Welcome to Rising Traceuse A global resource for parkour athletes
Welcome to Rising Traceuse A global resource for parkour athletes

Why Do Female Parkour Athletes Fear More? (Or Do They?)

Men and women deserve the same level of respect in every area of life, but that doesn't mean they don't have their differences. While physical build is an obvious example, other areas are not so clear-cut. In this article, we're going to explore a contrast that has been mentioned countless times in the parkour community: fear.

If you have ever watched beginners during a parkour class or training session, you may have noticed some general differences between the men and women. While the men are more likely to go for a precision jump or speed vault on the first try, most women approach obstacles more cautiously and slowly. Women are more likely to express their fear when they approach an intimidating obstacle, and they may need more encouragement to overcome it. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions on both sides of the gender pool, but overall, it looks like women fear more than men when it comes to parkour.

You might think that's a pretty bold statement, especially if you believe there are no significant differences between the guys and the gals, but just hear me out before closing this tab in your browser. Like many people, I initially believed women had more fear than men. I believed that the lump in my throat before throwing a big cat leap didn't effect my male training partners with the same magnitude. Heck, I even used it as an internal excuse to put off scary movements that were well within my limits. After a while, I began to question my assumptions about gender and fear.

So I put on my detective hat and went out to find the answer to the age-old (or at least decade-old) question of whether female parkour athletes have more fear than male practitioners. The answer may surprise you.

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According to Psychology Today, young boys in many cultures are taught to ignore or fight off their fears during childhood, but girls are not. Society tells girls "It's ok to be afraid" while it tells boys "Don't be a chicken!" After years of being conditioned not to control their fears, what do you think happens to women? Here is the interesting part.

A study by Fiona Gallacher cited in the same Psychology Today article found that women and men experience the same amount of fear biologically, but women report greater levels of fear. The study measured brain activity while subjects were exposed to fear triggers, and they were then told to report how much fear they felt using a measurable scale.

Basically, men and women feel the same level of fear on a biological level when exposed to the same stimuli. It seems, then, that the fear factor in parkour and other disciplines is not a biological one but a psychological and social one.

A study mentioned in another article supports that conclusion. The research by Christian Vaccaro looked at more than 120 MMA competitors and found that, while male competitors feel a great deal of fear, they are less likely than women to express it openly.

What does this all mean for us as traceuses? It means that parkour could not be better suited for us. Most of us have been told all our lives that being afraid is acceptable, even when there is nothing to fear. As we begin training parkour, we see that irrational fear is actually harmful. It holds us back and, at times, can even be physically harmful as we perform a movement. Parkour teaches us to separate rational from irrational fear and to come face to face with what makes us afraid. These valuable lessons are ones we can carry into every area of our lives.

Of course, we can also look at the flip side of the coin. Because women have not been conditioned to push away and conceal fear, traceuses tend to approach movements with more caution. With parkour women, we don't see a lot of the irresponsible daredevil stereotype that we see in some male practitioners. Caution and sound reasoning are important aspects of parkour, especially when it comes to preserving our bodies.

So there's your answer, at least according to a few psychological studies. Women are not more afraid, they are just more accepting of fear and less likely to fight or conceal it. I think this is an important point to remember for us as traceuses. We are NOT more afraid than guys in parkour, so let's stop using it as an excuse to avoid our fears.

Mentally, we are just as tough as guys. We may have to re-condition ourselves to overcome a lifetime of teaching, but come on. We are traceuses. We can face any obstacle in our way.