Irradiated by LabRat
Earlier I was laughing at what is a sadly not-uncommon thread of discussion in gamer communities that are not particularly moderated, which is gamer dudes lamenting the apparent injustice that video games sometimes have female characters that aren’t damsels to rescue and even sometimes makes the player play as a female character. The part that got the actual horselaugh out of me as opposed to “roll eyes, move on” was one guy playing “what if” a woman were realistically the character in a first-person shooter; apparently it would be hilarious because she couldn’t lift the rifle without dragging the barrel, load it, or hit anything, and if she shot it anyway she’d break her shoulder or something.
Someone did the usual “we apologize for the abominable trolls in our nerd culture because they’re socially awkward and inexperienced with anyone who is not a fellow unsocialized troll exactly like them” thing, and it occurred to me that the inexperience speaks for itself- not merely with women or anyone that doesn’t have to brush the cheeto dust out of their neckbeard when trying to look swank, but with real-world physical skills in general.
Shooting is still a boys’ club, so are most strength-based fitness sports, and for very obvious reasons they attract a lot of macho, competitive young men. But it occurred to me that I very rarely hear gender based “women can’t shoot/load/rack/shoulder (blah)” from men who have trained, competed, and especially taught a lot, in much the same way that I see very little “women are frail/weak” talk in areas where people are training seriously for strength/speed/power and not guys who’ve done a little at the Globogym to try and pump up.
The reason why isn’t an onset of enlightenment or even growing out of any sexism or misogyny, it’s experience. If you work seriously to train a skill and don’t isolate yourself, you are going to get outperformed, by lots of people who’ve trained more or smarter than you, and even in areas where men as a gender really do have a physical advantage (in shooting they don’t, unless you’re shooting elephants) some of those people are going to be women, and it’s not just going to be when you’re just starting out.
I’m not saying there aren’t significant gender differences in certain physical domains; anatomy and endocrinology make that Just Fact. What I am saying is that the curve of training is a very long one, much longer than people with no experience of it tend to imagine, and the two places it’s most relevant are the ends- completely untrained individuals, and top-level competitors. In a physical contest between a man and a woman who’ve trained roughly as hard and roughly as smart, the man will almost always have the edge*- but there’s so much distance in between the two end points that big experience and development gulfs that easily exceed any theoretical innate advantage exist, and often.
Or, to put it in much shorter terms, if I see someone saying something along those lines, what I actually read is “I live in the basement and never lift anything heavier than a cereal box, and neither do the six or so other people I know.”
Super TL;DR: Yay Dunning-Kruger effect.
*Though not in cases where the most important thing is not actually raw power, but strength to mass ratio. When two athletes are both strong enough to do things like handstand pushups and pullups for reps and speed and are competing on those terms, the male upper body strength advantage may not be enough to give him an edge when he weighs 220 pounds and she weighs 105. This is, I think, why I see such a near-total lack of gurlz-are-weak in Crossfit boxes as compared to bodybuilding circles; a lot of their workouts are structured like that, so guys get smoked in workouts by tiny women often enough to make an impression.