Class today (March fifth) was incredible. Discussing the same question for over an hour, with nearly everybody in the class pitching in their two cent’s was fascinating. The debate raged on, with no clear consensus aside from the fact that if you were male, it was horrible to be beaten by a female in pretty much any activity. But the most interesting part of the discussion, and the one I have found myself thinking about the most, was the debate about gender in sports. Women’s sports are often laughed at and lorded over by men’s sports and male viewers. Women’s basketball is not interesting because the women can’t dunk on the 10 foot hoops. Women’s soccer is relatively popular in the United States, but is unpopular everywhere else. Softball keeps women from even playing baseball, and women’s football can be exceptionally ridiculous, sexist and exploitative. However, this discussion didn’t really resolve what, to me, is the biggest issue for female athletes: the occasional disconnect between theory and reality.
Thank god for the shoulder pads. Otherwise this could be dangerous.
In theory, it would be fantastic to allow women into the world of male-dominated competitive sports. There are certainly women who could play with the men, probably even do better than a lot of the men. But when it comes down to it, I’m not convinced that the strongest woman in the world will ever be able to out lift the strongest man, or outrun the fastest man. This has nothing to do with cultural norms or whether or not the woman believes she can do it through the power of positive thinking, but instead has to do with the physiological and anatomical differences that men and women had. The attachments of muscle to bone on men are larger than on women, giving the men a larger moment arm, and a distinct advantage. No man will ever be able to out lift a gorilla for these same reasons, no matter how hard he tries. Women also have distinct advantages over men in some cases, oftentimes being much more flexible than men, and more able to metabolize fats efficiently, aiding in ultra-long-distance running.
A larger moment arm means a larger torque, which means that the muscle can produce more force about the joint. F = force, r = a segment, the lower leg, for instance.
The dialog needs to change. In class, we kept indicating that men and women should be on equal playing fields, with women playing in the same leagues and on the same teams as men. This would be fantastic, and would work wonderfully in some sports, but would be harder to pull off in others. My high school soccer team was co-ed in a predominantly male league, and it was harder for the girls to play with the boys, simply because of raw speed. One of the girls had the best technical capabilities on the team, but kept getting stymied by the guys on the other team, simply because they could outrun her. Instead of putting women in a position where they might be less capable simply because of anatomy and physiology, women’s sports and women’s leagues themselves need to be taken more seriously. And it’s getting there. The WNBA is not very popular, but is only about 17 years old. Baseball has been a professional sport for over a century, basketball and football close to that. Nobody cared about them when they were in their infancy, but now they have a strong foothold in the culture of the country. Given time, women’s sports may become equally popular and equally important.