General Question


Why did women evolve to be physiologically weaker, frailer, and slower than men? Can a direct cause be identified? Is the answer derived from a multitude of factors?

Asked by BB8ISGREATMATE (31points) 2 weeks ago

The title says it all. It’s just never made sense to me that the gap between men and women’s physical strength is as large as it is.

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20 Answers

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
HP's avatar

Women are designed to bear and rear kids. Men are designed to assure the likliehood that this occurs.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Not all women are weak,frail and slow, just as not all males are strong.

I would think that males became strong from being the prime male who brought in the food
in primative times such as when hunting for the tribes food sources etc

Present day females that are not doing heavy physical work such as on a farm etc

I would assume that its the less physical activity is causing a smaller frame ( in some cases) and so on , but again NOT all females are strong nor weak either.

In this day and age its physical activity that keeps anyone in shape regardless of gender, race, intellect and so on.

JLeslie's avatar

Estrogen vs testosterone. God screwed up maybe. Seems He could have still added physical strength with estrogen. Maybe there is some sort of evolutionary reason. It’s not really that vast a difference, but the average male is quite a bit stronger than the average female.

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RocketGuy's avatar

It’s probably an evolutionary thing that happened long ago. Similar to lions, women raised the young while the men defended the territory. Also, child rearing requires people to stay sheltered and local, while hunting requires people to be strong and mobile.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

It’s evolutionary, it has aided reproduction in some way during our evolutionary timeline. There is no other reason. The average male is often twice as strong if not more than the average female. Dimporphism like this is not in any way unusual in the animal kingdom. Humans have very mild dimporphism while in other species it can be dramatic.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Aided reproduction how? Being able to rape women?

Kropotkin's avatar

Compared to other primates, our species has fairly low sexual dimorphism. In other words, there’s only modest difference between men and women.

Our evolutionary ancestors were probably more dimorphic. Other apes are significantlly more so.

Larger sexual dimorphism (males being bigger and stronger) is usually associated with sexual competition: basically males fighting each other for females and the biggest and strongest winning out.

Our dimorphism is lower, as we don’t typically have to fight to find a mate, though our evolutionary ancestors likely did.

There could be other selection pressures for this difference: territorial defence, or having to go out and hunt.

Zaku's avatar

Evolution is neither “God” nor a matter of getting well-designed survival features. It’s biology on top of chemsitry and physics, combined with natural random mutations, and those random mutations filtered imperfectly by survival-threatening events, over millions of years of mostly-random events.

The only way it results in better features, is a combination of luck, opportunity, and terrible enough circumstances that some weaker traits get filtered down and/or out of the gene pool.

The situation is extremely complicated, and is not going to boil down to random notions of people who partly understand some misguided notions of evolution.

For example, as @JLeslie already wrote above, consider estrogen versus testosterone, and their effects. Testosterone tends to make humans physically aggressive, and also has other effects on energy level and other things which will contribute to strength. But many of those are side effects, and everything is interrelated.

I’d speculate that it may tend to be a vague survival benefit to have the females be less inclined to contests of aggression and other violent behavior, because (in species with sexual reproduction like most mammals) the population of each new generation is highly dependent on the number of surviving females, and not so much on the population of surviving males. It doesn’t matter much for the population level (and may even leave more food for the females and children) if the males get themselves killed. And if males tend to compete violently with each other, strength will be a survival trait for them. And much of that sort of situation is true for many species and even higher/earlier level stages of animal (even for extremely early species of fish and others), so its evolution pre-dates humans by an extremely long time.

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Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie Possibly, but it’s more likely because humans are not apex predators outside of using tools and women are vulnerable while pregnant or nursing young necessitating males to be defenders. Males are disposable, it only takes one to get a bunch of females pregnant. If all but a few die protecting females or if several die hunting every now and then it’s ok. Humanity will continue. If females die, it’s an issue.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackwater_Park Women being as physically strong as men would not change that men could be defenders. It’s not like one gender must be physically stronger and another gender physically weaker.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie You’re trying to make sense out of evolution that happened when we were proto-humans or before. It’s honestly pretty complicated. For example, it’s estimated that in modern humans like 30% of females participated in hunts with males during pre-neolithic times. Any answers we come up with are not going to give the whole truth any justice. The only thing we know for certain is that in order for us to be here in our current form, it had to have been advantageous in the past. We can think of any number of logical reasons for this but we’ll over simplify it almost every time.

JLeslie's avatar

Agreed. I’m actually not trying to make sense of it. My point was it doesn’t necessarily make simple sense. All sorts of things are unfair and cruel in nature.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie One thing we can assess is that we continue to maintain these variations because the opposite sex still want them.

LostInParadise's avatar

The male reproductive role is minimal. As soon as a female is impregnated, the male can move on to other females. The female has to wait until after she gives birth. There is therefore an evolutionary advantage to being strong enough to chase off other males. There are of course exceptions, like those bird species that mate for life.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
JLeslie's avatar

@Blackwater_Park Yeah, men like to be able to control women, but also women with high testosterone don’t ovulate. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of testosterone. Moreover, women who purposely reduce body fat through diet and exercise can stop ovulating.

Part of what we find attractive in each gender are signs of fertility. Estrogen creates hips on women, and good hormone balance aids women in growing healthy hair on their heads. Testosterone allows men to build muscle, etc.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie I have also felt that many females look at the resources available to them when mating with specific males. It could be safety, security, food, shelter etc… The response in males to attract those females and out compete other males is to aggressively go after those things. I feel like males are focused on fertility queues and not much else. It’s hard not to see it. Sure makes for some shallow relationships. Thankfully that’s only part of the dynamic for most people. For those who only have instinctual relationships, well… we know who they are.

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