This is a longer article, but please read it through to the end. If we expect to support women wanting to strength train and feel competent in the gym, there are important points and discussions that need to begin. I have never been as adamant about a topic or discussion as this, and I hope your mind is open enough to think about this information and determine what changes you can make to the current accepted practices and perceptions regarding women in strength.
Oftentimes, gender differences and our approach to them is based on socialization rather than innate brain, neurological, and hormonal composure. Men and women are different in many ways. The sticking point is when we’re discussing gender differences in an instructional setting, which based on my previous entry includes the weight room. There is great professional responsibility in education, as opposed to randomly tossing out observations or assumptions without proper knowledge or evidence to support those assumptions.
Every individual has individual learning styles. Men and women, black and white— all students overlap in many areas of different learning styles and their responses to instruction. Earlier I discussed how making sweeping generalizations about specific racial, religious, or gender groups is negligent instruction. It is stopping short of truly identifying individual needs and preferences and promoting stereotypes based on assumption rather than fact. An instructor should be able to transcend gender, race,and religion andTEACH. An effective instructor is able to utilize multiple instructional strategies and techniques to reach all students, including those students who might not fit into a convenient group or category.
Here are some facts supported in the research concerning gender differences and learning. Don’t get too excited when you start quoting me on this information. Read through the article for a complete explanation.
- There are structural differences in the brain between females and males. Females tend to have better verbal skills and rely heavily on verbal communication. Men tend to rely on non-verbal communication and avoid discussions. Women also have larger areas in the frontal lobe that controls language. This difference might support the verbal gender differences.
- Research shows that the female brain develops faster than the male brain. Females develop complex, verbal skills faster than males, in many cases up to one year sooner. This provides female students with an advantage in the classroom. The male counterparts may struggle more with written and oral language.
- Males and females respond differently to the school structure and environment. Males tend to use a visual learning style and, as they age, move towards the use of diagrams and graphic representation. Females respond better to simple, written text.
- Male students prefer movement to support the learning process, which is a dramatic inconsistency with the overall structure of the school system.
- Males and females respond well to cooperative learning with partners or groups.
- Females tend to perform better in school when achievement is placed on a bell curve.
On the surface, it looks to support stereotypes and assumptions that women like to talk, they are emotional, and therefore, instruction needs to support these lowly female tendencies. That is until you factor in additional research.
In early childhood, gender learning styles are significant and obvious. Males learn through manipulation of objects and observation. Females are often more motivated by people than by things. Females tend to place high value on relationships and try to gain the approval of others. This rationale is the possible justification of females being more obedient than their male counterparts.
As males and females age, brain development continues, specifically the cerebral cortex. This is where high-level mental functioning like imagination and rational thought are developed. Both genders improve their ability to restrict risk taking behavior, although adolescent females develop self-control faster. Due to hormonal development, males tend to compete with peers and challenge themselves mentally and physically. Females tend to learn best through cooperation and sharing knowledge.
Now here is where things get interesting:
Once males and females reach adulthood, learning style responses and differences between the genders diminish. Males and females are proficient in multiple learning styles and have developed capabilities of responding to differing instruction throughout the years. Of course, gender differences continue.
However, there is no evidence to support that in the adult years women respond differently or lack the appropriate skills to fully understand information being presented to them in an educational setting. Adult learning styles, overall, are impacted by occupation, culture, age, religion, etc. It is remiss to generalize or make assumptions on one group or gender’s response and learning styles in the weight room. I will repeat a previous point I have made— effective instructors are able to transcend gender or individual differences and identify and implement instructional strategies to support all learners.
Now for the harsh reality of the gender-based discussions of women learning differently than men, or the discussions of how women require a different presentation or mode of instruction to openly accept instruction and participation in the weight room.
Research supports that once men and women are adults, there is no significant gender-specific differences in learning. As adults, men and women gain proficiency and competence of a given topic through SOCIALIZATION. Socialization refers to how society teaches and reinforces information and knowledge to individuals. Socialization is how people are shaped and influenced. This is serious and significant information. When you are bombarding women with limiting, traditional images, knowledge, and secondary access to quality and effective information and experiences, you are doing a disservice. You are part of the reason why women don’t lift, why women have assumptions and strong opinions on why they won’t go into the weight room, or why they will not allow their true potential to shine to the fullest extent.
Every time there is a traditional image, discussion, or controversy on women being strong or why they should strength train, a token pink dumbbell is displayed, or a fluffy, feel-good approach specifically designed for the intimidated female is shared, negative socialization is being reinforced. Every time you post a token picture of a hot chick lifting— focusing on beauty, her butt, fashion, or anything remotely related to these topics (rather than strength), you are responsible for continuing the socialization against women strength training and being confident in the gym.
I gotta tell you, it makes me furious that women readily accept this propaganda and willingly allow themselves to buy into the continued socialization of being inferior or having limited knowledge in the weight room. It makes me furious that men continue to propagate these stereotypes, whether intentionally or unintentionally. I expect more for all of us.
It is times like these when I applaud my fellow strongwomen who are breaking barriers, pushing limits, and regularly running events with the same amount of weight as their male counterparts. It is my hope and desire to continue to push and expand the stereotypical socialization of women in strength. This is done through accomplishment, dedication, and questioning the norm every opportunity we have.
By Amy Wattles
Published: November 8, 2012 on EliteFTS