How to tell the difference between a man and a woman (repost)

by Stephanie Chasteen on February 12, 2011

I’m sorry I’ve been so silent lately!  On top of my usual state of overwork, I’ve been spending all the time allotted to blogging to a substantial site redesign.  Stay tuned for the unveiling of the “new, improved sciencegeekgirl”.  In the meantime, enjoy one of my oldies — but goodies — from the archives.

In this modern world, it gets tougher and tougher to figure out if someone is a Jim or a Jane. Whatever happened to the easy era of codpieces and corsets? Without those to fall back on, here’s a bit of physics you can use to figure it out in a pinch.

Have the person in question fold a small piece of paper into a little tent. Kneel on the floor and put the paper between their fingers, as in prayer, with their hands at their forehead. Have them bend forward at the waist and place the paper in front of them on the floor, and sit back up. Now, they should put their hands behind their back, and lean forward and try to touch the paper with their nose, while keeping their balance.

If they fall forward, it’s a man. If they keep their balance, it’s a woman. (Note, this doesn’t always work, choose your test subjects carefully).

What’s going on? Women have a lower center of gravity, we’ve got short torsos, long legs, and those nice wide hips. So if you were able to balance a woman lengthwise on your arm, her balance point would be somewhere around her belly. Men, on the other hand, have long torsos and a lot of weight in their chests. So when he tries to lean forward to touch the paper, he can’t do it because it brings his center of mass too far forward in front of his knees and he falls over.

Another way to see this biological difference between men and woman is this. Find a man and woman of equal height and have them stand next to each other. Her legs will be longer than his, and his torso will be longer than hers It’s quite striking. Or, find a man who’s a bit taller than a woman. Chances are their legs will be of equal length!

And an insightful addendum from Swans on Tea

Add “Can I balance you lengthwise on my arm” to the list of “things likely to get me slapped”

{ 5 comments }

iz September 27, 2015 at 4:28 am

I’m not too sure if your observations are 100% accurate. Please show me any study that has been done on this and I will believe you that women have longer legs than men.

See this link for more info: http://www.womenscycling.ca/blog/georgena-terry/womens-body-proportions-different-mens/

This link shows that you have it reversed.

Stephanie September 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm

iz – You misunderstand — the post indicates that women have a lower center of gravity than men. It’s not saying that women have longer legs than men, but our weight is overall concentrated lower than men.

Kat July 30, 2016 at 6:37 am

This is way off base. As a general rule, men have proportionately longer legs than women. Long limbs are considered to be “yang” or masculine traits. Women typically wear longer inseams (to accommodate heels, and because the crotch sits higher on women’s clothing), but that’s not reflective of actual leg length.

There are women with more “yang” characteristics (such as models), so obviously it’s possible for a woman and a man of the same height to stand next to each other and the woman have longer legs, but it would be less common than vice versa. The problem is that the more uncommon female body type (again, the long, leggy runway model type) is used as a template in society way too often, creating a false illusion that women should be a certain way, so we end up with jeans that are too long for most women, and inadequacy issues about height/leg length. Hence the reason most women wear heels or chunky shoes.

Kat July 30, 2016 at 6:46 am

Iz doesn’t misunderstand. At least twice in the post, it’s suggested that women have longer legs. Especially that last paragraph. Women often have somewhat higher waists, however, which makes sense because we need the extra space in the middle if we want to carry babies. So women generally have a longer crotch to waist region than men, and a somewhat smaller upper body, which can create the illusion of longer legs if one doesn’t observe closely.

The H February 8, 2017 at 7:50 pm

My Height : 183 cm
My Wife : 172 cm
My Race : Caucasian (Mediterranean Type)
My Wife: African

My lower legs, from heel to knee = same length as my wife’s.
My upper legs, from knee to hips = 10 cm shorter than my wife’s.

Strange, but true.

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