Back when I was a raging feminist, I went around insisting that men and women were just alike, and that all of our differences owed to socialization. There were endless studies I could cite to support my claims, and no shortage of academics lining up to echo my cry.
But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that in the social sciences, you can pretty much conduct a study to prove any point you wish to make. My own father, who is a retired sociology professor, often says he wishes he’d gone into physics or astronomy, because they, unlike the social sciences, are actually fact-based, with real answers.
Social sciences, meanwhile, as as malleable as boxed mashed potatoes.
For instance, if I wanted to “debunk” the “woman-hating myth” than men have facial hair and women don’t, I could find bearded women at the circus. I could also say that the peach fuzz some women get waxed off their upper lips at the salon every couple of weeks is proof that we are all merely socialized by a sexist society to think men have facial hair and women don’t. But we all know, at the end of the day, that while some women have facial hair, most do not, and even those who do, don’t have it like the guys do. It’s common sense.
In my middle age, I’ve begun to be far more interested in common sense than in agenda-based academic magic tricks. I am interested now in those things that actually do make men and women different from one another, because I think we all know, intuitively, that we are different. Insisting that we’re alike, in spite of our own eyes and experiences, doesn’t solve any problems; rather, it creates new ones.
I have begun, instead of railing against all the ways we’ve been socialized to think we’re different, to take a look at all the ways we have been erroneously socialized to think we’re the same since second-wave feminism took hold in America in the 1970s.
Let’s look at the issue of physical strength. For years, I was like so many others steeped in feminism in that I pretended men and women weren’t all that different, strengthwise. It was a just myth, I said, that women weren’t as strong as men. It was all just a matter of proportions, I said. Women were every bit as strong as men, for their height.
The only problem with this notion is that it…just ain’t true. There are gender differences in physical strength. Period. Men are stronger. You might not like it, and you might throw a tantrum about it; but nature doesn’t care what you like, and isn’t impressed by your tantrums.
Study after study has proved that men are stronger than women, including one by the National Institutes of Health in the United States, which found that women were 52 to 66 percent as strong as men, physically. In addition, men have more fast-twitch muscle fibers, proportionally, meaning they can build strength more easily.
So, there it is. I’m not going to feel badly about having to ask the cowboy to open a jar for me anymore. It’s just the way we are built. It’s just life. As the cowboy often says, “Just because something isn’t fair doesn’t mean it’s not true.”