Lauri Braun the founder of Female Muscle.com wrote about a common phrase that women work out commonly hear. The warning is do not “get too big.” For too long women have been dictated how to behave or what to do with their lives. Even more nauseating is the comment “you should smile more.” It is worse enough that someone demands that you look a certain way, but to feel a particular way is more infuriating. Braun calls her discussion a rant, yet it is just an observation of a known double standard. Strong women are constantly criticized for the muscles and power they have gained. The odd aspect about this is that women internalize this subtle form of sexism. They do not lift anything heavier than five pound dumbells. There still is a misconception that they overestimate their ability to gain muscle. Such a process takes years along with specific training and diet. Lauri Barun being a personal trainer herself had to explain on multiple occasions that this would not happen. It is like saying if you hand a woman a tennis racket, they will gain the skills of Serena Williams. Much of this fear stems from ignorance of the sport, the women, and basic human anatomy. The phrase “don’t get too big” should be retired from fitness discussion.
Often the phrase “too big” is used for women with the highest amount of muscular development. Female bodybuilders are targets for such ridicule. Unwanted commentary is either expressed as insults, bullying behavior, and sexist abuse. The double standards are so obvious, because men with muscular physiques are not subject to such ostracism. Women should have the right to look however they want to regardless of society’s expectations. It seems so perplexing in an age that is seeing more women rise to positions of power that this concept has not been accepted. There is a body positivity movement, but it seems to exclude athletic bodies in favor of larger ones. It really is not inclusive as it sounds. Muscular women are either absent or not visible in this social movement. Then again it really is not an organized mass movement, rather a loose association. Women are partially to blame for body image conformity. This is mainly through being involved in the beauty and fashion industry. Businesses like that are kept alive by women focusing on their appearance. The beauty industry is estimated at being worth $532 billion dollars. If consumers had a positive body image, sales would decline. The muscular woman challenges notions of female weakness and passivity. A woman’s beauty in this view should be defined by being dainty and frail. Thankfully, women can define femininity on their terms rather than some dated ideals.
The “too big” or “too much” is a matter of taste. A woman who is a track athlete my be too big for some. Having an opinion is not the problem; disparaging people who are different is. Even people who may not advocate the muscular development on a female physique can at least admit it is impressive. There are also a portion of people who appreciate the aesthetic. The lugubrious element of this is that there is a demand for people to look alike and think the same. Getting “too big” is more about perception not anatomical reality.
Women being too big is not anatomically possible. The only way that could happen is if a woman reaches a body weight that would be classified as morbidly obese. At this stage the ability to walk and have a healthy circulatory system is not possible. The strain on the skeletal system is so great joint issue can occur from being overweight or obese. Women who are muscular are called bulky. That implies colloquially being of large size. The women on a bodybuilding stage or just muscular women in general do not weigh that much. The average man or an out of shape woman could weigh more. Comparing a muscular woman to a muscular man their is a difference in the morphology of the physique. The upper body of women is smaller, compared to men. The pelvis is wider giving women a distinctive shape. When muscle is added to the female frame it enhances the form. The irrational fear for some women is that their body will become block like. The reality is that the torso of the male is more block like than women. Female bodybuilders still aim for a version of the hour glass figure although they used different methods to attain it. By developing a muscular upper body and lower body the waist on women appears smaller. Detractors claim that they are attempting to emulate men, but what they are really doing is developing a new aesthetic of female beauty.
Although women do have big muscles, bodybuilding is more than just about size. Symmetry, conditioning, and definition are what contribute to quality physiques. This is where the body becomes a living art piece. This may be hard to understand if you do not admire sculpture or physique sports. The women are not large massive blobs of flesh. Examining the weight of various bodybuilders from the past to present only further demonstrates the point. Rachel Mclish weighed only 135 lbs., while Corey Everson was 155 lbs. Kim Chizevsky was 160 lbs. The body weight of these three Ms.Olympia champions is less than what would you would think by just looking at their pictures. Few women have reached the over 200 lbs mark, which a vast majority of male bodybuilders reach. Two of the greatest athletes Iris Kyle and Lenda Murray would not be considered bulky simply based on weight. Iris was 165 lbs of muscle and Lenda was 153 lbs.
The biggest female bodybuilders do not even compare to men of the same fitness level and size. There can be overlap, but it is not possible for a woman to get man size. Lesa Lewis competed at 193 lbs during her athletic career. Maria Wattel has a weight of 198 lbs. The reason why Lesa and Maria are bigger is due to their height. They are both tall with Maria being 5′ 7” and Lesa being 5′ 10.” The skeletal frame aids in size. The bigger the skeleton the more muscle can be housed on a frame. Muscular hypertrophy is regulated by myostatin and the MTSN gene. This explains why muscles do not continue to grow endlessly. Getting to the size of the Incredible Hulk would not be possible in relation to human morphology. Women have to work harder to build muscle and strength due to how the endocrine system influences physiology. Reaching this level of muscular development takes much time, effort, and an intricate understanding of nutrition.
The perplexing problem about the “too big” concept is that women utter this more among themselves. Lori Braun observed that some overweight women do this. The reason for such unwanted commentary could be jealousy, envy, or closed mindedness. Harsh critics could be internalizing some of the messages of body image conformity. The negative response from some men one would assume would be obvious. Coming from other women remains a conundrum. Women being physically strong seems to bother a number of people, yet this would not apply to other areas. If a person said to a woman gaining higher education that she has become “too smart” it would immediately be challenged. Women’s bodies society believes need control. A woman can never be truly free until she has complete control of her body. This remains the last bastion for women achieving equality. Education and employment are essential measures,but control of one’s physical self is imperative. One step is to have reproductive rights strengthened. What should also be part of the process is women being allowed to look like whatever they want to without insults or harassment. The first step requires women to stop sabotaging one another. Lori Braun describes an instance in which a client insulted a picture of one of her friends competing. Lori rationally explained that her friend weighed less compared to the woman making the offensive remarks. Women should not be insulting each other’s appearance. This only aids the system of misogyny based around a single beauty standard.
The ignored element of this discussion is the false idea that people do not like the image of strong women. The argument is that if a woman gets to big men will not like them. There are men who have a vast variety in what is attractive. Muscular women to some men are the greatest thing ever. The exact number is not known. Many men hide this love due to fear of what friends and family might say. Fans might collect pictures, books,videos, and then hide them. The internet and by extension social media has exposed that there is a bigger following than previously thought. Even if this was not the case, some people just enjoy something that is not mainstream or widely accepted. Female muscle does have more exposure compared to the past considering there is more media. Yet, it started off as a small group of fans of female strength sports. The irritating claim by detractors is that no man likes a muscular female physique. The growth of divisions in strength sports and the increase in women’s athletic participation just demonstrates there are fans. There also is a potential for growth. The conversation about women being “too big” just needs to end. Doubtless of what people think, the women will continue to compete, train, and challenge prejudiced assumptions.