Kate on Sports : Women and Muscle

Kate on Sports was a vlog that was active between 2006 to 2008 that was produced in association with Zennie62 and Sports Business Simulations. Kate Scott was giving her analysis on women’s sports and sports in general. These few videos are of interest, because it is so rare that women give such opinions in regards to women in sports. One particular video that she made was “women and muscle.” This was the best one of the few videos she made before she became a sportscaster for KNBR. However, it does have some problems. There are particular points that should be noted, although the overall argument is cogent. The six minute video explores topics such as body image, Title IX, and what does the new found physical strength of the female athlete mean. The camera operator poses a perspective that society is at a juncture in which sports women have muscle, but are not comfortable with it. The question then emerges what is wrong with women having muscle? The video proceeds to tackle these questions and Kate Scott provides those answers.

        There was a claim in the video without Title IX, this look would not have existed. However, anyone with knowledge of women’s sports history would know that is not entirely correct.  Muscular women existed prior to Title IX. They were either regulated to circus performers, vaudeville acts, or beach boardwalk acts. There was no competitive outlet for their skills and talents due to cultural mores as well as sex discrimination. The documented evidence of muscular women can be seen in photographs. Acrobats, circus strong women, and performers were present in the 19th and early 20th century. Katie Sandwina was known for her feats of strength involving barbells and lifting men overhead. Joan Rhodes also would follow in this tradition of the strong woman act. Out of this emerge a weightlifter culture, which is bigger today in terms of popularity. Crossfit and Olympic weightlifting would not be at the same status, if it were not for the strong women and strong men of the previous two centuries.

Another case at least in art, was how Michelangelo depicted muscular women in his art during the Italian Renaissance. There are vary rare cases in which muscular women are depicted in art history. This does not mean that women were not athletes. Artifacts and artwork discovered from ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Minoan civilization reveal that the female athlete is hardly a modern phenomenon. Women participated in footraces, wrestling, bull leaping, and javelin. The difference is the amount of opportunity women have and the access to fitness facilities.   While there were women of considerable natural strength, there were no opportunities to develop it further. The women of the past either had to struggle around sex, race, and class barriers. These are still present factors, but there is more awareness and willingness to resist such aberrations of society. To say that Title IX magically produced women athletes would be false. There is a long history record of women in sports.

 There are countries in which Title IX does not exist and yet female athletes still emerge. What Title IX did in the US was allow for more female athletes to emerge and enhance their physical skills. Tackling discrimination was the major obstacle that had to be confronted. The reality was that Title IX was not specifically for sports, but part of the Education Amendments of 1972 addressing sex disparities in education. School programs were examined and it was reveal that girls were getting the least resources for sports activities. If  the schools did not adhere to federal policy, they would not receive funds from the US government. The girls who benefited from this would go on to become Olympic athletes or just your average fit woman. This female mesomorph as a paradigm owes much of existence to Abbye Stockton and Lisa Lyon. They actively trained not just for improving physical skill, but to add muscle to their bodies. This was something during their time periods, which was considered unacceptable for women.

   During Stockton’s time in the 1940s she had to battle both prejudice and myths about women and weightlifting. There were myths that said it would cause women to become infertile or harm themselves. Lisa Lyon had to struggle to compete in newly formed bodybuilding competitions, which were limited in number and had less support in the 1970s. These women contributed to overturning the notion that the female body is not designed for strength. The unfortunate aspect was that the women of the past did not benefit from legislative assistance prior to Title IX. As a public health measure it should not be under estimated. Women started to get more involved in exercise, fitness, and sports rather than just for the purpose of weight loss. The analysis is limited, due to the fact that women are competing in sports globally at higher levels. The Olympics, All Africa Games, Pan- American Games, and Asian Games show women athletes from all around the world.

Kate’s and her associate’s perspective only examines this phenomenon from a Western ( specifically American ) perspective. The physically strong woman has become a small, but growing development in the sports world. Confining it to the US would certainly be incorrect.

      This discussion inevitably goes into body image and beauty standards. For decades a tin body type has been idolized to the extent that cases of bulimia, anorexia, and obsessive dieting  have become a normal part of some women’s lives. This has been challenged with an emphasis on a curvy and larger body type as Kate reveals. The muscular body type in this obsession with appearance falls in an undefined place. There is some moderate acceptance for women with some muscle ( “tone”), yet a level of hostility to women who develop their musculature to the highest levels. Female bodybuilders not only are strong, they project a powerful image. This causes either reactions of disgust, lust, or support. Society has concepts of what a woman should be and being powerful both physically or mentally is not a part of that in the traditional view of gender roles. The recent ideal of the female body was to be considered frail and thin, not one of muscle. The muscular woman challenges this belief, by presenting another version of beauty.

According to their version of aesthetics, they are  molding flesh into a living statue. The rise of crossfit and weightlifting as a popular activity has improved the image of women with muscle.  This has been to a limited extent. There is a problem that comes with mainstreaming a subculture. It becomes too common place and loses it unique value, which made it great in the first place. There were women and men who liked the muscular look prior to this sudden mainstream trend. There is also another problem with the new “strong is the new skinny” conviction. Could it be than one unrealistic standard is being replaced by another? It would be hard to imagine in the future that women would be attempting en mass to obtain such physiques. Maybe the best result of this is that women decide for themselves what is a suitable look for them, rather than having society or mass media dictate it to them. Women who are muscular should not be afraid to call themselves muscular. The term toned has been used to mainstream the idea of women having muscle in the fitness industry. The fact is women have muscles and this can be developed to certain degrees. Societies that impose strict limitations on how women should look or  behave expose the level of male dominance and misogyny. Individuals should be free to do as they please as long as it does not harm other people. Why should a woman have to spend her time reaching a societal beauty standard? It would be better to form one to your personal preference.

        kate also acknowledges that their are men who enjoy the appearance of the physically strong woman. She does mention that women have it hard being muscular, but she does not realize male fans and supporters are also ostracized.  This mostly comes from the closed minded, people of conservative thought, sexists, or anyone who cannot tolerate anything different. It is understandable that such a pursuit would just not be someone’s preference, but there is no excuse for vituperation and vitriol. Male fans either are presented as fetishists, eccentrics, and predators. Liking muscular women is no different from liking thin women, larger women, or any other women. At no time will one ever hear the phrase ” you have a skinny woman fetish.”  Another misconception is that fans of female muscle only like this type of woman. Male fans could have numerous body type preferences. Men have a hard time too, even struggling with the fact they find this attractive. Stereotypes and popular prejudices surround fans as well as athletes. These attitudes reflect a level of narrow mindedness in regards to traditional roles in what a woman should be. Female muscle fans may not even prefer the same levels of muscularity. There are some who like a sleeker body, a mid range level, and the more hypermuscular physique. It should be understood within fitness, there are varying degrees of muscularity on women. Even within the bodybuilding sports there is fitness, figure, bikini, physique, and traditional bodybuilding.

There has evolved a wide range in which female muscle fans can choose to follow. kate also mentions that it is uncertain in which direction the muscular appearance will go. At the time of this video many elements of women’s sports were changing. Women’s MMA was just on the rise and crossfit was in its prototypical stage. While traditional bodybuilding for women was struggling, more divisions emerged which included figure, bikini, and physique. The look of the athletic female is evolving, but in different branches. Athletes do not all look the same. The way their body looks depends on both genetics and the specific sport they compete in. Athletic women  could be muscular, some could be thin and other women could be larger in body type.

As for direction, the images presented are going in multiple pathways. Each one presents a radically different notion about what a woman can achieve and be. There are advocates that want to see the female muscular image be pushed to a higher level and other who state that i has gone too far. Kate even says “she’s not a fan of the ones that can brake you over their knee.” Some fans even say some women have “crossed the line” or are “too much.” These accusations lack cogency. If one is part of the bodybuilding sports it is about sculpting the body. However, it is not solely about size. Shape, conditioning, and symmetry are critical elements that must be balanced on a physique. These should be the only legitimate criticisms directed at women in terms of physique sports. There seems to be a level of movement to the mainstream, but there are some elements that will remain subcultural. The mixed and session wrestling element will remain underground. Although harmless, it is too eccentric to find a mainstream audience. I has been present since female bodybuilding’s early years and will not disappear anytime soon.

It seems hardcore support for the larger muscular women will remain in the realm of subculture. This does not mean that in the distant future that the athletic body type will not gain some level of acceptance in the future. Women’s fitness culture has become something unique between its fans and competitors. Merely ignoring how fans play a role leaves out something critical. The less venues for fans to consume, means a large untapped market. The corporate gatekeepers of the fitness industry should recognize this and capitalize on this niche market. The internet and specifically social media has been helpful at exposing the image of the muscular woman to a wider global audience. So, it could be possible in time it will gain a larger following.

         Upon close examination, an answer can be extrapolated from the initial question. There is nothing wrong with women having muscle; it is that people’s limited views of what a woman should look like and be create objections. These beliefs are based on unrealistic beauty standards, subtle misogyny,   and the belief that women should be controlled. This control does not merely extend to what a woman can do with her life, but her own body. More extreme cases include the restriction of reproductive rights, abortion, and birth control. One method to control women was to control their bodies. Symbolically, the muscular woman challenges the notion of female frailty and weakness with an image of strength. This comes into conflict with schemata that was develop from culture or media in regards to attitudes about women. If a society only values for women for how they look or solely their reproductive capacities, women who deviate from this cultural norm will be outcasts. Unrealistic beauty standards idolize one body type over all others, which could cause mental distress and self-esteem issues in young women. This desire for an unhealthy level of thinness effects both physical and mental health. Besides anorexia or bulimia, women could put themselves at risk for osteoporosis if not receiving proper nutrition. This system wraps into a subtle misogyny which only views women as sex objects and not people. Women who refuse to follow this system set an example for others to change this defect in cultural mores. Thankfully, their has been slow change. However, some will have to adjust. Some men may just not be used to seeing women with such strength in their daily lives.

 The woman with muscle is a rarity, but not some anomaly. One of the least credible arguments against women developing strength and muscle is that it is “unnatural.” Humanity has discovered many ways to alter the body through surgery, medicine, nutrition, and one day extensive genetic engineering. We have reached a point in which our biology can be manipulated possibly leading to transhumanism. Nature can be very unpredictable in the evolutionary process, so calling something “unnatural” would be scientifically inaccurate. Genetics, nutrition, and environment can change the appearance of human populations. A muscular woman is no more “unnatural” than a tall person, short person, or thin person. Organisms thrive on genetic diversity, which is why human beings are the dominant species on the planet.  Calling such women “unnatural” is just another way to either exclude or marginalize women who are different. Another argument from detractors   is one of a beauty standard. This is relative according to who you ask and varies from culture to culture. These athletes do not do this for the approval or pleasure of men. Yet, this seems like a foreign concept to many. Although the muscular woman is not completely accepted, but is leading an unnoticed revolution.

Kate on Sports : Women and Muscle

Michelle Jin

Michelle Jin is a physique competitor and bodybuilder from China. She was born in  Wenzhou a small village in 1974. This was the period of Maoist China and she was raised in a conservative family. Although the Communist Party of China adopted a policy of promoting women’s rights, much of the population was slow to change their attitudes in regards to women. Her family thought that a woman being an athlete was not the proper career course to take. Michelle Jin came to the United States in 1996 and this was when she first got exposure to gym culture. Introduced to it by a friend, she enjoyed weightlifting. Training hard through the years she decided to compete. By 2014 Michelle had won the NPC Junior USA Championship, which got her notoriety in Muscular Development magazine. He local hometown newspaper even congratulated and interviewed her. The Wenzhou Evening News  asked about her training regimen and her plans for the future. Michelle stated that she wanted to continue competing and gain a fitness training certificate. For her 2014 victory she revealed she trained four months prior to the contest, which also included two hours of running. Her diet consisted of chicken breasts, fish, and vegetables to reduce body fat. Jin’s efforts paid off and she became another competitor in the IFBB. Since 2006 she has been competing on stage and will not be stopping anytime soon.

 For tens years she has been with the bodybuilding sport. Her rankings have not been high as a professional bodybuilder, but she as presented a powerful and balanced physique. She has competed in the Optimum Classic Pro (2015), the Junior National Championships (2011), and the Omaha pro (2016). Beginning her career as a lightweight bodybuilder, physique is still new. Creating the physique that the judges want can be a difficult task. Besides being an athlete Michelle Jin enjoys biking and hiking in her free time.  At first Michelle Jin had some doubts about her bodybuilding pursuits. She was fearful that a woman with muscle could not look beautiful. Once she got over this irrational fear, she was able to compete and make considerable improvements. Michelle likes competing in the physique division rather than bodybuilding. She has siad in interviews that it gives her a better chance of going up in competitor  rankings. She stands in competition 120 lbs in weight and is 5′ 2” in height. When not on her strict diet she enjoys hamburgers and donuts. Three years now she has been an IFBB pro and it looks like there are many more contests for her to conquer.

Michelle 2017
Michelle’s Twitter

  Michelle Jin is also active on social media including Twitter and Facebook. She also has her own Youtube page in which fans can ask questions and engage. She continues to keep busy between competing and work. Now living in South Carolina, she is an excellent representative to Chinese athletes and specifically Chinese women athletes. Maybe her actions will inspire young women seeking to do the same.

Michelle Jin

Do Female Athletes Have To Train Harder To Reach a Particular Physical Fitness Level ?

It is common knowledge that the body of the female athlete differs biologically and physiologically from male athletes. This has implications on training and athletic performance. Women have certain obstacles they have to overcome to achieve a particular physical fitness level depending on which sport they play. Due to differences in body composition, cardiovascular fitness, endocrinology, and bone density women have to work harder in terms of training. The assumption is sports are too rigorous for the female body to withstand. This is not true scientifically. While performance levels are not as high as a male athlete on the same regimen, relative to their starting point women can achieve immense physical fitness gains. The common misconception is that women train more and show little from it. At the cellular level, there is no difference between male and female muscle and bone tissue. Histology has proven this, but myths about the physical limitations of women’s bodies still remain. The only difference is women will have to train harder to reach their peak physical fitness level.

       The reason it becomes harder for women to reach a physical fitness target for athletic performance is related to puberty. Prior to puberty body composition and skeletal structure is not that different for women. Estrogen and progesterone are produced at higher levels resulting in more body fat rather than muscle mass. Girls see their growth spurt at ages 10 to 11. Girls by age 18 have reached their full height, while boys finish growing by age 20. Women do not gain the strength spurt that comes from androgens in males. Total muscle mass and bone density are lower, which means this has implications for training. When the pelvis widens this also effects women’s running speed. As girls mature into women, they may find they cannot run as fast before. However, once the body has done maturing it is possible to reach higher running speeds. Female athletes have to beware of the triad, which can effect health if one over trains. Although it seems puberty increases men’s physical fitness peak, there are advantages to higher body fat levels. Fat can be useful in long distance swimming allowing for more bouncy . When the this stage of the human life cycle is over, the female body will be rounder and smaller.

       Muscular strength is essential to athletic performance. A novice female athlete will have to incorporate weight training into her regimen to gain strength. Women have lower levels of natural strength to begin with, which means it will take longer to reach a particular goal. One would assume that women do not respond to training stimuli, but that is far from the truth. Seeing as the muscular system is the same for women and men, muscle fibers will respond to exercise resulting in muscular hypertrophy. The difference is in extent and initial starting point. Women start off with less muscular strength, but relative to their size they can make significant progress. Men’s absolute strength is higher due to function of testosterone in the body and generally larger size. Women in particular will find it more difficult to build upper body strength rather than lower body strength. The reason is due to narrow shoulders, which means less area to house muscle on the upper body. Sports that require upper body strength, women have to train this area the hardest. Biceps, triceps, and the pectoralis major are areas the female athlete will find the most difficult to develop. Women have a harder time building muscle due to endocrinology. To achieve a certain level heavy lifting is required for a long period of time  and  supplements. Women with mesomorphic body types are at an advantage in building muscle. Women of endomorphic and ectomorphic body types will struggle. This does not mean they cannot increase their physical fitness level. Depending on the sport there are certain types of muscle fibers that are more helpful. Type II muscle fibers are great for sports that require explosive power. Weightlifting and rugby would be great examples. Sports like marathon running type I muscle fibers are more helpful in maintaining the necessary endurance.

There is not a perfect system of training, but there are different methods that can be used. Isotonic training requires both free weights or machines. Doing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions happen during this type of training. Isokentic training involves overloading muscle at various points during a range of motion. The resistance can change on the force exerted. During the process the speed of contraction is controlled. This can either be done at slow or rapid pace. Women’s muscles due respond to training. Overload can cause micro trauma in the muscle and make it rebuild stronger. Metabolism differs for women,but more muscle will burn fat. However, even the most muscular woman still retains a higher body fat percentage. Women can build muscle, it just will be more of a challenge. The training sessions have to be consistent.

When the muscles are not trained they atrophy. This means women who do training irregularly would lose more of their gains strength due to physiological differences. At minimum, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends two sessions a week including 12 repetitions for each exercise. The number of repetitions can increase for a particular exercise, but it is suggested not to work the same muscle group two days in a row. If there is no struggle in lifting, then the muscle is not being challenged. The muscle must be gradually worked up to higher load volumes to increase strength. Women’s muscular potential and training effort  thus depends on several factors. Genetic endowment,  training methods, substances used ( supplements or performance enhancing drugs), and total time in training sessions. Women’s muscles can become stronger, but amount and  body composition are a factor in total strength.

          Cardiovascular fitness is also another challenge in regards to training. Women have smaller hearts and lungs, which means they would have to work harder for total aerobic output. Oxygen is essential to aerobic energy. Muscle cells need oxygen for energy. The heart is a beating muscle and its strength contributes to the delivery oxygen to the muscle tissues. Cardiac output is the product of both heart rate and stroke volume. Stroke volume shows the amount of blood pumped per beat. Oxygen transport can be modified through aerobic conditioning. A training regimen must focus on frequency, duration, intensity, and mode of exercise.

 

There is a difference is VO2max in regards to women. The female athlete must take into consideration certain factors. Body composition effects the VO2max  due to the fact body fat is not active metabolically. This causes more energy to be spent in the total body reserve. Hemoglobin levels are 10% lower in women runners. This protein is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs directly to muscle tissue. This means training frequency and intensity is essential to improving aerobic performance. Women through proper training stimulus could at least a 25% increase in VO2max. Women athletes may have to train at least six times a week to see a difference in aerobic levels. Training more than recommended will not produce better results. This comes down to the level of intensity during training sessions. Intensity describes how hard an athlete exercises. Exercise duration should range from 15 to 60 minutes. It appears in races women may be better at pacing themselves in the longer term. This could men men and women fatigue differently. A study released in 2015 discovered something about women’s fatigue during marathon races. When examining marathon paces women slowed down 11.5 % compared to men’s 15.6 %. The men tended to take rapid pace, while women adjusted to a slower pace causing slower fatigue. The problem is most research on athletic performance has been done on men and there are still discoveries to be made to see how to best train the female athlete.

         Generally athletic training requires the enhancement of  the muscular, cardiovascular, the skeletal system,  and nervous system. Movement requires the nerve cells to produce impulses for locomotion. The body using all these organ systems is out putting energy. Power out put is critical when performing a physically demanding task. This strength and cardiovascular reserve women have to use more of. The difference in javelin throwing is 30% according to Olympic records. Yet the 100 meter sprint is only a 10% difference. This demonstrates in which areas women have to use more of their physical power reserve. The upper body including the shoulders and neck have less muscle. So women would have to work harder to provide the necessary force in that area of the body.

Running would require less of the force output, because this area is only effected by the shape of the pelvis. This also reduces running speed besides differences in VO2max. What this means is that women would have to train their upper body more for sports such as tennis, golf, cricket, boxing, or weightlifting. Maximum physical force is needed to complete the athletic task. Having a reserve of energy, prevents exhaustion and fatigue. Women would have to use more of their physical potential to complete an athletic task. A woman running a 100 metres in 11 seconds would have to use 100 percent of her potential. To hit a gold ball a female golfer would have to use 90% of her maximum force compared to 60% of a male golfer. Given the same task in terms of athletic objective, women must utilize more force.

This means women have to use more energy to produce close results of a male athlete. The gap in physical fitness levels narrows in athletic populations, however sports performance of women does not match exactly that of men. There can be overlap, but is very small given the total aggregate. The physiological, biological, and anatomical differences explain why the athletic performance gap may not be closed. Yet, it could be in the future narrowed if there are not social or cultural barriers preventing women from gaining access to training facilities. Further study is needed to fully explore how to increase women’s athletic performance.

         Training stimuli has a different effect on the male and female body. The response differs sue to the function of the endocrine system. Men produce more testosterone from the testes and the leydig cells present in that organ of the reproductive system. A female athlete can acquire muscle and strength, but will still maintain a higher body fat percentage. One should not assume that men’s muscles are better, its just more present relative to body composition.

This difference also explains the difference in sports injuries. Women athletes have higher injury rates in the knees and shoulder areas. Less muscle and skeletal mass in the upper body makes it more vulnerable. Anterior cruciate ligament tears are common in female athletes. Looser joints may enhance flexibility, but make them susceptible to tears. The more demanding the athletic competition and higher physical demand the higher likelihood of injury for women. That is why weight training and general strength conditioning should be part of any female athlete’s training program. It is essential that bone and muscle mass be built to help with sustaining various forces and impacts from athletic competition. Tendons and ligaments are also strengthened through a weight training regime. Besides these sex specific considerations, female athletes have the same challenges as their male counter parts such as exercise associated hyponatremia, career ending injuries, and keeping motivated under stress.

        Women athletes have to train harder to reach peak physical fitness. Sexual dimorphism effects the physiological function of the body of a woman, which has implications of athletic potential. This does not mean the female body is biologically inferior, but different. As seen by the impressive women who have competed in various sports both internationally and in their native nation-states their bodies are far from frail. While some myths still persist, science has proven them incorrect. For many years it was thought that women were too physically weak to handle the demands of athletic competition. Now it is known that women can benefit from exercise and sports competition. Relative to women’s initial physical fitness starting point, they have more to gain. Physical activity benefits women in terms of bone and circulatory system health. Women may have to work harder, but the rewards are still just a plentiful. When the peak physical fitness level is reached an athlete has to focus on developing skill. When beginning competition certain factors must be taken into consideration. Training regimens should not only be designed in regards to sex specific differences, but tailored to an individual’s unique physiology.

 

References

Gurthie, Sharon. Women and Sport: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Long Beach,

CA : Human Kinetics, 1994 .

Netto, Kevin. “Should Women Athletes Earn the Same as Men? The Science Says They Work as Hard.” The Conversation, The Conversation , 9 Aug. 2017, theconversation.com/should-women-athletes-earn-the-same-as-men-the-science-says-they-work-as-hard-57210.

Netto , Kevin. “Female Athletes Work Harder than Men, and Science Can Prove It.” SBS.com, The Conversation , 1 Aug. 2016, http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/zela/article/2016/08/01/female-athletes-work-harder-men-and-science-can-prove-it.

Do Female Athletes Have To Train Harder To Reach a Particular Physical Fitness Level ?

“In The Future, All Women Will Be Amazons” From The Smithsonian

In The Future Women Will Be Amazons

This article written Matt Novak explores an newspaper released published in 1950. The name of it was “How Experts Think We Will Live in the Year 2000 A.D.”  and it makes predictions based on thoughts from the editors. Futurology and future studies became popular in the 20th century due to rapid technological and sociological change. When the Associated Press ran this piece, two World Wars had happened, cars, airplanes were in use and computers were gradually developing into what they are today. Futurism and futurology more specifically attempts to postulate possible outcomes , perspectives  or futures. It these academic fields are more related to the social sciences. What this branch of study seeks to do is understand why the world changes and the probability of change. To the futurologist there is a pattern in past and present. This method however has its limits. The problem with prediction is that it almost becomes the equivalent to a person reading tarot cards. Some cases these prediction about human society can be completely wrong. There was a time in which humanity was excited about the future. There was an idea that technology, progress,  and the elimination of conflict would create societal utopia. Some believed that by the 21st century humanity would have mastered interstellar travel and cured most diseases. This has not happened. While humankind has reached the moon, there are still the some sociological problems plaguing the world. There has been some advancement in terms of human rights, public health, and the availability of education. War, poverty, and racism threaten human advancement. When discussing the state of women there is a fluctuation. Dorothy Roe one of the editors of the article, described what the typical woman would be like in the year 2000. Her prediction about women entering the world of business and government has occurred. Roe states that the average woman will be six feet tall, wear a size 11 shoe, and have muscles like a truck driver.” It is now the year 2017 and the average woman does not have the muscles of truck driver or is above six feet tall. There are obviously stronger and faster women athletes who fit this description. Her futurist prediction was partly off, yet not entirely wrong. Examining this futurist prediction from a sociological, anatomical, biological, and physiological method could have provided a more precise picture.

      Women have been in some instances in a  subordinate role through out human history. This however was not always the case. Before the rise of long lasting human civilization hunter gatherer societies in some respects were more equal. The rise of agriculture, land ownership, and property created the inequality that is present in modern society. Men had access to more property and land. Simultaneously, women were denied education, equal rights, or full employment. This did not mean women simply accepted oppression. Before feminism, there were female leaders, scientists, and mover’s of history. The tragic element was that historians did not think enough of women to include their narratives. Thankfully, women’s history seeks to reverse this mistake. Historical figures such as Hatshetpsut, Nzinga, Queen Elizabeth I, and Joan of Arc are notable women who had risen to prominence in male dominated societies.

The news piece states the amazon of the future “may even be president.” The way in which that though was expressed made it seem as if a female leader was a new concept. The futurist prediction only examines that world through an American perspective. Other countries have female leaders, but at that time it was far less. Now it has increased across the world. Some female leaders have left their mark on history for good or bad, but have shown they have mastered the art of politics. The United States has not yet elected a female president, despite its rhetoric of supporting women’s rights. Although Hillary Clinton lost, it encouraged more women to run for political office. Women have even been leaders in countries, which do not value them as citizens or protect their rights. Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi  governed nations in which had an ultraconservative view of women’s roles. Benazir  Bhutto was the first female leader of a majority Muslim nation, while Indira Gandhi was the first female Prime Minister of India. The US still lags behind compared with the UK which has had two Prime Ministers to date which included Margaret Thatcher and currently Theresa May. The irony is that their policies are not in alignment with women’s rights or causes. Ellen Sirlef  of Liberia and Tsai Ing Wen of Taiwan represent a new female leader of the 21st century. They vary in political ideology, do not refer to themselves as feminists, and are tactical.

One cannot not say women are not capable politicians. Largely a culture of misogyny has kept women out of politics. There have been biological explanations for why men have domination of society. These theories normally just are designed to justify sexist convictions. History disproves this, because women have been involved in science, politics, warfare, and the building of civilization. The gender gap is still present even when women make progress. The world of business and finance is a place where women have reached a glass ceiling. Discrimination, unequal pay, and sexual harassment are the sociological reasons why women may not advance in certain fields. Even under these unfavorable conditions women are present in occupations that were thought to be male only. Law enforcement, firefighting, the military, construction,  and sports are physically demanding occupations. Due to differences in physiological and fitness capacity women would remain small in number in these occupations. However, despite such obstacles women have become part of these professions. While sociological factors are relevant, biological factors cannot be ignored entirely.

If a society has less technology a majority of jobs would be manual labor based. This could theoretically exclude many women, beside the obvious prejudice. The rise of the industrial revolution saw the replacement of brawn power with machine power. This should have benefited women the most, but cultural mores and gender roles prevented it. Women were regulated to the domestic sphere excluded from public life and participation in it. The working classes had women in menial occupations, with even less independence. Women’s status and roles have fluctuated through out history. There were periods in which they had some freedom and as time passed society degenerated. Ancient Egyptian civilization allowed women to own property and have some legal rights to it. They were not burdened by male guardianship and navigate freely, which Greek historian Herodotus called unnatural. As monotheistic religion emerged, women’s status was then lowered. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam demanded that women have a subordinate role in their religious texts and belief system. Women were regulated to property and not people. The rise of the suffrage movement in the 19th century evolved in the feminist movement of the 20th century. Women then gradually regained their status as free people, while facing  backlash to change. The sudden change in women’s status is part of a consistent pattern in human history. There may come a time in which women create large corporations and companies of their own. Society and civilization is never static it is always evolving.

        The article predicts that the average woman in the year 2000 will have proportions that are perfect though amazonian, because “science will have perfected a  balanced  ration of vitamins, minerals, and proteins that will produce the maximum bodily efficiency and a minimum of fat. ” Dorthy Roe then says “she will compete in all types of sports- probably compete with men athletes in football, baseball, wrestling  and prize fighting.” There is no denying that women in sports and athletics have become very strong, but competing with men on average seems to be inaccurate.

Women now compete in most sports, however there are no organized teams for baseball. Women have teams for softball, but there remains work to be done in some areas. Women do have organized football teams, yet they do not have the coverage comparative to the NFL. The strength sports thought to be out of women’s physiological capabilities, are active in. Mixed martial arts, bodybuilding, weightlifting, track and field are areas in which women are showing their talents. Women’s participation in sport has increased, yet mixed competition has not occurred. The reason is anatomical. There exists an athletic performance gap between the sexes due to anatomical factors. Men on average have broader shoulders and more upper body strength. Generally men grow taller than women. While the muscular and skeletal cells are the same their structure changes athletic outcomes. Denser bones and larger muscle fibers mean males would have more absolute strength. The smaller hearts and lungs of women mean that their aerobic capacity would be lower. The major organ systems that contribute to athletic performance include the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, the nervous system, endocrine system, and the musculoskeletal  system. Movement is not just dependent on muscle, but the impulses of the nervous system. The hormones produced by the endocrine system do influence athletic performance. Testosterone allows for greater muscular hypertrophy. Women with lighter bones and smaller muscle mass in comparison means they are more susceptible to injury the more intense the physical competition. There is a point in which absolute strength levels are equal. Prior to puberty boys and girls do not differ in physical strength. Girls may experience thier growth spurt earlier compared to boys. When gondadotropin releasing hormone is produced by the pituitary gland it then signals the production of lutienizing  and follicle producing hormone. Thus begins the production of sex hormones and growth hormone. Estrogen makes the female body retain more fat. Even the most muscular woman and the thinnest woman still retain a higher fat percentage compared to a man of a similar physical fitness level.

Tendons and ligaments are also contributors to body strength. Women’s tendons may not respond the same way to training, but their looser joints make them more flexible. This means women would dominate gymnastics and figure skating even if their was mixed competition. A wider pelvis and lower aerobic capacity means that women would struggle to keep up with male speeds. Contrary to popular belief women do not have stronger legs than men, but are relative closer in strength in that area. However, despite these differences, women can still acquire physical strength through training. Genetics do play a role giving women of a mesomorphic body type more of an advantage. The average woman has not morphed into an amazon quite yet, but there is a group that could fall into Roe’s description. While nutrition has improved, there is the problem of abundance. Foods high in sugar, fats, and high fructose corn syrup have created a problem with obesity and weight related diseases. Women are particularly effected more by this, considering it is more of a challenge for them to lose weight. The modern age has produce a very sedentary lifestyle, with limited physical activity. As a result heart disease, diabetes, and weight management issues have increased. This has not only happened in the United States, but is spreading across the globe. A low vegetable, fruit, and protein diet can result in poor health. It seems if this is not addressed the average woman and man will look similar to blobs. This can be reversed through diet, exercise, and honest nutrition labeling. Roe’s other prediction seems to have realized the effectiveness of supplements for athletes. Women can benefit as much as men from the use of vitamins and supplements. This has become a lucrative industry and has greatly benefited athletes and the general public. Recent investigations into the importance of vitamin D and it is now believed it is essential to muscular and skeletal function.

The women who are involved in athletic competition, not only have to focus on training but maintain a strict diet. This requires a good knowledge base of of nutrition. From the early 20th century to present exercise physiologists have figured out the role of nutrition in athletic performance. Understanding that women’s metabolism functions differently has led to the structuring of  more efficient training programs. Women still must eat to feed growing muscle,but is should be understood that more of that food could be metabolized into fat. That is why activity level should be adjusted to compensate for the endocrinological function. Even though women have proven to be great athletes, male performances levels are still higher. This extends beyond anatomy, but to biology.

          The difference in physical fitness capacity is rooted in biology, through human evolution. Sexual dimorphism is the reason why on average men are stronger. Most primates demonstrate a degree of sexual dimorphism. These are attributes that are secondary sex characteristics, which exclude the reproductive system. During the course of human evolution the size and strength difference may have been a natural selection tool. Male authralopiths most likely fought each other for access to mates. Larger size and strength would have given an edge to the hominin who wanted to spread his genes. The females did not have to fight, so therefore it was easier to just pick a victor in a struggle. While it is hard to test this theory, it can be seen in mating strategies of modern primates. Gorillas function with a male who heads a harem of females. When another gorilla challenges him he will fight to maintain dominance. So, over time the strength and size genes continued to be propagated in the primates species. A changes in environment can influence evolution. When our early ancestors got access to more protein based diets, endocranial  volume increased. Between six and two million years ago brain size increased. Around 17,000 years ago homo sapiens became the only survivor on the evolutionary tree. Evolution was not a linear progression, but a series of branches that came from divergence.

human-evolution-family-tree-with-skulls-graphic-hero

Humanity occupies the homo branch, with the other species becoming extinct. Relevant to the future woman is it possible that given the right conditions that average woman can become stronger? Evolution has the power to change the body structure of organisms so it would seem like a possibility. During the process of human evolution the body went from being heavily built to adapt to colder climates ( 400,000 years ago) to a lighter body ( 50,000 to 20,000 years ago ). Internally the intestines became shorter to accommodate an omnivorous diet. Assuming what is known about human evolution is correct, theoretically it could take millions of years for women to change their physiology. This certainly could not be witness in our current lifetime. Still with a sudden change it will also effect men as well. The article predicted that women’s height would increase. If women changed it would men could see an increase in height as well due to the genetic attributes of sexual dimorphism.

If men already have the genetic trait for more  height, it is likely it would not disappear because natural selection has favored it. Only when it is no longer favored will it disappear. It should also be understood  many elements of a species can be adaptable. There are women who are stronger than men and taller. They are not the average, but have inherited traits that have been passed down generations. The reason that certain species survive is that they have a variation in genetic information, can acclimate to various environments, and pass on genes through offspring to ensure survival. The phrase “survival of the fittest ” is not a correct description. By all standards homo neanderthalensis should have survived based on the fact it was physically stronger. They survived a colder climate. but died out after 30,000 years ago. They could not adapt to the changing environment. Homo sapiens did mainly due to their increased reasoning skills. Nature favored brains over brawn and humanity began to spread through out the Earth, except Antarctica. Sexual dimorphism continues to be a physical trait that proves human evolution. Humanity and other organisms continue to evolve depending on the condition of their environment. Humanity has acquire such a vast knowledge of science it will be possible to manipulate our own biology. This could be done through genetic engineering, surgery, and technology itself.

            There are physiological difference that exist that products of sexual dimorphism. Men have more type II muscle fibers, while women have more type I. Muscular contraction is essential for movement or any athletic performance. Muscular endurance describes how long the muscular contraction can last. Men  and women can have similar levels of muscular endurance. Women may have more, because they fatigue slower. When comparing men and women of a similar size men would still have more upper body strength. When the size is held constant it is estimated that women could be at least 80% as strong. The remaining percentage points account for the upper body disparity.  Cardiovascular physiology  plays a role in oxygen transport. During exercise oxygen is transported to the muscles to form adenosine triphosphate. This then provides energy for muscular contraction. Hemoglobin housed within red blood cells has to transport oxygen from the lungs to other tissues of the body. Larger lungs and hearts contribute to men’s 50% greater aerobic power. Women however may have an easier time converting glycogen into energy, which aids in endurance. Women’s higher fat levels are useful in long distance swimming and running, because it can aids in metabolism. Estrogen-B could also be responsible for fatigue resistance during muscular contraction in women. A combination of biological, anatomical, and physiological factors explain the gap in athletic performance. There can also be overlap, but this is explained by unique physiology of particular individuals.

Women's growth

Tall
Women have grown taller, but the average height is not six feet tall. 

Dorthy Roe’s prediction make the mistake of not taking into account particular factors. If this were to be average as she claimed it would mean that every woman would have to have the same nutrition and access to certain opportunities. Then genetics plays a role in the possible maximum physical potential. Then it also has to do with choice. How many women would actually want to achieve that level strength? The hilarious aspect of this prediction was the statement “muscles of a truck driver.” Driving a truck requires little physical strength. The job is mostly sedentary and therefore would not be the best for your health. Sitting too long for extended periods of time has been linked to heart related and weight issues. The question remains why are there not more women truck drivers? Again, discrimination is an obvious answer, but personal choice is another. Job seekers will only go to jobs that could benefit them the most economically. Companies may just not try to recruit women, even if they have positions opened. Despite this, there are women who are involved in trucking.

The only difference is that the truck has to be ergonomically designed to suit the female driver. All trucks have to in order to make the seat comfortable for the driver. Driving long periods of time in one particular position could cause back and neck issues. Part of the problem is that people still think their are men’s jobs and women’s jobs in the workforce. This dated concept not only harms women, but could be hindering economic growth. A functional economy must have a low unemployment rate to keep consumption up. Women must be part of the workforce to maintain economic stability. There are some occupations in which women’s numbers may still remain smaller relative to men’s due to differences in maximum physiological capacity. This does not mean there will not be any women in those positions. There are women who, even with the noted sex differences can outperform many men.

The female athlete will be in better shape or either just as strong or stronger than the average man depending on which training regimen is used. So, in this sense the prediction was only a part truth. A group of women have become stronger physically across the world who compete in both local and  international sports competition. The total number of women on Earth have not become physically stronger. Health has improved as indicated by women’s increased life expectancy . Women have the edge in terms of durational strength, living longer in most cases. The wonderful element about humanity is that it is diverse and can be flexible with its environments.

There can be strong women who are short. Tall women who are not the strongest or women of average build. The same can also be with men as well. The genetic variation protects the human species from genetically inherited diseases. That diversity helps, but has not completely eliminated such ailments. The article does not say that the average woman will become physiologically similar to a man, just that she will reach at higher fitness level. The implication that women will be able to compete en mass with men in mixed competition does not seem probable. However, there is a possibility that individual elite female athletes could beat an elite male athlete. There it would be presumptuous to say that it could never happen. It is just at the moment is not happening in the future Dorthy Roe predicted. A hypothesis should not be a mere prediction, but thoughtful estimation of probable outcomes.

Women still have to work harder to attain a high level of physical fitness. While their are women who have more natural strength than others, they are a unique exception. More training just enhances their physical potential. There is a new phenomenon. Women are now competing in sports at larger numbers compared to the past. Women’s involvement in sports dates back to the ancient world being documented in Greek and Egyptian civilization. There has never been a period in history to date in which women have embrace sports and physical fitness to this extent. Not only that, but women are seeking to build as much muscle and strength for their particular sports. While their is traditional backlash and divide in public opinion there is a portion of people who are embracing this change. The physiques that women display across various sports would be inconceivable  to many 200 years ago. Some women it seems have become the amazons of the future.

       It is clear that women have enter areas that sole were male domains. The change in women’s status is spreading not just in the West, but in the Global South. Status and progress in a society depends on the historical, sociological, and political situation. There is a possibility that civilization could collapse from mass global warfare, dramatic climate change, pandemics, or economic instability. Such events would mean the reversal of progress and even the end of humanity itself. When the fabric of society is unstable women and other marginalized groups suffer the most. Women could lose the little rights and opportunities they have if there were a change in political regime. Active organizing and vigilance can prevent such occurrences. A faction of futurist believe that in the coming years the world will become a better place. Like the utopian science fiction of the early 20th century, it seems out of reach. Both World Wars and the following Cold War proved that The Jetsons like future seems more imaginary. There is more advanced technology, but with it comes other problems. Roe’s predictions fall into the more utopia version of futurism. Her predictions would not seem so outrageous if she did not say that the average woman would be an amazon in terms of physique. As for height, women have not on average reached the six foot range. The tallest women in the world live in Latvia and the Netherlands. When Roe was writing this, she was only thinking about America.

Height chart

The US does not place in the current record of tallest men and women. This does not mean we do not have our own tall people. It should be no surprise that experts writing this in 1950 were off. They did not have a vast body of knowledge to base predictions on and human evolution was still though of as a linear progression rather than a series of branches coming from a root. The more precise assessment that could have been stated is that women of the future would greatly enhance their physical fitness capacity. Title IX was and continues to be an important law that allowed for many American women to become active in sports. Those women who first benefited from it went on to be top performing Olympic athletes and  the law still continues to make this possible. That is an example of how when barriers are removed  the numbers increased. Then another development happened that was not just in the US, but seems to be spreading around the world. Women who are enthusiastic about weightlifting are becoming serious competitors. It was not until the year 2000 that women’s weightlifting was added to the Olympic Games. Maybe the prediction of Roe’s amazons was not entirely incorrect.

Prior to women’s weightlifting, women had worked out with weights. This was mainly in bodybuilding, which had its origins in the 1970s. The early pioneers of women’s strength sports worked out with weight even when the gyms tried to prevent them from going to such sections and faced harsh ostracism. Now, it does not seem so abnormal to see even the average woman doing some weight training. Their intent may not be to be a professional athlete, but to simply maintain and control body weight. Women are no longer afraid to show physical strength or actual muscular development. Dorothy Roe may have predicted accurately what the average female athlete would be like. The average woman could vary between ectomorphic, endomorphic, and mesomorphic body structure. Height as well will vary as seen from sets of data. The conclusion would thus have to be modified. The average woman will be participating in various fields in the future. Improved health, physical activity, and nutrition will mean some women will reach physiological capacities greater than previously thought. Technology although helpful may cause adverse health effects that lead to a sedentary life style. The tendency for futurologists to be sensationalist leads to imprecise conclusions. To make precise assessments, one most take a rational method of analysis.

“In The Future, All Women Will Be Amazons” From The Smithsonian