Schmoes

The term schmoe  is a term used describe hardcore fans of female bodybuilders. They should not be confused with other men who just likes muscular women. Schmoes like a certain type of muscular woman. They like the most muscular, strongest, and athletic woman. Although schmoes are fans of the female bodybuilding in particular, they also enjoy fitness, figure, bikini, and physique competitions. Feelings about these types of fans are divided in the fitness industry . Usually, the term has a negative connotation. Stereotypes range from schmoes being perverts, awkward, pathetic, fetishists, or men with some form of mental defect. This is a vast generalization of these devoted fans. Sometimes other fans used the term for any man who loves and supports female bodybuilding. Connotations and even denotations vary widely when discussed in the female bodybuilding subculture. It is pivotal to understand the dynamics of this group and word. These schmoes could become an important financial component to the sport in the future, if not already.

When the word is used it is done in a derogatory fashion.  The stereotypes are used to describe an entire group. The first common that appears in fitness circles is that of the fetishist. They are fixated one a particular element that causes sexual arousal. There are numerous sexual fetishes, but in this case there can be one for muscular women. Although one would believe that schmoe and fetishist are interchangeable. The fetishist would like muscular women doubtless of the sport she was competing in. The schmoe would have a favorite athlete, remembering her best wins, general stats, and accomplishments throughout her athletic career. To the fetishist that matters little, because he would merely reduce her to a sexual object. This is degrading, because there is a level of dehumanization. While some schmoes fall into this category, others do not. There are schmoes out there who enjoy a particular athlete and a eager to see them pose on stage.

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The other pejorative image of the schmoe is the pathetic and submissive man. This is rooted in sexism. Schmoes are viewed as abnormal, because in the traditionalist mind set no man should seek a woman who has more power than he does. When examining this situation a woman with more physical power becomes an issue. A schmoe who loves and is attracted to a woman more powerful than himself violates traditional gender norms. Real men control women and the schmoes love reverses strict gender  roles. They are viewed as weak and submissive, so in a metaphorical sense they have become females in the eyes of misogynists. This warped view fails to realize that even men who engage in weightlifting activity also admire female bodybuilders. This stereotype reveals how sexism can distort men and women’s perceptions of one another. Male and female relations are viewed through a paradigm of superior and subordinate. This leads to another negative associations with schmoes like mental defectiveness or a perversion. The assumption is there has to be something wrong with men who like muscular women. This is the perspective from outsiders who are not familiar with the fitness industry.

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The idea of schmoes being mentally disturbed is repeated constantly. Liking muscular women can hardly be described as a mental disorder. It would be ludicrous to say so. These types of fans are extremely enthusiastic about women involved in the sport of bodybuilding. The worst image of the schmoe is the one that is seen as a pervert. It is an image of a stalker lurking at contests and obsessing over a particular woman. This is rare and schmoes do not all have a malevolent nature. The pervert image seems to be exacerbated by media and a public not familiar with the subculture. Although some may fit stereotypes, it cannot be all fans. Language can be used to denote some form of status or power relationship. The word schmoe is a perfect example. Using the term in a pejorative manner is a way to ostracize and alienate fans of female bodybuilding. It allows for the denigration of female strength, while maintaining the traditional gender role paradigm. Only women are to admire men’s strength, but it is improper for males to admire a strong woman. The schmoe challenges this by reversing the paradigm. He admires the woman’s athletic ability and the physical strength they built up.

        Outsiders may view the behavior of this group as unusual. Yet, considering it is not so different from any other form of fandom. It can almost parallel celebrity culture and the paparazzi. These photographers and celebrity magazine reporters obsessively follow the actions of movie stars. They learn about their families, career moves, and numerous personal affairs. Seeing as celebrity culture is mainstream, few people perceive it as bizarre. Female bodybuilding is not a mainstream sport and has a unique subculture. The schmoes who attend every contest do what  the paparazzi do with movie stars. They take photos and focus on particular details of an athlete. To the schmoe the female bodybuilder is a celebrity. Fans come to expos just like fans coming to red carpet events.

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Normally, at fitness expos athletes can promote supplements, sign autographs, and find sponsors. Schmoes who are a loyal fan base and meet athletes. When you compare this behavior to celebrity culture the schmoe  does not seem strange. Another parallel is that schmoes are like groupies in the female bodybuilding world. Like rock star musician culture, there are some female fans who kill to be close to him. Groupies would follow a popular musician just as obsessively as a paparazzi. It is rare that paparazzi or groupies are condemned like schmoes. They are condemned even by the subculture they participate in. Some female bodybuilders even look at them with disgust and hatred. Others view them with high esteem and appreciate their support. Women who are active in male dominated fields do not receive the same level of respect or praise as their male counterparts. Schmoes do provide the love that the fitness industry does not. While this fandom has reached a level comparable to paparazzi or groupie culture, it is keeping a struggling sport alive.

         Female bodybuilding has been in a decline since the early 2000s. Athletes who want to compete find few options left. Women are at financial disadvantage due to the sport being underfunded. Prize money is so diminutive. However, athletes and other companies have taken this as a business opportunity. Various websites have emerged cratering to schmoes and fans of female muscle . Extreme fans will pay for memberships for multiple sites and engage in session wrestling. Athletes know what their fans like and their financial contributions are keeping a struggling sport alive.

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Schmoes are usually considered to be the majority of clients for a female bodybuilder that is a session wrestler. The truth is a large portion of men from all walks of life, cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds pay for session wrestling. A combination of session wrestling and website membership fees go to women’s competition expenses. The hardcore schmoes are willing to pay to see their favorite athlete. The IFBB claims that female bodybuilding is not marketable. Here it is shown that athletes and supporters are providing content. They have found a demographic target and it has been a success. Schmoes are a part of that and are keeping the sport from vanishing completely. The cancellation of the MS.Olympia was a disappointment, but the sport marches on. The internet has been helpful in this process, but the consumers cannot be forgotten. Schmoes are part of this success.

        The reason schmoes are different from other fans of muscular women is that they prefer female bodybuilders specifically. Any man can like muscular women, but schmoes like female bodybuilders and the most muscular ones. This aspect is not always constant, because bodybuilding has more categories. Many figure, fitness, and physique competitors could even compete in the bodybuilding category as lightweights. Women athletes are in general developing more powerful physiques. This body aesthetic preference is related more to the subculture.

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While fans of female muscle would like both of these women, schmoes like fbbs the most.    

Many schmoes do have an attraction to large muscles on women. This is related to cratolagnia and sthenolagnia. However, the attraction is more related to sthenolagnia because it is related to the display of musculature. The strength element does not seem to matter as much as the muscle itself. To the schmoe who enjoys session wrestling the strength component is important. Men want to have women arm wrestle them, lift them, and pin them in a match. Just having large muscles would not be enough to satisfy a client. The physical force has to be there. Schmoes believe the bigger the woman is the more beautiful she is. The judging criteria for contest is more than just size, but shape, symmetry, and definition. The schmoe’s criteria for the perfect muscular female body is more simple. Round developed glutes, big biceps, full chest, and nice legs are  the areas of attention.  The bigger the better seems to be the unwritten motto. While schmoes like this aesthetic model, they do not reject the other athletic body types.

         It is difficult to figure out when the word came into existence. During the early days of female bodybuilding it’s popularity was high. This group of hardcore fans probably existed in the early stages. It is alleged that the word was coined by Kay Baxter. She was a successful bodybuilder in the 1980s. Kay was known for her immense size, but rarely got recognition from the judges. That did not matter to fans, who she was popular among. Kay was most likely the first to wrestle men and coined the term from her experiences.

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She was married to Bill Wick, who produced female bodybuilder wrestling videos. Due to her incredible strength she was able to wrestle many men. Kay Baxter would also appear in Tom Jackson videos that also did mixed wrestling. This was before many had reliable high speed internet, so videos had to ordered out of magazines. It has been stated that Kay did not use the term schmoe as a negative connotation. She may have used it as a term of endearment toward her fans. There would be a good reason for this. The fans were showing support, unlike the sports organization they competed for. Being under paid, unappreciated, and discriminated against make it hard for women in the sport. Those fans prove that their is someone who appreciates the athletic talent of women.Bill Wick has for a longtime produce a number of mixed wrestling videos and is by definition a schmoe himself. Wick saw their was a market for schmoes like himself and continued to produce videos.

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Bill Wick seen here wrestling a female bodybuilder.

This provides at least some clues and foundations to which the word originated. Its origins are not clear, but its specific denotation is more ambiguous.

         There are numerous denotations that have appeared for schmoe, but often they contradict one another. One states “A man who pays money to wrestle with a woman who is often more muscular and stronger than he is, for sexual gratification, although no overt sexual activity is performed.” While on average the women would be stronger than the men, their are some men who are just too strong for any woman to challenge physically. Not all sessions are the same. A strong man would probably prefer fantasy, rather than competitive matches. If a strong man were to do a competitive match he could possibly hurt the woman. The objective is not win, but to experience the power of the muscular woman. Semi-competitive matches allow for some resistance. Many times there is the idea that most schmoes are out of shape men, but it is possible their are athletic men who are huge fans of female bodybuilding. This would only make sense seeing as they would have most contact with them in a gym environment.

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This man in the photo may not fit the image of schmoe, but he could be one considering how much he is smiling being next to Margie Martin.

Some denotations become a little more specific. This statement explains “A male patron and groupie of female bodybuilders. Often paying for sexual domination or wrestling with overtly muscular women.” While this can have an element of truth, its not a full representation. There are some schmoes who would not engage in sessions for a number of reasons. One could be that the possibly of being harmed due to the woman’s much greater strength. A woman who can leg press huge amounts weight and puts you in a bodyscissors could break your ribs. Although the women do try to be careful accidents to happen. Some would rather watch mixed wrestling videos than participating in an actual match. Another reason why all schmoes would not engage in session wrestling is because of prices. These sessions are not cheap, which is a barrier to someone of limited funds. When reading into these definitions a precise definition can be formed.

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An example of what people think of when the term schmoe is used.

A specific definition could be the following : ” an extreme  fan of female bodybuilding, who likes muscular women, but female bodybuilders the most.” This can be expounded upon further : ” they may or may not engage in session wrestling.” While strength may be a factor in attraction, muscle size is the most important element. This is the best working definition so far.

     Fans generally try to not use the term to describe themselves. They too have been influenced by negative stereotypes and try to distance themselves from it. Others have embraced the word and sometimes use it for any man who likes female muscle. Subcultures do change like any other culture and this includes connotations to various terms. One can be fan of something, but may no fit into a subcultural  group. This can be seen with the enormous popularity of Japanese animation or anime. Internationally audiences consume and watch it, but that does not make then otakus. This subcultural group are hardcore fans who collect merchandise, manga, and make time to go to every anime convention. Like any form of fandom various groups will emerge. Schmoes should not be rejected or hated. They are just part of a sport and activity that is not mainstream. People react negatively to what they do not understand. This may describe some of the enmity that muscular women and schmoes face. Whatever the case, they are a part of the female bodybuilding subculture.

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Schmoes

Colloquial Gym Terminology

Language is an amazing human creation. It can be descriptive and colorful. It can be controversial and powerful. The way people manipulate language is a subject of intense academic interest. Sociologically, subcultures do develop their own terms. This can be used to describe material and non-material culture. The case for dedicated gym goer or hardcore fitness enthusiast  there is colloquial terminology. Just like any other subculture the diction becomes unique. Understanding some terms are useful when reading printed or digital materials regarding the fitness subculture. The terms used can either refer to particular anatomy of the muscular structure, exercises, or other objects.

Newbie-  A neophyte to a particular sport or gym atmosphere.

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“This woman is a newbie ,because it is her first time lifting weights.”

Guns- This refers to the arms. This sometimes can be called “gun show.”

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“Cindy developed massive guns by doing bicep curls.”

Jacked- Describes a person who is very muscular.

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“Lenda Murray was immensely jacked as a Ms.Olympia competitor.”

Ripped- Having low body fat which allows muscles to display definition.

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Women must be ripped if they are to show each muscle group for competition.

Pecs– A  word that is short for pectorals.

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“Alina  has massive pecs she developed on her chest.”

Lats- A term that refers to latissimus dorsi muscle.

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“The poses that involves the back is called the lat spread.”

Cardio–  This is short for cardiovascular exercise. This is exercise that focuses on the heart and lungs.

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“Using a treadmill is excellent cardio.”

Glutes- Another name for the gluteus maximus

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“These women have some well developed glutes.”

Pump- When the muscles are full of water and glycogen that it appears huge and will feel hard.

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“Denise is so pumped her muscles are huge.”

Swole– Extremely muscular in body type.

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“This woman is so swole she makes Stallone look thin.”

Traps- This is short for trapezius muscles.

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“That woman has some powerful looking traps.”

Iron Maiden–  A term used for the strong women who challenge the idea women should not lift .

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“This iron maiden has no problem carrying groceries.”

Mirror Muscles–  Muscles that are seen in the mirror which include pecs, deltoids,  and biceps.

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“The mirror muscles include the muscles of the upper body.”

Vascular–  When body fat is so low veins are visible.

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“Sarah is so vascular her circulatory system looks visible.”

Gym Rat-  A person who is  constantly training at the gym.

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“Megan is such a gym rat she basically lives there.”

Gym Kryptonite– A woman so beautiful she distracts men in the gym from their workouts .

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“Alicia Harris can be real gym krytonite when she is wearing that.”

Lifting-  A shorter word for weightlifting, resistance training, or strength training.

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“More women are becoming involved in lifting to lose weight.”

DOMS- This means delayed onset muscle soreness. This occurs after intense workouts, but is a sign the body is building itself up much stronger.

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“I have DOMS because I ache all over.”

Juice-  A slang term for anabolic steroids.

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“Juice can improve performance, but without genetics or training it will have little effect .”

Machines-  Equipment that is not barbells or weights. They are designed for training a specific body part.

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“This machine is great for the upper body, but will not work the lower body.”

Fbb- An abbreviation for female bodybuilder.

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“Monique Jones is one of the best fbbs on the competitive circuit.”

These are just a few examples of gym terminology. There is a vast body of words and terms not listed here, but they will be described later on. When examining a subcultural environment it is best to understand the language and mores of the group. This does in an ethnographic sense reveals behaviors and practices that outsiders would not be familiar with.

Colloquial Gym Terminology

The Photography of Gene X. Hwang

If you are not familiar with this individual, you’ve probably seen his work. Die hard fans of female strength, fitness, and bodybuilding sports already know the name of Gene X. Hwang . His photography captures the beauty, power, grace, and athleticism of the muscular woman .His work does not only focus on the world of fitness, but it includes an assortment clients from the corporate world and marketing communications industry. Not only is he a great photographer, Gene also is a businessman. Gene X. Hwang is the co-founder of Orange Photography. This company specializes in professional photography for individuals, events, and companies. Gene X. Hwang also runs a website Gene X Magazine.com. His website features photographs, articles, and a members area discussing female bodybuilding, fitness, figure, bikini, and physique contests. James Cook also contributes to the site with a blog and contest coverage. Gene X. Hwang  has in many ways delivered coverage that  fitness magazines ignore and provides it to loyal fans. It is clear by his high quality work, that he is also a fan. He has sated “I always thought these women looked cool, like real-life superheroes (I collected comics as a kid), but it wasn’t until one of my friends at school asked me to shoot her at a bodybuilding show that I really started to pay attention to these strong women.” Gene X. Hwang  has been doing photo shoots with these athletes since the 1990s. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area over the years he has photographed some of the sport’s top competitors. He does deserve recognition for his efforts and contributions to the sport.

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Besides his interest in photography and athletic women, he is a fan of pinball. Gene X. Hwang became a fan while witnessing a tournament. His favorite photographer is Edward  Burtynsky, which appears as if his works are his artistic inspiration.  Mr. Hwang has said his favorite thing about photography is ” is how it allows you to share how you see the world.” He has shown as a world of female muscle that otherwise would be hidden. His photos capture the atmosphere of competition, the personalities of the sport, and a fascinating subculture. The question remains what motivates such work ? As Mr.Hwang explains “I get inspired by people more than anything: people who make an impact, or how people can affect the world.” To him and fans of female muscle these women are inspirations. Their struggles and triumphs are demonstrated through his photos. His work is like a documented history carefully being archived.

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What makes him an excellent photographer is that he does more than just women in bikini shots. Many female muscle fans are accustomed to this. He does not avoid them entirely, but has variety in his fitness photography portfolio. Photographs that Gene X. Hwang takes can feature women in dresses, on stage, or just standard portrait format. Athletes are presented in a respectful manner and not sexually objectified. Mainstream magazine publications do sexually objectify female athletes that appear on their covers. The “sex sells” concept has been harmful to women’s sports. Hwang’s photography is so masterful that he does not need to resort to that to sell his work. Making a quality photograph is more than just having the right equipment. It relies on concepts of aesthetic, how lighting is manipulated, presentation, and perspectives in regards to photography as an art.

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Gene’s photos have athletes in various settings. Models could be on the beach, around parking lots, the street, or in a nature setting. No matter were it is the environment adds to the charm of the photograph. It gains a since of character. Simultaneously, the photograph captures certain elements and beliefs. As Gene describes it : “I realized though early on that there is no such thing as totally objective photography.”  Which means a photographer has an intent with the photo taken. It is more than just a picture; it is the concept of image itself. When Gene takes pictures he does so to present strong, capable, and beautiful women. These photos show a new paradigm of womanhood that combines strength and pulchritude. Gene explains ” Even in the news business every photographer brings a part of themselves to the images that they create.” Being a fan of female muscle, he will present them in a respectful and honorable manner. The women are presented almost in a heroic stature.

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You can see more of Gene’s work at ftvideo. As a member you can get access to thousands of photos and clips. 

Gene X. Hwang has mentioned his interest in muscular women is rooted in his love of comic books as a child. Another art form, regularly depicted are women with muscular physiques. At first his desire was to be a photojournalist. However, it appears he is doing better going into business for himself. Many claim that female bodybuilding is in a state of death. Websites like the one Gene X. Hwang are helpful, because it gives the sport more exposure to a larger audience. Fans can go to ftvideo.com read about contest results, see videos, and view exclusive interviews. Since the 1990s the site has been going strong. He is doing something the fitness industry does not. Gene X. Hwang has made the athletes marketable. The sport can be saved, but the gatekeepers do not care. May be this is a positive development. Seeing as Gene is a supportive fan, he knows what others would like. His associate James Cook also is very passionate about the sport. James Cook also provides high quality photographs and produces videos for the site. Their services are valuable. Athletes benefit from these shoots, because it can provide some funds for them.

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Gene X. Hwang with his associate James Cook. 

Most of the Weider publications provide minimal coverage of women’s events. This is common just like other women’s sports. Although unfair, it allowed entrepreneurs such as these photographers to start something popular among fans. The corporate gatekeepers of the sport should take notice. Not only does Gene provide photos, he writes. Gene X. magazine has interviews and articles that discuss the fitness industry. Seeing as he enjoys variety in his work, even candid photos are fun to look at.

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Before competitors step on stage there are preparations that have to be made. There is a level of chaos, tumult, and nervousness, but celebration that is captured in the photos. It almost feels like one is actually there . Looking at Gene’s work exposes the viewer to a microcosm. A world that is unknown to many. Gene also does back and white photos, which add a nice style and aesthetic.

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This retro like feel establishes another dynamic. While color photos are pleasing, black and white photos have a quaint manner about them. Fans rarely seem to appreciate this variety in photos. They either like more of the on stage competition photos or regular bikini shots. Gene X. Hwang takes his sports photography a little further. This makes him very unique in the field. Many athletes recognize his talent and are pleased with his work.

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Athletes seek his photography talents for their websites. He has good friendships  with his photography subjects, which makes production much easier. Gene X. Hwang’s photos have become ubiquitous in the female muscle world and for good reason. Orange Photography also does physique photography, in which Gene contributes to a large portfolio. The company has been around since 2001 and shows no sign of slowing down.

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Orange Photography

We admire the athletic feats of the women, but often forget the people who contribute behind the scenes. Photographers who bring wonderful art to the public are a forgotten group. Gene X. Hwang’s work is a historical documentation of the development of female bodybuilding from the late 1990s to present. Since then, multiple categories have emerged in the sport. Gene X. Hwang deserves praise and recognition for extraordinary photos that capture these amazing women.

The Photography of Gene X. Hwang

“Reality Check : Muscles Are For Women Too” by Tracy Akers

“Reality Check Muscles Are For Women Too”

This is an opinion piece posted on The Forum Magazine website. The reason this is important is because it reveals a noted gender dynamic in body image. Too many women refrain from developing muscle for fear of appearing “unattractive.” This not only causes mental distress, but physical health problems later in life. Muscles have been seen as a masculine trait, but this is slowly changing. Women have proven that strength and muscle is another form of beauty. People just need to learn it comes in different forms. While this new form of beauty is a positive development it should not be exchanged for the thin body type model ideal. This opinion piece makes cogent arguments, but there are some points readers could have an issue with.

Akers most forceful arguments are on the double standards between males and females in regards to muscle. Automatically, she points out when someone thinks of physical strength they assume its male associated. Tracy Akers states : “Yes—I get it, when we think of muscles sometimes we think of jocks in the gym throwing around weights or huge beastly men slicked with fake tans.” That is not the reality when we see increasing numbers of women participating in sports and more women engaging in weight training.

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Now there are some women with bulging biceps, round glutes, defined abs, and beautifully sculpted legs. Traditionalists do not approve of this, but some are gradually becoming more accepting. Why do muscles have to be for men? Women are capable of building muscle. There is no difference in male and female muscle. There are women who seek to develop muscle size to their maximum. This is acceptable for males, but not for females. It is tied to sexist double standards. Women are in the traditional view are supposed to be physically weak and submissive. Men are supposed to be strong and controlling of women. These dated concepts must be discarded. Women can be muscular and still be women.

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Even, women who participate in sports still struggle with body image. Diana Lin Bailey is quoted as saying “she was uncomfortable with muscles at first.” This is surprising, because she currently is one of the top physique competitors in the IFBB. She is the first IFBB pro physique competitor and there is a good reason for that. Diana had to overcome negative criticism, but she had support from her husband and friends. The fact that female athletes and muscular women feel pressure proves the double standard exists.

While Akers criticizes the current beauty standards, she needs to be cautious about certain aspects.  She articulated that women “need to decide what is beautiful for themselves and role with it.” This many can agree with. However, she implies ( probably unintentionally) that confidence comes from physical appearance. This is the wrong idea. Women should not be valued for their looks, but for the quality of their character. Confidence should come from introspection and life experience. Diana Lin Bailey’s confidence did not come from her appearance. It came from her accomplishments and ability to persevere. Through her long training, planning, and diligence she became the first IFBB Physique pro. While she does look fantastic, that is not the source of her confidence.

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The point is to be comfortable about who you are. Trying to emulate a particular ideal will only cause frustration. While the muscular female form is great, should not be an attempted to have it be the standard of beauty to replace the thin body ideal. There should be a general understanding that beauty comes in different forms. The muscular female body is just another model of beauty. This seems to be something that Tracy Akers omits. She does seem to think that muscle women are a recent phenomenon, but women have been pumping iron for decades. She stated :” With growing frequency, women have started to decide that muscles are sexy.” This did not just start, but has a four decade history when the first female bodybuilders appeared in the 1970s. Before that, muscular and athletic women displayed their talents as acrobats and strong woman performers. These athletic and muscular women loved the look and how physical activity made them feel. Not only did they like the aesthetic, but a growing number of men. There are men who do find this attractive and it is a positive development. Akers does come to the correct conclusion : “Women with muscles are beautiful, but women with self-confidence—now that’s beautiful too.” Feminine power has an alluring appeal and it will only grow stronger.

“Reality Check : Muscles Are For Women Too” by Tracy Akers