Weekend Reading: Throw Like a Girl
In this weekly roundup, we scour the Web for our favorite long-form magazine and newspaper articles, collecting them here and on Longreads and Twitter. This installment focuses on the animals we punish, the sports we can't play, and the fickle thing that is public opinio
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I throw like a girl. At least, that’s what my coach claims. To make matters worse, he might be right. A childhood diet of aerobic sports doesn’t exactly lead to great hand-eye coordination. Still, who says girls can’t throw (and is that even OK to say)? Apparently, science does.
While researches aren’t exactly sure why, girls underperform when it comes to throwing. Starting at a young age and increasing over time, girls and women don’t throw as quickly or as far as boys and men. Even relative to other sports, the gap between men and women, when it comes to throwing, is larger than expected. Which is a good thing for me. Statistically, it’s unlikely that I throw like a girl.
Evolutionary biology has an explanation: women had to throw while carrying babies. So their rotation and form is all, well, thrown off. Men, who didn’t carry around little children in their arms, didn’t face such a problem. I’m not sure why a child-carrying woman would absolutely need to throw and how that would affect the form of all women to come, but perhaps it had to do with warding off predators or hunting for prey.
Well, the tables have certainly turned when it comes to a formerly feared predator. All over the West, wolves are again fair game for hunters. In Minnesota alone over 23,000 people have applied for 6,000 permits. It’s hard to say why people are both obsessed and fearful of wolves, but the question helps lead into the broader one of animal trials, one of our must-read articles of the week.
Without further delay, here are the seven articles you should be reading this weekend, starting with the aforementioned animal trial gem.
Should animals be punished for their crimes? Should shih tzu terrorizing wolves be killed, rampaging rhinos shot, and scheming snakes slaughtered? It sounds crazy until you realize animal trials were once relatively common. Drew Nelles, Maisonneuve.
“In Vanvres in 1750, a man named Jacques Ferron was caught fucking his donkey. He was sentenced to death for sodomy, a category of criminal act that at the time included having sex with Jews and Turks. In cases of bestiality, the animals were typically executed along with their human defilers; in 1685, for example, a German tailor ‘who had committed the unnatural deed of carnal lewdness with a mare’ was burned at the stake with the unfortunate horse.”
It may not be the norm according to the studies, but some women can throw really well. Erin DiMeglio, a high school quarterback, is one example. Melissa Isaacson, ESPNW.
“Classmates, the principal, coaches, teammates, fans, even opponents, insist it is simply not that big of a deal. She is just Erin to everyone at South Plantation. But becoming the first female to play football’s premier position in one of the sport’s biggest high school hotbeds last week, for a team with multiple Division I prospects, clearly makes her story unique.”
If you’ve ever wondered how you’d fare at elite-level ping pong, the answer is: not too well. In fact, you’d probably suck. Because even U.S. basement champs don’t stand a chance. Christopher Beam, GQ.
“At least I think he’s served. My paddle misses the ball completely. Suddenly it’s my first day at Shichahai and I’m getting aced. The next shot caromes off my paddle into tomorrow. It takes me several points to understand what’s going on. He’s got some wacky sidespin I’ve never encountered, and I’m not sure how to return it. I try working out the geometry in my head—if it’s spinning this way, then I have to move my paddle like…. By the time I calibrate, he’s applying different torque, and I fail to return that shot, too. I don’t even think to make a farting noise.”
It’s hard to imagine why these days, but some people opposed the Apollo program. In fact, a majority of Americans in the 1960s didn’t think it was worth the cost. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic.
“When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, a process began that has all but eradicated any reference to the substantial opposition by scientists, scholars, and regular old people to spending money on sending humans to the moon. Part jobs program, part science cash cow, the American space program in the 1960s placed the funding halo of military action on the heads of civilians. It bent the whole research apparatus of the United States to a symbolic goal in the Cold War.”
The fight against climate change runs into a lot or roadblocks. Green energy isn’t always easily accepted, and many point to cultural and emotional reasons. But maybe it doesn’t have to be such a struggle. Kim Larsen, OnEarth.
“Thomas Frank’s 2004 book What’s the Matter With Kansas? looks at how emotional appeals to a group’s fixed cultural or political predilections can persuade individuals to support policies that run counter to their rational self-interest. CEP would turn this notion on its head, showing that by appealing to rational self-interest citizens can be moved to engage in activities usually associated with views they reject. The idea is to erode that association. ‘It’s about genuinely listening to our audience and then engaging on their terms,’ says Jackson. ‘It’s not about ‘framing.’ It’s about honoring a different way of knowing.'”
Evolutionary stories are used to shed light on everything from religion to why girls don’t throw as well as boys. But that doesn’t mean everyone agrees with labeling any trait an evolutionary adaptation. Anthony Gottlieb, The New Yorker.
“Historians and social scientists have found quite a lot to say about why faith thrives in some places and periods but not in others—why, for the first time in human history, there are now hundreds of millions of unbelievers, and why religion is little more than vestigial in countries like Denmark and Sweden. It is hard to see what could be added to these accounts by evolutionary stories, even if they were known to be true.“
The Salton Sea is stinking up Los Angeles after a massive fish die-off What’s the deal? William T. Vollmann, Outside.
“It had been worse in other years—seven and a half million tilapia (African perch) died on a single August day in 1998—but this evening it happened to be better. Oh, death was there, but matter had been ground down to submatter, just as on other beaches coarse sand is gradually ground fine. The same dead scales, the barnacles licked at by waves of a raw sienna color richly evil in its algal depths, set the tone, let’s say: crunch, crunch. Without great difficulty I spied the black mouth of a dead fish, another black mouth, barnacles, a dead bird, and then, of all things, another black mouth.”