Alex Massie

Throw like a girl? You probably needed an elder brother or two...

Text settings

Era Klein flags up this decade-old James Fallowes piece as his "paragraph of the day". Fallowes is addressing the vexed, nay controversial subject of why some people - especially women! - throw "like a girl":

If you are right-handed, pick up a ball with your left hand and throw it. Unless you are ambidextrous or have some other odd advantage, you will throw it "like a girl." The problem is not that your left shoulder is hinged strangely or that you don't know what a good throw looks like. It is that you have not spent time training your leg, hip, shoulder, and arm muscles on that side to work together as required for a throw.[...]

What Goodman discovered is what most men have forgotten: that if they know how to throw now, it is because they spent time learning at some point long ago...This brings us back to the roots of the "throwing like a girl" phenomenon. The crucial factor is not that males and females are put together differently but that they typically spend their early years in different ways. Little boys often learn to throw without noticing that they are throwing. Little girls are more rarely in environments that encourage them in the same way. A boy who wonders why a girl throws the way she does is like a Frenchman who wonders why so many Americans speak French "with an accent."

I confess it had never occurred to me that anyone would make the case that there was some physical difference that explained the difference in throwing ability between teenage boys and their feminine counterparts. I mean that's an obtuse assumption.

Fallowes' argument is really a statement of the obvious. I am convinced, for instance, that my little sister's days of winning schoolgirl javelin competitions are the direct consequence of the long hours  she spent as a permanent fielder during our games of cricket in the garden. Absent the training these long hours in the field provided I doubt she would have had such an advantage when it came to swapping the cricket ball for the javelin. Ultimately, then, it was in her own interest to be barred from batting or bowling and that she should instead spend her time as a permanent (if often grumpy*) fielder...

Indeed I'll bet that there's a correlation between being a  successful female high school javelin thrower and having elder brothers who incorporated you into their backyard games of baseball or cricket.

*Which may be why she never seemed too keen to thank us for this vital training.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSociety