Friday, April 25

Strength equals superiority?

Hardly, I should say. Nevertheless, it is an easy mistake to make.

As before, this post was sparked by a discussion I had with a younger colleague of mine. He’s twenty (about 12/13 years younger than me), male and, as a result of that, sees quite some things differently from me. It’s quite enlightening to discuss things with them - especially when it comes to the so-called ‘gender questions’.

When I mentioned that a woman in a tight corner would be just as dangerous an adversary as a man, he immediately said this couldn’t be true. He - as a man - were stronger and more agile than any woman, so she wouldn’t be a danger to him. Reality, though, might prove him wrong (not that I think he might be backing a woman into a corner willingly, mind).

For one thing, physical strength can be an important factor in a fight, but it’s never the only one. Knowledge, mastery of a fighting technique, determination, motivation or just dumb luck are other factors.

The knowledge (maybe even the intimate one) of the opponents body, of its weaknesses, can easily change the outcome of a fight. A knee in a man’s groin can end a fight immediately - but so can hitting the ears, the throat or the pelvic area (those are weak points for all humans, mind).

Being a master (or at least advanced student) of a fighting sport (no matter if it’s boxing or karate or something else) also can give the seemingly weaker part an advantage against pure physical strength.

Determination and motivation (often combined) are often highly underestimated. Determination can make a person fight, even if any sensibility or logic would speak against it. A very determined being should never be underestimated - it could prove deadly or at least damaging. Motivation (either because the ‘weaker one’ is protecting someone/something important or knows the consequences of not fighting would be devastating) also makes a dangerous opponent. Wild cats have been known to successfully attack and drive away a bear, just to protect their kittens. A mother trying to rescue her child might lift a car on her own (at least high enough to pull the child out or enable it to get out alone). The human body has a lot of resources and determination coupled with motivation can set them free, changing the chances dramatically.

Luck is also underestimated. A hit does not have to be well-aimed to be devastating. Blindly flailing your arms around could in the end deal a deadly or highly dramatic injury to an opponent. That doesn’t make the winner a better fighter, but in a fight for freedom or escape, bringing the opponent down (dead or unable to go on fighting) equals ‘winning’.

So, is my colleague right? Not really, but you have to distinguish between ‘normal’ and ‘drastic’ situations.

In normal situations, women are less prone to fight and therefore less likely to win a fight, for sheer lack of experience alone (there are exceptions). In our society, girls are taught to avoid confrontation and go for compromise instead (which also means they’re standing less chances to get high up the career ladder - because up there you need to go for confrontation, not for compromise). A boy is supposed to defend himself, to challenge an opponent and fight (physically or with words) to win. Backing down and looking for another way to achieve something is seen as a weakness. A girl doing the same is accused of not being a ‘real’ girl and will be considered ‘abnormal’. There are (and always have been) girls who nevertheless go for physical confrontation and are not afraid to really join a fight. And in other cultures (mostly those where people lead a nomadic life and everyone in a tribe must fight to survive in a battle), things are different. Scientists today think, for example, that the stories about the Amazons have been sparked off by the Scythes (a nomadic people living in Asia and Asia Minor) where women definitely also fought as warriors. Some scientists even reject the idea of only men being hunters in the dawn of mankind, seeing women also hunting animals.

When it comes to drastic situations (for example the choice between ‘fight’ and ‘die’), things change, of course - although women are more likely to fight for those weaker than themselves (like children) than to fight for themselves. Just look at this ‘fight or die’ thing: If I fight and loose, I die. If I fight and win (‘win’ meaning ‘get out of the situation by killing or disabling my opponent’), I live. If I don’t fight at all, I die. Fighting means the chance of survival (however small), not fighting means certain death. Most humans prefer uncertain death to the certain variety.

Women fighting against other women are not a nice sight, either. Fighting between men follows certain rules, at least. It’s mostly down to using physical strength against the other one, trying to hit as hard as possible. Fighting between women means biting, spitting, scratching, the pulling of hair and other highly ‘unfair’ methods. It’s a fight with the use of all means possible. That’s why people whose job it might be to separate the two fighters prefer breaking up a fight between men to that between women.

Strength only equals superiority when it comes to some situations, any person relying on this might be very surprised and endangered in others.