Three Australian academics argue that boys literally have a “leg up” on physics compared to girls because boys indulge in “playful urination practices” that girls can’t do.
They argue that physics is a difficult subject for many girls compared to boys because they lack the experience of grasping projectile motion first-hand. Projectile motion is usually taught as an entry point to physics. It’s a relatable concept, and throwing a ball is all it takes to explain the mechanics of force, energy, and momentum.
The three professors, Anna Wilson, Kate Wilson, and David Low, wrote in a Tes article on September 15 that boys have a “unique advantage” to understanding the concept of projectile motion better than girls do from a very young age because they pee upright instead of sitting down. They claim that understanding of the subject is “heavily skewed towards boys” because of this biological advantage.
The researchers cite “playful urination practices” with examples such as seeing how high you can pee to games like “Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal)” may give boys an advantage over girls in understanding physics.
“Like many parents of small (and not-so-small) boys, two of us (KW and DL) have observed the great delight young males take in urination, a process by which they produce and direct a visible projectile arc,” they wrote. “The fact that boys (and men) play with their ability to projectile pee is hardly contentious.”
“All this is experienced up to five times a day, so by 14, boys have had the opportunity to play with projectile motion around 10,000 times,” they said. “And 14 is when many children meet formalized physics in the form of projectile motion and Newton’s equations of motion for the first time.”
To close the gender gap in physics, the professors suggest putting a slighter emphasis on questions about projectile motion, which is typically used as an entry point for teaching mechanics like force, energy, and momentum.
While the professors don’t suggest that girls also play with their pee, they propose starting physics education with other topics, like energy conservation, which they claim is more central to physics.
“Girls are already at a cultural disadvantage in a traditionally male-dominated subject: let’s not add an embodied disadvantage by unthinkingly sticking with traditional curriculum sequencing,” they said.