I don’t know about you, but whenever I try to motivate or challenge myself, I tell myself to ‘man up’ or ‘grow some balls’. I do this a lot, especially in the winter, when it’s cold and dark and I need extra motivation to let go of my hot water bottle. The other day I was doing just this - firing up my strength to go training by telling myself to man up - when I realised, that phrase isn’t empowering at all. What does being a man have to do with bravery? And why are so many of the phrases associated with being strong male-oriented? Needless to say, I immediately altered my thoughts to tell myself instead to ‘woman up’.
The truth is, there is no truth behind the sayings ‘grow some balls’ and ‘man up’. Women are just as strong and brave as men and here’s why:
Women are more robust than men
An article by the Guardian has revealed that biologically, women are actually “better survivors” than men. Scientific evidence shows that female babies have a lower mortality rate than baby boys, that women live longer than men and that generally, women have a more robust immune system. Our bodies respond better to most sicknesses, including everyday coughs and colds and women die at lower rates from 12 of the 15 most common causes of death. So whoever thinks women are weaker than men better think again!
The hunter-gatherer gender stereotype is as fictional as the Flintstones
Common perceptions of pre-historic societies paint the picture that the men carried out the most important work, hunting for big game to provide the meat of the meal and therefore most of the food, while the women were given the less taxing and less important task of gathering edible plants to accompany the meat. Because of this, the ‘hunter strength’ was passed down only to men.
But a study carried out by Linda Owen challenges this long-lived gender stereotype. According to the report, the women’s role of gathering was more important than common perceptions would have us believe. Yes, big game took strength to hunt and yes, it was highly valued - but it was also less common. The hunter-gatherer societies lived off mainly a vegetarian diet; so the gatherers were actually providing most of the food most of the time, not just the side garnish (Camps).
Besides, where did the idea come from that the women in these societies didn’t go on hunting trips with men and vice versa? The Invisible Sex report has revealed that thousands of years ago, women were buried with bannerstones, which were used as weights on spear launchers. This suggests that the women were champion hunters. Meanwhile, Dr Peter Gray presents the hunter-gatherer society as completely egalitarian - a society in which every individual could choose every day what they wanted to do, how they would do it and whether they would do it or not. Women in these societies were just as able to join the day’s hunt as the men were to gather for the day - there were no pre-allocated roles.
With this in mind, women are no less hunters than men and men are no less gatherers than women. It all comes down to our choices and our belief (or lack thereof) in our abilities.
Women excel at endurance running
Women are more likely to complete an ultra-marathon than men. Due to our larger surface area to mass ratio and typically shorter height than men, women have physical advantage over men when it comes to running long distances. A study has also shown that generally speaking, women are better at pacing than men and don’t slow down as much as men do in the second half of a marathon.
This doesn’t just speak marathons about female physical strength; it also proves the strength of our mind and stamina. It takes determination to keep going, will power and self-belief that yes, I can finish this. So goes the fitness quote, “If the mind can believe it, the body can achieve it.”
Less self-belief? Why?
Interestingly, according to Whitaker, women generally have less self belief and esteem than men, which makes us more likely to better prepare for a big feat like a marathon, setting us in better stead to achieve our goal and cross that finish line.
While it’s great that we’re taking time to prepare and anticipate the challenges we embark on, it’s kind of sad that women tend not to believe in themselves as much as men. Where did this self-deprecation and assumption of weakness come from?
ChallengeHer challenges that. It’s time to start believing in ourselves.
A huge part of the ChallengeHer adventures is to motivate and empower women to embrace their strength and complete a feat that’s both physically and mentally challenging, such as cycling or trekking great distances for the cause that’s most important to them.
Travelling somewhere you’ve never been, alone or with a group of people you’ve never met, spurs you to discover a side of yourself you didn’t know existed. It also helps you keep in touch with your core values, what you believe to be the most important in life and also with your inner strength, a strength you might not have known you had.
Strength comes in different forms
Whether or not you believe women are as physically strong as men, let’s move onto the point that strength isn’t just about how much weight you can physically lift or how long you can cycle for, how fast you can go or how high you can climb. Mental strength is more important. It’s what motivates your body to achieve these physical triumphs - and it’s what helps you to lead a happier, healthier life. Exploring new places, experiencing different cultures and doing something awesome for an incredible cause at the same time helps you to nourish your mind and spirit and prove to yourself that you can conquer incredible challenges.
Time to show what you can achieve as an individual
ChallengeHer, our brand new collection of women-only open challenges, gives women of all ages from all walks of life the chance to come together and achieve something incredible for their chosen charities. It’s not just about challenging the gender stereotype - it’s about how strong you are as an individual, in body, mind and spirit. It's about testing yourself and achieving something amazing for your favourite charity. It's about embarking on the adventure of a life time, while making everlasting friendships.
ChallengeHer kicks off in 2019 with our debut adventures to the Great Wall of China. Trekking or cycling along this architectural masterpiece, you'll get a glimpse of Chinese rural life and be rewarded with breath-taking views over the country of the Red Dragon. As an open challenge, you can select the charity of your choice to fundraise for. An open challenge also means there’s no fundraising pressure, because you have the option to self-fund your costs and raise as much as you can for your chosen charity, without having a minimum sponsorship target.
Find out more about trekking or cycling the Great Wall of China here.