"I adore Australian Ninja Warrior. But is it selling us a lie?"

I’m a massive fan of Channel Nine’s Australian Ninja Warrior.

The sheer athleticism, talent, and physical strength to even attempt the Ninja Warrior course is impressive. The mental fortitude of the athletes to push through even when their arms are shaking, their muscles flooded with dreaded lactic acid, moreso.

But there’s one aspect of the hit family-friendly show that I’m not quite sure I’m buying. That is, the suggestion of hosts Rebecca Maddern and Ben Fordham that it is a “great equaliser”.

The Ninja Warrior course is not equal. At least, not for women.

You see, of the 90 or so contestants to make it through to the show’s semi-finals, only a handful (seven, actually) were women. And not a single one of the female athletes have passed any of the courses. At best, they had reached the final stage – the “warped wall” – before bowing out.

Why? Because, put bluntly, the Ninja Warrior courses almost exclusively favour male athleticism.

While female athletes, in general, possess greater flexibility and balance than men do, these fitness components are tested far less on Ninja Warrior than ones male athletes overwhelmingly dominate women in; for example, upper body strength and stamina.

With an average man standing at 175.6cm tall, and the typical woman at 161.8cm, it needn’t be said that women also lose out to men when it comes to height. Which, just quietly, makes that giant 4.5-metre high warped wall a tricky one to navigate.

Judging by the warrior women we’ve had on this season, their disparity in height makes completing a course almost impossible.

Of course, this isn’t just the case with our home-grown version of the show.


It took nine seasons of American Ninja Warrior, including hundreds, if not thousands of contestants, for a single woman to beat the warped wall. But on the 8th of June this year, 33-year-old Jessie Graff didn't just become the first American woman to make such a feat - she became the first woman in the world to do it.

Of the seven athletes across the world to ever complete the final course, not a single one has been a woman.

Considering this is a TV franchise aired in 18 countries, I think the numbers speak for themselves.

For those screaming at their screens right now, I concede that some of the most visually exciting stunts require extreme strength and speed - I'd be daft to deny that. I also don't mean to take away from the impressive talents of the male athletes, who have my chin grazing my apartment's floor every single episode.

But what about, next time, we force the athletes to walk a plank 10 metres up in the air? Or to bend and contort their bodies in a way that favours female agility?

I think we can all agree that would be pretty entertaining, too.

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