Imagining a world where women are physically as strong as men throws up some interesting perspectives into gender relations. Thinking about it one gets the feeling that the disparity in raw physical strength forms the core of gender inequality and its manifestations.
In the animal kingdom, gender disparity is the most obvious in mammals, the group of animals considered to be the most advanced and to which human beings belong. In most mammals, the female is smaller, weaker and less aggressive than the males, which translates into their being susceptible to sexual aggression from the males. It is common for males to force themselves sexually upon unwilling females.
In most mammals, the gestation period is a significant part of the life-span. Labour is painful. The offspring are born weak and defenseless and are nursed and cared for by the mother for an extended period of time. The females get little or no support from the males in the business of rearing the young ones.
It does appear like nature has actively conspired to give female mammals the shorter end of the stick.
There is no way of knowing with certainty whether other mammalian females resent, or even fully comprehend, the way the scales are tilted against them, but the human female obviously has the intelligence to do both. Of course, the human female today has it much better than other mammalian females. Contraception has given women freedom of a scale unimaginable barely a couple of centuries back. Sexual assault is punishable by law in most parts of the world( although implementation often leaves much to be desired). These small mercies have taken a long time coming but they have indeed made the human female more equal than the others, as it were!
The rapid strides made during the last century towards the cause of empowerment of women might lull us into believing that complete equality may be within reach, but how realistic is it to hope for complete equality when the average female can be so easily overpowered by the average male? Let alone rape, it is ridiculously easy for a man to kill a woman with his bare hands. Isn’t it basically this sheer lack of physical strength in women vis-a-vis the men which makes the average man so proud to be a man and so dismissive of all things feminine?
Now men are stronger owing to a greater mass of muscles, which in turn is an effect of greater levels of the hormone testosterone in men, the very hormone which is responsible for generating libido(in both sexes). So nature, in one fell swoop, gifted men not just greater libido but also the ability to force themselves sexually should they so wish. Women, on the other hand, are stuck with not just lower sex-drive but also the stark inability to defend themselves in the face of unwanted sexual overtures from males. The law provides only so much protection, especially in the third world where implementation is poor in general.
So how different would things be if women were to become, in a flight of fancy, as physically strong as men?
The most obvious result of this fanciful scenario coming to pass would be that women would become far less susceptible to sexual assault, although they would continue to be a little susceptible due to the other gender being more sex-driven.
Parents of girls will worry less about their safety in this big, bad world and will stop pressuring their daughters to get married as soon as possible. The who-is going-to-look-after-you-when-we’re-no-longer-here line of thinking will be rendered irrelevant. That by itself will solve a lot of problems.
No restrictions on movements will mean better prospects at education/employment. No looking for ‘safe’ jobs like teaching, medicine and suchlike which severely restrict women’s choices. No fear of on-site or marketing jobs or jobs which require traveling. More assets, more control over available resources.
There will be far fewer incidents of domestic violence.
Chivalry will become redundant. Men will no longer feel the need to behave like knights in shining armour, just as women will not feel the need to look up to/please all the males in their lives.
In short, it will be a world drastically different from the one we know. Disparity in physical strength is the root of gender inequality and it cannot be wished away. Which means that absolute gender equality is not achievable today or anytime in future. For all efforts made towards emancipation and empowerment, the bias is something we will always have to deal with.