However, I suspect you do actually believe that. You are probably being sincere when you claim not to, its just that you can't see it, because everyone believes it, everyone takes it as a given, so much so that the assumption is invisible, like the water around a fish.
It has a huge impact on the approach to take if the ultimate goal is having all of society, male and female, look at women as being humans. Not a special subset of humans, just humans, period, just like everyone else (where "everyone else" is assumed to be "men" - even though women make up half of all people).
We can agree that any violence done against someone relatively defenseless to the attacker, and not done out of self-defense, is immoral (with the possible exception of punitive reactions to misbehavior under certain circumstances, such as minor violence by parent to a child or the government to a convicted criminal - although of course many would argue that one or both of those is immoral too).
Unfortunately, because of the very assumptions about human gender and sexuality that I'm addressing here, it is completely impossible to get useful information out of what data there is on violent sexual assault. I'll come back to that issue in greater detail further on, but for now lets just keep all the raw data as is.
Even when including sexual assault, men are still far more likely to be victims of violent crime than women are.
Breaking those stats down farther, it turns out that a man is at dramatically more risk of being murdered by a stranger: 2.8 in 100,000 versus 0.4, or 7 times more likely.
Overall, including both attack by strangers and attack by spouses, friends and family, men are victims of violence more often.
Why domestic violence automatically trumps stranger violence is not particularly obvious.
But lets go ahead and pretend that domestic violence is inherently categorically worse than stranger violence is, and just focus on domestic violence.
We all know that the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women... right?
Despite similar rates of victimization, nearly all domestic violence resources are geared to women.
My point here is not "oh, poor men, why won't somebody help them". My point is our insistence that women are victims is patronizing and unempowering - it teaches women to think of themselves as natural victims.
But then, maybe, due to biological differences between men and women, women really are just inherently more vulnerable and defenseless than men?
22% of men, but only 16% of women, claimed in a survey over 6 years to engage in some form of "strength training" exercise at least twice a week. Unfortunately the published report doesn't go into enough detail to take those numbers at face value. They included "calisthenics" under the category of strength training. That can mean push-ups and pull-ups, but very often refers to activities like yoga and pilates. Especially among women. Not to down play the benefits of those activities, but any strength gains they produce plateau very quickly. Only 7% of women use free weights. But that number is still misleading, because even when women do use weight machines or free weights, the vast majority use extremely light weights - light weights which will not cause any significant strength gain. Strength gains come from lifting an amount which one is physically unable to do more than 3 to 8 times in a row (reps), which is generally about 80% of the maximum weight that can be lifted a single time. Lifting a 5lb weight 20-30 times will never develop strength.
No such survey exists to give us exact numbers, (as far as I'm aware), but we all know that if the question was whether one engages in full-range-of-motion compound-movement progressive-load resistance training (i.e. using barbells and dumbbells, and using heavier ones each successive workout than the one before), it would still be roughly 20% of men, but drop to somewhere in the range of 0.01% to maybe 0.1% of women. The only question that survey would answer is just how few women would it be.
Even though its only 22% of men who lift weights (I am making the assumption that a negligible amount of men do only yoga for exercise and call it strength training), that's still plenty enough to skew a sample of random average Americans to make men look stronger by virtue of being male, when the real reason is because vastly more men deliberately engage in activity with the goal of getting stronger. After all, the difference in strength by gender is only an average: there are lots of women who are much stronger than lots of men. There are women who are stronger than the average man, and men who are weaker than the average woman, but when you average the entire population, 20% is more than enough to skew the entire sample.
The lines in the following graphs represent the average by gender - but look more closely at the dots. The thing to notice is not just the average, but how much overlap there is between the solid dots and the circle dots.
Removing the age factor, you would get a distribution something like this:
Among the American population women on average have 1/2 the upper body strength of men - yet they have 75% of the lower body strength.
But there is no difference between a muscle cell in your leg versus a muscle cell in your arm. All muscle cells respond to being used, partially moderated by local testosterone levels. Why then are women specifically weaker in arm strength compared to men, but with less difference in leg strength?
Men lift weights. Women do various forms of cardio. Whether its step aerobics, biking, or running, most cardio exercises primarily uses the legs. Go to any gym in America and take a peek inside, you will find 80% of the men either using weight machines or free weights, and 80% of the women on treadmills, elliptical machines, or in group cardio classes.
Outside of the gym, where there are no weight machines to use, things become a little more equal - much more similar numbers of men and women try to stay in shape by running (close to 50/50) As a consequence, the athletic difference between average runners is extremely small, with the majority of the range of men and women overlapping:
From at least the age where we learn how to walk, boys are encouraged to be active and physical, to run around, while girls are cautioned against getting hurt or getting dirty.
For a lifetime we grow up in a culture that takes it as a given that men are stronger than women; and so when a woman or girl comes across a physically challenging task - say, carrying something heavy up some stairs, or opening a stuck jar lid - she learns early on that the proper solution is to find a man to do it for her. Every single time she does this, she gives up an opportunity to challenge her own muscles, which would have made her stronger in the long run (whether or not she succeeded in the moment). Meanwhile a male grows up with the expectation of being strong, and so when he has to carry something heavy or open a stuck jar lid, if he can't get it at first his next step is to try harder. The result is that he gets stronger.
Men are by far disproportionately represented in occupations that require strength. We assume that the cause and effect is one way, but it's really circular. The more men do the heavy lifting, the more strong they become relative to women who remain sedentary.
This isn't to say that differences is sex hormone levels play no part at all in strength differences. They do. The testosterone to estrogen and progesterone ratios in the body are one factor in regulating the proportion of fat to muscle in the body. Even if male and female twins were to have the same activity levels for a lifetime, and then engage in identical strength training programs, the male would most likely gain strength slightly faster, and peak slightly higher.
One way to separate out how much of the difference is biological and how much is cultural, is to look at a subset of the population which is likely to have similar activity levels and training styles. About the only place to ensure that is at the highest levels of competition.
The current world records by weight class are as follows:
|men||women||% women / men|
|Clean & Jerk||371.8||Clean & Jerk||310.2||83%|
|Clean & Jerk||435.6||Clean & Jerk||347.6||80%|
|Clean & Jerk||462||Clean & Jerk||418||90%|
There is still a difference, but comparing apples to apples, instead of women being 50% as strong as men, it turns out they are 80-90% as strong.
That is a HUGE difference in differences!
The range of strength between someone who does regular progressive strength training and someone sedentary is many times larger than the average difference between a male and female who both do the same activities.
What all of this means is, since 80% of men don't strength train, the majority of individual women could become stronger than the average man, if she choose to.
Here Kacy Catanzaro - 5 feet tall and 100lbs - completes an obstacle course which literally 1000s of the fittest and most athletic men in the world have attempted and failed:
In fact one of the most common reasons women don't do real strength training is because they want to avoid appearing strong; because our culture has identified strength as a masculine trait - and therefore by default, weakness as a feminine one.
Women believe that if they attempt to get stronger, they will look like men, and therefore be unattractive to actual (heterosexual) men.
Again, Kacy Catanzaro:
Why shouldn't muscle definition be as attractive in women as it is considered to be in men?
Given that a (very small) biological difference really does exist, perhaps the reason the cultural bias developed was to accentuate the relatively small natural difference?
Before we take that explanation as a given, lets consider some of the other cultural gender differences...
The term for differences between the sexes is sexual dimorphism. In science that term is normally used to imply biological differences, but here I'm going to introduce a new use of the same term, and call it cultural dimorphism.
The flip side of men having a naturally higher muscle to fat ratio is that women have a higher fat to muscle ratio. If the goal were emphasizing natural differences, and therefore we feel men should be extra muscular, it should also follow that the most feminine of women should be extra fat, and since men try to gain muscle to emphasize their masculine sexiness, women should try to gain extra fat to emphasize their feminine sexiness.
We don't do that.
Which means if we didn't consciously choose to reinforce the height differential bias, in at least 1 out of 20 of couples either the two would be the same height or the female would be taller than the male. In reality this occurs in only 1 in 750 couples. 1 in 750 is a pretty enormous bias, compared to 1 in 20 if height weren't a factor in female mate selection.
The normal explanation for why women prefer taller men has do with the male's supposed role as protector and provider - his height implies greater strength and/or status.
However, if that was really the reason then women's height preference should be for either a man's absolute height (strength), or height relative to other men (status).
Neither is the pattern observed - women's preference for their mate's height is relative to themselves. In fact there is an upper limit in relative height preferences as well - women tend to not want a partner too much taller than themselves.
If the reason for the male-taller bias were implications to strength or dominance relative to other men then the relative height between man and woman shouldn't be a factor at all, but it is in actuality the only factor. This implies that it isn't so much that women want their man to be able to dominate wild animals or other men, but that on some level they want their partner to be able to dominate them.
demonstrating what the female body looks like when its owner engages in activities that build strength
But that isn't what we do at all.
In actuality we do quite the opposite - some of what are considered the most manly jobs - from soldiers, police and firefighters, to business executives and political leaders - are expected to keep their faces clean shaven - making them more similar to women and children. Male models, presumably the most (culturally) attractive of men, either keep their facial hair trim or (more often) shave it completely.
While being clean shaven isn't universally considered more attractive by women, it turns out that cross culturally women tend not to find full beards attractive.
There is certainly no clear correlation of beard length or thickness with masculinity.
I propose an alternate explanation: