There is an interesting conflict that sometimes comes up when feminists get on the internet. (Understatement of the century.) It has to do with physical strength. We have been told our entire lives that women are not as physically strong as men, especially in the upper body. Our chin-up requirements were lower in gym class in high school. So were our push-up requirements. When there are heavy things to be picked up, thrown, or pushed, a man gets hired to do it, not a woman. And yet, many authors argue that, in one way or another, women can be just as strong as men, if not more.
Now, I don’t think anyone on the planet would have difficulty with the fact that SOME women out there are indeed stronger than SOME men out there are. Obviously, a woman who has been lifting weights and training hard for years will probably be able to do more pushups than a man who has never lifted anything heavier than a Dorito. But the issue goes further than that. There are actually people out there who argue that ANY woman, with effort, can become as strong or stronger than ANY man, no matter what their biological or hormonal disadvantages may be. For instance, this author argues that because women’s lower bodies are built to withstand the strain of childbirth, this automatically means they are structured to lift more weight than men, which is a blatant assumption based on zero research whatsoever. Another writer gives three examples of very strong women and uses them to speak for the whole of the female persuasion. I wholeheartedly disagree with this notion that on the whole, women’s bodies are capable of attaining the strength that men’s bodies attain, and I don’t think it has anything to do with my clearly nonexistent belief that women are weak little vaginas, destined to a life of struggling to open jars of pickles and weeping.
Take, for instance, one of my role models. Her name is Dana Linn Bailey. (That’s her Youtube channel, go check it out.) DLB has been training for years, and has risen to the elite ranks of IFBB pros. She can bench her own bodyweight something like twenty-six times, which is absolutely remarkable for a woman. It is, in fact, remarkable for any human being. She is ridiculously strong, stronger than most of the men I know. She is a perfect example of the undeniable truth that some women are capable of becoming stronger than some men.
But look at DLB next to her husband, Rob. Dana and Rob live together. They follow a similar training regimen. If anything, Rob trains less than Dana, because he often films her workouts for Youtube. Dana’s diet is far cleaner than Rob’s. And yet, in his videos you will see him bench and squat easily four times what she does. See Rob beast it. Beast, Rob, beast. It is ludicrous to suggest than Dana could ever become stronger than Rob. He could probably snap her in half like a stick of Wrigley’s. He has the natural advantage of his gender. Still don’t believe me? Take a look at the world powerlifting records for both men and women. These records were set in three main strength-based exercises: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. You’ll notice that in almost every single category, the record set in the male division was much heavier than that in the female division. Even if you think of the men and women you know who aren’t athletes, this holds true. I know men who have never set foot in a gym in their miserable little lives, and they can still do more pushups than me. There are several biological reasons why women’s physiques are not built for strength the way men’s are.
Men and women look different. This is obvious. Men are born with penises. Women are born with vaginas. We have more breast tissue than men. We are usually shorter. We have less body hair and facial hair. These characteristics are called “sexual dimorphism,” which is present in most species. Sexual dimorphism is what makes the female peacock a dull brown color, while her male counterpart is ablaze with color. In the human species, sexual dimorphism goes slightly beyond genitalia. Women actually have been proven to have shorter, smaller muscle fibers than men in many places. If the muscles are smaller, they have less range of motion and less kinetic potential to move weight. Also, men typically have at least 20 times the available blood testosterone that women have. Testosterone, which can be used as an anabolic steroid, is a major hormone responsible for the growth and strengthening of muscle mass.
So why does this matter, anyway? Isn’t it just a major downer to have to admit that women are almost always physically weaker than men? Well, sure, a little bit. But come on, ladies. We have a lot going for us. We live longer. More of us go to college. So what if we can’t throw around gigantic chunks of iron the same way our decidedly hairier counterparts can? It’s okay to admit that there are physical differences between men and women. It doesn’t mean that women aren’t as good as men. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve respect at the gym, on the field, in the ring or anywhere else. It means we’re not as strong. That’s all it means. It’s not sexist to say that women can’t lift as much as men; it’s true. Being a strong woman doesn’t mean making up lies to support your conclusion. You can be a feminist and still acknowledge what is fact. Comfort yourself with the fact that you have never peed in your own eye in the morning and you probably never will.