The Facts: Women as Strong as Men?

Sometimes the facts of women’s history speak for themselves. Did you know that on this day, December 9th, in 1897, pioneering women’s rights advocate, Marguerite Durand founded the early feminist newspaper, La Fronde, in Paris? But the real topic for today concerns this age-old question: Are men really physically stronger than women? The answer is “no” but some explanation is required. While women and men merit equal treatment, their anatomies are different. (We mean “biologically born” women and men here.) Women traditionally retain less fibrous muscle mass in their upper bodies than men who are able to build mass in their upper bodies far more quickly. Yet, even with this fact in mind, women may still gain the requisite upper body muscle mass to dead-lift objects just as successfully as men. For both sexes, intense preparation is required and, as many ladies and gentlemen find out through experience, many men are not as strong in terms of their capacity to dead-lift objects as they may appear. Women and men’s lower bodies are different too, yet here the skeletal and muscular differences have no direct bearing on strength as it is defined in our cultural mythologies. Insofar as women have denser muscle mass in their pelvis, upper leg and lower leg, it may even be the case the women’s ability to hold weight (lifting facilitated by knee bends) may be slightly greater than men’s. To accommodate childbirth, a women’s pelvis structure is roomier (for example, the pubic arch is a right angle in the female and the ischial spines extend out straight from the ischium in women). Despite these subtle distinctions of strength, the cross-cultural myth of male physical strength persists, even though women’ ability to bear great in childbirth must certainly rank them as the strongest of them all. Sometimes the facts of women’s history speak for themselves and elicit a chuckle.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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