One of the few genuinely large observed differences between men and women involves throwing ability. Men, on average, are much stronger throwers than women. Hence the phrase “throws like a girl.”
That we observe a difference, however, tells us nothing about where that difference comes from. Figuring that out is much more difficult than simply measuring difference and sameness. We know that the difference emerges at puberty, suggesting that sheer size might have something to do with it. But the fact that boys and men, on average, get much more practice throwing than women might also play a role. How to test this?
Well, here’s one way: compare men and women throwing with their non-dominant hand. Muscle memory doesn’t transfer from one side of the body to the other. Accordingly, since most people have a lot of practice throwing only with one hand, comparing the throws of men and women using their non-dominant hand might tell us something interesting.
I don’t know that that study has been done, but an enterprising videographer has captured video of a set of men throwing with the “wrong” hand. What I like most about the video is the men’s facial expressions. You can see them laughing at themselves, suddenly reduced to a beginner thrower. Though we still don’t know how much of it is biological and how much social — though, this is the wrong question anyway — it reveals that, no matter what the answer, men’s throwing ability is strongly related to practice:
A big thanks to Reynaldo C. for sending in the video!
Cross-posted at BlogHer.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Yrro Simyarin — February 20, 2013
I love that video.
Given the original insult was usually directed at other men, it seems that the assumption was usually that it was learned. Most things that men are called out on for doing "like are girl" are policing learned skills/actions.
Among sports researchers, it's fairly established I think that a good throwing motion is one of the hardest and most complex sports skills to learn.
LynneSkysong — February 20, 2013
On side a note (since I think all the guys are throwing with their left, non-dominant hand) I wonder how much "handedness" is more enforced that naturally allowed. I've heard of cultures where the left hand is "unclean" and even it's Latin name "sinister" speaks for itself. I grew up in the US and both my grandma and dad are naturally left handed, but my dad writes right handed. I was essentially ambidextrous as a toddler, but was encouraged to pick a hand (specifically the "right" one) in preschool. Now, I write right handed and do most things better left handed, unless it's something I'm regularly confronted with that's made for a right handed person. I'm not truly ambidextrous because I have many different actions that were taught and practiced with a different hand, so the preference depends on the action (whether due to school, society at large, my family, or my own predilections). I just wonder how many more "lefties" or ambidextrous individuals we would have if things weren't already predominantly made for right handed people and if right handedness wasn't favored over left.
Kama — February 20, 2013
this article came out earlier this year about the throwing difference between men and women: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-09/fyi-do-men-and-women-throw-ball-differently ... and the scientific article that is linked in that news story is also really interesting when talking about gender differences.
Jjok2R — February 21, 2013
Your argument for our physical difference is that people can't throw as well with their non-dominant hand?
Face it, people are inherently different. This exercise is forcing equality on the unequal is ridiculous.
Bhoberland — February 22, 2013
In studying development, there are benchmarks for when certain physical activities are learned, developed and finally mastered. My book listed the progression for overhand throwing with a caveat that it was averaged for when children in the US learned the skill. Apparently it is learned later in other countries.
Of course this is me vaugely remember a weird piece of triva from years ago. If someone could back me up / or show no difference that would be great.
AnnaBA — February 23, 2013
This reminded me of when I used to run on a grade school track. It encompassed a baseball diamond and two soccer fields. It gets boring when you run around in a circle, so I would watch practices...and I never noticed it until one day when the boys and girls teams had practice at the exact same time. After that, I made it a point to observe the practices everyday. What I saw: The boy's coaches would constantly engage them. It rarely happened that the boys were ignored. If the boys started to lose interest or get bored during those rare occurrences, the coaches would yell at them or make them run laps. The boys were invested in.
The girls were ignored by their coaches a lot. Whereas most of the boys were constantly engaged, the girl's coaches would pay attention to a few at a time and leave the rest just standing there waiting for their turn or they'd even talk amongst themselves while completely ignoring all the girls. There was a lot of downtime during girl's practices and they got bored. You'd see them playing with the grass, staring off into space, and getting crabby. It was obvious the coaches weren't as invested in the girls and they weren't seen as important as the boys.
A few months later, I heard one of the mothers say to another mother "The boys are just naturally better than the girls. I know, I'm here for the boys and girls practices." I actually had to stop running because I was both shocked and laughing. At that moment in time when the kids were that young, none of the practices seemed to matter during the games or skirmishes because both sexes played exactly the same: one big mob around the ball. So this lady wasn't seeing difference in skill during actual games. She was observing the differences in how they were being treated at practice. For some reason, probably internalized sexism, she mistook the boys being constantly engaged as being better. But that doesn't mean all the attention and investment being put into the boys wasn't paying off. By the time they're older, they probably are head and shoulders better than the girls - not because it's natural - but because so much more time and energy is placed teaching and training them.
definitely female — February 23, 2013
I'm not good at throwing a baseball or a football because I never cared enough about it to practice doing it. Why would I bother, when I couldn't play football outside of gym class and even then you couldn't tackle anyone?
Song — February 23, 2013
It's interesting how many of the men have the -- I'm not quite sure what to call it, that little hand-flip at the end? which is so stereotypically a "girly" throwing gesture. I am guessing (based mostly on trying some throwing motions while sitting here, attempting to work out what causes that) engaging the whole arm as a unit is something that comes from practice, and the initial instinct is to throw from the hand only?
queerology - Throwing like a girl. — March 9, 2013
[...] 然後我上網查了查，也發現有位Occidental College（說實在的我不知道那是什麼學校）的社會學教授Lisa Wade寫了篇類似部落格的短文，大意是說假設女孩不善投擲是因為缺乏練習的話，可以觀察男性使用非慣用手的投擲姿勢來驗證，原文請參考這裡。 [...]
Sterty brudnych kalesonów i skrzypki z koziej dupy | Fronesis — April 28, 2013
[...] w przypadku sprzątania po drugiej części zdania, to znaleźć można taki piękny filmik na temat tego jak rzucają mężczyźni posługujący się lewą [...]
Nature vs. nurture, continued: Throwing ‘like a girl’ | NewsCut | Minnesota Public Radio News — June 3, 2013
[...] But it’s more than just men’s physical strength that leads to this disparity, argues sociologist Lisa Wade. [...]
itry2brational — July 19, 2014
Aboriginal boys and girls are both taught to throw. At an age when they've both been taught and practiced fairly equally and they are equal in size and strength, the boys still out-throw girls significantly.
Muriel C Cortes — September 17, 2021
I was never interested in learning how to throw a baseball or football. I had been socialized by family, friends and acquaintances that perfecting this skill was gendered as a male activity. As such, if I saw a man not throwing like a boy or man, I would think they had some feminine characteristics that was abnormal.
Lisa — November 25, 2021
What do you want to say to us, fkn retard?