A Woman Searches For Answers to Why Women Supposedly Can’t Do Pull-ups – But Before She Can Even Put the “t” on Can’t, Google Suggests A Billion Results of Things Women Can’t Do.
It was a simple Google search.
Having succeeded at my first ever pull-up, I, a 27 year old female who has long held a grudge against not being able to do this exercise, was regaling my coworker with my triumph. He informed me of an article online which explained why, for this one exercise, women were biologically, or physiologically, at a disadvantage. He assured me it wasn’t just an unfairly biased gender thing, logically speaking.
So I went to Google the article, searching “why women can’t do a pull-up” but I hadn’t even put the ‘t’ on the ‘can’t’ when Google made an auto suggestion. I had only typed in “why women can” and I immediately got “Why women can’t have it all.”
I was shocked this was the first and only suggestion.
And then my curiosity got the better of me. I typed in “Why men can’t.” No suggestions.
Really? REALLY? I consider myself thoroughly exposed to the gross sixth-grade-back-of-the-school-bus humor of the internet enough to know plenty of people have researched “why men can’t have babies” and all sorts of other bodily curiosities. Yet not one suggestion came up for “why men can’t.”
Now of course, that’s just Google making a suggestion. We’ve all laughed as our innocent half-search for “how to get a stain out of” has yielded horrifying results when we didn’t finish typing the query fast enough. But what about when we actually hit enter?
When I searched “Why men can’t,” four of the first five results bring women into the title.
A more advanced search of “why men can’t” –women (which is a way to make Google only show articles that don’t have ‘women’ involved, and have to have the phrase “why men can’t” exactly in that order) yields 284,000 results. Or, 0.07% of the original batch.
Now what if we search for “why women can”?
All of them are “Why women can’t” except one, which is the statement rephrased as the question, “can women have it all?” Not a single “Why women can” comes up. Only one result mentions men, and one mentions “a very brave husband” at that.
Not wanting to let grammar bias the seemingly alarming result, I did the advanced search for exactly “why women can”… and got the exact same results. It’s not until I asked Google to specifically leave out “can’t” that I got 0.1% of the articles back.
A guy friend at my gym asked me why I suddenly got so set on doing a pull-up – a rather elementary exercise considering my past physical triumphs have included sandboarding, shark diving, and practicing jujitsu with 200lb men. Was it just to prove I could? Was it a long held grudge against my middle school Physical Fitness Test? Was it because one day I was bored at my gym and saw they had a pull up bar?
I wanted to do a pull-up because I had never really tried. I half-heartedly attempted it once in a while – on a whim, just to check that I still couldn’t.
In the last 20 years I have heard over and over how women can’t do a pull-up. So being efficient and logical and having a million other interests, there was no point in me pouring my energy into something that wouldn’t yield results.
Then one day I realized there is no deep-seeded “women can’t sandboard” logic. It was a new enough sport to have gained popularity when old-school sexism was starting to become less trendy. With a lot of adventure sports I’ve tried, it never crossed my mind in the beginning that I’d be at a disadvantage because I was a girl… I would be at a disadvantage because I had never practiced.
So how did I finally do a pull up after 27 years of not being able to? I stopped thinking “I could do it if I were a man,” and started thinking “I could do it if I practiced.” So I tried every day for two weeks and failed for 13 days straight.
But then one day I succeeded.
Because I finally considered that I, a woman, can do it.
Like the Good Men Project on Facebook!