Women in Combat : Are They Physiologically Capable of the Physical Demands ?

US Marine Corps released a study examining the combat effectiveness of mixed sex units. Their findings reported that all male units performed better than sex integrated units. Detractors and pundits stated that this was evidence that was enough to up hold the restriction on women in combat. This was only one experiment, but should not be used as an excuse to reverse the ending of the ban of women in combat. There are physical and physiological differences between men and women. Understanding these aspects of biology can help design a physical fitness plan for women ( and elevate men’s fitness levels as well). Normally, the argument is that women are not strong enough for such positions, but their are other arguments as well. They range from women are too “emotional,” they lack courage, they ruin morale, they’ll have health issues, or they will attempt to get pregnant. Those arguments are ludicrous, but the differences in physical strength and speed are a legitimate concern. Women will have to maintain a high level of physical fitness if they are to be successful in combat. The question remains are women physiologically capable of physically demanding  tasks? Just like men are not all made to be soldiers, the same can be said of women. There are women who are physiologically capable, but they are exceptions. For the average woman who wants to be in combat, she will have to work twice as hard to be successful.

       It is important to examine the findings of the report. The study found that women could meet physical demands. However, this was not to the same level as their male counter parts in regards to performance, fatigue, workload,  or cohesion. The female volunteers were PFC sergeants who were 100 in total number. There were 400 male volunteers for this experiment. A major issue pointed out in the report is hiking with loaded packs. The report reveals that women (on average) have higher injury rates compared to their male counterparts. There are some problems with this study. It is unknown what was the physical fitness level of the women participants. If they did not have some form of consistent weight training or exercise regimen, this could have effected the results. Another problem was that their were not specific combat arms specialty standards. Female volunteers and male volunteers  were given little information on how to prepare. Women received more physical fitness instruction for the experiment, while men got more technical instruction. Both men and women should have gotten the same amount of instruction to make this experiment precise. The report does  mention athletic overlap .

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Look at the summery of the Marine report : Women in Combat Report.

The hints are listed as “anaerobic power : females posses 15% less than males; the top 25th  percentile overlaps with the bottom 25th percentile of males” The report goes on further to state “anaerobic capacity: females posses 15% less anaerobic capacity; the top 10th female percentile overlaps with the bottom 50th percentile of males.”  The report claims that 27% of injuries happened to women wile moving under load.  It was also documented that women suffered 40.5% more musculoskeletal injuries. Body composition and size was examined. Males on average were 178 pounds with 20% body fat. Women who volunteered were 142 pounds and had 24% body fat. When reading this, one automatically assumes this is too much for women to handle. Understand this is one experiment and it would have to be replicated in the same manner and produce a similar result to be considered fact. The report did not ask what high performing women did to make the physical demands easier. Another problem is they quote a report from 1992  in regards to women in aircraft units, which has been proven incorrect. Another aspect is with the physical fitness tests. Men and women have been given different physical fitness tests. Women were given lower standards with the assumption they would be horrible at any task requiring strength. The standards have been changing over the past decade to meet the demands of an evolving combat zone. Detractors claim that standards will be lowered to accommodate women, but this will not happen. There are other studies that were conducted prior to this one that give a better assessment.

       There is a report that was released in 1994 by Marilyn Sharp(read the report here ). This was conducted by the Occupational Physiology Division of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. It was called “Physical Fitness Occupational Performance of Women in the U.S. Army.”This assessment seems to be more realistic considering it was produced 21 years ago.  They examined this from an exercise physiology perspective considering the elements of physical fitness which include muscular strength, muscular endurance, and cardiopulmonary fitness.

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U.S. Marines Cpl. Kelly Campagna (left), Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 40, fireman carries Cpl. Lance Rowewood during a corporal’s course five mile hike from Camp Leatherneck to Camp Bastion, Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, May 30, 2011. The final phase in graduating from corporal’s course was a five mile trek that implemented various obstacles. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert R. Carrasco/Released).

        The findings revealed some common knowledge. It stated ” while it is clear that the average man is stronger than the average woman, some women are stronger than some men.” Through these various exercises conducted the report claimed “the ability to produce is similar between the genders, but the quantity of muscle mass available to produce force differs .” Strength is pivotal as the report states for load carriage, repetitive lifting, and heavy lifting in infantry and mechanized units. Body composition does play a role. Men have less body fat, which will not add to the loads they have to carry. For women it will be more of struggle , because as the report showed “it is dead weight that must be transported by the skeletal muscle and therefore compared to access baggage.” This extra body weight means a woman will need more physical  effort.

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Women who were involved in this study showed that their lower body isometric force was higher compared to their upper body results. The activities done testing strength were the box lift, machine lift, and two mile run. The ultimate correlation was that body composition was related to total muscular strength. Women produced in this study up to 70% of the isometric force of men. There was overlap with the study exposing in floor to shoulder height lifting strength. The report said “less than 2% of men scored 36 kg or less, which was equal to the 92 percentile of women.” Women doing the loaded box lift were able to get up to 60% of the men’s results. It would seem that males have dominance in physical strength, but women and counter the disparity with varied lifting techniques. Muscular endurance  was found “to be equal or greater than their male counterparts.”  there were no significant differences in hand grip strength between men and women in the test. However, there were  differences in women doing bench press repetitions with a 45 pound bar. The women were described as using a greater amount of their maximum strength.

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080508-F-6852H-101 U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jennifer Eagelman, a public affairs journalist, performs the fireman’s carry while participating in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program at Baumholder, Germany, during Exercise Combined Endeavor 2008 on May 8, 2008. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Hill, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

 The maximum strength is the total amount of force an individual can exert without fatigue. Women as the report said need to maintain a strength reserve, because they will fatigue quickly. Peak power describes the ability of the body to utilize adenosine-triphosphate  and creatine phosphate to produce energy for exercise. Sprinting with packs and evacuations of injured are simulated in this report. Muscular endurance seems to be the area in which women fare better. Aerobic capacity has there is a large disparity . Women have lower hemoglobin levels and smaller hearts. It was written “a woman’s maximum cardiac output ,  or the quantity of blood pumped by the heart per minute, is 30% less than a man’s output.” The report makes the right conclusions. Weight training is a solution to building women’s physical strength. Men had larger muscle fibers to start with and their increase in strength would still be greater. Women can gain enough strength to surpass or be equal to the average man.

The major problem was that basic training did not incorporate a consistent weight training program. The level of cardio fitness varies depending upon level prior to entry. Some women in the assessment were able to increase their cardiopulmonary fitness by 7.9%. Women can increase their fitness level. The document then states ” if activity does not require maximal effort, she is allowed to self-pace, a woman perform many tasks and meet the standards of male performance.” this document has more practical solutions for integrating women into combat.

        There are women who could meet these fitness standards. The fact is women have unofficially been serving in combat. There is no longer a “front line” in the traditional sense. Women have had a presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been serving in intelligence gathering, serving in the Navy, army medics, and the Air Force. If ground combat is to be successful the strongest women will have to be recruited. Some women have already seen action before the announcement that the ban was lifted. There are also women who you can say are not only fit for the job, they are over qualified.

military-bodybuilder-of-the-month-latresia-pugh_a (1)     Latresia Pugh is aeromedical technician. Her job requires a huge amount of strength lifting pateients on a litter for medical treatment.  

Latersia Pugh is a person who values keeping up a consistent training regimen. At 5’6 and 129 pounds of muscle, her strength was gained by bodybuilding. If it were not for this, she may not be able to do her job. Yet, she has won many medals for her professional conduct and excellence. Her training is very labor intensive, but necessary. There are some women who are qualified, but they are not interested in combat. There are women who also hold a traditional views of women, doubtless of what feminists say. They assume that since men are stronger  women are not equal to them. The odd aspect of this is that it is coming from women who are physically capable.

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Jane Grieme  another woman in the US army said “I don’t believe in equality.” She explains “men and women are different.” Grieme  does not seem to understand being different does not mean were are not equal. 

Jane Grieme  serves with the Air National Guard. She is 5’9 and 150 pounds  and gained a PT score of 99%. It is almost baffling that she would make such comments about abilities of women. While it is true men and women do have different strengths, such generalizations sound  prejudiced. Considering she is physically impressive herself, her statements are contradictory.

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These are just a few of many women involved in the military that would be perfect for combat roles. They have the strength levels high enough to handle the physical vigor. They love being active and that helps with meeting physical challenges. Their experience with strength building exercises could help other women. There are some who have other agendas in mind. It’s not just some men who want to see women fail, it is some women. Their interest is to be in the military avoid danger, but gain the benefits of service. These are women who want to use their military credentials solely to advance themselves. The feminists groups supportive of combat integration never mention them. It is known these women exist . Another problem is in regards to the selective service. Women should have to register for the selective service if they want full equality. The women who meet the physical standards will serve in combat operations and the others who do not can still serve in some capacity.

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army girl   This is Cammie Spindel. Looking at the first photo above you who assume is not that strong. The second photo tells another story. Her strength and peak power could be greater than some of the men she served with.  

There are strong women out there, but the army does not seem interested in recruiting them. These standards are probably difficult for the average woman. Simply put, the  woman need for this type of occupation will have to be built like She-Hulk and have the fighting skills of Wonder Woman .Even when women pass their physical fitness tests there remains doubts about their ability.

        The other argument is that women cannot fight if disarmed. This is false, because learning martial arts can reverse this. Many self-defense classes are designed for women with the assumption her attacker will be stronger. The U.S army teaches hand to hand combat so that if a soldier is disarmed, they can effectively fight back. Just being strong will not guarantee winning a fight, if skill is not present. Defeating an opponent requires an estimation of speed, strength, and stamina. Having skill can reduce a strength gap. One should not assume that a woman is just weak by nature.

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Here is a female soldier doing mixed martial arts. Below is a female bodybuilder. The she obviously has strength, but may not be the best fighter.

Some opponents of women in combat use the argument “you don’t see women playing in the NFL.”While it is true sports are modeled on warfare strategy  the objective is not to kill the players. The fact is the army is a force of highly trained killers . This makes people uncomfortable, mainly because the US has presented to the public a “humanitarian” image of the military. This is not the truth and the lugubrious reality is that one must be ready to kill anyone. To ignore this is to ignore thousands of years of human history. Men may have higher aggression levels due to cultural and biological factors. Testosterone may be the biological reason some men love to fight. Culturally, men may be taught to be more physical in confrontation. This does not mean women are less aggressive, but display it in different ways. Anthropologist Helen Fisher described that men will respond in a physical way, while women display it in a verbal manner.  Women are going to have to increase their aggression levels. Learning martial arts will be of great assistance in combat duties. Judo, Karate, or chun kuk do would be perfect for soldiers.

         It is important to examine this development from a biomechanical dimension as well. Upper body strength is critical and women have less of it. The marines reported that 55% of women were having difficulty with tests that required upper body strength. Another controversy was that the three pull-up requirement was going to be dropped. Thankfully this did not happen, because there are many women who can exceed three pull-ups. The upper body consists of the arms, shoulders, and chest. The only way for women to advance is to build up that area of the body. This should be done before attempts at basic training. The average woman would struggle, but a physically fit one would have no issue. Women will have to gain muscle to have that upper body strength. This will prevent musculoskeletal injuries and stress fractures. Weight training does not only build muscle, it can increase bone mass.

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The question remains how much muscle can a woman gain? This varies depending on age, body type, particular levels of fitness, diet, and specific training program. A woman of naturally mesomorphic body type can add more strength through training than an ectomorphic woman. The rate of gain can vary as well. Women can gain at least 40% muscular strength after months of weight training. Women must not be afraid to lift heavy weights. To experience results women need to lift  to the point fatigue happens in 8 to twelve repetitions. The only thing lighter weights will do is allow for more muscular endurance, not strength. The routine must be modified to allow for improvement. This means if a woman can easily curl forty pounds, she should gradually work her way up to fifty. Diet is critical for women due to hormonal differences. Eating a diet of lean protein, unsaturated fats, whole grains, and fresh produce should be done while keeping activity level high. Estrogen will make a woman’s body process more body tissue into fat.  The weight training exercise will allow for the building of more lean body mass. It is also important to take a day of rest so that the muscle can repair and grow.

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The military must be mindful of the meals they serve their soldiers. High fat and sugary foods will result in weight issues. The military already has weight management programs to combat lack of physical fitness. Having the most healthy food selections can combat this problem. It becomes a bigger issue for women, who have a harder time losing weight. Even though women can add mass, the width of the shoulders remains the same. Mechanically it would less total space to add muscle tissue compared to men’s broader shoulders.

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Training can add to an increase in upper body strength.

That would men cumulatively women would have less mechanical advantage when carrying loads or people. Packs can weigh up to a total of eighty pounds. This added to a woman’s own body weight would result in extra physical strain. This explains why women’s injuries are higher. They need to focus more on building pectoralis major, trapezius, biceps and triceps muscles. The so called heavy requirements require infantry soldiers to carry between 50 to 120 pounds. Men even are burdened by overloading, which caused the military to reevaluate essential supplies needed in packs. The Army Science Board even admitted that the overloading of packs caused higher fatigue, injuries,  and decreased mobility. Twenty six percent of men suffer musculoskeletal injuries according to the report “Musculoskeletal Injuries in Military Women.” That is high for men even. A solution is to look at the contents of the packs and keep the bare essentials. Water, ammunition, medical supplies , and some food must remain. Objects that are in the packs not related to that should be discarded. Armor will have to be redesigned to fit women better.

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Although women can add muscle to their upper bodies, smaller shoulders give less room to support carry loads. More physically effort would be needed. 

It would seem as if men are more physically capable, but averages do not mean all. There are women weightlifters who bench more than the heavy infantry requirements. Not only that, they train to do heavy lifting most of their lives. Olympic lifters study various methods on how to utilize maximum strength.Methods are important when training soldiers, specifically marines.

         Detractors despite a portion of overlap reject women in combat. Even if women meet the standard, they believe it is no place for a woman. This message comes mostly from conservative pundits who have never served. It is ironic considering most are for aggressive war. Progressive liberals would never support women in combat for reasons opposite of staunch conservatives. The view from the military is more diverse than just simple support or repudiation. The Navy seems more accepting of women in combat. The Air Force has come around, but the Marines despise the idea. It is far beyond view women as frail and weak, but a sexist machismo  fart culture that has developed  over the years. This must change, because it is unprofessional of a modern military force. Some conservative conspiracy theories claim this is one large political correctness social experiment  project. Liberals fail to see that women are biologically different.

Ray Marbus Secretary of the Navy gave a correct assessment articulating we are not interested in the averages, we are looking for exceptional women. Lt.Col Kate Germano  said two elements effected the study: women’s  physical ability and the culture of the Marines. One problem she noted was that female recruits were given different training standards before the study and were gender segregated. Her employment was terminated when she attempted to alter the standards. Women go in to boot camp separate with the expectation of failure.

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An environment that encourages one to exceed and excel, no matter what the challenge will help all soldiers. Yet, expectations must be realistic. All women, just like all men may not be able to pass the physical fitness tests . They should be encouraged to either try again or contribute to the US military in another way.

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The average woman has less upper body strength and lower bone mass. Smaller lungs and hearts mean that the Vo2max is lower.

 As much as women’s groups and feminists organizations like to blame men for the situation, there are women who are also culprits. Katie Petronio a Marine captain wrote an article for the Marine Corps Gazette entitled “Get over It! We Are All Not Created Equal.” She explains why women are not suited for infantry. They are similar arguments repeated by conservatives. This is no a sophisticated report, but a documentation of her experiences. She had an athletic past being able to bench 145 pounds and squat 200. Petronio excelled at Marine corps fitness tests. She developed a spine injury, muscle atrophy in her legs, and restless leg syndrome. Obviously, restless leg syndrome is not induced by heavy lifting. The spine injury could have been a result of that. Her article even admits both men and women were suffering from muscle atrophy. One should ask what her prior medical history was before going to Iraq and Afghanistan. The only thing muscle atrophy indicates is lack of use of muscle, creating a decrease in mass. The ultimate conclusion of this is that soldiers were not getting adequate medical care. Doctors check-ups would have caught any abnormal changes in the body . This does not prove that women are not capable of infantry jobs. It means some are not. Katie Petronio was not suited for combat. The fact she is contributing in stopping qualified women from doing so is ignominious.

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This is the type of woman you want in combat.

The whole point is to remove the 1994 restriction and allow women who are qualified to join. There were claims this will effect morale or break cohesion. This will only happen if the majority of males hate their female co-workers. Standards must not be lowered, because it reinforces myths about women’s physical inferiority and incompetence. This also is more of an insult to women who may be better at physical tasks than their male counter parts. Using the phrase gender neutral standards only adds to people’s trepidation in regards to women in combat. The goal should be standards that fulfill tasks and duties necessary for the position. Women passing and being held to the same standards will eliminate arguments that are given by critics.

           While it is true that women can increase their strength, there are some obstacles that cannot be overcome. Running speed will be slower in women. This is the result of the shape of the pelvis and the angle in which women’s legs are structured. This could be an issue if there is a point in which a soldier has to evacuate or get to a location quickly. Women will have to improve their cardio vascular fitness as much as they can. Although  women’s hearts and lungs are smaller training can alter previous fitness levels.

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Bone mass can be increased, but the structure of the female skeleton will not change.  That explains the disparity with in regards to the number of stress fractures. One solution could be to alter boots for soldiers to relieve some of the strain on their feet. Basic ergonomics can prevent injuries. One example is to bend with your knees when picking up objects. More relevant to this topic is to have women practice carrying packs to get use to the rigor of it. This could minimize some of the sex differences, but not all.

      Based on the two reports, there are some conclusions that  can be made . Women can improve their performance, if trained properly. One case was the three pull-ups requirement. When women were taught to pull-ups rather than the flexed arm hang, more passed. Women must build up their bone and muscle strength through weight training. If they are to keep up with a mixed sex unit this is necessary. The Marine Corps report even acknowledged that “strength training, fitness, calcium/ vitamin D supplements reduces injury to women.” This was not released or mentioned due to the fact of fourteen pages of the report were released. The world is rapidly changing and the military must adjust. Seeing as the US is acting as an occupy force globally, combat has changed. The warfare has become irregular in nature. Women who were restricted from combat found themselves in combat when they went to Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no front line. Women serving in combat will not degrade the US military; aggressive wars,  failed policies, and inability to address veterans issues will. Women have been police officers, firefighters, astronauts,  and construction workers. Collectively, they are few in number because a majority of women would not be able to meet the physical fitness standards. Yet, there are women who can and they should be given the position based on their skill set. It should be the same for the US military.

References

   Cepedes, Andrea. “How Much Muscle Can a Woman Gain With Strength Training?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/198318-how-much-muscle-can-a-woman-gain-with-strength-training/&gt;.

 Sharette, Luke. “Women in the Infantry? Forget about It, Says Female Marine Officer.” NBC News. N.p., 12 July 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/12/12684555-women-in-the-infantry-forget-about-it-says-female-marine-officer&gt;.

Seck, Hope. “New Training Requirement Marks Key Shift in Marines’ Female Grunt Strategy.” Marine Corps Times.com. N.p., 12 July 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2015. <http://archive.marinecorpstimes.com/article/20140712/NEWS/307120032/New-training-requirement-marks-key-shift-Marines-female-grunt-strategy&gt;.

Cauley, Pamela. “The Biomechanics of Women in Combat.” Pamela Cauley Bush.com. N.p., 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 11 Aug. 2015. <http://pamelamccauleybush.com/leadership-innovation/innovation-methods/biomechanics-women-combat/&gt;.

Murline, Anna. “Why Marines, unlike Army and Navy, Are so against Women in Combat.” Csmonitor.com. N.p., 11 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015. <http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2015/0911/Why-Marines-unlike-Army-and-Navy-are-so-against-women-in-combat&gt;.

 

Women in Combat : Are They Physiologically Capable of the Physical Demands ?

Carrie Simmons

Carrie Simmons is an IFBB professional bodybuilder, physique, and  fitness competitor. She has competed in various bodybuilding categories over the years and has a great ability to adjust to judging criteria. Carrie seems to be underrated, but not here. This site uses her picture as an icon. Besides bodybuilding, she is also an aerial performer. She was born in Quantico Virginia, but her family relocated Philadelphia. Unlike other women discussed here, she did not have an athletic past as a child. Her interests were in music. She loved playing the violin and saxophone. After high school she attended Moore College of Art and Design. Graphic design was her field of study. It was not until she took up kick boxing did she get involved in sports. She took the advice from a friend to start lifting weights. Carrie started to notice she was developing muscle and loved her new look. At first she started entered fitness competitions. She admits that it was difficult the first time. Carrie has said ”   I wasn’t a gymnast or a dancer so IDK WTF I was thinking!” regarding the start of her competitive career. This was back in the year 2000.

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Carrie found that she was muscular, but too much for fitness competition. She then decided to switch to bodybuilding in the middle weight class. She took some time and maximum effort to increase size. She went into the amateur bodybuilding competition. Carrie found her self stuck in another dilemma. She revealed that “she was the skinniest middle weight ever” (by their standards, because looks pretty big). She then switched back to fitness, but developed another interest. Aerial performance became another passion of hers. This became a major priority performing in a her aerial trope. Carrie found that she lacked the desire to gain more size. It appeared this was as far as she could go in terms of total mass. She explained ” I was performing a lot with my aerial troupe and with all of that I couldn’t/didn’t want to get bigger for BBing.” Carrie seems to be the one that favors the more classic female bodybuilder physique of the 1980s. Some argue that the enormous size seem today is not possible without performance enhancing drug use and this may drive away competitors. Some women can achieve size, but to go further in the IFBB some use may be necessary. Carrie was not willing to do that and may have quit entirely, until physique was offered. When Carrie entered the physique category she did better. This was around the year 2013.

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Carrie was still able to earn her pro card in fitness.  Although she has not placed high in competition she is a renaissance woman of physique sports . She has been in fitness, bodybuilding, and now physique. Not many women can say they have competed across various categories over the years. She is a woman of immense talent. Considering she started rather late in terms of involvement in sports, this is impressive. Her competitive longevity is incredible with 14 years on stage. Seeing as bodybuilding does not pay the bills she works as a creative director. Carrie describes her work like this :  “It changes, depending on what I’m working on. I’m in charge of a department that handles everything from corporate branding, web sites, product packaging, marketing presentations, FDA compliance documents, and a ton of other stuff.”

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Staring off Carrie was only 105 pounds and in 14 years improved enormously.

She does admit she misses working for the Kinetic’s Circus Trope as an acrobat. Her current occupation is a regular nine to five job and there would be no time to do both. She still trains and performs on occasion as an aerialist.  She explains she got involved ” I started taking lessons from a lady who had a rig in her home when I lived in Philly.”Carrie loved doing this so much that she performed at  area events and night clubs.Carrie definitely is one busy woman. Carrie’s favorite female bodybuilders are Lenda Murray, Margie Martin, and Iris Kyle. These athletes are clearly inspiring to her.

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She loves the fact the sport can transform the body. However, her least favorite aspect about it is the dieting. She is not alone in this sentiment. A regimented diet such as these creates a level of discomfort. Carvings for surgery foods are hard to resist. To maintain a body like this Carrie used carbohydrate cycling. She used other methods  including  keto. Carrie said the trouble with dieting was that “I have a tendency to overdo the fats.” F or Carrie the consumption of fats triggers some over eating, according to her experience.Carrie’s favorite physique category is fitness, but also favors bodybuilding and women’s physique.  Carrie does want to make it to the Olympia, but has stated it will not be happening this year. As far as weight lifting goals, she just wants to maintain her gains and possibly compete more in the future. Many fans hope to see more of her on stage.

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Visit Carrie’s website :Carrie Simmons. Com

Carrie agrees that the internet is a positive development for bodybuilding. There is a negative side in her view. She expressed it as  “there are so many who just don’t see this as a cool thing.” There is much hate in general on the internet, but there are also places that are supportive. With all this work and activity Carrie does have time for some hobbies. She loves to cook and do pole dance. She has become competitive in pole dancing as well. She competed in her first pole dance in October of 2015. She really is a jack of all trades. Being a graphic design major, she always said that “she was more of an artsy type of person.”

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 Carrie has said on many occasions that she thanks her friends and trainers for helping her on this journey. Stacy Simmons ( no relation)  is another fitness competitor and close friend that gave Carrie much advice. Carrie seems like a very humble person, considering most athletes do not give recognition to the people that helped them. Carrie’s recent physique contests include  the 2012 New Pro, Toronto Pro,  the 2014 Golden State Grand Pix, and she competed in 2015. Carrie once stated in an rxmuscle.com interview “I didn’t necessarily feel I was better suited for Physique, but I wanted to give it a try.” Carrie has said “by nature she is very competitive.” This does show when you see her in competition and her many years of participation. She admits that judges do have a level of vacillation in regards to making a permanent criteria for competitors.

Carrie Simmons posing 

Carrie’s earlier competitions include the  2000 Europa Sports Fitness and Bodybuilding Championship ( her best win ) , the NPC  Nationals (2000 , 2001, 2003), the 2002 Gold’s Classic, and the 2002 Body Rock Bodybuilding, Figure, and Fitness Championship. There is no reason to think that she will not be back in 2016 or 2017.Carrie’s advice to neophyte competitors is this: ” be true to you and remember that for most of us (Pros included!) competing is a hobby.” She delineates further, saying “have fun with it and be happy with the package you present.” She also advises it never hurts to make a website or have a presence on social media to promote yourself. Carrie may not have won the most contests, but she is a great athlete with many skills.

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Native American Women Athletes

They were a people who built 500 nations on the North American continent, before European arrival. The American Indians were the first settlers to tame the land that would be known as the United States of America. The arrival of Christopher  Columbus to Hispaniola signaled the destruction of Amerindian civilization. From 1492 to 1890 the peoples of  the Americas and the Caribbean experienced genocide, forced removal, and the decimation of their culture. Yet, they persevered.  Native American women have been ignored in sports. This is a photo collection of their contributions and accomplishments.

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Dawn Kelly Allen 

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Kali Reis 

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Candy Canary

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Mary Spencer 

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Amber Deluca

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Sharon Bruneau 

Native American Women Athletes

Mixed Wrestling

Mixed wrestling ( commonly referred to as intergender wrestling) is a wrestling match between a man and a woman. These  are done in a professional style format, but vary in conduct ( could be competitive or fantasy). Mixed wrestling should not be confused with session wrestling. Mixed wrestling does not involve payment, but is sometimes done for fun, entertainment, or competition. This activity can fall into different categories. The more mainstream form is professional wrestling, which allows for men and women to wrestle each other. The second type is fantasy wrestling in which the male opponent will lose on purpose. Another type is   competitive wrestling which involves both men and women wrestling to win. This type of wrestling is not to be confused with the Greco-Roman wrestling practiced at the Olympics. That type of wrestling has men’s and women’s divisions due to performances differences between the sexes. Mixed wrestling is flexible, because the strength of the women is usually greater than their male opponents (fantasy wrestling athleticism is not that relevant, because the outcome is determined). While many find this practice inappropriate, it has a large following.

Since the early days of  professional wrestling it was deemed unnatural for a woman to wrestle a man. That began to change in the 1970s. Mixed matches were occurring, despite condemnation. The reason detractors were against this was because they believed women were too fragile for rough activity. An irrational fear, due to the fact that professional wrestling is staged. Story lines are written and matches are predetermined. While one can still be injured, this can happen in any physical engagement. A harbinger in the mixed wrestling format was Andy Kaufman. He was a well known actor and entertainer appearing in films, including television. He would wrestle women in staged matches calling himself “the intergender champion.” Some appeared to be very realistic, with a touch of his bizarre humor. Many times the women were there to add to comedic effects of the performance.

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It was not until the 1990s did mixed wrestling gain mainstream exposure. Before,  this type of wrestling was regulated to smaller circuits in the United States. The WCW and the WWF ( now the WWE) began to feature women in mixed matches. The ECW also was a wrestling organization that allowed this. Chyna was one of these pioneering women who wrestled men and women. Chyna due to her immense size and strength could perform and make her matches believable. At 5 ’10 and 180 lbs she did inflict considerable pain on opponents. chyna3ac

Generally, muscular and athletic women are not entirely accepted, but in professional wrestling they became as popular as the men. Audiences responded positively to these mixed matches and no longer thought it was strange. Women may not have gotten the same pay, but they did get respect and admiration from colleagues. Chyna set a new paradigm for a much more powerful female wrestler. Anne Marie Cooks for example got her start as a bodybuilder and used the strength she built to go into wrestling.

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This trend continued in the 1990s to 2000s with more female wrestlers taking on male opponents. Beth phoenix  wrestled male opponents in the WWE. She was even called the Chyna of the 2000s. Mixed matches however were being conducted less by the 2010s. The reason was that the WWE wanted to keep the PG tv rating. The claim by some advertisers was that wrestling was getting to violent and thus it was watered down to meet these demands. Advocacy groups made the claim ” it glorifies violence against women.” The claim seems ludicrous, because there are many matches in which women did significant damage to their male opponents. What these concerned parents and feminist groups failed to realize is that professional wrestling is a performance, not reality. While it seemed as if mixed matches were done, tag team formats took there place. The rule is that women wrestle women  with their male counterparts while tapping in or out of the ring. Like all wrestling it staged or adds to the written narrative. While there is the mainstream version of mixed wrestling, there is also a subcultural element.

Fantasy wrestling is subtly erotic in nature and is related to certain fetishes. This type of mixed wrestling is more underground. Some claim this is borderline pornographic, but rarely is sexual activity depicted or done. The sexual element is there. Followers who participate in this have either cratolagnia or sthenolagnia. There are men who are excited by a woman’s muscles and strength. Then participants in fantasy wrestling could also like the idea of femdom. This fantasy puts a woman in a dominant position. The male would take a submissive role. While normally the preferred female wrestler would be a woman of muscular and athletic physique, femdom  supporters like any woman to fill the dominant role. Thin women could participate in this type of wrestling, because the man would not attempt to resist. The fantasy is that women’s strength levels are equal to males and therefore women can compete with men in physical contests. The fantasy goes further for the femdom supporter making it seem as if women are the stronger sex.

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The two thin women would not win a real wrestling match. They simply would not have the strength, but the men want to be dominated. The muscular women would have no trouble wrestling men. 

Even though men are physically stronger, the idea of reversal is amusing to them. Staging this type of wrestling is done for the personal amusement and satisfaction of the individual. Fantasy wrestling is common among session wrestlers. Although session wrestling is associated with female bodybuilders, mixed wrestling is also practiced. There can be semi-competitive matches in mixed wrestling. This is the case in which the fantasy element is still there, but the male attempts to put up some resistance. The goal is not to win, but feel the power of the woman’s body. They do not just want to look at her muscles; they want to see what they are capable of. The explanation for this desire could have a multitude of factors. It could be a representation of men and women’s struggle against one another. There has been a battle of the sexes ever since the rise of civilization. Men had the advantage of physical strength, but women had the advantage of their sexuality. Gender inequality caused contention and was challenged. Women started doing activities that were once exclusively male. Mixed wrestling or any physical activity is a barrier women are breaking. Although women with muscle are not accepted, they continue to develop their physiques. Some feminists argue that women who do mixed wrestling are only serving as sex objects to fetishists. That is not true, because women choose to participate. That is the most empowering; a woman making her own decisions without societal approval. Rarely do observers see that women find this physical contest fun. There is a level exhilaration that women feel when they know they can toss around men like rag dolls. These women told they are the weaker sex destroy that myth by developing a powerful physique and showing their power.

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The rise of the internet brought this underground practice to a wider audience. Before it was regulated to special interest or fetish videos. These could be acquired through mail or video stores. This is why fantasy wrestling was labelled “porn without sex.” Fit and attractive women thrusting their powerfully built bodies  ( and in some cases much thinner women)on much weaker men does appear suggestive. Although this type of mixed wrestling is more visible in the underground, competitive is present.

       Men and women have organized mixed wrestling clubs for enthusiasts. This is not officiated, so technically it would not be considered  a sports league. These mixed wrestling clubs appear mostly in the US and UK. Men and women teach other wrestling moves and have competitive matches. Unlike fantasy wrestling, this is for people who enjoy it for the physical contest and not the erotic nature. This does not mean these facilities do not offer fantasy wrestling. Most matches can either be semi-competitive, competitive, or fantasy. Female participants may have experience in wrestling and other may use their strength to compensate for lack of skill.

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These are women who wrestle at  The Wrestling Factory in the UK. Find out more here: :Wrestling Factory.

Men of various fitness levels come to these clubs. The strongest men would have to either select a fantasy match or semi-competitive, because the women could get hurt. It is rare that the strongest woman could beat the strongest man. For men of average or slightly above average physical fitness levels there are more choices in match selection. They would be weaker in comparison to the much stronger women, so it would not be a problem. These clubs are like any wrestling area with a ring and mats. Normally, matches are presented in a professional wrestling format. There are traditional Greco-Roman matches, but the professional wrestling format seems to be more common. When seeing mixed wrestling from this perspective it is easy to get it confused with session wrestling. Its origins are just ambiguous as well.

      Mixed wrestling could have developed from the works of Irving Klaw. He was a filmmaker and photographer who was involved in fetish photography. During the 1940s to 1960s he had a mail order business that would sell photos of attractive women. His fetish material was mostly women in bondage. These photographs and one reel films were not depicting actual sex, but he found he self being investigated for violation of anti-pornography laws. The United States was a different place at this time and extremely conservative. Irving Klaw’s company began to produce stories of strong women. These written stories had illustrations done by Eric Stanton and Greg Bilbrew. Eric Stanton was a skilled comic book artist and commonly depicted women wrestling or overpowering men physically in his work for Klaw. Bilbrew also did the same collaborating with his two colleagues for decades. These works clearly have influence on mixed wrestling enthusiasts and fans of female strength and muscle.

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These are some examples of Eric Stanton’s works  and the photography of Irving Klaw.

Illustrations and art are common on certain sites that carter to fans of mixed wrestling. The female muscle growth (fmg)  fetish genre has a number of artists who post art around the internet. During Stanton’s era, it was material that was difficult to come by. The sale of these materials had to be done by mail. Now, anyone can make a website and produce their own content.

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This is the work of David C. Matthews. Since the 1990s he has produced female muscle art, which includes mixed wrestling themes. You can see it is Eric Stanton inspired in theme and style. 

There are cases that mixed matches occurred before Klaw’s promotion of it. Mildred Burke a pioneer in women’s wrestling challenged men at carnivals and fairs. She claimed that she wrestled a total of 200 men losing only one time to a challenger. She was very strong, which made it easy for her to subdue challengers. Challengers would make attempts and if they won they would get a cash prize.Professional  strong women would do mixed wrestling, but it was still rare. Mixed wrestling has an eclectic assortment of events that caused its birth. There was one major event that caused it to be more popular among the underground.

      Female bodybuilding has indirectly made mixed wrestling more popular. The sport emerged during the 1970s and with it came fans. Some of these fans loved to engage in mixed wrestling with muscular women. Schmoes as they were later called, were hardcore fans who wanted to engage in physical contest with these athletes. This was mostly to fulfill a fetish or meet their favorite athlete up close. Although mixed wrestling is not always sexual, it is hard to separate that element from it. Session wrestling emerged and the women could charge clients for different wrestling styles. Eric Stanton videos were being produced before female bodybuilding was a sport. His videos had women doing various wrestling moves, just like the mixed wrestling videos of today. However, the new woman of mixed wrestling would go far beyond his wildest dreams. The women is his videos were nowhere near as strong as the women of today. Thin women appearing to beat men twice their size was not very convincing. Yet, it appealed to those who liked fantasy. Female bodybuilders build the strongest physique possible and actually look strong. It was no surprise that in the 1990s and 2000s that female bodybuilders went into professional wrestling. When the internet became more accessible to to the public, it allowed mixed wrestling to get more exposure.

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Now there are multiple websites that carter to mixed wrestling. It does not just feature female bodybuilders, but figure, fitness, physique women. There are women who have a background in wrestling and some women who are not athletes, but a in great shape. Besides that sometimes they feature the fantasy genre with women of slimmer builds, trying to convince the viewer she can win against a stronger man. Mixed wrestling also gave birth to another theme of the mixed fight. Videos that appear break with the standard wrestling format and add choreographed fights. Like a martial arts film, these video sites  make clips of suspended disbelief with men and women going toe to toe with one another.

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This is attempting to show women as dominant and tough. There is obviously an element of femdom in these videos. It would not exactly be sado-masochistic, because inflicting pain or harm is not the goal. For the male participant, there is a desire to see the full extent of the woman’s physical power. The fetishist cares only about an erotic thrill. The mixed wrestling enthusiast is looking for a challenge, but a unique and rare one. It is rare that their is a woman that is so strong she could challenge a man on a physical level. That is what sparks admirable fascination. The producers of these mixed wrestling videos realize this. So they diversify each video to prevent redundancy. Some focus on competitive format, fantasy, or going an entirely different route by being comedic. The women and the men making these videos sometimes take a humorous tone. The women will taunt or make jokes about how easily they are over powering their male opponents.

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Utopia Entertainment Videos takes a comedic angle. One example is a video featuring Colette Nelson using the full force of her brawn against a man. She makes some jokes in the video saying ” am I cutting off circulation to your head?”  as she wraps her legs around the man’s neck. They do not take themselves seriously, which makes them enjoyable to watch. Mixed wrestling of the past did of a comedic aspect to it and in a way it was revived by these websites. The comedic aspect was in the early years of mixed wrestling came from the idea that it was impossible for a woman to beat a man. It was the “you got beaten by a girl ” syndrome. The humiliation was the humor, because a man was defeated by a “weak” woman. These sexist overtones were abandoned, when men realized women did have the skill to wrestle and the strength to do it. Mixed wrestling 34awes

The humor now comes from the fact that some men believe they could easily overpower any woman. These are not just any women; they are immensely stronger. The web is now filled with mixed wrestling sites which include Scissor Vixens, Scissor Foxes, Bill Wick  videos, Awefilms, Anetha 2. net, and many more sites. These websites feature  session wrestlers, but not all of the women are session wrestlers. These sites also have content that is photography related, which the women get paid for. The women involved may be in a wrestling video for non-financial reasons. The idea of making a video production could be thrilling, considering the female athlete would be the star. It’s like being a Hollywood actress, expect for a a female bodybuilder. Naturally, the athlete is competitive and a new form of challenge is something that cannot be resisted. There is a level of excitement that the women get knowing they can subdue full grown men. It becomes fun and frivolous considering most of the time the male is out matched. These mixed matches are not organized by weight class. So, competitive matches end quickly. The semi-competitive ones are more professional wrestling like and last longer.

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This becomes something empowering to some women. All their lives they have been told they were weak and now they show they can be strong. This atmosphere does not condemn their appearance or strength; it embraces it. While many come to these sites to see mixed matches, female versus female matches are held. This adds to the variety, which consumers want to see. These are not completely one sided, having female bodybuilders or wrestlers compete against one another. There are times even in these videos bigger women will wrestle smaller women.

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The term one sided refers to a total mismatch between competitors. A larger opponent will face off against a smaller one winning every time. Most mixed wrestling features a one sided match between men and women. Even a muscular woman would have difficulty beating a man of very high physical fitness level. That is why larger men choose fantasy or semi-competitive wrestling to avoid harming the women they a wrestling . For the average or thin male its the woman’s responsibility to avoid inflicting harm. Although some matches are real, staged ones can  have  the possible risk of injury. Some female bodybuilders are so strong that their body scissor moves could break  a man’s ribs, if done at maximum power. Bill Wick said of his late wife, that she once did this to him by accident. Just doing some play wrestling and an injury occurred. That it why it is pivotal that the man knows when to tap out.

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If it was not for the internet and female bodybuilding, mixed wrestling would still be a small underground affair.  The elements of it do appear in in mainstream entertainment.

         The rise of mixed wrestling produced the concept of mixed fight. Like mixed wrestling it has men and women engaging in physical contests like  martial arts or combat.  This is also related to the fantasy genre portraying all women as physically equal in strength to all men. While an exaggeration, it goes beyond the fetish genre. Mixed fights are common in films and television.  This operates on suspended disbelief, like most entertainment. A woman who is 120 pounds defeating men over 185 seems like a stretch. Similar to the mixed wrestling videos, they make viewers want to believe a small woman can over power the largest man. Films such as the James Bond series and  Marvel’s  Avengers are examples of mixed fights translated to a mainstream audience.

This is from the James Bond film Golden Eye (1995). I think Bond could easily escape from that hold, if he used full physical force.

The hilarious matter about this is that people do not realize the roots of the super strong, but average looking female characters that appear today.  These tropes come from spy related shows and films of the 1960s and 1970s. The rise of the feminist movement did have a cultural impact and influenced entertainment. Female characters went from damsels in distress to fighting heroines. Some were made to be capable adversaries in entertainment. They were not afraid to fight men no matter what their size or strength. The James Bond films and shows like the Avengers lead the way. One character known as Emma Peel was a secret agent who could beat any man. Today seeing mixed fights in film are common, but do not represent reality. Not every woman on the planet can pulverize a man.

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Scarlett Johanson in Marvel’s Avengers playing Black Widow. She probably would not be able to fight like this in real life. 

It is a hidden fetish put there, but audiences do not seem to realize it. The mixed fights shown on screen are a product of mixed wrestling. The idea that all women can have strength greater than men is fantasy, but there are women who exist that are powerful in physique. Besides lifting weights, they want to test their strength against males and are taking mixed wrestling in a different direction.

        There are strong women now organizing mixed wrestling events that are competitive clubs specializing in Olympic style wrestling . These matches are not staged or scripted. It is for the man and woman who desires a vigorous physical challenge. Female bodybuilders are leading this movement, but  other  types athletes  participate such as powerlifters and mixed martial artists. Events are organized and strong women come to wrestle male opponents. Fantasy wrestling is still an option, but competitive and semi-competitive are emphasized more. Michelle Falsetta  organizes wrestling  events. She is also a bodybuilder and wrestler who wanted to share the world of mixed wrestling with hardcore supporters.

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Michelle owns the site mixed wrestling event . Besides film content it organizes meets between wrestlers.    

The  events are monthly and serve refreshments. There are videos that are shown of past matches. Michelle has done session wrestling and mixed wrestling since 1998, so she has a good amount of experience. The motivations for the women vary extensively in regards to participation. Michelle herself stated  “It was extremely empowering to know that little old me wrestled this guy.” She was jubilant that she made a man tap out. The confidence women gain from strength changes them psychologically. They feel they can do anything if they try hard enough. It deprograms from ideas given to them  as young women that they are of less value. Women are proud to show their power and not ashamed and men come to respect it. Some men come to these events believing they can win against any woman, but find the situation reversed. Teresa L’Heureux  a bodybuilder who participates in Mixed Wrestling Event commonly faces men who think they could win easy. As she says ” I make quick work of them.”

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Teresa could beat many men.

Men try to win in competitive matches, but this take much effort. Michelle even admits there are times when the women even beat men much larger than they are. These were not fantasy matches, which is quite impressive. Michelle Falsetta hopes that she can make mixed wrestling mainstream. While it seems like a unique business adventure, at its core it is underground and subcultural. This dream may seem far off, but Michelle is joyful to see one thing. She explains “I get really excited when these women do great against the guys.” She is even more pleased knowing some can defeat bigger men. Often many people claim that mixed wrestling is all fake and that women do not have the physical strength to do this. A type of mixed wrestling is fake, which is fantasy wrestling. This can feature a woman ranging from a slim to muscular body type beating men who obviously would be stronger.

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This is classified as fantasy. This man would have no trouble winning the match if he tried. 

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This is competitive. I doubt this man has the strength to overpower the woman on top of him. 

The ones that are real feature women who are much bigger and stronger. Just being strong does not make you a great wrestler. Without skill one could still lose a match. When Bill Wick first started making mixed wrestling videos, he realized most women had to be taught the correct wrestling moves. The athletes did have backgrounds in other sports, but at the time few women participated in that sport. That is why he gave them instruction for the videos he filmed. It is dubious that mixed wrestling can be made mainstream. Mixed competition is not favored between men and women in physical contests or sports. The main reason has to do with physiological differences in speed and strength. The other reason is cultural. It has been viewed as inappropriate because it violates traditional gender mores. A dated belief that holds women should not compete with men in anything, especially in something physical. Even if the woman is strong and capable she should not display such talents. Thankfully, these ideas are being discarded. Another problem is people still view mixed wrestling purely as some sexual fetish. It is some what related, but that is a separate classification known as muscle worship. That is a type of fetish activity that may or may not involve wrestling. Mixed wrestling will probably remain underground due to these factors.

            The most simple definition of mixed wrestling is men and women doing grappling in mixed competition. This is not an official sport, but is an athletic or physical activity. Session wrestling is related but not the same. Sessions involve an athlete who meets a client for a one on one match for a fee. Although wrestling  is a major part of it, it can be more of a meeting between fan and athlete. The only appearance of mixed wrestling occurred in professional wrestling venues. Considering the nature of it, with men and women making body contact ( observers state this has sexual overtones) it will remain in the realm of subculture. This may not be a negative development, because when certain activities are mainstreamed they are watered down. It would lose a part of its uniqueness. Where ever this goes it is a fascinating microcosm  to study.

References

Morales, Mark. “Chiseled Female Boydbuilder Launches Monthly Wrestling Matches between Men and Women.” Daily News. N.p., 12 July 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/chiseled-female-boydbuilder-launches-monthly-wrestling-matches-men-women-article-1.161367&gt;.

Fight Pulse

Mixed Wrestling

Lenda Murray Physique Posing. Com Interview

Lenda Murray talks about her career and life. She initially wanted to just lose weight when she first joined a gym. At the time she joined women in the gym were rare. This was a very male dominated atmosphere and Lenda explains it was difficult being in such a place. She only did cardio vascular exercise. When a friend of hers started to do weight training, Lenda followed suit. Lenda Murray originally wanted to be a cheerleader for professional football teams, but bodybuilding was her calling.

Lenda says when she first competed, struggled. Lenda when she began never thought she would win the Ms. Michigan. Gradually, she moved up the ranks. Lenda believes that taking competing at one in competition is the best. Setting realistic goals is important for any athlete. Lenda  went on to win the Junior Nationals in 1989 and her first Olympia in 1990. Lenda points out that their a limited opportunities for professional female bodybuilders. When women turn pro they have to figure out how to market themselves in the fitness industry. Athletes have to have good people skills and business acumen to be successful.

Lenda explains that she was nervous when she competed for her second Ms.Olympia in 1991. Lenda had an intense amount of pressure now that she was carrying multiple Olympia titles. Dealing with detractors in the sport is a challenge. While she had her fans, there were negative people she had to confront in the industry. Lenda learned not to let negative comments bother her about her appearance. Jealousy was probably a factor when the negative commentary came with in the sport.

Lenda Murray still is involved in the fitness industry. She also now serves as a judge in contests and trains up and coming athletes. Lenda believes that the multiple divisions including bikini, physique, figure, and bodybuilding are positive developments, because it gives women more options. She believes women should support each other. This means female athletes should not condemn each other based on appearance. At the final part of the interview Lenda says posing, presentation , and the ability to stand out is pivotal competitor. Yet, Lenda emphasizes presentation must be unique to capture the judges attention. Lenda Murray will always be a great ambassador to the sport.

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Lenda Murray Physique Posing. Com Interview

Sharon Bruneau

Sharon Bruneau  was a bodybuilder and fitness model. She was born in 1964 in Timminis, Canada. She is a French-Canadian Metis. The Metis are mixed raced aboriginal people of Canada. Sharon has the distinction of being one of the most recognized Metis in the female bodybuilding community. As Sharon has stated ” My native heritage is of Cherokee blood.” She takes pride in her heritage, which is important seeing as their are very few Metis women represented in the sport. Sharon did have an athletic past, which involved her in sports such as track, tennis, volleyball, and gymnastics. Oddly enough, like other girls she had body image issues. Sharon explained:” Like every young girl, I had hang-ups about my body and was always conscious of my weight, shape and tone… actually “anal” is a better word.” She was very thin and became obsessed with it. Her body shape at the time got her noticed for a top modeling agency in Toronto. She began modeling at age 17. She originally wanted to be an actor, but certain events changed her plans. Sharon contracted pneumonia and lost too much weight. At 5’9 and a 120 pounds she was reduced to an emaciated 100 pounds. To recover after this illness, Sharon joined a health club. After seeing an issue of Muscle and Fitness, she became interested in bodybuilding.

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Sharon was more interested in the Rachel Mclish version physique. Mclish became her inspiration and she continued to train to build up enough size for contests. From 1991 to 1994 she would compete as a bodybuilder. Her best win was  the IFBB North American Championships in 1991. From that point on she was an official pro. Sharon loved some of  the aesthetics  of bodybuilding saying ” saw some photos of Rachel McLish (Bodybuilder and Former Ms. Olympia) and I just loved her body.” Yet there were some aspects she did not approve of stating “I didn’t like the biceps but I loved the length so, I just dove in at that time.” This is a rather strange thought considering her biceps were her best body part. Round and full during her competitive years, they could make many men jealous. She gradually was overcoming body image issues she had from childhood. Although Sharon became a pro, the atmosphere of the Ms.Olympia stage was changing. Larger physiques were winning contests. Sharon’s physique resembled more so Corey Everson’s, but that body type was being replaced.

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If she had competed in the 1980s  she would have been in the top three. With Bev Francis ushering in a more muscular physique and Lenda Murray’s dominance, competition was tough. There were few contests that she won, but she was an excellent bodybuilder. She was popular among fans and was quickly recognizable. It seemed as if she reached her natural limit physically in terms of advancement in the bodybuilding category. Sharon switched to fitness competition that put less emphasis on muscle size. While she did find  much success as a model for the Weider corporation, old body image issues began to reappear. She feared in her own words ” I had become too muscular and again ‘anal’ about my physique.” Although some would think that women like this would not have issues like this, societal and cultural pressures are immense. Sharon was not pressured by her peers; she just disagreed with direction of aesthetics. After she retired  Sharon said  I really didn’t like the look of body building, I enjoyed the job but the look wasn’t me.” This is not uncommon for competitors to say with the shift to extremely low levels of body fat. If physique contest existed then she would probably have been best suited for that. Sharon retired from competition  in 1995.

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The contrast between Sharon’s bodybuilder physique and fitness physique.

Besides having disagreements over aesthetics, Sharon still dreamed of being of being an actress in films. Devoting time to both bodybuilding and acting would be difficult. So she tried her next venture. This did not land her major film roles, but she did get a chance to be in some productions. She appeared in films such as Tornado Run, Nemesis II and III  including  R.S.V.P a horror film. She also was doing stunt work in the film Smokin’ Aces. Sharon Bruneau believed she needed a change in her physique if she were to pursue acting. She expressed this as “I knew I wanted to continue pursuing acting and I knew I had to get back into the ‘middle’ physically.” She would unfortunately reduce all her muscular size to appeal to the mainstream Hollywood audience. Major acting opportunities did not arrive, but Sharon came to a new revelation. Being body obsessed was not healthy. While she did enjoy the competitive nature of the sport and the modeling aspects, but there still is an element of body image conformity. Only this time, she was exchanging it for  a more muscular body type. Sharon came to the conclusion that she was more than just her body and accepted herself.  As Sharon put it   “I could have been happy rather than worrying about how I look and reverting to an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia or overeating.” Sharon’s words are important, because too many women are distraught about their appearance  Cultural and societal attitudes dictate that women only have value in regards to their appearance. This must change and Sharon realized that she was a person, not an object.

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Sharon went on to down size and stopped training with weights, but still engages in exercise and dance. 

Sharon did have success in her fitness modeling career, but she described it as a bitter sweet victory. She did enjoy according to her accounts, traveling and meeting new people. The contract provided a good salary, but there were aspects she did not like about working for the Weider Corporation. Sharon stated after her athletic career ” I wanted to let go a lot sooner but I was under contract and the money and travel was great but literally I woke one day and looked in the mirror and said, ‘Who the hell is that – what did I do!?” Sharon was getting tired for looking a certain way for people. Many would miss her after her retirement, because she was representing an ethnic group that rarely receives attention in sports. White women were over-represented on fitness magazines. African American, Latino, Asian, and Aboriginal women were given less attention in magazines. Sharon had in a way broke down a barrier, just like Carla Dunlap and Lenda Murray did.

Sharon has a Youtube channel with nutrition advice and video clips. If you are a fan check it out Sharon’s channel .  

Sharon as a child of the 1960s experienced racism. Canada has falsely been presented as a liberal paradise, but that is far from Sharon’s experience. Regularly taunted for being aboriginal, Sharon developed a sense of mental toughness. Besides Rachel Mclish being one of her inspirations, Muhammad Ali captivated her. She recalls: “I remember watching when he was fighting – he would speak his mind and not care what people thought – and I loved that.” He was an athlete not afraid to speak out on social, racial, and political issues. To Sharon, a non-white child in a white society he was a hero. She learned to be proud of her Metis heritage and pursue her goals. Sharon Bruneau credits her parents being her favorite role models. They gave her the love and support she needed. Sharon describes them as strong willed, stating: I admire the strength that they had and how they managed to stick together through it all.” Rarely do athletes credit or mention the positive influence of their parents. Sharon admired their hard work ethic and their kind demeanor.

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 Sharon Bruneau still is involved in fitness. Currently she does motivational workshops on health and fitness. She is still involved in some acting, but seems to be focused on her business. Sharon enjoys seeing her clients reach their fitness goals and has claimed even if she developed a bigger business, she would never let this small one go. Even though she has hanged up the posing suit, she still continues a vigorous training regimen. This mostly consists of dancing and Pilates. She is missed by many fans, but still has minor involvement in the industry. Sharon Bruneau will certainly be remembered as one of best bodybuilders to come out of Canada.

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