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I went with on date with my male attaché recently and we saw a typical action/spy film. “Movie” is a better word, “film” sounds too classy for this particular stunt-fest. It was almost a perfect night. The evening was warm and followed a long and fulfilling day. It was early in the new year so summer was in the air and love floated along with it. The movie we was enjoyable, the dinner he bought me after lovely. The conversation – stimulating yet relaxed. We were walking back to his car holding hands, much enamoured with each other, when he suddenly says, “You know what annoys me about movies like that?” (referring to all typical action/spy films). He works in IT so I assume it is something to do with how the “hackers” in these films can just mash the keyboards with their faces and hack into high security systems, which I voice. Wrong, although that’s one thing. Impossible gadgets? Bad acting? Wrong and wrong. No, what really annoys him is the implausibility of women being operatives in the field when they are physically inferior to men.

Well if there’s one thing to really get a girl hot to go to bed with you, it’s reminding her that her gender is inferior.  Sadly, the comment irritated me so much that I changed the topic, knowing that all I’d be capable of responding with was “well, yeah, nuh uh.” But I mused on why the comment bothered me so much, and sat down to write a more rational response to it. Initially I wasn’t even sure  why it did bother me, when fundamentally the logic is sound. On average, a man will be physically more able than a woman, it was evolutionary advantageous for this to be the case. In the Hollywood spy world I appreciate this is the difference between life and death.

So to nut out my dilemma:  In our imaginary Hollywood spy world there would be a baseline of physical prowess that a field agent would have to demonstrate in order to become a spy. The female spy in this movie obviously passed that requirement. Perhaps in this imaginary world of spies, there may even be a quota for how many agents Spies R Us takes, she was high enough in the list of able people above some men to get in. Here lies the so called implausibility. However, I don’t think it is actually that implausible. This lies in the fact that ON AVERAGE, yes, men will be physically stronger and fitter than women, but not always.

In this movie I count 2 women fighters for roughly every 20 male fighters.  “Fighters” here refers to all people who get physically violent. So, of the physical elite, women comprise 10%. The percentage may even be smaller as I’m pretty sure I’ve underestimated the total number of dudes in the movie that get their smackdown on. I don’t think ≤ 10%  of the physically elite being female requires one to overly suspend one’s disbelief, particularly since field operatives need to be good at many more things other than strength or speed related tasks.  I think the females in this movie were in plausible enough roles, particularly considering the level of implausibility of the entire movie. What could be argued as implausible was that she was not built like a truck, whereas the guys were. We can blame Hollywood hotness requirements for that one.

After a bit of self-examination I realised why this comment bothered me so much. It’s not like I can’t face a biological fact, and on a day-to-day basis it doesn’t really matter much that a guy can lift more groceries than me, or get to the ice-cream truck first (actually that’s a lie, the latter is devastating). I think what bothered me is that I couldn’t think of a time where I have had an equivalent thing to be incredulous about. What do women have or what can they do better than men that is VALUED? I can sure pop out babies better than men, but no one would ever pretend in a movie that men can do that, and I’ve never met a guy who wished he could. I probably communicate better with other people than the average male, but that can easily be argued as a result of socialisation, not biology. On average, women have longer life spans than men, but no one screams “unlikely!”  if a wife dies before a husband, and also the difference between life spans isn’t that dramatic, whereas the difference between the maximum physical ability of men and women is quite dramatic.

So here lies my actual problem with my boyfriend’s comment. I wish I had a  “yes, but” to respond with when someone says, “men are stronger than women.” Maybe I’m looking at this from a patriarchal perspective which values strength/fitness over everything else. I don’t know.  I’d love to hear other women’s opinions on this – and hell men’s too because maybe women have something that men envy/think is cool (boobs is not a valid response) that I’m completely unaware of!

If all else fails I think I’ll just from now on reply with “Yeah, well women make a mean sandwich.”