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The Frailty Myth

Redefining the Physical Potential of Women and Girls

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Can women be equal to men as long as men are physically stronger? And are men, in fact, stronger?
These are key questions that Colette Dowling, author of the bestselling The Cinderella Complex, raises in her provocative new book. The myth of female frailty, with its roots in nineteenth-century medicine and misogyny, has had a damaging effect on women's health, social status, and physical safety. It is Dowling's controversial thesis that women succumb to societal pressures to appear weak in order to seem more "feminine."
The Frailty Myth presents new evidence that girls are weaned from the use of their bodies even before they begin school. By adolescence, their strength and aerobic powers have started to decline unless the girls are exercising vigorously--and most aren't. By sixteen, they have already lost bone density and turned themselves into prime candidates for osteoporosis. They have also been deprived of motor stimulation that is essential for brain growth.
Yet as breakthroughs among elite women athletes grow more and more astounding, it begins to appear that strength and physical skill--for all women--is only a matter of learning and training. Men don't have a monopoly on physical prowess; when women and men are matched in size and level of training, the strength gap closes. In some areas, women are actually equipped to outperform men, due partly to differences in body structure, and partly to the newly discovered strengthening benefits of estrogen.

Drawing on extensive research in motor development, performance assessment, sports physi-ology, and endocrinology, Dowling presents an astonishing picture of the new physical woman. And she creates a powerful argument that true equality isn't possible until women learn how to stand up for themselves--physically.

From Publishers Weekly

Sep 04, 2000 – In analyzing the differences in physical performance and strength between the sexes, Dowling (The Cinderella Complex) asks not only what the effects of men's superior strength and access to physical activity have been, but whether men are, in fact, naturally physically superior in the first place. In her exploration of the still radical idea that the differences between the sexes have more to do with training, encouragement and cultural beliefs than inherent biological difference, Dowling argues further that the historical straitjacketing of women's physicality--what Dowling calls "learned weakness"--has elicited contempt from men, made women vulnerable to sexual humiliation and short-circuited women's willingness to take risks. Citing a mountain of contemporary research regarding women's athletic performance and its political and psychological ramifications, she defends her position with passion. But Dowling's argument that boys' performance advantages before adolescence are culturally induced is much stronger than her case that the same is true for men. She calls for a reevaluation of athletic contests on a pound-for-pound basis--suggesting that size, not sex, is the determining factor in athletic success--and cites women's advantages in endurance and flexibility, but doesn't offer much more proof of men's and women's physical equality beyond that. Though Dowling builds a solid case for her view that the unnatural weakness of women is a public health crisis, and though she offers a heartening evaluation of how quickly the strength gap is narrowing in an era when women's sports are exploding, some readers may be left to wonder whether comparing men's and women's physical performance is, in itself, a trap.
The Frailty Myth
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Sep 05, 2000
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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