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The Frailty Myth: Redefining the Physical Potential of Women and Girls
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The Frailty Myth: Redefining the Physical Potential of Women and Girls

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  207 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Can women be equal to men as long as men are physically stronger? And are men, in fact, stronger?
These are key questions that Colette Dowling, author of the bestselling The Cinderella Complex, raises in her provocative new book. The myth of female frailty, with its roots in nineteenth-century medicine and misogyny, has had a damaging effect on women's health, social
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 11th 2001 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2000)
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Colette Dowling's book is LONG OVERDUE. In The Frailty Myth she provides the reader with a eye opening, informative and simultaneously disheartening look at how young girls, and women in general, are socially and culturally conditioned to live a physically underutilized existence in relation to men.

I am a long time reader of feminist literature and I've never really came across anything that comes remotely close to the in-depth sociohistorical investigation into the well-entrenched stereotype,
Izarra Moore
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
An important book in the making of my psyche; I read it as a 20-year-old, marathon-running undergrad with a giant chip on my shoulder. I was just thinking about this book the other day, watching a clip from some American gameshow in which a woman (a woman!) conquers an obstacle course that was previously the domain of men alone.

We're gaining on you, fellas.
Olivia Slykhuis
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gender, nonfiction, story
This was super interesting, and I love her writing style: it's convincing and readable, not overly academic and abstract. The book is about questioning the universal belief that women are more physically "frail" than men, and examining how that idea is socially created and sustained, and the impact it has on the mental and physical health of women (and a little bit men too). Dowling explores the long history of this idea of female frailty, and looks at how it affects girls at different ages. ...more
Viv JM
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting and thought provoking book about the damaging myth of female frailty which the author does an excellent job of refuting.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: women, nonfiction
This could have been a long essay instead of a book and it would have had the same effect on me. I also couldn't keep from wondering how the statistics presented had changed or updated from when this was published almost 20 years ago.
Lauren Pruter
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The MeToo movement has brought to people’s attention to how prevalent sexual assault still is for women. We have a POTUS that won an election even after being caught bragging about grabbing women and doing whatever he wants with them. Many women still feel unsafe at school, work, or even going outside after dark. As women we understand that moving in our woman’s body is a different experience than it would be as a man. Women have been taught since birth that men are stronger than us and more ...more
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Important topic, some great points made, but the author was definitely speaking to white women. Also, there's one anecdote that was really transphobic.
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
The frailty myth is the idea that women are physically incompetent, that they weak, unable to run long distances or carry out strenuous tasks. Ultimately that they are dependent on men for muscular heft. Collette Dowling argues that the frailty myth, as she calls it, was driven by men’s repressed wish to preserve domination. The consequence of the frailty myth is that women do not reach their full physical potential.

Dowling argues that women are kept from using their bodies primarily because
A.J. Richard
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book for research I am doing into girls and women playing baseball. I consider this an essential read for anyone who has ever wondered why there are not more females on the baseball field. Also essential for anyone working or playing in girls'/women's sports, anyone with a daughter or female family member, all females, all human beings.
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
I recommend only to fathers and mothers of daughters, teachers and coaches of women and girls, at-risk adolescents [and they’re ALL at-risk] reading at an adult level, and to fans of the game who somehow suspect that a high school women’s volleyball match might well be a more compelling event than the men’s football game, hype to the contrary notwithstanding.
Lauren Salisbury
So much of this book is important but it's weakened by Dowling's limited lens. Dowling repeatedly conflates all women with white women. She is repeatedly transphobic and misgenders at least one transwoman while trying to make some superior point about women's strength.
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Parts of this book made it very hard to get through. Yet it was still a gat book and brought to light a number of things I had not considered before. I think it accurately traces back to societal expectations the stereotypes that we all take as a given. I myself have been a continual proponent of the frailty myth, without considering the women are more than likely dissuaded from physical activity at such a young age that by the time they are adults, they don't have the history of experience and ...more
Sep 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
While I highly enjoyed Dowling's research on the history of female physical confinement and the positive effects of sports on women's emotional, mental, financial, and physical health and safety (80% of the top women in fortune 500 positions were in sports in school)I would have liked to see more information on the physiological potential of women. It's widely known that women have much greater endurance than men beating them hands down in ultramarathons or open water swimming and I would've ...more
Mon Mor
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. I am a girl and I practice various fighting styles and this books warms my heart.

If you are a girl, you will see how REAL the situations portrayed and discussed are because you have, in fact, been through them many times. The "man are stronger than woman" has been made into a synonynous of "girls are not strong and physically able". This book delves into those ideas and how harmful they are for woman's general health.

It's historical, biographical and written in a woman to woman style.
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is my first serious encounter with women's studies. I found myself realizing that I am one of many women that walk around fearful of crime and have never seriously questioned why. I finished this book feeling an sense of urgency about getting myself into shape and wanting the confidence that comes with being aware of the possibility of physical prowess in my own body. l@in, thank you, thank you, thank you for the (inadvertently) long term loan - this is a book that will change my life.
Mar 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone, especially athletes
This is a must-read for female athletes. It explores the myth the women are physically weak and incapable, tracing the history of the myth and the tremendous possibilities locked in every woman's body and mind. Love this.
Oct 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I remembered enjoying it very much, but I want to reread it with a keener eye, and then go research-diving. I remember Dowling's arguments as quite convincing, but there's much that I want to lay against other research I've since digested. Also... I never got back the copy I let someone borrow.
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
pretty cool perspective on women and physical strength - how they are viewed, what they are taught about their bodies, how women are treated differently in the olypics.
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another book that I want to recommend to everyone.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lots of great points, a couple of "well, not really though" points around the middle, and the occasional very weird non sequitur. Chapters 1,2,3, and 7 very much recommended!
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“Everything going into performance can be quantified, measured, made visible. The mystique of innate inability has been penetrated and the truth revealed: high performance for women is eminently achievable. The more unbiased the instruments used to understand and assess performance, the clearer it became. Studies show gender to be be barely relevant as a predictor, or limiter of athletic performance. What really counts are acquired skills, trained muscles and movement efficiency that comes from refined technique.” 0 likes
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