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.
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.
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.
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.