Athlete Profile:Brooke Ence

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Athlete Profile:Brooke Ence

Girls Sports : On the Right Track (1975)

This is an excerpt from 1975 from Phoenix  Films and Videos. It discusses the positive impacts of Title IX passed as part of the Education Act of 1972. Sex discrimination was prohibited in school programs. Sports programs were the area in which women and girls faced the most sex discrimination. If it was not for this legislation many women athletes would not have gotten the opportunity to compete professionally or in an international setting. There still remains challenges in terms of enforcement and ethnic as well as class disparities. Far-right presidential  administrations continue to attempt to dismantle it. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos wants to dismantle Obama era additions, which has caused much controversy.

Girls Sports : On the Right Track (1975)

Women’s Sports Documentary

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

Women’s Sports Documentary

Amazon Feminism Erasing Biology as A Barrier to Equality

Amazon Feminism Erasing Biology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puberty Growth Pattern

Boys and girls development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Amazon Feminism Erasing Biology as A Barrier to Equality