"Sometime What You Need Is A Thousand Words"

Why They Are Different And How They Got That Way

By Bill Dobbins

With human beings, the male is on average noticeably larger and stronger than the female.  There are many species in which this is not the case (ask a male Black Widow spider, for example), but the reasons for these specific gender differences in humans are based on sound biological and evolutionary principles.

To begin with, although she enters puberty and begins her adolescent growth spurt earlier than the male, the human female grows for a much shorter period of time.

Her endocrine system produces large amounts of female hormones (such as estrogen) and only small amounts of male hormones (testosterone). 

As a result, she is on average smaller than the male, with a smaller, lighter skeleton; she has more body fat and less muscle mass, particularly in the upper body.  Her pelvis is wider, her legs attach to the hips at a greater angle---making her mechanically less efficient---and her center of gravity is lower since a higher proportion of her body weight is located below the waist.

Why these differences?  For the most part, because the human female is biologically specialized for child-bearing.  Thus:

(1) She grows for a shorter period of time so that she can bear children earlier without the energy demands of her own growth competing with the energy needs of the children she carries or nutures.

(2)  Her female hormones are closely associated with various reproductive functions.  But these hormones do not have the anabolic, muscle-building effectiveness of the corresponding male hormones, which is another factor limiting her ability to build strength and muscle mass.

(3)  Women have a wider pelvis to facilitate child-bearing; they have more body fat in order to provide adequate energy storage to enhance the chances of survival for themselves and their children during times of famine; and their lower center of gravity, however mechanically inefficient, is an bio-engineering solution to the problem of compensating for the extra weight of carrying a child.

In the evolution of the human species, women traditionally participated in the gathering of food and, in more recent history, the growing and harvesting of crops. But being specialized as child-bearers and nuturers rather than hunters and warriors they didn't need to be as big and muscular as the male.

Given this biological heritage, unless the species undergoes considerably evolutionary change in the future, women are always going to be weaker, slower and less athletically capable than males of the same size, genetic talent, and state of training. 

Nonetheless, the world is full of strong, well-trained women who can run faster and farther, hit a tennis ball better or who are stronger than lots of non-athletic, non-trained males.  A man had better be a hell of a tennis player before he undertakes to compete against the likes of Stefi Graf.  He'd better be quick before challenging Jackie Joyner-Kersee to a race.  And if a man is not a big, strong, well-trained weightlifter, he ought to think twice before getting into a strength contest with someone like world-class powerlifter/bodybuilder Bev Francis!

Or a contest in having babies, either!