Men versus Women in athletics
Men are better athletes than women. This is not a controversial position I’m taking, it’s a factual, and at one point in human history, obvious statement. But in today’s world of re-examining gender it could be considered both false and controversial. I am here to debunk that.
This really should not be an issue. And any athlete, male or female, worth their salt knows this truth. But those that dispense of sports stories and those that consume it may not understand it quite as well. The reason for this is because they are led to believe thinking that men are better than woman diminishes the achievements of women sports. It does not. Pretending that women can do what men can do diminishes women’s sports. And as an advocate of women’s athletics I find it disturbing and dangerous.
This issue makes headlines on a cyclical basis. The latest is when freshman congresswoman, Ilhan Omar claimed, “the myth that trans women (biological men) have a ‘direct competitive advantage’ is not supported by medical science.” She was contesting with the sport of Weightlifting for not letting a trans-woman, biological man, compete in the women’s weightlifting class. This is a more extreme argument but similar to the one we heard in years past with the McEnroe headlines.
John McEnroe said Serena Williams could not compete on the men’s ATP (profession tennis tour). John McEnroe was a great tennis player in his day, the winner of multiple Majors. Williams was the number one player in the world when she took a leave of absence to have a baby. What McEnroe said was correct. He was demanded an apology for contrived sexism. Somehow now truth has become sexism.
So, let us examine these things as objectively as possible. Are men better athletes than women?
Let’s qualify something very quickly, are all men better than all women at a particular sport? No. Of course not. If Serena Williams went and played 100 random men, she would beat most of them, maybe all of them. Because she is a skilled, talented women at her sport. But that is also comparing apples to oranges. The question is if we took a professional level female tennis player against a profession level men’s player, that is comparing the same things. Or even, taking a professional level female tennis player against a collegiate tennis player. Both have the skills and knowledge of the same sport to accurately judge who is better.
Tennis has been the sport most often used in this debate because of the farce called the “Battle of the Sexes” that happened in the 60s between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs. We have discussed that issue pretty thoroughly at this post, so we will not here. But tennis, like basketball and other team sports are much harder to get objective comparisons.
The easiest way to compare across gender is through sports that men and women compete with the same standards and are judged through time. This removes most variables when we try to compare raw athletic ability. The best sport to do this is swimming. In swimming, men and women compete in the same pool that is the same distance (50 meters a length internationally, 25 yards a length domestically). They do the same distances of events and the same strokes. Let us looks at how men and women in the same controls compare.
The shortest event is the 50-meter freestyle. The women’s world record is 23.67 seconds. The men’s is 20.91 seconds. The is a 13 percent difference. To compare, Sarah Sjorstrom, the fastest woman to ever swim the event would not even qualify for U.S. Olympic Trials with that time. The U.S. Trials standard time for men is 23.29, a whole .5 seconds faster than a woman has ever swam. In the 2016 Olympics Trials there were 140 male swimmers in the Untied States that swim faster than a woman has ever swam the same event.
Let’s move to another event, the 100 freestyle. The World Record for the men was done by Cesar Cielo of Brazil in a time of 46.71. Sjorstrom holds the woman’s record at 51.71. That is nearly a 5 second difference in time. Freestyle, in swimming is swum with the fastest stroke option of front crawl. The butterfly is the second fastest stroke. Michael Phelps holds that World Record in the 100 meter butterfly with a time of 49.82, nearly 2 seconds faster than the fastest female swimmer has ever swam, any stroke.
Backstroke is the third fastest stroke because the event starts in the water and does not have the advantage of the block start the other strokes do. The fastest ever 100 backstroke is 51.85, a tenth slower than the World Record Women’s fastest event. In other words, the male event which is not given that fastest start is on par with the fastest women’s event.
Let’s take a moment to explore different distances, maybe that is the issue. Katie Ledecky is a phenom in the distance events. She has broken decades old World Records and literally laps her competition. Her record in the 1500 freestyle is an impressive 15:25.48. The men’s record for the same event is 14:31.02. Almost a full minute separates the best man from the best woman. In the 800 freestyle, again Katie Ledecky has an outstanding time of 8:04.79, nearly 30 seconds slower than the man’s record. There are 16 seconds that separate her from her male counterpart in the 400 freestyle.
Woman are clearly inferior to men in all aspects of swimming. Taking a look at USA Swimming’s Youth Time Standards, the youngest age they have them is 10 years old and the boys and girls standards are basically the same (these standards are base on a percentile of the average American swimmer). By the time kids reach the age of 12 years old the difference in the 50-yard events has grown to two seconds, favoring the boys. By 18 years old that divide has moved to 3 seconds. The fastest females 50-yard freestylers rank in the middle of the pack to their male counterparts.
These differences find themselves in other sports as well. Running, another sport that takes out the variables tells a similar story. Usain Bolt’s World Record in the 100 meters is nearly a second faster than the fastest woman has ever run the event.
In the Mile, the women still have not crossed the 4:00 barrier, a barrier passed by the men decades ago. There is 30 second difference in the mile between men and woman.
Does that mean that women will never beat the 4-minute mile, no. I hope and expect woman to continue to push themselves and strive to defeat those glass ceilings. Women should and will continue to train and push themselves to be better. But telling woman that they are the same as men is a lie.
No, they can’t jump as high, run as fast or swim like a man can. But a man cannot create life within their bodies and woman can. Girls can have full confidence and self-worth by judging them to their standards and not expecting them to compete against those who were created different.
We shouldn’t be demanding apologies or apologizing at all for saying things that are true.