WASHINGTON — There's no way around it. I throw like a girl.
Luckily, it's not difficult to avoid situations in which throwing is required, and I've managed to do it successfully my entire adult life. Except that one time.
A decade or so ago, in New York, a ball came flying over an 18-foot schoolyard fence just as I was passing by. There was no one I could hand it off to, and a gaggle of fifth-graders was waiting for me to toss it back. I had so little faith in my overarm throwing that I had to go underhand. The squeal of brakes was my first indication that the ball had ended up behind me, in the middle of Columbus Avenue. The best I can say about this incident is that nobody got hurt.
I know I'm not the only woman with that kind of story. As much as the expression grates, girls do, in general, throw like girls.
Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has studied the gender gap across a broad spectrum of skills. She believes that men and women aren't as different as they are often portrayed, and she has mined data on social, psychological, communication and physical traits, skills and behaviors to quantify the gap. After looking at 46 meta-analyses, Hyde found what she defined as a "very large" difference in only two skills: throwing velocity and throwing distance.
The throwing gap has been researched for more than half a century, and the results have been consistent. According to Jerry Thomas, dean of the College of Education at the University of North Texas in Denton, who did the throwing research Hyde cites in her paper, "The overhand throwing gap, beginning at 4 years of age, is three times the difference of any other motor task, and it just gets bigger across age. By 18, there's hardly any overlap in the distribution: Nearly every boy by age 15 throws better than the best girl."