Ability Gaps vs. Perception
“When you spot a giant ability gap between ages and genders, you know you’re looking at nurture, not nature,” writes Christopher McDougall in his new book Natural Born Heroes and author of the wildly popular Born to Run. In this particular part of the book, McDougall is hanging out with two infamous British “gutter fighters” while researching real-life survival tactics. His book’s general, underlying theme is that we do not have to be massive or technically the strongest person in the room to out-fight someone — or fend off a larger attacker. Or to be a hero. And the advantage of a smaller person is not necessarily intelligence, but physiological as well if we (re)learn to access a natural, innate ability to use our body better.
These gutter fighters, “The Twins” as they are called in the book, who apparently could win any “real street” fight against anyone, expound the theory stating that a big ability gap between men and women is cultural and based on a perception specific to humans more than reality. “Male and female geese differ in size but not in speed; otherwise migration would be mayhem. Same with trout: if males rocketed past females, they’d always be first to eat, last to be eaten, and on their way to a disastrous shortage of spawning partners.”
This idea is fascinating mainly because girls — especially girls and women in industrialized societies — are regarded as delicate and near fragile. And the reality is that women’s natural abilities, which are similar to men, have faded because we’ve adapted to cultural norms where we are not encouraged to use our original, natural resources as much.
“Compared with other animals, men and women are remarkably alike. We’re roughly the same size and shape, and share the same biological weaponry. Men aren’t specially equipped with horns, fangs, or giant racks of antlers, like the males of other species, and they don’t dwarf women; men are only about 15% bigger, not 50%, like male gorillas. We need to be similar because for most of our existence we shared similar jobs.” The last few hundred years, when cultural perceptions changed, are only a blip in that time line.
And not all is forgotten within our DNA: “We’re creatures of restraint — of endurance and elasticity –and that’s where men and women, old and young, are most alike. When it comes to tests of endurance, like distance running and swimming, the performance difference between ages and genders is even smaller than the difference in our size; it’s only about 10%.”
“Anatomically, (and with practice) there’s no reason the average woman can’t throw a ball as hard as the average man. Strength and physique aren’t the issue; when researchers tested Aboriginal Australian girls who grow up hunting alongside boys, they found the difference in top-end throwing velocity was only about 20%. … A reason women don’t generally throw as well as men, it seems, is because they don’t throw as much.”
McDougall’s book Natural Born Heroes is a fascinating read for many reasons beyond this particular research. But these pages struck a cord personally. I spent a big part of my life fighting my way into games and explaining to people that I would be just fine doing … whatever: playing pick up ball with guys, moving furniture myself, carrying out my own dog food for god’s sake. And I’ve spent an equal amount of time fiercely clearing a path for my daughters to bravely do whatever they’ve wanted athletically — and otherwise. It’s nice to read that it really has been perceptions that limit us most of all. Instinctually the brave ones already know this. Busting through limiting perceptions is obviously not confined to women nor is it just men putting it upon women. It’s includes any group that feels marginalized by untruths. Sometimes we’ve heard a false story so long, we believe it ourselves. Changing others’ perception is a long, brave fight. But starting with ourselves will be the most liberating of all.
30s Parralette hold
15 Kipping ring dips
15 Double lateral burpees
–1min Rest between rounds–
“Team WOD/Teams of 2
15 min AMRAP
75 Power Cleans (135/95)
75 Box Jump Overs (24″”/20″”)
*One partner working at a time
**Partners may position reps however they’d like, however the non-working partner must be in the designated resting position in order for the reps to count.
DESIGNATED RESTING POSITIONS:
Burpees – Hold barbell overheard (135/95)
Power Cleans – Hanging from the pull up bar
Box Jump Overs – Plank from the elbows”
“Running On Empty”
20 Lateral Box Skip Overs / Burpees
20 Ring Rows
20 DB Push Press (35/20)
20 Alt. Jump Lunges (Single Ct.)
20 Sit Ups
6 Bar muscleups
9 Clean and jerks (115/75)
12 Back Squats