Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women

Prior to crossfit or bodybuilding muscular women did exist. There were women involved in physical culture in the past, but there stories were not told. Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women reveals to readers an unknown history of women’s sports and physical culture between the years of 1800 to 1980. David L. Chapman and Patricia Vertinsky  wrote this monograph. The primary source material contains images, cartoons, and magazines that Chapman had collected over the years. Physically strong women have existed prior to the 19th century, yet this book gathers evidence of their participation in strength feats and physical culture. Chapman spent 30 years collecting these images. His interest in muscular women really started late in life. It was 1987 when he began to do research into women’s involvement in fitness and bodybuilding. Chapman being a writer for numerous bodybuilding magazines was able to meet bodybuilders of the golden age era. He met Abbye Stockton and realized this was an interesting development that emerged among women, especially in a period in which their rights were limited. Another athlete that sparked further interest in this rarely studied element in sports history was Laurie Fierstein. She was a bodybuilder who also was the curator for the New Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit “Picturing the Modern Amazon.”  Chapman was invited to lecture at the museum discussing the iconography of the strongwoman in art and photography. Fierstien gave Chapman more insight into what motivates women to compete and push their bodies to the physical maximum. His discussions with Stockton and Fierstien led to some questions. These questions pondered how women struggled in the past in the physical fitness culture and the meaning of femininity. Female muscularity was more controversial in the past than in the 21st century. There has been a cultural shift, even though the more narrow minded attitudes still are present. The rise of the female mesomorph is a story of  advancement and repression. It can go in cycles. Through images and primary source material Chapman shows how sex politics and sports interacted. The muscular woman can mean many things to people : they can be seen as beautiful to others, threatening, or abnormal.

             The introduction describes the mixed feelings and messages that the muscular women gets from observers and proposes its main thesis . Negative reactions were worse in the past. Outlets for athletic competition were not widespread for women. The only place the strongwoman could display their talents was in variety show stages or vaudeville performance. Circuses also provided another platform.

venuswithbiceps  The text and information mostly focuses on women’s physical fitness participation in Europe and America. It is not known in other areas of the globe if women participated in some form of physical culture. Today it is not a surprise to see a female athlete or a woman who engages in rigorous exercise. More women are competing in the Olympics and in numerous sports compared to a century ago. The are presenting highly developed physiques. The impressive aspect of this is that such improvements are enhanced by new training techniques and pharmaceutical means. Chapman states in the introduction : “with the advent of steroids, hormones, supplements, and other artificial growth stimulants female muscularity has multiplied exponentially, and as female bodies transform themselves into something bigger, bolder, and different from what had been idolized in the past, the same old uncertainties and sexual ambiguities keep society bubbling away with loud,but hardly new controversies.” Women have pushed their bodies in athletic competition to new heights. This is not solely the work of performance enhancing drugs or supplements from a GNC store. Exercise physiology has in the past decades began to seriously examine women athletes. Most studies were done on men and it is clear the physiology is different in regards to sex. Having more resources and information at their disposal, women can enhance their athletic performance in an efficient manner. Old myths about women’s bodies and capabilities have been discarded. Even with these developments, the sexist and misogynist convictions still remain.

There are the common statements echoed by those who believe that certain activities are unladylike. The idea of the “mannish woman” was present in the past to an even more extreme degree. Patrica Vertinsky co-author of the monograph is a professor of  history with a focus on physical education, fitness, and physical culture. Throughout the text she describes this sexist prejudice as a way to dehumanize and undermine women’s accomplishments. There is an over reaction to female muscularity that does not happen with men. Women have to live with double standards and this is just another item on the list. This double standard and ostracism is nothing new to the female athlete. This is the primary foundation of the monograph’s thesis. The muscular woman had a presence in certain venues and in popular culture. The image presented of the muscular woman had influenced certain perceptions. Most were negative projecting anti-woman sentiment or homophobic feelings. The text describes this prejudice : ” over the last 100 years the image of the strong, confident, muscular woman has been the object of derision.”  The portrayal is either sexy dominatrix, sexless mannequin, or sideshow freak in the words of the thesis. However, it is a recent phenomenon that women of such as body were either placed into one dimensional images being presented to the public as monstrosities, lesbian man haters, beautiful living statues or sex objects. Such ideas are based off of hatreds either against women or people of different sexual orientations. It does not represent reality. Just like any other women their experiences vary vastly depending on class, ethnicity, and nationality.

The monograph also states that women had to fight ( and still continue) to reclaim the image and perceptions of the muscular woman. The reason negative attitudes were so pervasive about muscular women or female athletes was that men were producing certain images and ideas distorting public opinion. while the thesis is cogent, there are some debatable proclamations made in the introduction.

          The introduction claims that “sports as we know them were invented in England.” This is not true. All around the globe, various peoples had some form of sport. Sport dates back to ancient civilization. Women were also participants. The Greeks, Minoans, and Egyptians had sporting activities. It has been theorized that sport has its origins in military training. It may have also had a religious significance considering some Greeks had games revolving around the worship of gods or goddesses. Africa had a longtime tradition of wrestling among its peoples. The Diola, Yala, and the Njabi had women wrestlers. The Diola were known to use wrestling as a way to have arranged marriages. The male champion wrestler would marry the female champion wrestler. The issue with such a statement made by Chapman is that it excludes other non-European  civilizations. Doing so presents an ethnocentric perspective of  history, which is extremely limited. Examining the female muscularity phenomenon from a larger international perspective adds to support to the argument. Women were active participants in CuJu during the Song to Qing  dynasty in China. Amerindian peoples were also involved in stickball and footraces. Although met with the same ostracism as seen today, the female athlete is certainly nothing new.

This should have been expressed better in the text. Modern professional sports began in the West , but the sporting tradition had international roots. This should be obvious to any sports historian. Yet, this is a relatively new field of study and the study of the female mesomorph more so. When the industrial revolution occurred labor habits changed, including what was done during leisure time. It can also be disputed that in the words of  Chapman : ” in an age when machines became stronger and more efficient than their human operators, it became necessary to measure one’s peers in another way, and for many physically minded people, athletic competition was the answer- at least for men.” There had already been a system in which people measured one another and that was by class. Most civilizations throughout history have functioned on a pyramid structure with a ruling class controlling the majority. There is a pyramid structure present in democratic societies, which threatens the system itself. Sports provided the working class a brief escape from the agony of economic exploitation. It was more than just the physically minded people seeking an outlet, it was an a stress reducer in a world that was not changing for the better. Chapman should have done more research in this regard to sports history.

           David Chapman does describe the hysteria surrounding women engaging in physical culture. These objections to women’s participation came from religious organizations and traditionalists. The 19th century moralists condemned women’s advancement in any aspect of life saying too much education or exercise would harm women. They used religion as a cover to justify the control of women. They were challenged by others who believed that at least some exercise and education was good for women. Calisthenics, dancing, and rhythmical drills became acceptable in the 1800s for women. Yet, it was still advised not to take it too far. This language is similar to attitudes in the contemporary fitness atmosphere. Women are told often not to get “too big” or “cross the line.”

The physically active woman caused fear in some men and the muscular woman even more so. A strictly conservative society had a level of fear in regards to women’s bodies and sexuality during the Victorian Age. This is why the popular imagery of muscular women was either contradictory, confused, or negative. Men did not know what to make of or how to understand these women. Chapman explains that the reason there are not more photographs of muscular women prior to 1980 was due to moral codes about exposure of the female body. A woman could not simply have her torso exposed during the Victorian Age. Swimsuits were even generating an outcry. This even continued into the early 20th century in which Bernarr Macfadden was arrested in 1905 for holding a women’s physique contest at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The founder of Physical Culture magazine was one of the early advocates of women getting exercise beyond just improvement of figure. To traditionalists and religious advocates exposure of the female body was immoral. Women could be arrested for wearing a bikini in some US states. This was also a crime in Australia, Italy, and  on some French beaches up until the mid -20th century.  The moralists of the past would most likely be more shocked by the bodies and exposure of them are in the 21st century.

There were also arguments that muscle was bad for women’s health. The idea was that women would destroy their reproductive system and this had no basis in biomedical fact. There also an argument that was based purely on aesthetics. Muscles were “unfeminine” and would “unsex” a woman. Such claims represented gender bias and a desire for strict gender roles. Another reason muscular women in popular media may have been rare at the time was that many were not ready to see them. This may explain why producers of various forms of content did not put them in their works. Women who were muscular also may have not been willing to display such physiques for fear of ridicule. Chapman explains that even muscular women who posed for photographs did so in a glamour shot format, rather than the physique posing. The truth is that the glamour element has been a part of women’s posing and physique photograph. While female bodybuilders and physique athletes pose traditionally on stage, they pose differently in individual photographs. The glamour element is there combined with traditional physique posing.

The co-author should remember that bodybuilding was in its infancy, so women probably would not have posed in the same way as modern bodybuilders. To say the early photographs of muscular women are not authentic  physique pictures lacks cogency. It would be ludicrous to say women bodybuilders  who are not flexing in their off stage pictures are not authentic. There was a process of evolution in terms of presentation of the muscular form. The image of the muscular woman was getting wider exposure  compared to other periods of history.

              The female body as the book explains was susceptible to various fads and changes in beauty standards. Just like styles of hair and dress changed, so did ideas about the feminine body ideal. The ideal of the hour glass shape was enforced by the rise of the corset. The came the concept of the S shape as a beauty standard. Bustles were worn by women to enhance the female backside. During the late 19th century there was a paradigm shift in regards to women and exercise. There was the concept that they should do it to improve appearance. The few muscular women in these societies were pioneering such an idea. One of the ways photographers and artists avoided controversy about muscular women was to have them presented in a living statue pose. This would show that they are not a threat to male viewers and that there was no lascivious intentions in its production. This small movement of women into physical culture seemed to expand between the years of 1900 to 1914.

4366315_f1024 There are more images from this period of strongwomen. The reason for this had to do with the increased popularity of circuses, fairs, music halls, and vaudeville stages  .When World War I broke out, this stopped many entertainment venues from functioning especially in major war zones of  Europe. The rise of other mediums like radio and television also contributed to the end of the old forms of entertainment. Muscular women then lost mainstream exposure to an extent.  The strange part of this is that the muscular woman some how got separated from mainstream sports culture. Women getting involved in cycling, archery, and croquet during the 19th century. However women were still be held back at the Olympics Games. Strongwomen were athletes with out a place to compete or show their skills. Their training techniques would later be used by female athletes in various sports from the 20th century and beyond. If it were not for them, such sports and physiques on women would not exist. The real shift came after World War II with Abbye Stockton who demonstrated there was no contradiction between muscles and femininity.


   She revealed an impressive musculature, which at the time was not considered gender appropriate. Chapman revealed that female acrobats and trapeze artists  had more room to navigate in terms of the world of muscularity. The atmosphere of circus performance was more open and therefore less strict. David Chapman referred to it as a “hidden world of female strength.” There was once more a change in beauty standards. There was the diversification of the female form based on particular models in the fitness community. A firm female figure was preferred. This would eventually lead to a more muscular female body. It is not a surprise that female bodybuilding emerged during the 1970s at an important time of women’s liberation. The excellent part  of Venus With Biceps is that  was not afraid to discuss feminist hypocrisy in relation to the muscular woman. The feminist positions on beauty standards are often filled with contradiction and sometimes illogical conclusions. Chapman states that feminists harbor suspicions of muscular women as ” either beauty queens in disguise or that women physique athletes are simply trying to become alternate or inferior versions of men.” The falsehood of feminism is that they believe in a sisterhood and support all women. This simply is not the case when examined from class and race lines. They criticize beauty standards, but continue to support it by being large consumers of fashion and make-up products.

Chapman’s rebuttal to feminist claims is that a beauty pageant just reinforces one standard of beauty, while the physique athlete is developing another image based on individual convictions rather than cultural norms. The ludicrous claim that women are trying to be like men is nothing more than a recycled statement made by sexists, they claim to be fighting. If anything the muscular woman represents a feminist symbol. It shows that women can be strong and be successful in  once male dominated domain. The only reason that a feminist would think that a muscular woman would be imitating men is that strength is a male only attribute. That is incorrect as the female athlete has demonstrated. Men have used the ridiculous argument that because they are stronger they have a right to rule over women. When arguments of biological inferiority are proven mendacious, detractors resort to ostracism. There is a reason for such extreme reaction as Chapman articulates : “physically powerful and heavily muscled women have always been upsetting to the status quo because they reversed the “natural” dominance of the male.” Feminists should be their natural allies. The problem with such monographs is that they normally fall into preaching feminist rhetoric, rather than being a work of academic research. Venus With Biceps avoids this blunder , but occasionally  the illogical feminist reasoning emerges. Beauty standards have changed throughout history,but i may be the first time in which women are developing their own concept of aesthetics.

         The monograph also provides readers with an essay “Muscularity and the Female Body.”  Patricia Vertinsky shares her knowledge of sports history and the female body. Traditionally muscularity was associated with male power and beauty. Women were associated with weakness and frailty. This did not represent reality. Many notions of the body were based on pseudoscience and eugenics. The female body according to Vertinsky’s essay was cast as biologically inferior and designed for passive nurturing. From this emerged the concept of “natural bodies.”  Women’s bodies according to this concept were not meant to be strong. Men were the strong ones. Some scholars link this concept of muscularity and masculinity to the rise of modern celebrity culture and sports. It roots are much earlier according to Vertinsky going back to ancient Greek civilization. This association is more of a Western phenomenon and it can be seen in the art of the Greeks. Iconography shows that the ancient Greeks valued the muscular form as an aesthetic ideal  and this European tradition continued through the ages. Sculptors such as Polykleitos and Praxiteles created their works based on proportions that were numerical based systems  with an emphasis on symmetry. Beauty had been conceptualized as a mathematical quantity.

The female form has been depicted as soft in most Western artworks. The female bodybuilder presents another model of the female body not seen in a iconographical context.  

This was the harbinger to antropometry  and pseudoscientific biological racism. There was some contribution to credible fields such as physical anthropology. The idea of muscular man and soft curvy woman was a product of ancient Greek art and was sustained by pseudoscience of the 19th and 20th century. Women and men have various body types so the idea of “natural bodies” had no scientific basis. Crainometry, phrenology, physiognomy, and comparative anatomy believed that physical characteristics could describe the character, behavior, and intellect of a person. Unproven claims by pseudoscience were used to enforce much held prejudices about race, class, and gender. This would have devastating consequences during World War II when countries like Nazi Germany used eugenics to justify mass murder. Relevant to the discussion of women’s bodies it was believed that their main purpose in life was to produce babies. Other theories suggested that women were just too frail for physical activity. When strong women showed this was not truth they cast as anomalies. People would rather cling to mendacious beliefs rather than accept people who are different. Some theories were so bizarre, even for the eugenicists themselves William Sheldon began a system of body classification that equated body type to personality.

The three somatotypes as described by William Sheldon. Mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph are still terms used today in fitness terminology. 

The terms ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph were developed from his theories. Being a psychologist it it was obvious that there is not correlation between body type and personality. What his ideas and theories were suggesting that the mesomorphic body was a superior type and such individuals would run the world. This thinking has racist overtones similar to Hitler’s concept of a master race. His book The Atlas of Men (1954)   featured anthropometrical measurements of men proclaiming what were the superior body measurements. There was to be another book that would have been called The Atlas of Women , but Sheldon never finished it. Although his theories were not credible he got significant funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and his ideas were adopted by physical education departments in the US.  Barbara Honeyman Heath an assistant to Sheldon was gathering data and photographs for The Atlas of Women. She would work with numerous physical education departments who wanted to see women improve posture ,health,  and fitness. Heath came to the conclusion that these methods and ideas were fraudulent then repudiated Sheldon. She would later work with Margaret Mead using the somatotype system while studying the peoples of Papua New Guinea. This tale of junk science and prejudice reveals how perceptions of women’s bodies are based on distortions. The “natural bodies” were based on ideals that were not grounded in reality. When this was applied to health and beauty it was to the detriment of women.

            Beauty during this period of eugenics became associated with health. These two concepts are not related, but became linked together. Beauty can have various means or paradigms depending on who is asked to describe it. It varies among cultures, individuals, and societies. One can be healthy and not meet the societal standards of beauty. What the muscular woman does is define a new form of beauty. The problem with Vertinsky’s essay in the second portion is that it uses Naomi Wolf’s theory of the beauty myth. This has numerous flaws. The text states “Wolf attributed the rise of photography an important historical role in disseminating models of idealized femininity and beauty where the female body was expected to look dramatically different from that of a man.” Photography was not responsible for women’s poor image. It was the product of a society that valued women only as reproductive units or instruments for sex. The images of female beauty being weighed cruelly on women can be debatable as well. Unlike arranged marriage, employment discrimination, or lack of access to education no one is forcing women to focus on their appearance. Women buy and sell make-up, hair care products, and are more focused on fashion.

Women profit off of other women having insecurities about their bodies, yet feminists never acknowledge this. Men they state are the ones who promote the beauty myth. The problem is that Wolf’s analysis and claims ignore the fact women have a choice in the contemporary period; the woman of the Victorian Age did not have such a luxury. The issue also revolves around the fact many women have low self-esteem, which leads them down a path of body obsession. This makes women and girls with such issues of self perception more vulnerable to certain images propagated through various types of media. Victorian Age women were more restricted in most areas of life. Areas such as medicine, fashion, and beauty ideals were used to justify women’s subordination to men. The corset was an example of this subordination. This type of clothing was designed to squeeze a woman’s waist to make it appear smaller. Like most clothing for women during this time period it was designed to restrict movement. It was believed that women should not overexert themselves. Physicians were convinced that physical weakness was a woman’s natural state.   There was another camp that emerged in this debate about the female body. Women should at least have some health conditioning for childbirth. Women involved in some form of physical activity would not harm the as some health reformers ensured. Catherine  Beecher was one of the early advocates for women getting exercise. This was not for the purpose of appearance, rather a eugenic purpose in mind. The major shift came when women wanted their physical exercise to become more than just for the basis of appearance.

        As Victorian prudishness disappeared women began to become more in touch with their independence. During the late 19th century cycling became a popular pastime for women. The beauty concept developed the notion that women needed exercise for their beauty. Body ideals began to fluctuate. The Gibson girl was the voluptuous type. When the 20th century arrived the flapper depicted a thinner female body. The rise of film and popular entertainment venues presented the public with new images of the female body. The muscular woman actually did have a venue in popular entertainment.

 From Corsets to bicep curls, it seems women have gone through a political, social, and physical transformation. 

Circuses, music halls, and vaudeville was a popular form of entertainment during the late 19th to early 20th century. Strongwomen performed in these venues. There were instances in which strongwomen gathered a following. Charmion was a trapeze artist who was filmed in Thomas Edison’s short film “Trapeze Disrobing Act .” The 1901 short film demonstrated that men were getting interested in the a strong female physique. Women were performing strength feats just like the men. This was the period in which modern bodybuilding was being developed. Eugen Sandow and Bernarr Macfadden were pioneers in physical culture and modern bodybuilding.  To them the built physique had to be displayed on a stage. However, the new physical culture movement did receive backlash from medical professionals and physical educators. They though developing muscles to a high degree would reduce body efficiency and pose a health risk. This was not true and advocates of physical culture challenged such claims. Macfadden was revolutionary in the sense he advocated exercise and strength for women. He once stated that “there can be no beauty without muscles.”  Physical Culture magazine was read by both men and women. The magazine would reach sales of  over a million copies by 1955. There was another shift in the body ideal for women. The new woman was athletically active. Charlotte Perkins Gilman feminist, novelist,  and sociologist advocated that women have full control of the bodies, which included developing themselves physically. Her 1915 novel  Herland  emphasized this idea through a book in which women lived independently, were self-sufficient, and were active physically. This was a work of utopian feminist fiction in which men did not exist and the characters resembled the amazons of ancient Greek myth.

The fitness culture has a long history. One of the ways ideas were spread were through magazines and this continues to some degree today. Internet publications are now overtaking traditional print media. 

William  Blaikie produced a popular book called How To Get Strong and How to Stay So. This work of physical education was advocating that women and girls train to build strength so they can maintain good health. It seems some were not seeing a conflict in relation to muscularity and the female body. Vertinsky then explains that during the interwar years some still saw the contradiction between a strong body and femininity. The press was harsh in particular in the criticism of women. Much of it was either sexist or homophobic. While the author does not focus on the fact that non-white female athletes had to deal with both racism and sexism. African American women athletes were normally ignored by the mainstream American press. The text should have mentioned this more in a wider context, because it only focuses on the experiences of mostly white or European women. This limits the scholarship. Women were by the 1930s becoming more vsible in the sports world, yet there were objections to them. Most were based on their appearance. Athletes such as Babe Didrikson  were described as “muscle molls”  meaning they were manly or unfeminine. Women’s strength is often condemned when it is not needed, but in times of peril it becomes a necessity. During World War II women had to take the jobs of men fighting overseas, which required manual labor. Women had to be strong so that the war effort was successful.

After the war, there was a sharp turn in conservatism in terms of women’s roles. Women were expected to return to the domestic sphere. This was happening when Pudgy Stockton was making a larger impact on women’s fitness, which would not be realized until later in the century.   She popularized the idea that women could lift weights and still remain feminine. The odd contrast was that the ideal of beauty was shifting back to a slimmer body type. Vertinsky  cites the rise of the fashion industry, weight loss industry, and even toys like Barbie as a reason for the shift back. It could also metaphorically symbolize some men’s desire to control women and maintain the status quo. Stockton and the women who were inspired by her began to find an alternative. Lisa Lyon would be inspired to build her body and she would later become one of female bodybuilding’s first pioneers. This came from looking at photographs of Stockton.

The essay does do a great job of explaining how body image conformity was and continues to used against women. Yet, incorporating the beauty myth concept into such an argument  makes it lack credibility. Niomi Wolf’s theories and ideas have either been contradictory or at worst not entirely accurate. There is a tendency for feminism to cast all men as oppressors; this seems strongest in modern day third wave feminist rhetoric in academic analysis. The reality is that no one is forcing women to submit to body image pressure like women are forced into marriage or particular economic sectors. Feminism is often uncertain or contradictory on the analysis of the female athlete or muscular woman. It shifts between praise or scorn. Sometimes it takes an extreme route of the notion that women should just enter areas for the sake of  being antagonistic to men. These ideological conflicts can not be solved with a simple answer. The essay does provides a lucid explanation in regards to the connection between sexism, eugenics, health, and beauty. Yet, the small amount of feminist rhetoric weakens that strength of an otherwise rational argument. The  Patrica Vertinsky’s analysis provides also an clear synopsis of the history  in terms of were the muscular woman fits in a wider historical context.

      The rest of the monograph proceeds to show primary source material starting in a chronological manner. The muscular women of the past had more of a struggle supporting themselves with their athletic talents alone. Some professional women made a living being street performers. Strongmen did not have it better and would often work with strongwomen to increase audience attraction. Such performance acts could be seen in carnivals, fairs, and theater houses. Although the strong woman acts are considered to be a development of the 1800s, it is possible that it began earlier. The book in the first chapter shows five engravings from 1783 that depict women performing strength feats. They show women from Leipzig, Germany doing strength feat acts with anvils and horses. There is a possibility that these act were done by means of chicanery or the product of someone’s imagination.  These women could have been real people, but is clear that the strength feats are exaggerated. Strongwomen predate the rise of physical culture and heath fitness fadism in the 19th century. They benefited from this phenomenon. While health professionals were just beginning to embrace lifting exercises, strongwomen were doing this for a century. From the visual materials that remain, their are names of the foremothers of iron. The earliest documented name is that of Elsie Luftmann. She was known to do cannonball juggling acts and lift large weights. Luftmann toured mostly in central Europe.

There could have been more strongwomen active, but Elsie Serafin Luftman  is the only name so far remembered from that era in the early 19th century. This illustration is dated at 1830.

Although it seems that this was the activity of mostly European and American women, women of other ethnic groups were involved. Miss Lala  was a African Polish strongwoman born in 1858. She was also an acrobat, trapeze artist, and did other stunts . She became are very popular strongwoman in Germany, France, and much of Europe. This was not unusual. There had been an African presence in Europe for quite sometime. Her real name Anna Olga Brown and she was active through the 1870s to 1890s. Little is known about the rest of her life.  What is remembered is that she would perform iron jaw acts. Allegedly she would hold a cannon with her teeth as a strength feat. This may be another trick that circus acts would do. However, the other acts she would do were genuine.

strong woman
Miss Lala was so popular that she was the subject of the painting “Miss La La At The Cirque Fernando”  by Edward Degas in 1879.

 The era was known for producing many posters and visuals advertising strongwomen. The graphic art is a delight to look at for a reader. Graphic design is often under appreciated, but has a major impact on culture and visual arts. The most important element in terms of history is that it leaves primary source material.

 Changes and transformations can be documented. This allows scholars to see possible patterns in ideas or commonly held perspectives. Women staring in the 1830s began as strongwomen and by the 19th century were becoming professionals in this profession. They were doing this in an atmosphere that was hostile to women’s advancement or freedom. The reason women may have had more room to navigate this field was because it did not prove to be a threat to the social and political order. As long as this was just simple entertainment with no definite statements on sex politics, there were no repercussions for women involved. While strength and brawn were essential to their acts women were still constrained by social mores about gender roles. Even successful strongwomen like Athleta would do the most to cover up their bodies. The reason was not to be a threat to male members of the audience . Another reason was that it would have been considered inappropriate at the time for women to expose or display their bodies in a particular manner. Some women were willing to challenge  that. Frances Rheinlander  who was know as Athelda was known to do poses that are common on bodybuilding stages today.

Women also had trepidation about displaying such musculature. The fear of looking masculine or violating gender norms was a challenge.  Then came another paradigm shift. Strength was no longer seen as harming a women’s feminine qualities. Strongwomen themselves began to present an image of strong and beautiful woman. Louise Leers, Kate Roberts, and Katie Sandwina ushered in a golden age of strongwoman performance. This as between the 1890s to early 20th century. Audiences were amused and fascinated with women who could lift object twice their own weight.

 There were interruptions that occurred that brought the golden age of strongwomen acts to a period of hiatus. World War I devastated the world order. The world came back to a sense of normalcy to a degree, but by 1929 the Great Depression hit. The 1920s did still have strongwomen performing yet that period of  prosperity did not last. Muscular women obviously existed prior to the 1800s. The text merely shows that they were not documented until that century. The monograph also clarifies that not every muscular woman was  a circus performer or professional strongwoman.

    The following chapter “pumping wood” reveals a fascinating change in terms of women and fitness. Regular women and female athletes wanted to build muscular strength for the purpose of just staying in shape. Early women’s physical culture literature discouraged exercise, due to the concept of the frailty myth. There was the mainstream conviction that women just did not have the physical constitution for strenuous exercise. A consensus was later reach that women needed at least some form of physical activity for their health. Calisthenics and working out with wooden dumbells was advised. Regular women’s motivation for working out was different from that of the athlete or professional strongwoman. The goal was not to build a strong physique, rather maintain health. Many health conditions at the time that were plaguing women were related to the corset. These tight garments could dislodge organs and pinch the lungs.

Just like today every woman who goes to the gym does not have the same fitness goals in mind. 

The chapter contains illustrations from newspaper articles showing women how to do proper exercises from Harper’s Weekly . Women would eventually discard their corsets so that they could have more free movement during an exercise session. Women could join exercise clubs, but this was extremely rare. Women interest in exercise and physical culture did spark a backlash. Even though women were few in number in physical culture, social conservatives and sexists condemn women’s participation. The muscular woman was made into an object of ridicule and contempt. The text has printed a series of valentines cards which mock female athletes from 1900. These were known as vinegar valentines and normally ostracized groups of people the producers found unappealing. Postcards would also ostracize athletic women and women who decided to engage in physical culture.

sexist postcard
This postcard dated  1905 states that women should not waste time on exercise. Postcards and valentines normally depicted the female athlete as vain, ignorant, or egotistical.
This is a booklet from 1900 produced by Lydia Pinkham Company . It features a woman doing a double biceps pose. The Pinkham Company booklet is a demonstration of positive depictions of the female athlete at the time.

Chapman explains that many times men did not know what to make of the muscular female. One method to deal with such a different concept of womanhood was to insult and shun a woman who did not meet societal gender expectations. All the depictions were not negative. Magazines as this chapter demonstrates sometimes had women on the cover. Fitness, exercise, and sport were at onetime considered male only activities. Women gradually entered the world of fitness culture. Women during this period also used Indian clubs and took up cycling. There was a new woman emerging that was more independent and was no longer willing to be regulated to the domestic sphere. As women were demanding voting rights on both sides of the Atlantic men were becoming threatened. This explains the exaggerated reactions to women engaging in sports and physical culture. There are complaints today that female athletes and fitness personalities do not get enough coverage, but during this period of 1900 to 1914, it was rare that women were present on magazine covers. Sometimes there were cases they were visible regardless of public reaction. Booklets also appeared giving advice on women’s health. Women who were seeking heath improvement rather than athleticism or physical development. The following chapter notes several paradigms that emerged.

       The chapter ” Pursuing The Healthy Life” demonstrates how rapidly body ideals changed. The hourglass figure went out of vogue in favor of the s shape. The Roaring Twenties saw  the rise of a woman with more independence. This was not equally distributed among the various classes and ethnic groups of America. Women did obtain the vote, but African American, Native American, and Asian Americans still had to struggle for equal voting rights. Women who were of the upper class had more time for leisure and sport. The fitness world at this time was developing a space for women. Health and beauty clubs would emerge in the US. The taboo about women in exercise had been lifted. There were some problems in this new paradigm. Mass media and popular culture of the era encourage exercise  for women for the sole purpose of making them look attractive to a particular standard. There were multiple models of the female body presented. There was the tomboyish flapper, the traditional lithe woman, and the female athlete. Although female athletes  of the interwar period  were training just for there sport, they did develop impressive strength. Alice Marble and  Babe Dickerson Zaharias were making women’s sports notable to the public, with their magnificent performances.

The public was at least to an extent getting used to the idea women could play sports or be involved in fitness culture. Advocates such as Mary Bagot Stack established the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in 1930 to encourage women to be physically active. This was one example of many clubs that emerged in both Britain and the US. Women there would practice gymnastics, dance, and calisthenics. The reason such organizations did not generate condemnation was they stayed in line with traditional gender roles. Women were not seeking to be athletes or build their muscles. Lifting weights was not part of the exercise regimen. There were women still around in the 1930s will to display a female body with muscular development. Ivy Russell was a weightlifter and wrestler who developed an impressive physique. She was born in the British Empire and many historians of  bodybuilding consider her to be the first woman to create such a physique. This can be disputed, because there may have been others yet she was probably    the first to enjoy displaying such muscular strength.

The muscular woman and the female athlete in general got limited exposure. Ivy Russell was willing to flex her muscles during a period when that was inappropriate for women. Many photographs of muscular women from the 1800s to mid-20th century show them not flexing their muscles to prevent challenging gender role boundaries.Even women with significant development were discouraged from doing so. This does not cause issues when women athletes flex today. Russell was a foreshadowing of what was to come by the late 20th century.

 There seems to be a cycle of advancement and backlash. There was some room for negotiation  to an extent in society. Women began taking advice from other women rather than the majority male medical professionals, who had limited understanding of women’s bodies. There was a fitness culture developing, but it put emphasis on machines that in the contemporary period would seem ludicrous. Weight reduction machines were popular forms of exercise equipment and the shake weights of their day. Vibration belt machines were common in gyms promising users they could lose huge amounts of weight.

Women using vibrating belt machines in the 1920s.

The rise of modern consumer culture also produced fitness fads. As women had more free time , it was only natural that it was occupied with such leisure activities. Some fitness fads even evolved into movements. The Life Reform Movement which developed in Switzerland and Germany advocated humankind’s return to nature by embracing healthy living, fitness, a return to nature, and an embrace of sexual liberation including nudism. This movement was more of a reaction to a rapidly industrialized and technological world as well as the rejection of the traditional conservatism of Europe. This movement spread throughout Europe and embrace outdoor physical activity.  It was at its height between the 1920s and 1930s. It was prohibited in Germany when the Nazis came to power.  There was one element that remained in the totalitarian state: the embrace of physical activity and naturism. The Nazis believed good health would make the nation stronger and produce better Aryans. Nazis and the Fascists did not encourage physical  exercise for women’s sake, but rather to make them fit mothers who would produce future soldiers. Italy was more more advance in this project, because there had been a long history of women being involved in exercise there.

This magazine from Fascist Italy was encouraging women to exercise so that they could be better mothers. The totalitarian fascist governments wanted large populations that so that they could build large armies.

The coming of global conflict in 1939 brought about social and political changes. Women were just like in World War I asked to contribute to the war effort by working while the men went off to battle. There was also a pop culture transformation as well. The idea of  physical strong women appeared in comic books such as Wonder Woman and Sheena. When fascism was defeated women were forced from their jobs in factories. The 1950s gave way to more social and political conservatism.

          There were a number of strongwomen and athletes becoming notable during the wartime era. Dorcas Lehman, Relna Brewer, and Pudgy Stockton.The 1940s was a time in which even women who played other sports were popular. The All American Girls Professional Ball League became popular with the public. With males being drafted and fighting in the war, many teams were losing their star athletes. Owners formed this baseball team with women and it filled stadiums. Women’s professional baseball existed from 1943 to 1954 in America. Sadly, it ended for women when men came home and owners no longer promoted it. Attendance dropped and this meant the end of women in professional baseball.  Some women were actively trying to make sports, fitness, and weightlifting appeal to women. Siegmund Klein a major figure in fitness at the time was opposed to women using his gym. The famous strongman and bodybuilder was convinced that athleticism was a male only affair. He was soon changed his position when he realized women could be great customers to his gym establishment in New York. Some men were getting used to the idea women could be strong.

Pudgy Stockton poses with  her husband Les Stockton.  These two athletes were known to do various strength feats on Muscle Beach in California.

 The monograph does  provide a great explanation why Stockton was important. She participated in the first women’s weightlifting meet in 1947. It was held in Los Angeles and had various weight classes. This was a significant step in the history  of female physical strength. Stockton also became an advocate for women writing in Strength and Health  promoting the idea women could lift and still be feminine. The texts also mentions women’s professional wrestling was emerging in the mid-1940s to early 1950s. The book contains a photograph of Mildred Burke and the Fabulous Moolah who were the harbingers of women’s professional wrestling. While there was some progress for women in fitness and sports culture, after the war there was a return to traditional gender roles.

The 1950s saw a return to tradition. All of a sudden women being strong and flexing their muscles was no longer considered acceptable once more. Venus With Biceps describes the period between 1950 to the mid-1970s as a time in which muscular women disappeared. They literally did not vanish, but their mainstream exposure was gone. This also could be seen in the fitness culture in which magazine merely put women on the cover not for their athletic feats, rather a decoration. This was a major reversal in terms of women’s progress in a male dominated arena. Gone were the days of  strongwomen having mainstream platforms. This would be temporary, because another change would happen in the form of second wave feminism.


There have been muscular women as long as there have been strong men. During this period of limited exposure photographers would seek out trapeze artists, acrobats, and  aerialists during the 1940s and 1950s to document female muscle. Although these women had athletic potential they had no outlet or platform to display it. Two decades would have to pass until the most radical stage of this transformation would come.

         The last two chapters explain the shift to just mere figure improvement to the development of muscular strength. This process would result in the creation of modern day female bodybuilding. Muscular women had been excluded from magazines, gymnasiums, and other public venues  during the nadir period of the mid-20th century. The problem with Venus With Biceps is that it misses on crucial point in this historical discourse. Title IX was pivotal in the increase of women in athletics. That legislation gave many girls the opportunity to play sports and go on to be champions in both national and international competition. Many female bodybuilders of today got their start in other sports before coming on stage. This is a vital link that binds the fitness culture to the sports world. Lifting weights was once thought to harm athletic performance. When this was proven false athletes from various sports began weight training and seeing their performance improve. During the 1950s the only way women could get close to bodybuilding culture was to be in a beauty pageant. It was common at the time to have beauty attached to them. Men objected to this they did not want to be seen as male counterparts to beauty queens. The feminist revolution of the 1960s and 1970s did give women more freedom in terms of employment, education, and reproductive rights. Sports was a low priority compared to more pressing issues. All this political and cultural change was happening during a period when women were entering the sports world en mass. The first female bodybuilding competition would be held in 1977 under the auspice of Henry McGhee. This was not a beauty pageant; women were judged on their muscular development. Following this  Doris Barrilleaux began running contests of her own.  Female muscularity would be pushed to new heights with the arrival of various contests.

Rachel Mclish would go on to become the first Ms.Olympia in 1980. The last photograph is of her in the book. The way it is organized and written readers can see how over the past two centuries women’s athletic physicality developed. The general public who were exposed to this may have thought this was a new phenomenon. Those with a knowledge of the historical background would understand it is a much longer tradition. The difference in the late 20th century was that women were pushing their bodies to the physical maximum. The strongwomen of the past were not making muscular development their goal. The women of the late 20th to 21st century involved in fitness were seeking their highest level of development. The author notes as more contests opened the more muscular women became and the more they appeared.

There was an evolution in the female physique on stage with women becoming more muscular than people thought was possible. Lisa Lyon although she only competed one time was a contributor to the early version of female bodybuilding. She won the World’s Women Bodybuilding Championship in 1979. Like Pudgy Stockton she was prompting the idea of women’s bodybuilding and weightlifting to women. She was inspired by Stockton. The monograph mentions the early pioneers, but is curious it does not mention the later champions like Cory Everson, Lenda Murray, or Iris Kyle. It makes it seem as if the evolution stopped at 1980. While readers would obviously know that there are muscular women in existence and are active in sports new comers may be confused.

       This journey into female strength and muscularity is not over. The author states that the female body was altered to a higher degree with performance enhancing drugs. Drugs have been a part of sports for a longtime, but that is not the only contributor to the new physique presented. Women became serious about training and more competitive as competitions grew. There was another shift in consciousness. It was acceptable for women to have a certain level of  fitness or even tone, just as long as it was not “too much.”  Such descriptions of what is excessive are relative and opinion based. It can be disputed that the claim as Chapman articulates ” unfortunately, the introduction of drugs has meant that once again, many people regard female bodybuilders as freaks.” Prior to the existence of performance enhancing drugs this attitude was present as the earlier chapters of the book demonstrate. This is not based on drug use or the side effects, but on sexist prejudice and a narrow definition of what a woman should be. The reason people have not gotten used to the idea of a muscular woman is that society hates women with power. The oppressive structures can be removed, yet the hateful attitudes still remain within a society.

There has been a distortion about women’s bodies. The difference now is that they are beginning to reject to particular societal beauty standards. There is an irony that the monograph articulates. It has been close to 200 years of the public appearance of the female muscular form and people still cling to the idea it is not proper.  Although Venus With Biceps does not discuss other developments much has happened since its 2010 release. The last Ms.Olympia was held in 2014. This was a major blow to female bodybuilding, but it was brief. The Rising Phoenix Competition became a replacement when the IFBB terminated the Ms.Olympia. This does not resemble the nadir period of the 1950s to 1970s. More women are competing in physique sports such as figure, fitness, physique, and bikini. The female bodybuilding category although struggling has not phased out completely. Former athletes such as Lenda Murray continue to promote and hold contests for athletes.

The women continue to survive in the bodybuilding culture despite various obstacles. The biggest change has been aided by technology. Women who are fit, but do not compete are active on social media and are seen by millions of internet users across the globe. Compared to the past two centuries, it is easier to find material related to or focusing on muscular women. There are women who are active in professional sports to a larger degree compared to the 19th and 20th century. Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women is a great documentation in regards to a rarely studied element of women’s sports history.   This primary source material is perfect for anyone doing research or wanting to learn more. The monograph’s analysis related to particular subjects can be debated. Not mentioning Title IX seems to be a flaw in the book’s historical discourse. These minor imperfections do not effect the overall presentation. These photographs, advertisements, and visual art show that the muscular female did exist and was part of the pop culture consciousness. Although the same negative attitudes remain, many now see there is no contradiction between strength and femininity. It may take another 200 years for the majority to accept such an idea. The wonderful part about the contemporary period is that there are more strong and muscular women compared to the past.   Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women is a must have book for fans of history, female muscle, and sports. It is unknown what this evolution in women’s physique will become, but there is past documentation that its has been occurring for some time.

Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women

Dayana Cadeau

Dayana Cadeau is a personal trainer and former female bodybuilder who competed from the 1990s to the early 2010s. She was born in Haiti in 1966 and at the age of seven moved to Quebec Canada. Cadeau is fluent in French, English, and Creole. The strange aspect about her was at first she did not find the bodybuilding physique attractive. Dayana has stated ” I didn’t like bodybuilding physiques before I started competing.” She had the common closed minded view of most of the public explaining ” I didn’t find them attractive or pretty.” However, her mind was changed when she attended a bodybuilding show with a person she knew at a gym. Dayana then revealed that ” when I saw those women I was surprise to see they could be pretty, even with big muscles” She even had the ludicrous notion that ” being pretty and having large muscles was unattainable before watching those girls.” Dayana Cadeau proved that big muscles can suit the female frame if you train the right way. Her inspirations were Corey Everson and Lenda Murray. Dayana has said that ” when I saw Corey Everson I found her very beautiful not too big , but a nice figure.” Dayana Cadeau also has immense respect and admiration for Lenda Murray. She has even admitted that she wanted to follow her example. Her philosophy about bodybuilding is she articulated “having muscles and staying pretty was my goal.” She advocated the Corey Everson model of physique compared to the larger size that was ushered in the mid to late 1990s. Her strategy was to balance the larger size with a shapely figure. This allowed her to be a successful lightweight Ms.Olympia winner. She remains one of the most successful Canadian bodybuilders to date.

Dayana puts an emphasis on aesthetics. Expounding further : “since I’ve been competing I have never changed my image.” Her goal was to bring back the Corey Everson version of physique . When she competed bodybuilding for women was under going a transition in judging standards. This was also the era of stiff competition. Iris Kyle and Lenda Murray were still active on IFBB stages. Dayana at first competed as a heavy weight, but then competed as a lightweight when weight classes were introduced in the year 2000. She may have competed as a lightweight, but that body was monument of muscle. Standing at 5ft  4.5 in she competed at mighty 150 lbs. Her first bodybuilding contest was in 1992 in which she won the Quebec Metropolitan. This was followed by another victory in 1993 at the IFBB Quebec Provincial. From 1992 to 2012 she would be on stage. Dayana became a pro in 1997 winning the IFBB Canada Cup. Her best wins would include the Ms.International in 2001, the Jan Tana Classic in 2003, and the Ms.Olympia in 2004 under the lightweight division. When physique became a class in the early 2010s Dayana switched to that division in 2012. The previous year she retired from the bodybuilding class. Dayana was presenting another type of physique that was along her ideal Cory Everson model.

Her competitive longevity was remarkable and her ability to an impressive physique was just as stunning. Photographer Bill Dobbins described her physique best writing in 2006 : ” Lately, I’ve been more impressed with  Dayana …. she has the most voluptuous and sensuous physiques in bodybuilding.” This look she created between voluptuous fullness and powerful muscle made her popular in female bodybuilding publications. She appeared in issues of Women’s Physique World and did modeling. She also did videos in which she tested her wrestling skills against male challengers and fellow athletes for Premier Productions.

Although Dayana was fitness modeling, mainstream fitness publications according to Bill dobbins did not want to buy his photos of her. There still was a prejudice against the hypermuscular woman. Thankfully, the internet was a means to by pass the corporate gatekeepers, who still hold traditional views about women involved in the fitness industry. Through her personal website and association with online publications she was able to do modeling and promote her bodybuilding career. Besides just being a competitor, she started her own contest known as the NPC Dayana Cadeau classic. It features bodybuilding, fitness, figure, and bikini. She was involved in this contest’s development from 2009 to 2013. Dayana continues to serve as a NPC judge. Dayana once revealed that her best features of her physique were her legs and that her biceps as well as abs were her weak points. Training her upper body she claimed was the biggest challenge.

Dayana’s Twitter Page

Dayana also is a promoter and owner of her own company. She is the founder and CEO of Bodygift Fit which operates in Miami, Florida where she resides. Her athletic achievements make her one of the most successful Haitian bodybuilders.  Dayana’s training philosophy as she articulated ” Every time I’m training I’m not thinking about gaining more muscles.” She expressed it as she was only targeting weak areas and by doing so, she could improve balance of her physique. Dayana admitted staying a lightweight was difficult due to her genetics, because she put on muscle easily. Expressed in an interview : “the thing is for me I can be a lightweight, middleweight, or heavyweight .”  Around 2005 there were judging changes. Weight classes were dissolved so this altered the situation. Dayana had to compete against Iris Kyle and Yaxeni Oriquen . These were some of the best competitors on stage. She placed in the top three, but could not beat them. Considering, she did very well when seeing a stage of tough and experienced competitors. Her desire was to replace Lenda Murray and show that muscles on women can be beautiful. Dayana’s advice to competitors is to train hard and treat your body like an art form. The development of muscle on the female form should follow a specific aesthetic paradigm.

 Dayana believed that the sport had changed radically compared to when she first started in 1992. Her opinion was expressed in a Bodybuilding. com interview : ” These girls have changed from years back- all they think about is being bigger and more muscular, but that’s not the beauty of the sport.” A balanced physique is what makes the competitor. Symmetry, conditioning, and definition must be given proper emphasis. Size is not the only factor in building a physique. Dayana also has many hobbies when she is not involved in her personal training business or a practicing aesthetician. She enjoys reading, watching movies, and doing yoga in her spare time. At one time Dayana was pursuing a career in acting and was contemplating moving to California. She was on record that she would continue to compete until she gets busy with her acting. This did not come to fruition and instead from 2009 onward continued to be seen on IFBB contests. The interesting aspect of her training is that she would do cardio first, followed by a rest then train with weights. Dayana’s last competition was in the physique division in the 2012 Tampa Pro. She has no plans to return to stage, but left an impressive competitive career.


Dayana Cadeau

If Women Were As Strong As Men Would Human Civilization Be Different?

It has often been cited that men’s physical strength built civilization. Some scholars claim that this is the reason why women were at a disadvantage. Men who are on average stronger were able to impose patriarchy by physical force. These statements are incorrect . Women’s oppression has been related to the lack of financial independence, education, and access to employment. When human societies shifted from hunter-gather structures to permanent settlement and farming much of the inequality that is recognized today began to emerge. Women were through out history not allowed to own their property. Many times when marriage occurred women’s property went to her husband. Marriage when it became part of human civilization was nothing more than a property arrangement. Women were not considered humans or citizens , but property. Marriages were mostly arranged ones. Selecting a partner is a relatively new phenomenon. It is dubious that if women were just as physically strong as men discrimination or sexism would end. An oppressor only needs to have a system of organized violence and dominate institutions to maintain control. That does not provide a reason for why a majority of societies are male dominated.  The explanation is rooted in competitiveness, human evolution, and sociology. If women were as strong as men there would be some differences in human civilization. Certain occupations, relationships, and elements of society may change.

         Civilization can be defined as a state in human society in which there has been the establishment of culture, a governance system, and a complex social structure. Egyptian, Roman, and Greek civilization are examples of early complex orders. Civilization can be found anywhere humanity decides to live. Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania have long histories of human migration, settlement, and the establishment of civilization.  Normally,  settlements occur next to river systems. Water is not only a necessity for living it also holds importance as a commodity. There could be more civilizations that existed, but they have yet to be discovered. Archaeologists and historians  have a challenging  task to rediscover the past and provide a lucid interpretation of it.

It has only been recently in that academics have given consideration to women in history and the rise of civilization. It was not until the 20th century that women’s history was given serious investigation. Prior to this, women were not given any attention at all in the historical narrative. That did not mean women of prominence did not exist. Hatshepsut, Hypatia, Nzingha, and Queen Elizabeth are just some of the women who made large impacts on history. There could be more women who also contributed, bu they are either forgotten or records of them are lost. Cultures that recorded their history through oral traditions may have either disappeared or been wiped out. This same problem can happen with written documents either being lost or destroyed. The earliest known forms of writing may have emerged around 3400 B.C.E, but there could be the possibility other writing systems could have existed prior to this. There are so many possibilities, which makes it difficult to know exactly what the ancient past was like. It is even harder to figure out women’s stories in the span of human history. Anthropologists, historians, and paleoanthrologists are to extract information from artifacts and fossils. Human evolution, farming, and technology would alter the course of world history.

        Sexual dimorphism  is the phenotypic  and physiological evidence of human evolution. Sex differences are the products of millions of years of genetic and biological evolution history. The majority of primates have a level of sexual dimorphism, but in other species the female is larger. This has to do with reproductive strategy. Arachnids produce young in large numbers at once. Canines produce puppies in liters. The reason this is done is that it possible that most will die and having more would allow for a guarantee that at least some would continue to spread genes. Primates have more parental investment in their young, because they do not produce them in large amounts. It is rare for a woman to have quintuplets. The reason for producing one child at a time was more efficient for primates. This explains why women are on average smaller than men. There was no need to be large, because the only reason to be that way was to hold young during the gestation process. This is based on theory and natural history observation. Men’s greater size and strength was probably an adaptation to compete for females. This also relates to sex selection in evolutionary history. Sex selection is mate choice in the context of the process of natural selection. The males that were the healthiest or strongest would most likely attract more mates, because they have the potential to reproduce more off spring. This indicates the possibility that our ancient ancestors may have been functioning on a system of polygyny.

Sexual dimorphism is visible evidence of the human evolutionary past. 

The fascinating part of human evolution is that sexual dimorphism actually decreased among the hominids and australopithicines . Homo Habilis males were 60% larger and Homo egaster as well as erectus were 20 % larger. This could mean that there was a shift in evolutionary history from strict competition to group defense. Size may have no longer been a favored trait and began to diminish in importance. Human beings are genetically closer to chimps which have a 35% difference in male and female size. The modern day human has only an estimated 15% to 20% size difference between males and females.  The assumption from this point would be that sexual dimorphism would continue to decrease. However, this is speculation considering there has not been a concrete explanation why it decreased in different phases of human history. The conjecture is that when humanity switched to farming and permanent settlements this effected the human body. This may explain the changes in bone and muscle strength of human beings during the rise of civilization.

 Men and women can manipulate their bodies to high physical fitness levels. Yet, sexual dimorphism does not disappear with this change in body. 

The thesis that men just by being stronger gave them dominance does not seem to be as cogent an explanation. Strength differences are partly genetically determined and can be subject to modification based on environment. A woman who works out can be stronger than a man that does not. A strong woman does not seek to dominate weaker men. If all women were strong as men the structure of society and civilization may not radically change. This suggests that differences in positions in civilization  are based on a combination of behavior, discrimination, and the pyramid structure of society. Biology or evolution does not create inferiors. Women for a longtime have been cast as the biological inferior, which has been disproved by history and science. Biological sex difference and dimorphism do not explain patriarchy.

        There does exist societies in which women hold considerable power, but are not by definition matriarchies. Matriarchy has not existed in human civilization thus so far. If one did surely it would have been during the hunter gatherer stage or have continued in some form into the Paleolithic or Neolithic ages. There is a tendency to confuse matrilneal kinship with matriarchy. There are societies in which women do have relative freedom as well, even without the presence of feminism. The Mosuo people of Tibet are a society of “walking marriages.”  Women choose their husbands by walking to the house of the man. This society functions on extending family network. The largest households are headed by women. Marriage does not exist as an institution. Women and men live together while still functioning as a family unit. As demonstrated by the structure, it does not require women to be physically strong or use violence.

Other peoples such as Minanagkabau of Indonesia also demonstrate a system in which women are prominent members. Women have the power to remove chiefs if they believe he is not able to fulfill his duties. This tribe that lives in West Sumatra may hold a record to how sex relations worked prior to the rise of farming and agriculture. There are still roles men and women have in the context of their sex, but it does not mean women are without rights. This system is not exclusive to Asia, but can be found in various places around the world. Ghana and the African continent has a tradition of the matriclan.  The Akan peoples base their whole system around female inheritance line. The men still hold the leadership roles. This would not be a matriarchy in the sense that some perceive it. The Bribri of Costa Rica once more follow a similar organization pattern. Women can inherit land and it can be passed down through the female line. Women also hold an important responsibility in this society preparing cacao rituals.

The Garo however have minor differences in sex relationships. Marriages are arranged for the youngest daughters of the inheritance line. The process for the non-inhereiting daughters follows a procedure more complex. The bride to be’s family must hunt down the groom and capture him. This is repeated until the groom acquiesces or the bride capitulates. This Indian ethnic group that resides in the state of Meghalaya would not be by definition an example of gender equality. Marriage is not a binding contract in this society, therefore couples and end it without stigma or legal repercussions. The Nagovisi of New Guinea share the trait of marriage not being institutionalized. To a degree this trait among these tribes does give women a level of freedom.

These societies are not matriarchies, rather social systems based on the matriclan. The only matriarchies that exist are one in ancient myth. Amazons were thought to be a society run and dominated by women. The question remains why the women in these societies if they have favorable positions are not seeking to dominate? The answer is in the fact there is a difference in terms of male and female competition. Men may be genetically wired to be more competitive and aggressive. If women were as physically strong this would not change as long as behavior and its  biological roots were the same.

      Farming and permanent settlement was the most significant turning point in human history. This gave rise to civilization as it is known culturally, politically, and sociologically. This resulted in the inequality that we see today. Those who could produce surplus food or resources were at an advantage compared to people who lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Relevant to women, under hunter gatherer societies they enjoyed better conditions. As the historical passage of time continued, their status would fluctuate and the dramatically lower with the rise of monotheistic religion. Farming began around 8000 B.C.E resulting in a switch from hunting. Animals were domesticated with the most important animals such as oxen and horses used for traction around 3000 B.C.E. What started in the Fertile Crescent (Israel, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt ) spread to Europe. Elsewhere farming and agriculture developed independently. The spread of farming caused a growth in population. This was the birth of civilization with the pyramid structure of social hierarchy. Chiefdoms would become cities. Mesopotamia saw the rise of some of the world’s first cities. Between 4500 to 2000 B.C.E the world witness the beginning of civilization. Women lost status in this transition to civilization. The theory that men were advantaged because more physical strength allowed them to monopolize manual labor, which gave them more control over food supply and therefore more authority. The problem with this is that technology negates the need for muscle power. As time progressed the Industrial Revolution occurred and machine power was outpacing human power. At this point it seems that physical strength was not as essential, when civilization became more technologically based.

      There are some professions in which women at at a disadvantage. The physically demanding occupations such as law enforcement, firefighting, military, construction  and sports have fewer women. The reason is not just sociological, but biological. Women have less muscular strength than men and have higher attrition rates the more intense the physical activity gets. This means only a few women would have a presence in these fields. Proper exercise and training can help women perform better. However, the numbers will not be equivalent. If women were as strong as men there would be higher numbers in these fields assuming laws against discrimination were enforced. It should be understood that more women in particular professions does not equal a peaceful society. More women in the military or police would not lead to calm. The reality is states around the world are held together by violence or threat of violence directed at its citizens. Laws are more about control, rather than protection. Gender stereotypes, such as women being more peaceful have some believe erroneously that wars would stop if more women were in power. There are women who have advanced the cause of aggressive warfare. Condolezza Rice was an advocate fro the attack on Iraq and Hillary Clinton convinced the Obama administration to intervene in Libya. Ethnic, religious, and national hatreds are too powerful, so women being in power would not change anything. The numbers relative to physically demanding occupations would change, however if the power structure remains the same there would be little difference. The most radical change would mean that sports would be co-ed. If there was little difference in strength and speed there would be no reason to have separate divisions. This does not mean automatically women’s sports would become more popular, because there would probably remain the discriminatory obstacles based on sex.

           It seems that male dominance is not based on physical strength, rather around differences in competition and aggression. These traits were part of the evolutionary past and continue to have influence on behavior of humankind. Men tend to have more aggression and are more willing to use physical violence. This is not completely biologically based; boys in various cultures are taught to be more aggressive. This does not mean women are not capable of violence or fighting. They show aggression in a different manner that is verbal according to anthropologist Helen Fisher. The male response is a physical one. This difference in aggression and competitiveness explains why there are more men in the military, politics, and business. To an extent, these profession to require a level of cooperation. At their core it is about being as aggressive as possible to reach the apex of power. Women must maneuver in a system that is against them and sometimes the reach this level of power. Others may be stopped.

Ellen Sirleaf President of Liberia and Sheik Hasina  Prime Minister of Bangladesh are political survivors specifically because they are competitive in their government structures. Countries in which female leaders try to balance certain systems either find themselves deposed or victim to the corrupt political structure. Dilma Rousseff  former president of Brazil was impeached by a corrupt judiciary system. Yinluck Shiawatra the former Prime Minister of Thailand was removed by a coup disguised as a Constitutional Court decision .   Women who are in power have to be more cunning and aggressive to maintain it. Politics, commerce, business,  and finance  are a few areas in which societal power rests. Women lag behind in terms of reaching a glass ceiling. Even with reforms and anti-discrimination laws there remains a persistent problem. The difference in male and female competitiveness and aggression hinders the women’s advancement. It would take many years to change particular behaviors. One step would require parents to encourage their girls to be more competitive and go into fields that are male dominated. This may change this gender based disparity that is seen in modern civilization. I may not negate it completely, millions of years of the evolution of behavior cannot be overturned instantly.

          If women were as strong as men, this would effect relationships between the sexes. Men with more insecurities would have trouble adjusting or men who believe in strict gender roles. There is already a reaction to women becoming more financially independent or being a bigger presence in the workforce. Sexual harassment and misconduct in business, media,  and the entertainment industry   demonstrate that men still want to keep women out of particular areas. Women’s rise has often been met with violence is societies that want their submission. Domestic violence may not even disappear. Although men represent a higher number of perpetrators, women make up a smaller percentage. It is not clear if this would increase or decrease with women having more strength. Traditionally, men attracted female attention through status. When arranged marriage decline in the world, men and women began to select their own partners. The men with the most money or resources had an easier time getting companionship. The shift now is that women can acquire high status without male assistance, which has changed the gender dynamic. Men with less resources will struggle more to find long lasting relationships. This explain why it would be rare to see a female CEO dating a janitor. The practice of endogamy  applies to class, ethnic group, and religion. Men would have to either compete more to establish  meaningful relationship. While there would be a change in amorous relationships men’s behavior might change in how they treat women. Some men think they can bully or direct violence at women just on the fact they are stronger. This would change, because women would no longer be considered easy targets. Like any oppressed group women  revolted against mistreatment and feminism radically changed women’s status in society.

        The biggest change to women being as strong as men would be that the dynamic of protectionism of women and male disposability . These two concepts are reliant on one another and to some extent harm attempts at establishing gender equality. The idea that women must be shielded from life’s hardships was designed to restrict their freedom.Women were in this perspective too weak and helpless to survive on their own. Male disposablility was the idea that men should be glad to sacrifice themselves no matter how deleterious for the sake of community. This was basically an argument used in times of war. Men should in that view be happy to go off in die in a cause that they might not have investment in or could benefit from. The idea that men are naturally tougher comes from the notion they are physically better suited for hardship.Survival depends on many factors and strength is not the only one. If men and women were of the same strength capacity these two practices would end. The concept that women need male protection is based out of  dated chivalry. If women were seen as capable then the whole dynamic would be altered. Women would in this regard become disposable and would most likely end up being drafted or doing things that were once thought to be improper for them. Tasks that require strength or physical skill were thought to be improper for women to do. Even though women have proven themselves capable, there are still objections.

         Civilization has been a speeding train of change and development. Technology has drastically changed our culture and society. From the first primates to leave Africa to the modern cities of the contemporary era humankind has come a long way. The hunter gatherer stage of human civilization was the probably the closest point in which society was completely equal. Yet, this could even be brought into question. Hierarchy exists even when a modern form of government is not present. It seems that human behavior is not wired for equality, rather competition. Behavior and social structures are important indicators of how a civilization functions. This explains that why women if they were strong as or stronger than men would probably not be in a better condition. Competitiveness and aggressiveness has driven history. This came at a cost. It resulted in imperialism, constant warfare, and many egregious injustices. This has created much anxiety about whether humanity can survive. There may be small chances of hope that this can be reversed. Currently, it seems there is a rise for some women to power whether it is political, social, mental, or physical. These scenarios are only speculation and the future still remains a mystery.


Harari, Yuval. Sapiens A Brief History . New York : Harper Collins Publishers, 2011.

Ehrlich, Paul. Human Natures  Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect . Washington DC:                         Island Press, 2000.

Woolf, Alex. A History of the World the Story of Mankind From Prehistory to the Modern           Day.  London : Artucus, 2013.      

Garrison , Laura. “6 Modern Societies Where Women Rule.” Mental Floss, Mental Floss , 3 Mar. 2017,

If Women Were As Strong As Men Would Human Civilization Be Different?

Study: Women Trained In Self-Defense Far Less Likely To Be Sexually Assaulted

Self Defense

Originally published in 2015 a study was conducted in Canada seeing if self-defense was an effective method at prevention of sexual assault. The study focused on university students who underwent 12 hours of self-defense training  courses. The women who underwent training were less likely to victims of attempted sexual assault or attacks in general. The study reached conclusions that were made by the self-defense instruction company Model Mugging. They surveyed 60,000 students it was revealed that 98.3 % were able to avoid assaults, while 97% were able to fight off their attacker. There was also a portion of 80% who did not have to sue physical force to stop an assailant. While these statistics are positive, there is a problem. Sexual assault is an under reported crime, so the numbers of women who are victim to it could be much higher. There are issues surrounding self-defense and effectiveness. It cannot be denied that self-defense  essential to women’s health and well being.

        The common misconception is that self-defense does not work. This falsehood has been born out of the idea that women are victims. It also stems from the conviction that women are too physically weak to defend themselves. The frailty myth has created a dangerous situation. It should be understood that men are not impervious to women’s kicks, punches, or skilled movements. Criminals and assailants normally select victims that they think are easy targets. The average man is stronger than average woman, but the equalizer can be made with learning martial arts. Judo, karate, and taekwondo are just a few forms of martial arts that can aid in women’s self-defense. Simply being strong does not guarantee preventing or stopping attack. If a person does not have fighting skill or technique they will not be as effective at protecting them self.

Learning self-defense is the key. Also preventative measures are also important. Being aware of your surroundings and the people next to you in an environment is pivotal in personal protection.  There are practical considerations in terms of effectiveness. The body has vulnerable spots of attack. The  head, abdomen, and groin are major striking points that can inflict much pain. It should be realized that one strike does not debilitate an attacker automatically. Many strikes and hits may have to be used. The point is not to beat the attacker like it is a match. If there is a possible route of escape, that should be the first option.

The article describes the myth of the “juggernaut foe.” This is the attacker that will not get harmed when punched or bruised. The fact is these attackers are not henchmen on a television program or film. Possible assailants could be people you work with or live next to. They could vary in size and strength levels. They reality is a large portion of rapes are done by a man the woman knows. Date rape and acquaintance rape are prevalent in society. May be it is not so much women are incapable of defending themselves, but the shock of knowing someone they thought was an ally is really a predator. This is exactly why the notion women need a male protector needs to be overturned. It is more likely that women will experience violence from an intimate partner. Domestic abuse rates are higher for women compared to men. Globally, women’s physical security is under threat. The situation is better in the West mainly because of the influence of the second  feminist movement in the 1970s and changes in the laws.

Map3.1NEW_Womens_Physical_Security_2011_compressed      There is exists no place in which women are completely secure. The reason for this is either due to warfare and traditional societies that do not regard women as people.  Women may not be given equal protection under the law. If women globally lack physical security it only makes rational sense to have self-defense skills. Women can fight back if taught properly. This requires learning how to use the body effectively and unlearned certain aspects of social conditioning. Women are taught that they cannot excel at anything that requires strength or physical skill. Then it requires women not being as fearful. To a degree women are taught to fear and obey men. This must be challenged. Women must learn physical skills to be effective. Physical education for girls may be more important than just maintaining health.

Learning to protect yourself is essential, especially in a world with the problem of prevalent sexual harassment and misconduct. All the female boxers, MMA fighters, wrestlers, weightlifters, and bodybuilders have shown women are capable of creating powerful bodies. Self-defense does work, but some styles of martial arts are probably more effective. The study did not specifically say which fighting style was used, so there is no answer to this question.

     Strangely enough, there have been objections to women’s self-defense from a group that one would think would be advocates. Victim feminists are critical of women’s self-defense, because they think it promotes an atmosphere of rape culture. Nia Sanchez who in 2014 stated that women needed self-defense to prevent sexual assault was attacked by victim feminists. The Miss USA contestant and martial artist was actually making a logical argument. There is no element in victim blaming when who empower themselves physically. This does not excuse a culture in which sex crimes are so prevalent. Prisons, college campuses, and the US military have a problem with rape. However, victim feminists never discuss these cases of sex crimes .  This is why the #me too movement will most likely not be effective. It only focuses on sexual harassment and assault in the workplace or positions of power, rather than all spheres of society. The other problem it presents women as constant victims that must be babied and protected. Wallowing in victimhood   is not progressive or empowering. A manufactured dissent movement from social media will not solve the problem of sex crimes .  This also leads to the issue with the concept of rape culture. It believes that boys are taught to rape and this creates rapists. It does expose that there is a culture of misogyny in various communities that do not value women as people. However, no one is teaching boys to rape. The rape culture concept presents all  men as rapists or potential rapists.   The idea of teaching a rapist  not to rape seems as ludicrous as teaching a Ku Klux Klansman not to be racist. The solution to this would be to teach boys that girls are your equals and not sex objects.

Rape culture may not be as descriptive. This is misogynistic oppression ,because it is designed to control women in some way.   This by definition would not be considered a culture.
Misogynistic oppression harms society in many ways. The rape culture theory does not understand that all men get demonized. This revised chart of rape culture explains  it has a cycle, but fails to see how victim feminism acts a contributor.

Culture by definition can be defined as ” the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization” or “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” The behaviors that are defined in rape culture are aberrations and crimes. These behaviors are anti-social and unacceptable to polite society. This explains why it is hidden from public view and why individuals of power can get away with sexual misconduct. Donald Trump and Ray Moore were able to commit sex crimes without punishment , because they were men of power. These individuals should be caught can punished to the full extent of the law. The problem is that sex crimes are not taken as seriously in the US criminal justice system. There needs to be a change in the attitude of law enforcement. They are guilty in terms of the institution that does most of the victim blaming. That culture of siding with the criminal, rather than being an advocate for the victim has to change. Victim feminists are not helping women by presenting them as helpless and need of protection. The #me too movement could fall to this or be co-opted by other groups with an ulterior motive.

The best method is to be proactive and to also utilize other techniques to overturn the system. Women have to break themselves away from a state of learned weakness. This will also have to be challenged also in the media. Women are too often presented as victims or subject to gender stereotyping . Time Magazine or the New York Magazine have presented the helpless victim image on their covers. Media attention does help a cause, but it must be managed in a method that can convert the public to a particular cause. When victim feminists do not support self-defense for women, they are really being anti-woman.

         There is another equally ridiculous argument against women’s self-defense that goes to another spectrum. It has to do with women gaining false confidence and becoming drunk on power. There is a notion that women who get power in any sense will become abusive and men will be their targets. They will go out and pick fights with men or end up harming themselves. This does not happen, if it does it is rare. Some individuals are more violent than others, but learning self-defense has never caused a person to go out and randomly assault people.

The point of self-defense is to protect one’s self not to  be aggressive to other people. Their is subtle misogyny in this position. Women who show too much strength are considered dangerous, erratic,  or out of control.  Women showing competence or skill can intimidate some men who believe that women should hold a secondary position in the societal order. Women showing power especially physical power, induces some trepidation in some men. The fear is projected in the myth that if women can defend themselves men will be harmed in the the process. So far, such comedic irrational  fears have not materialized. The only reason such people would object to women defending themselves is that is another way for women not to be controlled. Simultaneously, it is a way for some men to maintain rigid gender roles.

The problem come with that fact that for so long masculine identity has been associated with strength and machismo. Fighting or dominating women has unfortunately been a part of that. This explains why their is such a negative reaction to women who have physical skill and power. It is a new age in which women all around the world are rising economically, socially,  and politically. This has caused men to either fell threatened by the change or react with violence. Physical strength some feel is the last thing men have left in a world of  rising women. This is not the case either, considering women are also becoming involved in sports, fitness, and physical activity. This change should not be seen as an attack on men, rather society becoming more equal between the sexes.

The problem was that there was not a men’s liberation to accompany the women’s liberation. As a result, boys get mixed messages about what it means to be a man and how men should treat women.  Society seems to tier between the dated machismo of the past and the equality values of the present. There is also a wider battle between extreme social justice warrior and extreme alternative far-right conservative that prevents rational discussion. Although controversial, the false confidence does have some truth. Some women may do things they could endanger themselves. Walking alone at night in a dangerous neighborhood, hitch hiking, going to a home of a stranger, or drinking too much at a party could be taking unnecessary risks. Decision making is critical to personal protection.  While there are victim feminists, there are also power feminists who are extreme in the opposite direction. They do not believe in equality, rather that women should just amass as much power as possible. It functions on gender antagonism rather than harmony between the sexes. Relevant to self-defense it may given women an overestimation of their physical abilities. To them women hitting a man is not a problem, but if a man does this it is a tragedy. Violence is never justified or acceptable, but women who are engaged in assaults are not seen as something serious. There does exist women who do engage  in criminal acts of rape, domestic violence,  and sexual assault. This is not a concern to the power feminist. There are women who even assault men with the expectation there will be no retaliation or condemnation. Violence is horrendous no matter  who does it. Women should realize when you lay your hands on someone that escalates conflict to another level. It should be clear that starting a fight with someone stronger than you would not be wise.

Nia Sanchez who has a black belt would know better than to pick a fight with with Theresa Bostick. There is a difference in fighting skill, but the difference in strength is far greater. 

Women attacking men is not something that should be promoted. Power feminists subtlety encourage this to a degree. The desire for power feminists to compete with men on all levels has created a toxic atmosphere. The one area that they have met a road block is the physical one. Due to physiological, biological, and anatomical differences women are not have the same physical fitness capacity as men. This does not mean women are not physically capable of inflicting harm. This is why male victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault are not taken seriously, because it is thought men are suppose to be strong enough to protect themselves. Gender stereotypes work in both ways and distort reality. It assumed that women naturally would be the victim and men the predators. This is not always the case. Women can be the perpetrators and men can be the victims. The majority of statistics show that it is men who inflict the violence, but women make up a small portion of initiators. The myth is that one needs to be physically strong to be abusive. That is not always the case. A woman could resist abuse, but refuses to do so because they still have a dependence or love of their partner. Abuse even occurs among same-sex couples, which is rarely studied. This problem is more complicated than previously thought.

Which of these women do you think committed an act of domestic violence? If you answered all three of the strongest ones you are wrong. Hope Solo was charged with domestic abuse (bottom right corner)  when she allegedly beat up her nephew and half sister. 

The domestic abuser is not some man in a wife beater shirt or a hulking brute. They can be male or female and come from various class and ethnic backgrounds. The distorted logic of the power feminist is that women should be as hostile to men in every since of the word. To them it would be better to be offensive rather than defensive. This is somewhat understandable if crime statistics show how prevalent rape and sexual misconduct are. The problem is every man is not the enemy. There are men who are just as vexed about sexual assault and the abuse of women. Nothing will be accomplished if men and women are against one another. This could morph into something much more sinister. The US has in particular a culture of violence and self-defense has found itself caught in that particular controversy.

        There is a divide in self defense about the use of weapons. Guns are in particular a controversial subject. There is an element of truth that guns can be an equalizer when confronting a person more physically powerful, yet there are problems with this claim. The first has to do with gun safety and training. If  an individual does not regularly go to a shooting range or train with arms they will not be effective of using them. The same also goes for hand to hand combat. If one does not practice the skills they learn will become dulled. This is where a false sense of confidence could actually hold some merit.

Just having a gun does not make a person safer. It is possible that it could be used against  the owner. Access to the weapon and how fast one can pull the trigger are factors. There are also factors that influence hand to hand combat. How fast are the attacks and skilled the attacks are make a difference. While confidence is important in defending one’s self there should not be an exaggerated sense of ability. Caution and careful consideration of a situation should be the first step to any self-defense strategy. Having a gun or martial arts skills does not make a person invincible.

The US is dealing with higher levels of gun violence than ever before. Mass shootings and gang violence is enabled by the prevalence of firearms. More guns means more opportunity for criminals, terrorists, and hate groups to cause havoc. The conservative motto is ” an armed America is a safe America” does not hold truth. There is a possibility that an assailant could have a gun and a much better one in terms of firepower. This means the advantage is negated. Gun control can reduce crime and make society safer. Adding guns to self-defense only complicates matters. There is a possibility one could shoot a person by mistake or suffer a fatal accident themselves. Women who may be paranoid or have an over exaggerated idea about men’s strength could be just as fast to pull a weapon from their bag. Gun advocates claim taking away guns will leave women vulnerable. This is not true if they learn how to fight. It seems the motivations are not about women’s well being, but rather to enrich gun manufacturers and increase the power of the gun lobby politically. The alternative to this ( or counter argument) is that stun guns or mace can be used. This only works if it is readily available and if it can be used fast enough. The best defense is your arms, hands, and legs. These are with you at all times. Unarmed self-defense may be more reliable, but there has not been a study to prove this position.

         What needs to be understood is that self-defense is not just about fighting. Avoidance and escape  strategies are required for any effective program. Learning to comprehend certain surroundings and read the body language of individuals allows for prevention. Having good judgement can help a person avoid a perilous situation before it starts. Also a change in mindset is helpful. A woman who demonstrates a level of confidence, forcefulness,  and assertiveness will be the least likely to be victimized by a predator. This can happen to anyone, but there are methods of fighting back. Do women need self-defense? Given the current situation it is necessary. It is still a  dismal  state of affairs that women and even girls at a young age are subject to sexual abuse. It would be wonderful to see a world violence and crime free, yet this is only in the dreams of utopians. Sexual assault may not be completely eliminated, but it can be reduced. It requires being proactive and change in attitudes. Every man should encourage their wives, girlfriends,  daughters, and female friends or associates to learn or get involved in a self-defense course. Their safety and well being depends on it. Law enforcement needs to take accusation seriously and punishments must be more severe for sex crimes. Till that happens, women must stand up for themselves and not wait for men to protect them. The study shows that self-defense can work,but it needs to be taught to more women.

Study: Women Trained In Self-Defense Far Less Likely To Be Sexually Assaulted

Sports Are Silly – An Essay From It’s The Women Not The Men: Surviving Feminism

Sports Are Silly

The essay produced from It’s The Women Not The Men: Surviving Feminism is an example  of dated gender roles, sexism, and the promotion of  extremist far-right politics . Feminism has a multitude of flaws, just like any other ideology, but say it is destructive to society is an over exaggeration. The author proclaims how second wave feminism has changed society for the worst and presents her writings as “warnings to young women.”  As the author describes  her  warnings as :”  my blog will show that the dramatic rise of immoral and destructive behavior among women can repeatedly be traced back to the public encouragement of this behavior, as “liberating”, by an irrational, radical, second-wave feminist “leader” or a misguided, female academic’s ambiguous feminist theory.” She explains further : “through my research, my personal experience, and that of my fifteen, formally fabulous, friends, I will illustrate the damage unleashed on our society by women wallowing in the erroneous theories of personal “independence”, “emancipation”, “freedom”, “self-expression” and “liberation”, specifically, “sexual liberation.” K.Q Duane is a self described essayist who clearly falls into the philosophy of Phyllis Schlafly. A extreme conservative who opposes social and political change in every area of life. The author clearly has a fundamentalist Christian bent saying ” the leaders of this radical, anti-Christian feminist movement were only interested in the limelight, and in the impersonal, and superficial, results of their theories. They were NOT interested in the tragic losses their troops would suffer while trying to become “liberated”, feminist “Superwomen.” It is obvious that the author does not approve of women having control of their lives or freedom. The evidence is clear when she discusses sports. She makes the claim that certain sports are designed for men and women should not take part in them. It should be understood that political extremism does not just express its self in a public atmosphere; it enters cultural spaces.

          Sports can be in a way a frivolous activity. Minus the sexism and misogyny of the author’s essay and convictions  America has become so obsessed  with sports to a ludicrous degree. There is not one day that goes by in which some one is not talking about football, basketball,  or baseball.  More Americans could probably describe sports better than how their government functions. Hardcore sports fans would be able to name their favorite athlete, theirs statistics, and how many games in a simple fashion. Sports has almost become a second religion to people in the US. The claim that the “America stopped constructing huge cathedrals more than 100 years ago and today we are building huge stadiums instead, while those same cathedrals are being closed” is false. America actually is so fanatic with Christianity it is causing a divide in our government and politics. There are Americans who reject evolution on religious grounds, oppose abortion, and oppose gay rights for the same reason. Another contradiction of the American fundamentalist Christian movement is that they say they support religious freedom, but have an intense prejudice of Muslims. Islamophobia, sexism, and racial intolerance are pillars of the fundamentalist Christian movement. Christian Identity movements are now a growing section of hate groups in America. With all this division and hate it would see as if sports could provide a unifying force.




Entertainment is thought to be a neutral ground in which conflict can be put aside. This is not true especially with sports. Sports is another extension or battleground for politics. It can serve as a distraction to a population when their are economic and social challenges. The gladiator fights were not just a method of dealing with conquered peoples or slaves,  it was a way to entertain the Roman population. The US does this in a similar manner with Football and the tradition of the Super Bowl. Focusing on a game rather than the corrupt and ineffective government in Washington stops real change from happening. Sports have become a serious element of peoples lives. It does go to an excessive degree. Professional sports generate huge profits from merchandise, advertisement, and ticket sales. It is also tied to the fitness industry in terms of athletic apparel and training equipment. Athletes can be seen in Nike and Adidas products.

Such a flow of money on games does seem comical. The funds generated from the professional sports world could best be used on infrastructure projects and public schools. There are Americans who complain about their taxes, but do not complain about the money they spend on sports related activities. Another element is how universities do exploit the students who play sports. While a sports scholarship does provide opportunity for some, there is question about priorities. A new term has emerged known as the student athlete. The priority should be to complete one’s higher education, rather than being a sports star. If this is a career path a student wants to follow they should realize that many have attempted and it is very competitive. Becoming a Micheal Jordon or Robert Griffin III is rare. Students should not be discouraged from trying  if that is their goal. It is pivotal to have other plans as a contingency if the first one does not succeed. It does seem a bit excessive how parents push their kids into sports they may not even like. There are soccer moms and football dads who think they are going to mold the next super star athlete. Such reasoning does seem ridiculous. They are children and the most important part of their development is learning how to navigate the world. The only purpose of children playing sports is to teach them how to work in teams and have a positive attitude in regards to physical activity. There are behaviors that are silly, but there is a reason that people do these activities.

          Sports for some viewers provide a refuge from the turmoil of daily life. It is another escape, which provides a level of comfort under stress. Hobbies are not just designed to occupy time; they allow for a sense of psychological relief. The constant bombardment of negative news, a failing political structure, economic struggle, and a culture of animosity can cause distress. Sports can be a shield to such negativity. People as do this with their religion. The reason people still maintain their religion is that it gives them a sense of comfort. It provides them with answers ( although not rational ones ) to a complicated existence. The problem is that people become extreme with their religion and want to impose such convictions on everyone else. The essay condemns women and men who like the idea of women playing sports “designed for men” yet fails to realize sports globally has women of various backgrounds participating. The devotion to such activities has to do with comfort and a coping strategy for uncertainty.

 Other than questions of ontology religion is also a culture. It has a set of memes passed on through the generations. Should it be that these two rituals of religion and sports are just as silly as one another? Yes, they can be. People engage in particular activities without even questioning them or believe they are absolute truths. There are norms and mores that people adhere to without a specific reason only on the basis it is a long held tradition. It is more than okay to like sports or religion, yet this should not mean you should stop using critical thinking skills. Dogma becomes so powerful that it wraps decision making skills, behavior, and conduct in daily life. Girls and women playing sports is no more ridiculous than the belief systems one chooses to adopt. Certain beliefs and actions may seem that way to others, but to particular individuals it provides solutions. For conservatives who claim they champion freedom, they do not mean this. Freedom also involves the freedom of choice. That means you believe in what you want and can do what you want just as long as it does not harm anyone else. Sports are a leisure activity in which both men and women can participate in.

          The distorted thinking about sports is that there are “men’s” sports and there are “women’s” sports. The author holds to a backward belief that certain sports are male only and are designed for men. Anyone can compete in sports or physical activity. Sexist prejudice has blinded many into thinking that sports are male only and that women are just not capable athletes. Not only is this misogynistic, it is a fabrication. There are plenty of women and young girls who show skill, strength, and speed.

Sports are not activities designed for men. Women have been a part of sports since ancient civilization. Spartan women for example run, threw javelins, and did swimming. The women of ancient Egypt participated in ball games and acrobatic dance. Africa has a long tradition of wrestling in which women also became active in. Women wrestlers could be found in the Diola, Yala, and Njabi ethnic groups. This was a ritual done more so as a rights of passage into adulthood. There are no ” sports designed for men. ” As long as one has the skill and fitness they can play them. The author cites that ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, and basketball are sports for males. Women are capable of playing these sports and so are girls. K.Q Duane’s objection to this is based on a strict and dated view about femininity and gender roles. Sportswomen or girls in sports in her view are not real females. She even states ” isn’t her being a girl good enough for you?” This goes to the root of sexist thought. There are some things people who have this belief think women should not do. Even if they are capable, it is not considered proper. The role of women in the social conservative and traditionalist mindset is that a woman should only be a wife or a mother. Their role is to maintain a home and produce children. This attitude does not value freedom or personal decisions. Having a wider identity is reserved for men only. This has changed and there has been a backlash to women advancing in areas that were male dominated. Sports seems to be another bastion that there is the most negative reaction directed at women from being participants in.

The pseudoscientific explanations are normally used to  justify women not playing sports or getting involved in physical activity. The persistent and factually incorrect one is that the female body is too weak for vigorous activity. The frailty myth was used a means of saying women were biologically inferior. It was once believed that if women played too much sports it would harm their reproductive capability. Women needed the rest cure when reaching puberty to handle the role of motherhood. Victorian Age 19th century medicine promoted such beliefs designed to restrict women from use of their bodies. Some women challenged this falsehood by cycling, getting involved in archery, and croquet. When it was demonstrated that women could handle physical strain, detractors used another argument. Women playing sports was simply unladylike and unfeminine. Today’s attitudes are more accepting of women of different body types, however body image still continues to pressure women. Women who exhibit powerful physiques are subject to unfair ridicule and criticism. This not only done by men, but women are also part of the systematic ostracism.  The author is part of this problem by saying  “women who deliberately act and look butchy deny themselves, and the world, their irretrievable and fleeting beauty forever, which is very sad and a great loss for everyone, especially themselves.” Projecting strength, confidence, and independence is not being less feminine, but are necessary traits  needed to survive in the world. Her homophobia is clear by using such language. To Duane the only value a woman has is in her looks, rather than the content of her character. Women are nothing more than ornaments to some people, rather then a free person. Women can be whatever they choose to be. This concept that certain women are not “real” women is backward.


It is unfortunate that women’s actions and behaviors are still judged in the context of narrow minded gender stereotypes. The image of woman still continues to be one of being weak and helpless . When such falsehoods are exposed, there is a backlash. The social conservatives and the religious right view women in a lower status context. They justify this lower status designation by the Bible. Eve was the product of Adam’s rib. God created man first and woman followed second. Eve took a bite of the apple resulting in the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Prior to this Adam did have another woman named as Lilith. However, she showed too much independence and was banished then replaced with Eve. The story of Genesis demonstrates the misogyny of monotheistic religions. Woman’s only role was to serve her husband or be a mother. Ancient civilizations worshiped goddesses. The rise of organized religion placed women in an inferior status. Many who are part of this section of conservatives do not believe women should have any role in the public sphere or workplace. Sports to them is the ultimate expression of masculinity and women playing them there for violates nature. There simply is no violation of nature, because these are games invented by people.

         The myths about women’s bodies continue to be propagated. One is that they are not designed for strength or power. The frailty myth has been used as a justification to exclude women from sports. Any athlete can be subject to injury whether they are male or female. This also is related to the idea that women must be protected from certain activities. Protectionism and guardianship limited women’s independence in a legal context. Women needed either permission from their husbands to open bank accounts or get credit cards. Women if they were not married needed to be supervised by a male guardian. The fact was this was not ensure women’s safety or well being, rather it was designed to keep them subordinate to male authority. Saudi Arabia has a system like this, but that is changing as women are needed to be active in the labor force. A woman’s body is strong than previously thought. However, it is true that women are subject to higher injury rates due to specific differences. Looser joints, smaller tendons, and ligaments increase they possibility of injury. This means there has to be considerations in contact sports. Anterior cruciate ligament tears are more frequent in the female athlete. There can be prevention of such injuries in adults and children. Working on weak muscle areas and increasing hamstring strength can help. Learning the right techniques in jumping and pivoting properly can contribute to preventing ligament or tendon based injuries.

     Another area women involved in sports  should pay attention to is the shoulders. Women are at risk for shoulder injuries, if they so not train their upper bodies properly. Musculoskeletal injuries are prevalent in women who are in physically demanding occupations. The only solution to this is that women must incorporate weight training into their fitness program. Doing so builds the bone and muscle mass required to withstand strain and force.

Athletes should be mindful of overuse injuries. Relevant to children it should be recognized that their bodies are still developing. The author discusses injuries in girls, yet people do not take the harm it does to boys. The boys are expected to withstand the abuse to an unreasonable degree. The problem with this is that it creates a culture of male disposability and sheltered female. Children should not be treated in the same way as professional athletes. Being young and sustaining concussions will effect health later in life. The health of athletes should be  a priority whether young or adult. Sports are played a little differently meaning that they are rougher. Referees should not let fouls be ignored, just because fans want to see more violence in their games. Sports injuries can be managed and prevented. Girls and women can play any sport just as long as weight classes are respected. The female body has been seen a fragile for so long people think its biological fact. There are girls that wrestle boys oh teams in schools , because there are not enough to form a girls  for them. So far, there have not been mass injuries. Being female does not automatically equal weakness.

          There is a cultural and gender bias against women in sports. Women who show strength are compared to men and are considered gender inappropriate. Sociologically, this describes the behaviors and codes of conduct men and women are going to follow in a society. Those who violate that schemata or role are shunned or excluded from the mainstream. The author proclaims “girls should be girls”  and expounds further : ”  they can volunteer at the hospital, day care center, soup kitchen or at church. She then pontificates  “they can learn to sing, paint, garden, cook, dance, sew, quilt or do needlework. ” It is almost bizarre that such ideas are still present in the 21st century.Women can still do all these activities  and play sports. Domesticity should not be the only part of a woman’s identity or function. There are women who challenge stereotypes and biases everyday.

There should be no contradiction between being strong and a woman. Religion and traditional family values if they want to survive have to change to function in modern day society. The concept that everyone should be married or have a nuclear family simply will not work in rapidly changing societal shifts. More people are in the developing world choosing not to have children or avoid marriage. There is nothing wrong with this, because it does not work for everyone. There may come a time when the social custom becomes obsolete. Families are not all the same either. There are extended families, single parent households, or adopted ones. The idea that feminism or gay marriage is destroying the family is incorrect. The destruction came from economic decline and the failure of neoliberal capitalism. Women in sports are just like other women. They are just involved in an area that has been male dominated. Prejudice and bias blinds people judgement to the extent of not making factual assessments. Strong women can display beauty and femininity. This may not be everyone preference, but there are different types of beauty.

There seems to be a movement toward body acceptance in regards to larger women. The question is why are women who are in another kind of body shape are not a part of this. Many times other women are the most vociferous detractors of women going into male dominated fields. This can be explained by how some women are raised. To extent women are raised with a level of self loathing and hate.This manifests itself in either low self esteem or be hypercritical of other women. Some even go as far to say “why are these women destroying themselves?” Sex bias is present in both the political left and right. This seems more surprising for  the left considering they pride themselves on “tolerance.”

The Young Turks do not seem liberal when it comes to body image. 

They may use the rhetoric of  gender equality, but do not attempted to advance such causes. There is only tolerance up to a certain level. The conservative view point is so blatantly misogynistic in terms of the restriction on reproductive rights and the refusal to address unequal pay.  The Donald Trump presidency demonstrates that their still is a huge amount of sex bias in American society. Donald Trump has been known for his sexual misconduct and sexism, but continues to get praise from conservative allies. There continues to be cases of both Republican and Democratic politicians who have engaged in sexual misconduct. It is no surprise that women also face the same issues in the sports world. Female athletes are paid less and are subject to disrespect. Female sportscasters are to do more to prove they are knowledgeable and also face sexual harassment in the workplace. Women who are in the sports world have to struggle against dated cultural bias, which believes women have in place in such activities. Only when these convictions change can real progress be made.

          Sports and physical activity does have benefits to health. This is probably more important for women due to differences in anatomy and physiology. Women have less dense bones and as the human body ages bone mass is not replaced as rapidly. Women have a higher chance of getting osteoporosis due to this difference. Children who have a positive attitude in regards to physical activity most likely will continue exercise habits as adults. Obesity is become a public health issue, but for women it can be more precarious. Due to differences in endocrinology it is harder for them to lose weight. Estrogen and progesterone  allow for more fat to be stored on the human body. The statement that “at the very least, most will eventually become obese” when they stop sports as children is incorrect. This can only happen if calorie intake is high and their is limited or no physical activity. It also depends on what type of diet the girl or woman is eating.It would be hard to gain mass amounts of weight on vegetables or fruit. Diets high in sugar, fat, and high fructose corn syrup can cause weight gain in a much more rapid manner. Muscles do not turn into fat when someone stops exercising; they merely atrophy. Keeping physically active through out life can prevent disease and other aliments associated with aging. You do not have to train intensely like a professional athlete. It could be just shorts periods.

   K.Q. Duane does not seem to have a grasp of exercise physiology. It is strange that conservatives normally despise science, yet they may use it to justify their discriminatory practices. The last excuse used to discriminate or say women are inferior is that men are stronger than women. While this is biological fact, it does not mean women cannot be strong. Thus, the argument that women are biologically inferior has no scientific basis. Women have more durational strength seeing as they live longer. The fact that women live longer means also they have a higher chance of getting diseases related to age. If more women are living longer than men, statistically they would be at a higher risk for dementia. Alzheimer’s disease will be a global health crisis as world populations live longer. Girls getting involved in sports is not a terrible thing. Title IX did not just address inequality in education it had an effect on women’s health. Girls and women were becoming more physically active and this was a positive development on women’s health. Being too sedentary or inactive can have a negative impact on a person’s health.

      It cannot be ignored that feminism, and particular third wave feminism has major flaws. The author has an objection to second wave feminism, but this phase of the movement was not completely irrational. Securing employment, education, and financial independence are critical to being free in society. Radical feminists were once a small and isolated section, however their idea were revived in the 1990s under the third wave. They do not want equality,but subscribe to a philosophy of power accumulation. They want policies that only benefit women ( who are white and middle class ) at the expense of other groups. The power feminism movement thrives on promoting gender antagonism. Men are demonized as either oppressors or violent brutes. Protests and discussion is nothing more than laughable spectacle. Sluts walks are a form of protest to combat sex violence, yet are lost in the frivolous action of it all.

    While protest is an effective unconventional method, there should be attempts to fight within the legal and political system. It requires more women to run for office and become familiar with the law. A successful and enduring movement is not going to happen with protests and manufactured social media consent. The reality is that while third wave feminists claim to want equality there are some aspects of life that they do not want it. The reason is that to an extent it provides benefits that suits them. Family law and conscription who in women’s favor. Women are more likely to get more out of divorce and receive alimony. Women even though combat positions are open to them are not required to register for the draft. Even basic interpersonal relationships have been to a degree distorted. Men are the ones who still have to initiate courtship and put in more effort in to a relationship. It is very rare that a woman would pay for dinner or ask a man out. Why does this not change in an age of  so called “equality “? It is the mere fact that women want the benefits of having some freedom, bu not the responsibility that comes with it. This then swings back to victim feminism in which women need so form of protection.

  It makes it seem as if women are not capable of making their own decisions and should not be held accountable for their actions. This explains why in child custody women are favored of the father, because females are viewed as automatic victims. The idea of innocent female nature is a fabrication. Women can be capable of domestic and child abuse. While the numbers in comparison to men, these cases may not be taken seriously due to notions based on gender stereotypes. The rise of Donald Trump and the alternative right has only caused more division in terms of sex relations. The racial divide is obvious, yet there is one in terms of sex has become much wider since the feminist movement and sexual revolution. More women are taking an antagonistic view in regards to men in general, even when there are a portion who disagree with the culture of misogyny. The third wave feminists alienate men who could be allies in their efforts. What America is witnessing now is a disintegration into political factions, interest groups, race based or sex based organizations. There is no solidarity even in the left-wing or progressive movement. The United States is doomed to be destroyed by its own hate and venom. Third wave feminism has become one of many contributors to America’s slow and cancerous decline. It is lugubrious that a movement for social progress degenerated in such a way.

         Any rational person can conclude that Duane’s thesis is flawed.  Her statements are nothing more than opinions, which have limited factual support:    “the point of my post was that young women should never be encouraged to play sports specifically designed for men. Football, ice hockey, baseball, Lacrosse, wrestling, soccer, etc. women cannot handle the strength requirements of those sports and as a result, they get seriously injured AND inevitably, look ridiculous!” Sports historically were games that branched off into other functions. Some historians believe they were developed for the sake of military training. Others have proposed that they were merely religious or hunting rituals. They were not designed for men; it was just that men invented them. According to that logic women should not be involved in science, because men contributed more to that as well. What was written was a distortion of historical fact. Women will continue to participate in all types of sports, whether people approve or not. They are not projecting an image of being “ridiculous” it is one of power,grace, beauty, and strength. Young girls see this image and it improves their sense of self.

 Sports can benefit young girls and women. There should be consideration for health and possible sex specific injuries. Denying girls and women opportunities is discriminatory. The repulsive part about this is that people who try to deny women equal opportunities or rights try to disguise it as genuine concern. The short little essay uses this technique. Such uninformed opinions do require thoughtful rebuttals. Women after being restricted for so long are now seeing the benefits of fitness and physical activity. This has either threatened men or made some women jealous. This should not be view as destructive, but positive. It demonstrates that if you work had enough all dreams are possible. That has been an American ideal ( although not an actual truth ). Seeing women in the Olympics when only 97 years ago they just began to vote is a remarkable leap of progress. If this nation and world is to survive, women and men must be allowed to fulfill their potential in whatever area unrestricted. Women are entering a new age in which they will have more opportunity and power than women of the past did. These developments should be praised. Sports and general are a frivolous pastime, yet it serves as a safe escape. Women are both athletes, fans, and sportscasters. This will only help the culture grow and thrive.

Sports Are Silly – An Essay From It’s The Women Not The Men: Surviving Feminism