human beings are still evolving. What is natural could just be relative. Women come in all shapes and sizes, which is just part of natural human variation.

The concept of body image distorts what bodies can be and  what they should look like. Everyone will look different, however there is a drive to present beauty or what is natural as one paradigm. Women’s biology is not a barrier to advancement. It is the societal structures surrounding law, politics, and finance which keep women in a subordinate position. When barriers to education, employment,  and equal justice are removed then women can advance in society.

       Biological and sex differences are not barriers to equality, but human made institutions are.  Amazon feminism may not be as notable as other ideological factions of feminism such as the socialist, radical, or liberal version. This body of thought has had an impact on world culture as more societies across the globe want to mobilize women in the economy and public sphere.  The march of progress is slow and transformation will come. There is another battle that remains and it is women gaining full control of their bodies. This has been historically denied to them with lack of contraception or reproductive rights. This has been challenged in nations in the West and continues through out the world. Not only did women not have control of the state of their reproductive health, body image was rigidly defined. Through out history men were dictating beauty standards to women. Now there are a portion of women defining it for themselves. Women are embracing an image of strength and it is more visible. It is a small movement in the sports and fitness world. Women are discovering the benefits of physical skill and prowess more so than in the past. Amazon feminism can be considered  more of a cultural revolution rather than a political one. The image of woman has been changed forever.

Amazon Feminism Erasing Biology as A Barrier to Equality

A Woman’s Goal :Afghan Women’s National Soccer Team

Despite US imperialism, war,  NATO occupation, and tensions with Pakistan there are still tales of hope. A Woman’s Goal follows the soccer players of the women’s national soccer team for Afghanistan. They have to battle sexist prejudice, poverty, and conservative attitudes to play the game they love. Since the fall of the Najibullah government in 1992, women’s status has decline immensely. Football offers an escape from the hardship of a discriminatory society and provides the public valuable entertainment. This could be the first step in women improving the condition of the country and their own lives. Afghanistan can only have a bright future when it provides equal rights to all of its citizens regardless of sex or ethnicity.

A Woman’s Goal :Afghan Women’s National Soccer Team