I got an interesting comment over on the article I wrote for Nia Shanks this week.
And while the commenter could have refrained from being snippy, there was a valid question underneath it.
“What’s the Point of writing an article about how ‘women are best at weighting’? How is that any different than saying women make good secretaries?”
So, because the topic of gender is one I’m honestly really into, and because blabbing is kinda my thing, I wrote a very long winded response.
Here it is:
1) While I am always in favor of constructive criticism, sarcasm and random rudeness are a bit silly and out of place. We’re just talking about weightlifting here, no saving people from life-threatening situations.
2) As per the underlying question: what’s the point? I have a few answers to that as well.
The first is cultural, and I think the most important. Writing an article like this that promotes the idea that women might (not in any way “proven”) be – on average – more inclined toward the sport of weightlifting is NOT even remotely like saying that Men make better math teachers, or women make better secretaries.
Why? Because those arguments were designed to keep people in their place, and to avoid branching out. More specifically, to justify a sexist attitudes toward women in the workplace.
My argument is a direct counter to the prevailing myths about women that are still very much alive and well in the culture.
To say, “you know, women make good secretaries because they can multi-task better than men,” may or may not be true … but it only helps to confirm prejudices that people of older generations were rather prone to already. (Thankfully this is changing dramatically. fixed? no. But, people in the Gen X and younger crowd are substantially less overtly sexist than the generations preceding them)
I’d argue that MOST women in the united states don’t feel like lifting weights is a very “female” thing to do … let alone compete in a sport of weightlifting.
Nia’s blog is so popular, in part (though by no means exclusively), because she is the very personification of what people mistakenly believe to be a real oxymoron: A lean, attractive, relatively small woman … who is strong as shit.
That is not in any way a true oxymoron. Those things are not incongruous. But, the culture beleives that they are. So, Nia’s a novelty.
As are all of the women I’m discussing in weightlifting.
When we’re in our sphere of the 1% of people who know and love lifting heavy shit we can so easily forget just how un-obvious it is to most people outside our sphere that women who lift competitively are, in fact, rarely “beefy” and bodybuilder-like.
This very much includes Young women.
They are clueless on this front. And we should be encouraging young girls to lift weights as much as we can.
This is one good way to do it. And the response I’ve gotten from women so far has been rather positive, in part, because they get that on an intuitive level. Many of them went through the same “epiphany” transition, themselves.
There’s a second reason I wrote it, however. Because theoretical conversations are NOT simply elevator background noise. They are the driver of future understanding and experimentally backed results.
Science of all kinds starts with Hypothesis that have to be tested.
I outlined a Hypothesis that could be tested. I gave my reasons for believing what my projected outcome would be. And now, others could set up experiments to see if any of this rings true.
I’m a guy who got a math degree for a reason. I like to think about shit that may or may not have any serious practical value in the short term. Usefulness isn’t the only reason we should discuss something.
Interest is enough.
I’m not opposed to a serious look at the differences between Men and Women. It is sexist to pretend that biology doesn’t have consequences. Pretending thing aren’t true because we’re all “equal” is a kind of cop-out that previous generations were a little more prone too. (I actually understand why, from a political position … but at some point, science is science and shouldn’t be driven by political correctness.)
There ARE real biological differences between the AVERAGE woman and the average man (where “average” is defined as I did above).
What we don’t have a clue about is just how much of a role those underlying differences play in the shaping of what people DO in their lives vs Phenotype-changing cultural and environmental stuff.
I think it’s too fascinating a topic to let go of.
As I said in my post, Great male and female lifters (athletes of any kind) are more alike than they are different. And they are more alike than like the general population of any sex.
But … that doesn’t mean that it can’t be true that a larger proportion of women will be nearer to this type than the proportion of men in the general public.
I find that to be a perfectly valid question.
Especially since I’m in the business of promoting the sport to a wider range of people … It matters to know if my efforts will pay off better if I focus a larger amount of my time promoting it to the ladies.
Market research can’t be underestimated. 😉
I know I got a bit “ranty” there. That wasn’t my intention … maybe it wasn’t yours either. But, hopefully I was able to clarify why I felt compelled to write something like this, and why I really do think it’s important.
If you have your own views on this stuff let me know either below or over on the blog at Nia’s “place”.