Margie V. Martin

Some state that female bodybuilding is in decline. Yet, when you see athletes like Margin Martin there still is spark there. She currently is one of the most successful female bodybuilders. Born in 1979, as a child she had aspirations of becoming a bodybuilder. This was developed in her household. Both her parents loved to work out and her dad was a huge fan of bodybuilding. What inspired her to gain such a physique was watching GLOW Wrestling, American Gladiators, She-Ra, and specifically Tigress from ThunderCats. Margie liked the fact the women of American Gladiators were proud of their muscularity. At the age of 13 she began training with weights. Besides her fitness career Margie served in the Marine Corps and reached the rank of sergeant. She was a Human Resource Specialist for the US Department of Defense from 2007 to 2009. Although she started lifting at a young age she began serious training for competition in 1997. It was not until 2007 did she enter her first competition.  Her best wins were the 2012 Pacific USA Championships,and  the 2013 NPC USA Championships. Her major victories came in 2015 winning first place in the IFFB Wings of Strength Tampa Pro and the Strength Rising Phoenix World Championships.

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It seems as if she just arrived out of no where. During her early phases in her bodybuilding career she revealed that she struggled. Margie stated  about her first competition about some of the difficulties : ” the day of the show I was so excited, but as smooth as a baby’s bottom. ” This is common for any person trying something new. However, she did place fifth in the rankings. Usually competitors starting out place lower than that. She is excelling tremendously. If predictions are correct she will certainly be a Lenda Murray or Iris Kyle athlete, dominating the sport. The way her body is there is good reason to believe this. Her contest weight is 154 lbs of pure muscle and standing at a height of 5’5 . Her size is immense and she explains how she creates such a physique:  “I lift as heavy as possible, for as many reps as possible.”

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Her belief in regards to nutrition are that carbohydrates are critical and that food consumption should remain high to maintain mass. She could have competitive longevity, because of the structure of her physique. Her lower body development is impressive, especially the legs and gluteus maximus . Her upper body  is very full in the pectoralis major region. The biceps are large and overall her body has symmetry that bodybuilders strive for.

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Her success in the future depends on what the judges are looking for. Although their standards are changing constantly, Margie has become a fan favorite. These two consecutive wins in 2015 had fans taking notice. Although, she does not have an official website, her Facebook page has received 5,665 likes and counting. Besides being a great athlete, she makes time for her for children and is pursuing a masters degree in sports medicine. She seems like a woman always on the move for different adventures and opportunities.

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Margie Martin has a Youtube channel. where she demonstrates exercises and talks about contest prep. The only downside to it is that it is updated infrequently. Yet, anything is better than nothing at all.

Margie Martin could very well be the person to turn around the sport. It helps that she is a very attractive woman. Even though female bodybuilding’s golden age has passed, there are still athletes of amazing quality. Margie has proven that she is Ms.Olympia material. That contest may have disbanded, put the Strength Rising Phoenix World Championships is taking its place. Hopefully, Margie can win many more and become a symbol of this new contest.  Just like Lenda Murray or Iris Kyle may she can carry on the spirit of the former Ms.Olympia contest.

Margie V. Martin

Physical Fitness Considerations in Regards To Women Entering Combat

With two women being the first to complete US Army Ranger School, it seems as if women in combat will eventually become normal practice. Women it seems have been in combat considering there are no front lines in America’s current conflicts. The wars conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan mostly involve armed insurgencies using guerrilla  warfare tactics. There are instances in which women fought in wars throughout history. This occurred during the American Civil War and in Soviet Russia during World War II. Dahomey ( modern day Benin)  used women warriors in their armed forces. These are a few examples of a long history of women participating in warfare. Other countries allow Women in combat positions  in parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. The US still lags behind, but reversed this position by lifting the ban on women in combat in 2013. There are arguments against women in combat positions that are either extremely sexist or legitimate concerns. The most potent argument is the concern over physical fitness. There are detractors dubious that women can handle vigorous physical activity. Any rational person would agree if a woman meets the physical demands or requirements , there is no reason to ban her. Doing so is a blatant act of discrimination. Detractors claim that women are too physically weak for combat positions. Supporters claim that men and women are practically the same in physical respects. These are two extreme positions that reach wrong conclusions. Understanding physiological differences, physical fitness standards, and who to recruit is pivotal for integrating women in combat roles.

        Physiological differences are the argument used by detractors for excluding women from combat. Women they say are too frail. These claims are exaggerated to an extent. It is true that on average men have greater muscle mass. Higher free testosterone levels have an anabolic effect on both bone and muscle tissue. The hormone induces protein synthesis to a greater extent. However, this does not men male muscles are stronger than female muscles.    flex

The findings of the National Strength and Conditioning association state women can produce two thirds the applied force of men. The difference is due to men’s larger body size and muscle cross sectional area. Strength is an important asset to a soldier. They are required to carry their backs and supplies. The body armor will add more weight. Muscle is not the only factor in strength, but bone mass. Women have less bone mass compared to their male counterparts. This means a woman would have to undergo more physical strain than a man. Women do suffer more stress fractures in the army.Besides that, the armor is not designed to fit a female frame. This is currently being redesigned to fit women soldiers. This could help relieve some of the physical burdens that women face. Males have higher upper body strength, but women are closer in the lower body.

Spc. Karen Arvizu, left, puts on her hydration pack in preparation for her role as a volunteer in a physical demands study, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Ft. Stewart, Ga. The Army is conducting a study that will determine how all soldiers, including women, for the first time, will be deemed fit to join its fighting units from infantry platoons to tank crews. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Tasks that require upper body strength are going to be harder for women.

Besides the disparity in brawn, there is the difference in cardiovascular fitness. Women have smaller lungs and a smaller heart. Oxygen consumption is imperative to physical performance. The Vo2 max describes the process of oxygen consumption. Muscles during exercise will use oxygen to produce adensosine triphosphate. ATP will cause muscular contractions. Males have higher hemoglobin levels, larger hearts and lungs which means their Vo2 max is higher. Women would take longer to reach their total oxygen consumption peak. The assumption is that women are incapable due to biology and physiology. This is not the case, because there are women who could be stronger than some men. Disparities that are present in upper body strength and be reversed. If a woman weight trains at high intensity she can gain strength at the same rate as a male. Progressive overload gradually increases the weight lifted allowing the strengthening of muscle fiber. A weight trained woman may not be able to surpass a man that does the same, but she can be stronger than the average man. This means that a woman would require more physical training than a male recruit. One must remember average does not mean all. There are women with mesomorphic and athletic body types that would be more qualified than men. There are men who are not suitable to be in combat.

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If one has to make a conjecture on who would pass the APFT, it would be the lady in this case.

This is the point in which the US conservative position is discredited. Not all women are “took weak for combat.” For the most part they as a political faction do not value women as a group. Their traditionalist mind set want women back in the home. US conservatives do not believe in reproductive rights or women having careers. The army they wish to keep women out of  to preserve an all male culture that has been institutionalized. While conservative talking points can be disputed, there are issues with liberal stances. Their desire for equality makes them not want to recognize basic differences. Men do have more strength, but saying this angers them. Many have come under the influence of sameness feminism. This faction believes that talking about the biological and physiological differences between men and women is misogyny. The claim is outrageous. Being different is not evidence of inferiority. These ideas that men and women are exactly alike do more harm than good. Understanding those biological differences can allow the army to develop personal training programs specific to women. The fact is women as a whole could not keep up with certain physical demands of combat. There are women out there who are qualified and the army must do more to recruit them.

This is what a 115 pound woman can do with no training. You can see she is struggling a bit .True the fireman’s carry is effective. A man with no training could easily lift the man she is carrying. Now, if she had training she would not struggle.  

Liberal supporters seem to believe that any woman can just take the physical fitness test without training. Women would probably need extra training before even entering basic training to ensure success.

        There is a certain type of woman that needs to be recruited for combat. The average woman would find physical tests at this level challenging. Lowering the standards is not an option. Doing this would cause resentment among male counterparts. It only gives detractors support for their baseless assessments. The women that are needed are women that are above average. This means they have the muscular strength to handle physically demanding tasks.

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Here one can see that only one of these women would be qualified for physically demanding tasks.

This will require women with athletic backgrounds. If a woman of average strength level still wants to be part of combat, she will have to do intensive weight training. Old fashioned beliefs will have to be discarded. One of them is the idea that women should not do heavy lifting. Using smaller weights will not result in strength gains. Women also have to learn to do certain exercises properly. Pull-ups for example are difficult for women. This can be reversed by having them stop doing the flexed arm hang. Molding standards based on the idea women are physically inferior is counterproductive. It is possible to make the average woman stronger, but that would take more time. Finding  women who have the physical skill should be done first, while attempting to improve the physical fitness of women already in the army.

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It is clear here that one of these women would be better at duties that require upper body strength. 

 Traditional strength training methods will help women build muscular strength and endurance. Low velocity routines may not be as effective. It is questionable if this can change cardiovascular capacity. This can be done if the army really is serious about women in combat.

This is the exception. She easily lifts a much larger man. As you can see from the previous video only women of high physical fitness levels can do this.  

Another  problem that is not addressed is the overall health of the population. Many Americans know are struggling with being over weight or obese. Both men and women who enter the army may have to go on a weight management program. Weight issues come from a variety of factors which include diet, lifestyle, and genetics. So it is not only women who need their level of physical fitness improved. Besides exercise nutrition is imperative.

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This man would not meet the physical demands of combat. There is an assumption that men are better for this, but that’s not always  the case.

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Soldiers need high quality vegetables, fruits, and lean meat  to ensure a healthy body and a controlled weight. If someone is trying to maintain a muscular and strong physique, eating the right foods is required to maintain it. Women have to learn that food is not your enemy. Eating less is worse for your body and women do this under the influence of fad diets. Women must also learn not to fear muscle. Particularly for this job it is required. Women often say away from weight lifting for fear of appearing “masculine.” This dated and unfounded fear has to be eliminated if women want to be successful in combat. The frailty myth still seems to be used to exclude women. The argument goes “if you have a 115 pound woman and a 200 pound man she would not be able to carry him.” These are extreme ends of the  spectrum, but legitimate. First if a woman did not pass the initial physical fitness training she would not even be in that situation. Another counter argument is that one should not assume just because someone is female she is automatically weak.

Here is a woman lifting a large man. She does not have large muscles, but is clearly strong. They are not wearing military gear, so it is possible she could struggle with the added weight .

When examining women Olympic weightlifters some do not look like they could lift what they are lifting. What this comes down to is the use of functional strength. Detractors claim that with the added gear on the soldier the extra weight would cause a woman to fatigue, when attempting to rescue a fellow comrade. This could be a concern, but there is a solution. Removing the pack and supplies from the wounded soldier could be a solution. This would lighten the load that a smaller female soldier would have to carry. Although this leaves valuable supplies behind, it is more important to remove the injured.

There is only so long anyone can carry huge loads. At some point fatigue will begin. The woman as shown in the video  probably would fatigue at some point. Women who are in the army would have to perform this task more than men to build up their strength.

These arguments stating women are less capable seem to lack cogency. If the the US Army wants women in combat, they have to find the most qualified ones. Those exceptional women must be sought after.

            The physical fitness tests vary for the Marines, Navy, and Air Force. There are some problems in certain matters. The biggest one is the continued use of the flexed arm hang. That must be discarded altogether, because it does not help with the development of upper body strength.

Marines 

  • Flexed arm hang for women( to be replaced with three pull-ups )
  • Crunches ( only exercise to be scored the same as the men)
  • Three mile run under the 21 minute time allotment

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  • The Combat  Fitness Test attempts to simulate war zones ( 2008 update)
  • Involves running 880 yards
  • Ammo can lifting ( 30 pounds each)
  • Casualty drags over 75 yards which include the fireman’s carry
  • Sprinting with ammo cans over 75 yards
  • Three push-ups
  • Dummy hand grenade throw
  • A 15 yard crawl

US Air Force 

  • Involves push-ups
  • Requires sit-ups
  • Examines body composition and aerobic capacity

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  • Updates and revisions were added to the the test in 2004

US Navy 

  • Requires a 1.5 mile run
  • The test also requires a 500 yard swim
  • Sit-ups are involved

110317-N-9818V-445 CHENNAI, India (March 17, 2011) Cmdr. Shanti Sethi, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) answers questions from female students from various city colleges and high schools during an event to commemorate Women's History Month while Decatur is in Chennai, India, for a port visit. Sethi and eight female Sailors from Decatur participated in the event with students from various Chennai colleges and high schools. Decator is on a deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovos/Released)

  • This test also has the sit and reach exercise
  • This test also includes push ups.

These are just a basic outlines of what the physical fitness tests involve for  men and women in the armed forces. As one can observe, it is not so simple. Women may be at a disadvantage from an early age, because they are discouraged from the use of their bodies. Young boys learn physical skills, while girls are encouraged to be sedentary. This has to be deprogrammed from women. Limited confidence in tasks that involve physical skill will only be a hindrance. Encouragement, diligence, and sensible policies will make women’s inclusion into combat successful.

Female-rangers

RANGER
EVENTS PUSH-UPS SIT-UPS CHIN-UPS 5 MILE RUN SQUATS
STANDARD 49+ 59+ 6+ ≤ 40:00 60+

  These were the physical requirements that the two women Army Ranger graduates had to pass. 

      The final conclusions that are reached can be easily summarized. Women if they want to participate in combat must meet the physical demands. The US Army if they want positions filled by women must recruit women of a high physical fitness level. If an average woman wants to be a part of combat, she will have to train as hard as possible to do so. If a woman is qualified there is no legitimate reason to stop her. This act of banning women from combat was clear discrimination. Yet, feminist groups remained silent. Through the decades, they have not come to the aid of women in the military to the same extent as other causes. The reason could be surrounding the selective service. If women prove to be capable, there is no reason to exclude them from being registered. It appears that certain feminists do not want equality in other areas. This is a major contradiction of a so called progressive movement. There is going to be long term debate in regards to political, social, and cultural aspects of women in combat. The current situation is that women are going to play larger roles in the armed forces and it is time to make adjustments.

                                                 References

Ohio University. “Best Bet For Boosting Brawn In Women Is Traditional Strength Training.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080520210700.htm>.
Williams, Terry. “Muscular Strength in Women Compared to Men.”LiveStrong.com. N.p., 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 8 Aug. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.livestrong.com%2Farticle%2F509536-muscular-strength-in-women-compared-to-men%2F>.
Physical Fitness Considerations in Regards To Women Entering Combat

The Effects of Puberty on the Athletic Performance of Female Athletes

Before puberty, boys and girls can compete with each other in sports. Around the age of thirteen changes happen to boys and girls. Women will see changes in their body composition and skeletal structure. This does effect athletic performance, but this is only temporary. Once the body has finished growth performance can improve and the body will stabilize if trained properly. Puberty is a stage in the human life cycle  in which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. The assumption is when girls become women, acquiring physical skill is impossible for them. This is not true, if training is done and discouragement does not overtake a young female athlete.While a grown woman may not be able to compete with a grown man at elite levels, women can still improve. Puberty effects women’s bones, body composition, and metabolism.

Females just like males have a growth spurt. The skeleton will grow, but there is some difference. Girls will see their pelvis become wider. Total bone density will peak around this time and girls will have less compared to boys. Wider hips means that speed would decline from what it once was. The pelvis is much wider in the female body. The center of mass decreases in women’s bodies. This would give females the advantage in gymnastics. This explains while even though women are closer to men in lower body strength, their total running speed would be slower. A girl may actually find easier to run faster in her youth.High school  female athletes who participate in track and field at 17 and 18 may reach their peak. Women have a longer running stride due to bigger pelvises. However, weight training can build bone density. These changes may seem  like nuisance, but they are natural and temporary. It is obvious that bone cells are the same for both sexes. Men just have more density.Girls at first grow taller, but by the time of maturation, on average men will be taller.   Women’s joints are looser, which explains greater flexibility. As a girl athlete matures in a woman athlete she must be mindful of ACL injuries. The anterior cruciate ligament injuries are higher in women athletes, due to anatomical structure of the legs. This can be prevented with improved training and neuromuscular  techniques. As a female athlete it is pivotal that bone health be maintained.

Healthy Children Flexing Their Muscles --- Image by © Corbis
Up until age 13, there is very little body composition difference in boys and girls

 Body composition is pivotal to athletic performance. Girls will start at puberty producing more body fat due to an increase in estrogen. Hormonal changes mean it will be tougher for women to gain muscle mass. Although it appears that this is a disadvantage, that may not be completely true. Estrogen could allow for greater body temperature control. Women have fewer sweat glands than males. This means it would take them less time to cool down in high temperatures. This is an advantage in marathon running. Greater amounts subcutaneous fat provides more warmth in cold temperatures. This would be an advantage in swimming and skiing. Extra fat  does effect weight bearing activities such as running and chin-ups. The inert load provides extra challenges. Males gain more strength from rise in testosterone levels. Women do not see this unless they train vigorously to gain strength. Estrogen does still produce an anabolic hormone of GH. Protein synthesis does function the same in both males and females.

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By age 13 strength levels begin to boost for boys and total bone mass will be done for both sexes by age 18.Peak muscle mass for women occurs around the ages 16 to 20. Males continue this development till age 25. Women will usually weigh less than men due to the difference in size. Endocrinology explains why a difference in physical strength emerges.When girls become women they will start their menstrual cycle. This is known as the as the menarche. A girl will experience this first cycle around the ages of 13 to 14. The reason for the shift in body composition is due to the possibility of fertility. At this stage women will have to be conscious of body fat levels. If fat levels get too low amenorrhea could be fall an athlete. This condition is the absence of the menstrual cycle. Secondary amenorrhea  can be caused by excessive exercising, over training  or extreme weight loss.

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The cycle lasts 28 days. Prior to menstruation, women will experience PMS ( premenstral syndrome). This includes some headache, aches, and slight breast enlargement. The endometrium will shed, due to low levels of female sex hormones in the body. Blood will be expelled from the vagina. This is commonly referred to as the menstrual period. The endometrium will thicken due to higher levels of estrogen. This is called the proliferative phase. The last stage involves higher production of progesterone causing the endometrium to thinken once more. It is now ready for an embryo. If the egg is not fertilized it will die. The corpus luteum dissolves and the endometrium disposes of unwanted material. Then the process will start over. Although it appears that this process causes some discomfort, it should not hinder athletic pursuits.

         Metabolism does change for girls. This refers to the chemical interactions in a cell. This includes growth and repair processes in the cell. Girls as they mature into women, will find it more difficult to lose weight. However, fat may actually be useful in endurance events. Fat could allow for the storage of glycogen and carbohydrates which are critical body fuels. While the change in physiology is noted in girls and boys, many studies on metabolism focus on grown men. Examining women in regards to metabolic function is still relatively new. What is known is that the average woman has close to 29% body fat. The male body only carries 17%. Fat levels are similar for both boys and girls during childhood.

Basic changes during puberty  

Women do not have broad shoulders, which means less opportunity to add mass. Women’s arms are shorter in length. Girls once they become women will have to train harder to maintain muscle mass.

       Girls when they become women will see changes in athletic performance. Body fat will have to be managed and upper body strength will have to be built up depending on which sport. It appears that boys will gain more advantages, but girls seem to have the advantage in some sports. Although there is a change in endocrinology, it does not limit potential. Some girls may stop their athletic activities, because they feel there is no hope of improvement. Cultural pressures may discourage them as well. There is no need to have such feelings. Having proper coaching, training, and diligence can improve performance.

References

Goswami, Basuli, et al. “Impact of Pubertal Growth on Physical Fitness.” American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 2.5A (2014): 34-39.

The Effects of Puberty on the Athletic Performance of Female Athletes

Colette Nelson

Colette Nelson is a bodybuilder and physique competitor. She was born in Southfield Michigan in 1974.Besides her athletic career, Colette is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator. At a young age she was diagnosed with the disease (type I), but controls it through insulin and exercise. Colette nelson holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from New York University. Her athletic career started with a love of aerobics. She also was interested in dance. Colette would later develop an interest in weight training at age 19. It took Colette six years to build the mass needed to compete. Her muscle mass went from 120 lbs to 155 lbs. She won the 1999 Ultimate Bodybuilding Championship, the NPC US Championships ( 2001 and 2002), and the North American Championships (2004). She used her experience with dance and incorporated it into her posing routines. Colette Nelson switched to the physique class in 2014 after a retirement from bodybuilding. It is not clear if she will comeback to the stage.Colette still continues to train and advise new competitors. Colette also has an interest in web design and also provides services for. She has appeared on numerous documentaries and television shows representing the sport.

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Colette Nelson appeared in the Barley Political internet videos “Incredible Mccain girl.” This  was in 2008. It was a comedy video lampooning the US presidential election, with a bizarre sense of humor. Since 2008, those videos have received thousands of hits.

She appeared in two documentaries for MSNBC. The first was Body of  Work following her,and fellow bodybuilders as they prepared for the 2000 NPC nationals. Another program was produced called Hooked: Muscle Women. The times she does appear she acts as a great representative of  the sport.Colette Nelson is a good  unofficial spokesperson for the  sport. Having someone explain the sport can help reduce prejudices and  negative perception surrounding the sport.Like other competitors Colette changed over to physique.Still new, judging criteria is not always specific.

Amateur bodybuilding, figure and fitness competitions at BodyRock 2006 in Fairfax VA.
Colette as a bodybuilder

Colette is always willing to do something new. She has done some acting. Colette appeared in the Spike TV special Order of the Serpentine. The program has her play a muscular personal trainer. Colette has also been in the POV series for College Humor. Her other works are related to videos that carter to female bodybuilding fans. She has been in Awefilms productions and also appeared in two Utopia Entertainment Videos. These videos are mixed wrestling. Even though they are scripted her strength feats are real.With 15 inch biceps and 24 inch thighs this is no surprise. Besides minor acting roles Colette also is a beauty consultant and choreographer. She provides make-up services for athletes and the general public. Her baclground in dance allows her to add new elements to posing routines. Presentation is critical to bodybuilding. Her routines reveal the more artistic side of the sport. It

is more than just simple poses. The routine has to be amazing enough to impress the judges . This is were Colette uses her background in dance to make a great posing routine.

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After 2010, Colette switched to the new physique division . This seems to be the latest trend in the sport. The bodybuilding division seems to be shrinking and athletes took note. The opportunities seems to be going to figure, fitness, and physique. Colette returned to stage after being away for a few years as physique competitor. She competed in the 2014 Toronto Pro and the Omaha Pro. Her rankings were not high, but she did come with an impressive physique. She never lets that discourage her from continuing. She claims she has retired from competition, but we could see her back. She runs her own website   http://www.colettenelson.com/  which details her career and provides her business services. Colette also writes a blog on her site discussing nutrition and health.  She truly is a fan favorite.

Colette Nelson

“Even ‘weaker’ Sex” From Fiji Times Online

Even ‘weaker’ sex – Fiji Times Online

This article was published in 2013 and revealed information critical to women’s health. Women may be getting physically weaker due to lack of exercise. The article discusses how people in the past got more physical activity. This was necessary due to lack of modern conveniences and technology. Obesity rates increase in developed nations, while a segment of the population is obsessed with a thin body type. This makes women vulnerable to bone diseases. According to Grant Tomkinson muscular strength and endurance measures in the US, UK, and Canada hit their peak in the 1980s. Since then there has been a 10% decline and weight has increased. Women involved in athletics are not immune. The article states that Jessica Ennis Olympic track champion was concerned that her muscles were getting too large.Women being in a state of physical weakness is not natural. The truth is it is culturally induced. While it is true men have greater strength, physical weakness in women is promoted as a feminine trait.

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This dated and sexist belief is harming the health of women. It is also doing damage to mental health.

        The article recognizes the intense social pressure for women to be thin. Looking at fitness magazines the emphasis for women is a slim body. There is an opposite ideal for males who are encouraged to be as muscular as possible.  According to the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation survey 40% of women’s motivation for exercise was to feel better about their appearance. Women fear weights because of looking “bulky.” Women will not look like men, which is an irrational fear. That can only happen with abuse of anabolic steroids. There is no such thing as “bulky.” Some women have the ability to acquire high levels of musculature. Professor Ken Fox who has a background in health sciences  uses another colloquial term of ”toned.”  He Sates “they can get toned, but looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the issue.” There is no such thing as “toned.”  Women are building muscle, but people are afraid to say so. Here you can see the gender bias, because many in the fitness and health field feel that muscle and strength is male only .

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There is very little difference between a “toned” woman and a “hyper-muscular” woman. It is the degree of muscle that varies. Using this term only promotes a rigid gender binary in the fitness industry. Their needs to be a change in cultural attitudes. Women with muscle are still women.

      One aspect that was disturbing was the lack of physical fitness among children. Many children do not play outdoors like other generations did. Children have become what Susan Campbell of UK Sport calls “physically illiterate.” Being able to run, jump, and throw have declined rapidly. This effects both boys and girls. Although later on, it harms girls more. Before puberty there is no difference in strength levels between the sexes. Boys will produce more androgens giving them more bone mass. Girls do not see this increase, which is why physical activity is critical. Girls are discourage from learning physical skills and playing sports. This needs to change, because it encourages physical activity through out life.

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According to a survey done by the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation half of 14 year old girls found physical activity “unfeminine.” When boys were asked the same question it was only one third. It seems as if boys are more accepting of a sporty girl, but old fashioned belief systems are holding girls back.

      There are negative repercussions for not being physically active. Women could be at risk of osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity, and chronic joint pain. Another health risk the article forgot to mention is eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia effect women at higher rates and fad diets are at the root of it. The emphasis on thinness has become a deadly obsession. Fad diets as the article explains exclude protein which is essential. If protein is not part of your diet the body will start eating at body tissue. Muscles will atrophy.

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Women must build as much mass as possible for the sake of their bones and overall health. As people age muscle mass decreases. Women considering they have less overall could see a dramatic decrease if they are not exercising. Lifting weights are more effective at managing weight and maintaining a strong body. Muscles are critical for movement and balance. This is an ignored women’s health issue, but change is slowly happening.

        The article does end on a positive note. After seeing Jessica Ennis perform well in the Olympics and witnessing her stunning and powerful physique, many women are trying to emulate her look. However, there should be a level caution. The goal should not be to exchange one beauty standard ( thinness) with another ( muscular). The objective should be overall improvement of health, rather than aesthetics. Women were not designed by nature to be physically weak. Although sexual dimorphism is a biological reality, there are cultural factors that exaggerate differences in strength. The obsession with thinness must be challenged for the sake of women’s health.

“Even ‘weaker’ Sex” From Fiji Times Online

The Simpsons’ 300th Episode ” The Strong Arms of the Ma”

The Simpsons is the longest running American sitcom and animated program. Since 1989 it has produced 574 episodes and a feature film. The series is a satire of the American family lampooning everything from politics, popular culture, religion, and the general state of the human condition. It continues to explore various topics in its plots. One episode that is of particular interest is “The Strong Arms of the Ma.” This was a major milestone in the show’s history, because it was the 300th episode. The strange part was that it was not advertised as such. The following episode was called the 300th known as “Barting Over.” This episode is fascinating due to the fact it explores elements of gender politics, performance enhancing drug use, and society’s attitudes toward physically strong women. Female bodybuilding does not seem to be portrayed in a positive light, but weightlifting is. The remarkable aspect is these subjects are explored in a standard 22 minute episode. At first one would perceive this to be a story of empowerment, but that may not be the case. The end of the episode seems to have a mixed message. Overall, it was a typically hilarious episode. Yet, there are some elements that do reveal particular prejudices. This episode is a  great example of the complexities of  sexual politics, body image, and how gender norms influence women’s physical activity.

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The basic story line starts off just like any normal Simpsons episode. Rainer Wolf Castle has a bankruptcy  sale after three failed marriages. Homer purchases his old weight set thinking it will go up in value when Raiber dies. The Simpsons buy so much stuff that Homer cannot get  in the car. Marge leaves Homer anyway, because Rainer offers to carry him in a giant snuggly. Maggie needs her diaper changed on the way home, so Marge stops by the Kwiki Mart to use the bathroom. Apu lets her use the employee bathroom in the alley way. When she comes out with Maggie, Marge gets mugged. After this event, Marge becomes agoraphobic. She confines her self to the basement. Bored she starts lifting  the weights  Homer bought. Weeks go by, until one day she leaves the house. Marge happy that she is no longer afraid confronts her mugger. She pulverizes him in a fight to which Homer responds “it’s like I’m married to Shaft.” Marge finds a new hobby in fitness. While jogging she runs into Ruth Powers. Ruth is different from the last time she met and is now a female bodybuilder. She tells Marge she should compete too, but Marge says ” I don’t have those kind of muscles.” Ruth then convinces her to use steroids. Marge refuse at first, but Ruth rebuttals with “if you want to remain weak and helpless.” This induces memories of vulnerability in Marge and she takes steroids. She begins to train intensely and becomes immensely strong. Marge seems to become more aggressive and forceful. After entering The Iron Maiden Fitness Pageant and placing second, Marge becomes vexed. There is a celebration held at Moe’s Tavern for Marge. Still unhappy about her loss a rude comment by Moe causes Marge to go on a rampage. She beats up all the people in the bar. Homer calms her down appealing to her reason. The episode ends with Marge burning the weight set in the furnace and carrying Homer upstairs. This is a general synopsis, but there are specific scenes and details that reveal more.

       This episode if one watches closely does reveal certain aspects of gender politics. The concept of female as victim seems to be a theme. Society holds that belief  and it is one that is being challenged. Marge becomes a victim and is immobilized with fear. Women do carry a certain level of fear with them in their lives. This fear of being a victim of rape, domestic abuse, or murder haunts them. The mugging scene in a sense captured that female anxiety. The following scene shows Homer saying “it’s my fault my wife got mugged.” This goes into an dynamic of chivalry. The idea is that women need men for protection still remains, even though it is a dated concept. It could be more likely that a woman would be abused by her significant other. Marge’s situation is that she has to rescue herself. Chief Wiggum is too incompetent to capture the mugger and Homer’s inadequacies are obvious. Marge has no chivalrous figure to save her. She does something constructive by using the weight set. Metaphorically Marge is empowering herself. The theme of empowerment is common in feminist’s terminology describing the process of freeing one’s self from male domination. From a feminist interpretation Marge conquering her fear and fighting her mugger is empowerment. Marge no longer feels vulnerable. She has gain a new sense of power.

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  The anxiety does still remain when Ruth Powers says “if you want to remain weak and helpless.” This line is significant, because it is a common gender stereotype. It is one that even women have adopted as truth. Marge who wants to rid herself of fear wants to become a physically strong as possible. The reasoning comes from the old saying ”might makes right.” that same attitude has been used by misogynists as an excuse to subjugate women. Their view is that seeing as men are stronger, that gives them that right. As savage as that is Marge adopts this attitude. It is not that she is trying to become a man, but adopts stereotypical masculine ideals. During the second half of the episode Marge demonstrates this by forcing Homer to have a “good night snuggle.” She forces herself upon him, which is an act of rape. Although this is meant to be comedic, there is a perverse element. When a man gets raped it’s humorous, but if it happens to a woman it’s a tragedy. The reason both are not taken seriously on the same level exposes a double standard. Marge asserts herself aggressively pinning Homer down. Here you can see dated gender roles being reversed. Normally it would be the dominant male taking control of the submissive female. Marge has in this context taken on the role of dominant male, without being one. She at this stage believes everything feminine is low. When Homer says “you bulked up and managed to keep your femininity” Marge injects “and that’s why I didn’t win!” She then vows to work out harder.It seems the episode has mixed messages. It has an empowerment story at the first half and at the end reverts to the gender role status quo.

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After the fight at the bar Marge is down in the basement burning the weight set in the furnace. She turns to Homer and says “I do really miss being a lady.” Then Homer replies “and I miss being your knight in flabby armor.’ The level of contradiction is enormous. The idea that women who are strong are not” real” ladies seems sexist. Marge relinquishes the power she gained to return to being a woman who is gender appropriate. Gender appropriateness is a term of sociology meaning certain behaviors and activities are to be done by males and females. Both sexes must not violate these codes or mores. It is worse for women,because it focused on what they are not allowed to do. Marge has in this episode violated certain mores of gender appropriateness. The first was demonstrating a level of independence. She began doing other activities besides being a homemaker. Marge does exercise with the intent of becoming stronger, which is erroneously thought of as a male trait. She becomes so strong she can challenge many men. The major violation was that she showed assertiveness and anger. These are seen as negative qualities in a woman, even though they are natural emotions. Marge’s transformation some what represented a woman trying to break away from one dimensional gender norms. However, she chooses to go back to the traditional role of wife and mother. The subtle message that could be extracted from this is a strong woman is a terrible thing. It is interesting that the weight set was destroyed and not the drugs. It is common that after every Simpsons adventure, everything goes back to normal, but that scene was telling. Society does not like strong women, or at least a portion of it. Some feminists make the claim that most men do. This is not accurate.

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Those who offer their support are shunned as well. This leads to a larger discussion of the public perceptions of the physically strong woman.

     Public attitudes are generally negative toward the physically strong woman. There has been progress to an extent, with some people being open minded. Most have become accepting of a woman with a certain level of physical fitness. Marge starts exercising and gains some noticeable muscle and Homer compliments on her abs. She clearly is strong but on a level that is gender appropriate. Her muscles are on the level of being “toned.” This is no threat to traditional gender norms. The negative reactions come when she pushes her strength to the maximum. It is at a level where she is not only physically strong, there is visible evidence. This disturbs some characters in the show. When Bart exclaims “I’m off women forever”  during Marge’s contest it represents how some people feel about females with muscular bodies. They are viewed as an anomaly or freakish. Even their biological sex is questioned. The announcer’s comment in the scene explains this negative attitude perfectly : “let’s meet the contestants our doctors assure as are women, the iron maidens.” Muscle is believed to be masculine, even though both sexes have a muscular system. The fitness goal for women can be to have some muscle, but not “too much.”

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A phrase that is used for women who pursue high levels of muscular development is “they crossed the line.” This coded language means a woman no longer fits into the acceptable feminine archetype. This is related to body image, because the slim body type is favored. Only recently has a “toned” look become partly accepted. Moe’s rude comment to Marge stating “I ain’t got enough booze in here to make you look good” shows a level of body image conformity. Marge does not look so radically different aside form the fact her body is more muscular. There are women who can have different body types and still be attractive. However society wants conformity in not only values, but image. The female as delicate and soft has been the ideal, when women in reality come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Moe’s comment represents a person who wants to maintain the gender order. The idea that strength and power are solely a male domain are still common beliefs. Normally he makes attempts to be with Marge, however at this point she is too much woman. Women like this face not only ostracism, but one dimensional stereotyping.

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Female bodybuilding and female bodybuilders do not seem to portrayed in a positive light. The episode depicts female bodybuilder Marge as a bully, oversexed, and acting unfeminine. These negative attributes are placed upon female bodybuilders. The idea that the physically strong woman is aggressive is a myth that is repeated constantly. The fact is that Marge by lifting weights was doing some form of bodybuilding. Marge reaches a level of physical fitness to which she replies ” I can bench twice from what I started.” Here her new physical strength is accepted in praised, but when she becomes stronger than men it is inappropriate. Women sometimes restrict their physical activity, due to the fear of becoming muscular or too strong. The female bodybuilder evokes sometimes hatred or fear from men who see them as a threat to the gender order. They destroy the woman as the weaker sex stereotype and could literally challenge men in contests of physical strength. Someone viewing this episode would think steroids and “unfeminine” women is what female bodybuilding is all about. For fans and people with knowledge of the sport their are some inaccuracies that one sees.

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There is one scene in which an unnamed bodybuilder sings “the man who shot liberty valence.” The peculiar part about this is a contestant will pose with music in a routine rather than singing. A small element, but done for comedic effect ( she was making a pass at Dr.Frink).

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Sometimes posing routines allow competitors to use props. That quick scene captured that well. Also Marge is seen earlier pulling a bus by her teeth. Strength feats are not always part of bodybuilding competitions. Strong women competitions differ. Female bodybuilding is mostly posing. This is another great joke, but not entirely accurate ( as Agnes Skinner. said “this is the cheapest vacation you’ve ever taken me on.”). Fans would also realize another detail at the end of the contest. The winner is announced first rather than person coming in second. It is strange that in Marge’s contest we do not hear an announcement of which woman won. Depending on the competition only a select number of contestants make it to the final round. Yet, on the screen you see all the competitors on stage.

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The viewer should be aware that some of this done for the sake of comedy, but at times there are inaccuracies. It did depict correctly the women holding hands at the end of the contest. It is customary that competitors hold hands before the announcement of rankings. This they got down, but a pose off usually happens before that. This is the last attempt to impress the judges for higher points. At this point the episode is almost over, so there would not be enough time to depict that. Society does not like physically strong women, nor women who deviate from cultural mores.

        Another issue that is explored her is the use of performance enhancing drugs. This adds another element to the episode. It is clear that the public classifies various substances into “good” and “bad” drugs. The truth is even legal drugs and have deleterious side effects. Anabolic steroids are just like any other drug. There are risks and positive aspects. Again, a mixed message arises between “drugs are bad” to “some are okay.” Homer says in the episode ” I feel that illegal performance enhancing drugs are too common these days.” This does have truth and the potential for abuse is present. Yet, there is one drug Homer has been using through out the series: alcohol. Duff beer is one of his favorite things. This is seen as acceptable use of drug, because it is endorsed by a corporation. While it could be as or more dangerous as the steroids Marge used, it is acceptable. This represents two different perspectives on certain types of drugs. It is contradictory and it is ironic that Marge fights at Moe’s Bar. The show seems to repeat the same myths and scare tactics about anabolic steroids. The first myth is the depiction of what is dubbed “roid rage.” Marge becomes so vexed that she completely loses control and beats up everyone in Moe’s. There is limited evidence that anabolic steroids induce a type of mania. Mood swings could be a side effect, but sociopathic behavior is not.

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This could also depend on what type of steroid was used. Popular culture depicts this as drug induced psychosis and is not accurate. Roid rage may not exist. Medical literature is even questioning it. Besides this inaccuracy steroids in this episode are shown to be a “wonder drug.” One cannot merely take drugs and become massive instantly.

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Training is a major part of athletic development and if not done correctly results will be minimal. Marge was one seen training a for a small portion of the episode. It took her two weeks to build up strength without chemical assistance, but when she gets it her gains are immense. Steroids would not make a person super human, but just add to the natural physical ability to the user. A person with limited genetic athletic ability would not advance far even with steroids. Marge makes gains in an unrealistic manner. Then again, this is a cartoon. True it is a fact that performance enhancing drugs are a part of numerous sports, but these substances cannot make champions. This episode seems to not be aware of that.

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Use may improve strength and recovery from workouts, but this does not guarantee success in sports competition.Another inaccuracy is how Marge actually takes the drug. When Ruth powers convinces her to use them she drinks it. Anabolic steroids are usually taken in pill form or by syringe. What Marge takes looks like some sports drink. They do depict her doing a steroid stack, but erroneously in a smoothie form.

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They are correct that some athletes use different drugs ( like estrogen blockers and fat burners). However, the amount Marge takes is large. Women could see enormous strength gains with minimal dosages of anabolic steroids, because their bodies are that sensitive to the hormone. The only side effects depicted somewhat accurately were increased libido and hair growth. Some do experience this, because testosterone is responsible for healthy sexual function in both males and females. Adding more to the body in synthetic form would result  in heightened sex drive. Homer says to the kids “your mom had a lot of stuff to shave.” One can assume he meant the face. This happens to some women when taking certain steroids. Depending on which type used it could either be hair growth on the face or hair loss. Another mistake is that apparently Marge gains vascularity instantly. This does not happen from steroid use, but when body fat becomes very low. The removal of the body fat allows some veins to be visible.

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The depictions of Marge gaining superhuman strength are for comedic effect. So, that element does not need to be criticized for factual inaccuracy. Although the viewer has to accept a level of suspended disbelief. Another aspect to this is how society views drug use. There are drugs that are dangerous and have FDA approval, but they are acceptable. There are unacceptable drugs that society condemns, but they are probably not as harmful as the product s of pharmaceutical corporations.The episode almost turns into an after school special with the “anti-drug message.” Drugs are like any other substance. They can be overused, cause addiction, or health issues. Marge’s conversation with Ruth Powers presents two sides of the debate. Ruth is pro-drug stating that nothing could possibly go wrong using them. Marge provides a counter point of side effects. She claims “she would be making a liar out of her tailgate.”Yet, through peer pressure she is convinced to take anabolic steroids. She was at first anti-drug. The issue is more complex than whether or not drugs are negative or positive. It it how society views their use, how we perceive addiction, and what laws are appropriate. If we truly value freedom of choice, we would not be concerned about what people put into their bodies. This issue will not be resolved anytime soon.

       Analyzing this episode reveals a level of multifaceted dynamics .The reason The Simpsons is so popular and has longevity is because of its subversive and controversial nature mixed with witty humor. Numerous episodes make allusions to literature, film, and television. These are fascinating to watch closely from different perspectives. “Strong Arms of the Ma”  would be of much interest to a person wanting to further understand the nature of power relation between the sexes. At first, one would assume this episode has some subtle misogyny, but it was written by a woman. Carolyn Omine wrote this episode, which makes this somewhat ironic. Maybe it is not directing hatred at strong women, but criticizing a particular paradigm. “Might makes right” is a perverse value to hold. Marge not wanting to be a victim made her self as strong as possible and as a result became a bully. So, much so she became almost a predator. Victims of trauma react in different ways. Marge reacts by retreating, coping, and then a gradual recovery. Besides agoraphobia, it would seem as if Marge as some post traumatic stress disorder as well. During the scene were the family does a mock set up of the Kwiki mart, Milhouse comes in with a toy gun. Marge terrified of the memory of the robbery runs down to the basement. Marge’s situation could be a metaphor for how women feel certain anxiety.

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Women’s lack of physical strength does put them in a more precarious situation. Domestic abuse statistics do confirm this. Women are many times at the mercy of men’s greater physical strength. It is no surprise that a parody of a Lifetime original movie “The Woman Who Died in Her Home” was mentioned. The Lifetime Channel features shows about women either being abused or in the role of victim.Marge overcomes her victimhood  and then embraces the stereotypical masculine virtue of violent aggression. Take note in the bar fight scene she is beating up only men. The subtext is that Marge is doing what some men do on a regular basis to women. Violence against women is prevalent globally. Women have to make extra considerations regarding their safety that men never think about. Countering this with more aggression may not be the solution. The episode may suggest this. Viewers could interpret in a myriad of ways. What the creators intentions were exactly seem ambiguous. One simply must draw their own conclusion.

The Simpsons’ 300th Episode ” The Strong Arms of the Ma”