Women who choose to develop their musculature face harsh criticism. Epithets and ostracism become prevalent in a society that is filled with double standards. Men who develop their muscles are not faced with such vituperation. Traditional gender roles, sexism, and fear of different people can explain these attitudes and behaviors. Aesthetic values of course play a role. The phrases “she is too much,” or “she crossed the line” reveals much. Saying that a woman is too muscular is ludicrous if she is an athlete or just naturally strong.
Traditional gender roles put woman as homemaker. The cult of domesticity was a dominant cultural norm in the West. Women were expected within this role to be obedient, modest, and never show anger. They were to show submission to a man.Women were not seen as people, but property.Men were the protectors, because it was believed women were too weak physically and mentally to take care of themselves. This was not true when the discriminatory and cultural barriers were dismantled. How this relates to athletic and muscular women is it challenged the male protector role of women.
This advertisement features a muscular woman. We should wonder if the same question would be asked if there was a man in the advertisement.
Women proved they could develop strength. This meant they would be a less reliant on male “protection.” A level of independence was gained for women in a sense. Traditionalist men viewed this as a violation against nature. Gender roles they were convinced should be rigid and enforced. A woman should not challenge a man on a mental field and definitely not a physical one. Women managed to do both and the reaction got vicious. Talented women athletes were either called “mannish” or had their sexuality questioned ( which extends to another issue of homophobia in sport). These attitudes lead to a more serious problem.
Sexism has been a part of sports for most of its history. Sexists believe that man has physical superiority over women. Sports may be the only realm they can fully dominate women. That changed with Title IX giving women access to better training and competition. More women were participating in athletics and developing powerful physiques. This challenged the idea of men’s monopoly on physical strength.
Women have competed in all types of sports and have shown how strong they can get. They are not given the same praise or respect as their male counterparts.
Detractors say that women who do engage in sport become “unfeminine.” This claim demonstrates a gender bias. The idea that female equals weak has been used to control women. Sexists would argue that seeing as men are stronger, that gives them the right to dominate women. When women started to develop physical strength, some men felt they lost a part of their masculine identity. A strong body symbolized power, subjugation, and mastery of one’s environment. Women who have power are viewed as either out of control or attempting to imitate men. Women who attain a muscular or athletic build do not change their biological sex. Traditionalists want gender appropriateness to be enforced at all levels of society. The most blatant display of this is in body image.
Aesthetics play a role in this question of how much is too much. Women are put under extra scrutiny in regards to body image. Women’s bodies are constantly under criticism. Being thin is viewed as a beauty ideal. This constant promotion from mass media, advertisement, and fashion industry marginalizes women of different body types (larger women and muscular ones). The muscular woman represents a unique case. She is either considered “too big” or abnormal by mainstream society. The truth is “too big” does not exist. This phrase basically supports the belief that women should limit themselves.Those who are slightly open minded state “toned is okay to a certain level.” While people have different tastes, it is unreasonable to dictate what an individual does to their body. Their is a desire to impose a form of body image conformity. The muscular male physique is praised, because it fits into a gender role paradigm. The muscular woman physique is disparaged due to the fact it challenges weakness of women. Negative comments from detractors usually state “muscular women look like men.” This is a ludicrous idea. If that logic were used then men without highly developed muscles would be considered women. The double standard is obvious.
These two women are not bad looking. However, The more muscular of the two would be considered “too much.” It’s not only men who say this, but some women as well.
Some women contribute to the enforcement of body image conformity. Weight loss becomes an obsession for some women. A whole fitness industry has directed its self to selling fad diets. Sometimes it can even lead to eating disorders. This is an extreme case. Society must learn to value women more than just for their looks. Women should have full control of their bodies. That means they should develop themselves if they want or choose not to. The rush to make yourself thinner is unhealthy. Women should not fear some muscle or a little fat.
The after photo she looks a little bit healthier
There is nothing wrong with a strong woman. The question of “too much” is not a reasonable one.Ultimately it is the woman’s decision how much she wants to develop her musculature. No one should call them ugly or unfeminine for what they love to do. They developed those bodies from the sports they played. They deserve respect. There can be beauty in bigness.