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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Other reviewers on this site have chosen to look at this book from a fairly limited perspective--focusing, for example, on the information about Uta Pippig--rather than on the work as a whole and its implications for women and for everyone; another reviewer has mistakenly suggested that Dowling's intention is to disparage men by suggesting that women are gaining physical strength.
Both of these readers/reviewers are mistaken, and have failed to consider The Frailty Myth completely and objectively, which leads to the false suggestion that her work is biased, untrue, and unimportant--this is simply not true. People appear to be threatened by her assertion that women's bodies can--and are--changing through the years, and that women are capable of far greater physical accomplishments than they were in the past, and will, in all likelihood, make ever more gains in the future.
Dowling cites research that demonstrates how our society (and other world societies) teaches girls to limit their physical prowess, to question their physical abilities and prowess, and then to fulfill the messages we send them about their supposed "frailty" and "weakness." Our culture sends the message, Dowling says, that women OUGHT to be petite, thin, and passive--and that the purpose for this is to be attractive to men. Bulkier women, and women who aggressively pursue physical challenges, are less appealing, we tell our young women.
The author is asserting that these messages CAN be changed, and that girls' ideas about what they can accomplish as athletes can have an enormous impact on what they actually accomplish. We can alter the messages we send and the opportunities we provide, and this may enable our young women to develop stronger muscles, more agility, better self-confidence, and the numerous other strengths that accompany physically fit individuals.
Dowling is not suggesting that either sex is, or will ever be, superior to the other--simply that we owe it to our young women to provide them with the same opportunities and beliefs about physical fitness that we give our boys--and make available the benefits that accompany that fitness.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up because of its great cover, not really knowing what it was about. And when I started reading it in the bookstore, I just couldn't put it down. It's about what it has meant and still means for women to be treated as frail, as weaker, as needing to be helped, as in "Women and children first!" At first you think this is a nice thing, a gallant gesture on men's part, but I'd never thought about how it is for a woman to be treated on a par with children, physically, throughout all of her life! Who wants to be "taken care of" all their life? It's a lot like grown up women being called "girls." Anyway, the author is not haranging, she tells great stories, including wonderful ones about her daughters and friends. It's a great read.
I just loved this book and feel more excited when I go to the gym now, I'm not kidding. I see it as part of a bigger picture.
I highly recommend this book. It sounds like a cliche, but it's empowering.
Eleanor Reynolds
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I usually don't read non-fiction unless I have to, but I picked this up and then couldn't put it down. A fast read and well-written. Dowling provides a history of all the methods used to keep women frail that could imply a conspiracy if you were inclined to see one. She also provides convincing arguments for getting and staying strong. I have a four-year-old daughter, and this book will definitely influence my decisions regarding her athletic opportunities, let alone my own state of fitness.
Time for women to stop accepting the limitations placed on them in the interest of keeping them "safe."
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I didn't think, when I picked up this book, that it would be so effortless to read. I like reading, but most authors don't have a knack for glibness without compromising scholarship. Scholarly books can be dry and hard to trudge through, but I found myself breezing through "Frailty" and becoming informed of a great deal! I am so excited by this book that I decided to put it down for a moment and give it my 5 thumbs up on Amazon.com. If you like books that challenge conventional ideas of femininity, I believe you'll like "The Frailty Myth" very much. If you tend to react negatively towards most feminist literature, you will probably not like this book.
"Frailty" opened my eyes to the untruths that my mother had been telling me for years: "don't play sports when you have your period or you will get sick," "don't eat or drink anything cold during your period or your menstrual blood will clot inside," and (the big doozy) "don't swim when you are menstruating because you will get an infection!" My mother's ideas are pretty outlandish, but she is from the Chinese baby boomer generation, and Victorian notions of women's health still linger in modern-day Taiwan.
I am surprised and disappointed that this well-written book did not receive accolades from prominent newspapers and magazines, like the New York Times Book Review. I couldn't find a review for this book when I searched their site.
Ms. Dowling ups the ante when she challenges the omnipresent notion that women are the "weaker" sex. This unspoken, commonly held assumption keeps women out of direct competition with men in sports. It keeps women out of direct combat in wars. Ms. Dowling points out that physically fighting for one's country puts gender equality on even keel. She cites the women soldiers of Eritrea as an example. The only drawback to enforcing the draft with women, I believe, will be a increase in the popularity of burning draft cards!
Read the book for an interesting (albeit brief) mention on Minoan "bull vaulting", in which young women and men competed together in a dangerous sport. "Frailty" is just 266 pages of positive reinforcement for your self-image. Like another reviewer, this book has helped me resolve to stay active and use physical activity as the boost for my sense of confidence.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This was an very interesting book. I picked it up after several discussions with my boyfriend as to whether or not men gain muscle faster than women. This book did talk about the muscle issue, but what was truely interesting were discussions on how society still discourages female participation in sports, tries to differentiate between male and female sports by changing the rules just a little in the women's half of the sport, and the pressure that still exists on female athletes to be girly and feminine.
This book is also incredibly well written. It flows well and is rather difficult to put down.
I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
as a long-time student of the second wave of feminist activism, I found this book absolultely fascinating, and I don't even like sports! Dowling writes clearly and persuasively for a general audience. This book is useful for anyone seeking to understand how women's status has changed in the united states over the 20th century.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Depending on what your looking for, this book is either an inspirational documentary of woman's achievements in the sports arena or just a collection of feminist cheerleading.
As a student of the controversial "women in the military" argument, I was looking for something to add to my knowledge base. I had hoped for a more analytical approach to the idea of women's athletic ability and less of "hear me roar" rhetoric.
Like Goldberg's "Bias" it is short on research and long on anectdotes. While undeniably a "good read", I had to look at her work with jaundiced eye after too many anti-male put downs and incorrect information. Mz Dowling never lets the facts get in the way of her position. Phrases like "fortunately not all husbands squelch their wives' athletic ambitions." (I suppose most do???) add to her air of bias.
She all but refuses any suggestion that biology has an impact on the athletic abilty and strength potential of woman, apparently laying the blame at the feet of males and our apparent societal dominance. To even criticize the WNBA is seen as misogynist. Later, her implication that there has ever been a female Green Beret is pure fabrication.
In chapter 7 we find the potential source for her passion (and ire?): her run-ins with various men throughout her life which scared or intimidated her. How much these events inspired her adult profession, we can't say, but it is clear the taint of them are felt in the general tone of the piece.
Although I didn't find what I was looking for in her book and she needs to work on her academics, I'm sure many folks will find a good deal praiseworthy, though I caution them to take much of the stories with a grain of salt
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Colette Dowling is a feminist author of numerous books and articles. According to her web site, she has a Master of Social Work degree and is a licensed Master of Social Work in New York. Given these credentials, it's no wonder this book is long on wishful thinking and short on science. Much of the book is only anecdotal with many "what if" speculations with no backup. She offers no justification for forced changes and remedies other than to push her point of view. While a critique of the entire book would be as long as the book itself, I'll confine myself to two specific points in the text - the introduction and chapter six.

Dowling opens her Introduction by relating her daughter Rachel's boyfriend troubles. It seems her boyfriend's father moved Rachel's possessions out of his son's apartment and wanted to move them to Dowling's studio while Rachel wanted her possessions taken to a storage unit. The father drove to the studio anyway, opened the back of the truck and proceeded to drop Rachel's TV on the sidewalk. Dowling proudly relates how Rachel asked the doorman to call the police and then jumped on the back of the truck, arms outspread to prevent the father from damaging any more of her possessions. She stayed there until she heard the police siren.

Dowling then says, "For me, the image was powerful. The bold physicality of Rachel's moves implied a belief in both her strength and her rights. But the belief in her body was crucial. Her strength allowed her not only to defend her rights, but to experience them. Within minutes the NYPD Blue arrived, and they escorted the truck, driving Rachel in the car with them, to the storage place and waited while father and son oh so carefully removed her furniture from the van."

Dowing then asks, "What does it take to jump on the back of a truck and prevent two angry men from entering it and dumping out your furniture? What, physically and mentally is being accomplished here?" She then answers the question by asserting that it is due to her daughter's experience with competitive sports beginning in her childhood.

Starting with this early pages of text (immediately after the acknowledgements), Dowling gets it wrong. What would have been a real statement of her daughter's strength is if Rachel and her girlfriends had moved her possessions. Yet here we have men doing the moving. It is not clear how they packed up all her belongings with Rachel then demanding they take it all to a storage unit. Let's put that aside, and assume they loaded the truck without Rachel there and she showed up afterwards.

We now get to the very typical feminist description of a strong, independent woman. Rachel doesn't depend on any individual man or group of men known to her to defend her rights. She depends on the government - in this case the police - to do her dirty work for her. Similar to feminists who claim they are no longer dependent on a husband, they are now dependent and married to the government instead. As far as standing up to two angry men - they were smart enough to know that if they threw her down from the truck, they would have faced more serious charges due to the bias feminists have demanded within the legal system to favor women. Again, government doing the protecting; a woman dependent on the government.

Dowling's description in chapter six of women in bodybuilding and the transformation of the sport displays incredible ignorance, especially considering the late date (2000) in which this book was published. She mentions the movement from more figure related competition to outright extreme muscularity by the 1990's, similar to the men's competitions. This was then summarily squashed by those evil male officials and judges in her view. She says this all without once mentioning the well known issue of steroids. The reason the women were displaying extreme muscularity was due to ever increasing doses of steroids - which are all derivatives of the male hormone testosterone. The women were essentially giving themselves a sex change treatment: exhibiting growth of body and facial hair, loss of scalp hair, the voice dropping an octave or two and the growth of the clitoris into a mini-penis. The spectators of the women's competitions began to evaporate and officials and sponsors feared there would soon be nothing left except for the women on the stage and men with fetishes for muscular women as the spectators. There was no market for a female freak show. While there are still some women who go to this extreme, the female figure competitions are vastly more popular while the male bodybuilding competitions are similarly more popular for spectators of both sexes. And this is overstating these competitions because they hold a very, very minor niche in the world of sports.

She states, "Today women bodybuilding champions can actually make as much money from appearances and endorsements as male bodybuilders - perhaps the final indignity for many men." Dowling, in her notes, refers the reader to Ellis Cashmore's "Making Sense of Sport", p. 140 for the phrase "perhaps the final". What part of her statement is she trying to support? That it might be the final indignity? Or that women can make as much money as the male bodybuilding champions? It's not clear and I won't bother tracking down Cashmore's book. The statement is nonsense. Only a literal handful of the most elite male bodybuilders make a very comfortable living from their sport and it is still not near the level of income of elite males in mainstream sports. The vast majority of pro bodybuilders make very little and are forced to maintain regular jobs. This is even more true for female bodybuilders. Dowling's display of ignorance is inexcusable as is her lack of research to back up her assertions.

Given the overwhelming domination of males in sports throughout the millennia and cultures around the globe, Dowling begs a question. If women are just as strong, just as competitive, just as capable, how could they have been held down and oppressed throughout history and throughout different cultures? The answer is not of one sex holding down and oppressing another. It's the innate difference between males and females, which anyone who has worked with children or raised sons and daughters has observed. Starting at an early age, boys are more aggressive and competitive. Because of the feminization of our schools, these innate traits in boys are identified as undesirable resulting in boys being put on dangerous and mind altering drugs with phony diagnoses.(The "boys are defective girls" idea held by feminist inspired school teachers.) Once boys go through puberty, their levels of testosterone rise to an order of magnitude higher than female levels resulting in significantly more muscle mass, strength and aerobic capacity. Wishing nature to be different does not make it so.

Do not waste your time on this book. Read it only for another example of feminist claptrap.
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3 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Here's another put-down of men by using a very broad brush. I don't kow of ANY woman who was thought of as frail and delicate. Think of the early settlement of this country - or any country for that matter. Where were the "frail" women? During WWI and WW II, where were the "frail women"? During the Depression, everybody struggled.
I don't know. Maybe Ms Colette Dowling was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, so she grew up with priveleged women. Well, now there's a snake in there, spitting venom.
She discredits herself with so many twisted, inaccurate, and half-truths, it's hard for me stay with this book.
I wish I had my $20 back. Any takers? You can the book for $5, and I'll pay the postage.
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1 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a bad book. Attempting to show that women are physically as strong as men, Ms. Dowling gives them advice that can only do them harm. To quote just one example out of several dozen: the female winner of the 1996 Boston Marathon was a German woman, Uta Pippig. Ms. Dowling praises Ms. Pippig for having won the Marathon in spite of getting her period in the midst of it. According to her,this constitutes proof that women do not have to suspend exercise owing to menstruation.
What Ms. Dowling does not say is that Ms. Pippig, according to her own home page, has won no important race after 1996. Instead, she has experienced continuous health problems. In 1998 she was found guilty of taking illegal drugs that led to her being suspended from running for a period of two years.
This is not only a bad book--bad on physiology, bad on history, bad on practically everything--but it offers bad advice. Don't touch it, or else you may end up with health problems like those of Ms. Pippig.
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