Female Muscle.Com reported on April 27th, Joanna Thomas had passed away. The cause of death has not been confirmed. She had mentioned that was in the process of getting her osteoarthritis treated and was planning surgery. This is a very lugubrious loss for the female bodybuilding community. Joanna was best remembered appearing in the documentary Super Size She for the TLC Channel. TV viewers go a glimpse into the world of the sport showing her triumphs and downs. Joanna was the youngest athlete to win a pro card at the age of 21. She was born in 1976 in the UK. Joanna graduated Camborne Science and International Academy in 1993. As a young woman of 14, she became interested in bodybuilding. This is no surprise considering her sister Nicola Shaw was also a bodybuilder. Her older sister may have been an inspiration to get involved. Joanna had asthma, which made physical activity difficult. However, looking at the women in fitness magazines gave her motivation. Around age 15, Joanna became serious about her fitness passion. Originally only 107 lbs her maximum gain was 134 lbs in competition. She won the British Championships in 1998 becoming professional. Her method was to take time off and make adjustments to her physique. Joanna won the 2001 Jan Tana Classic and would reach the Ms.Olympia stage. She did not place high, but this was the Lenda Murray and Iris Kyle era. Competition was intense. During the years of 2000 to 2007 she settled in the US to focus on her bodybuilding career. Joanna did have plans to make a return, but they it was not set into motion. Moving back to the UK, she did have some level of fame based off the TLC documentary. It was sold to 30 countries giving the sport more exposure. New fans would ask her for autographs. This was also the case when she was still in the US. That one TV appearance did much to challenge prejudice about the athletes and the negativity directed at them. Thomas’ contributions will not be forgotten.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to be postponed. Sports fans and athletes will have to wait until next year for the Olympics. Prior to this announcement it was speculated that the pandemic would effect international sports competition ( Coronavirus May Effect the 2020 Olympics). The IOC and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thought it would be best to postpone seeing as large groups only increases the chance of people getting infected with the viral disease. So far, it will still be called the 2020 Olympics even though it will be held in 2021. The only time the Olympics were cancelled was in 1940. At that time the World War II was engulfing Europe, Africa, and Asia. Athletes were also put in a difficult position. Training facilities had to be closed in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Cancellation was not an option considering how many sponsors are involved in the games. This would be the second time Japan has hosted the Olympics. The last time was back in 1964. The pandemic has exposed how vulnerable humanity is to new diseases. The need for universal healthcare and public health protection is dire. Hopefully, governments around the world will invest in that just as much as the Olympic Games.
The professional basketball player and supporter of women’s sports died in a helicopter crash. Bryant was a vocal supporter of the WNBA and even bleived that some women could be skilled enough to play in the NBA. The sports community and basketball fans mourn the loss of a talented athlete.
Some really good news has come to the fitness world. The Ms.Olympia is coming back having been absent since 2014. Fitness Volt also made the announcement that the Olympia was returning with the open division for women’s bodybuilding. Jake Wood has to be thanked for his efforts in keeping the sport alive. Lenda Murray has also been an active promoter of shows even when the IFBB was lacking. However, Fitness Volt’s assessments should be questioned : “Now, the Women’s Open division was a controversial one since being dropped from Olympia weekend back in 2014.” The only thing that is really controversial is how people react to a highly developed female physique. There remains people who reject the idea of women being strong or looking a certain way. This subtle sexism becomes so obvious when discussing women competing and their muscular physiques. Fitness Volt then claims “And there just wasn’t enough interest behind it to justify keeping the division in the lineup.” That is not entirely accurate. Longtime and hardcore fans were devastated to hear that the Ms.Olympia was cancelled. There was still enthusiasm by supportive fans,but they were ignored by the IFBB. From 2014 to 2019, there were still small numbers of female bodybuilding contests and the Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix was filling the void. Hopefully, enough promotion and internet exposure will take the Ms.Olympia to new heights. It will be no surprise to see some of the former Ms.Olympia champions attend as audience members.
Women since 2010 have become a large part of the labor force in the United States. The first wave occurred in the 1970s, when much of the legal sex discrimination in the workforce was being dismantled. Women have entered into fields that were once thought of as “men’s jobs.” Normally most people do not think of women construction workers when discussing female representation in economic production. There will be some adjustments to mainly male dominated spaces. What the Plaza Construction company did in 2018 was to discard its “Men at Work” signs. The new gender neutral sign states “Men and Women at Work .” The “Men at Work” signs will be a relic of the past as job sites will have the new gender neutral signs. CEO Richard Wood explained it is part of a “female friendly” initiative program. It seems that a wave of progressive political correctness ideology and gender focused feminism is having an influence on workplaces . To a degree this is another way of policing speech to a pathological level. Adjusting language does not prevent certain realities. It is a wonderful development that women show an interest in construction and repair of America’s infrastructure. However, changing a sign is not going to improve wages, benefits, or human resources conditions. It does not ignore the fact that women overall would not have equal numbers in this field compared to men. That is no excuse not to recruit. As the gender pay gap becomes more of a widely discussed topic, there has to be honest discourse.
A sign change seems pointless, when in there are more men who are working in construction. Even the New York Post demonstrates this with statistics. Women only are 9% of the national construction workforce. New York City has a 7% female construction workforce. Plaza Construction has according to its records 25 % female employees. There are both biological and sociological reasons for women’s low numbers. Construction is a physically demanding occupation. Technology has reduced some of the burden with the invention of cranes, excavators, and bull dozers. Construction can be hazardous, even with technology and safety measures in place. On average, women are not as strong as men. Health conditions from strenuous manual labor can occur and this could possibly impact women worse. The threat of musculoskeletal injury is high. This can be circumvented with exercise. Being in at least decent shape may help prevent bone, tendon, or muscle related injuries from construction work. The physical strength difference is the biological reason why women may not be in construction in large numbers. Yet, one does not need to be a high performing athlete to be a construction worker.
The sociological factors are obvious. Women were traditionally banned from or either victims of sex discrimination in relation to certain occupations. Women were excluded from labor unions or the highest positions of business. Women were not taught financial literacy or how to manage money. Prior to the second wave feminist movement women were denied many educational and employment opportunities. It was even worse for women of color who were subject to race prejudice. Besides discrimination and biology as barriers the matter of personal choice is one factor rarely discussed. Women do not en mass choose dangerous or manual labor work. This does not mean they are not capable. There could be many capable women who simply avoid such occupations for numerous reasons. Women may not be willing to take the same risks as men. Men and women may have a predilection for particular activities that are both biologically and sociologically based. People may not want to go into construction because of the long hours or the amount of physical activity involved. Women may just not like the idea of doing manual labor or physical activity. Some women rather have men do heavy lifting for them rather than for themselves. If it is work that requires strength or is dangerous men should be the ones to do it . This actually is sex inequality directed at men, yet it still remains acceptable. Gender equality should mean treating both sexes the same.
Changing some signs does not negate certain realities. Words such as inclusion,diversity, and equality have been transformed into progressive buzzwords and progressive talking points. If there was a genuine desire for change it should be done in a rational manner with realistic expectations. The numbers may never be equal in occupations such as law enforcement, the military, and construction. This is not an excuse to not make programs to recruit women. If one truly values equality that means everyone is treated the same with no special treatment. Women should not expect chivalry in these occupations or some special status. If companies and progressives truly value diversity they should practice it in their own lives. The irony is that white progressive liberals may say they embrace racial, religious, and cultural diversity but fail to connect with different people on a daily basis. The white conservative is more comfortable with expressing their prejudices. Corporations and companies only use the term as a selling point or marketing strategy, when in reality most of their owners are white and male. Tokenism is used as a tool to hide the fact a racist and sexist power structure still exists. Inclusion becomes another strange term. One can be a part of something, but never will get recognition. Acceptance would be a better word to use rather than inclusion. Most will never accept colleagues who of a different background from them in their work space. This is why human resources is even more important than ever. A sign change misses the point of the wider need to fully integrate women into male dominated occupations.
Gender focused feminism and political correctness is having an impact on culture and society. This is not entirely positive. To a degree political correctness stifles debate and hinders free speech. Unlike the exaggerated claims from the far-right extremists who claim it will lead to the collapse of civilization or “cultural Marxism” it does pose a problem. It encourages certain ideas that are dangerous to fester underground and then project. Political correctness wants to police speech to such a degree as a means of preventing any group from feeling offended. This is not the same as civil discourse its a small group imposing their views on other people. Using the term fireman or mailman could be seen as a terrible offense, because it implies only men can do these jobs. Any rational person knows women can, but political correctness seeks to condemn people who use certain words or terms considered offensive. Even popular entertainment and past literature is being subject to political correctness scrutiny. These seem like pointless battles not worth fighting, which become so ludicrous it is more comedic. Gender focused feminism may have a more damaging effect.
Gender is a social construction in which roles between the sexes can change depending on the time period or place . While gender focused feminists are correct in their assessments of socially constructed roles among the sexes, but they deny basic biology. Men are on average stronger than women yet the advocates of gender focused feminism believe that is a social construction. When science challenges their belief system then they reject it or call it sexist. This is one element they have in common with religious fundamentalists. The concept that if everyone is the same they are equal makes little sense. Difference is not an indication of inferiority. Gender focus feminists state that toxic masculinity is harming society, but they condemn masculine attributes in general. What they really should be talking about is machismo rather tan culturally defined masculinity. The characteristics defined as toxic masculinity are what a large portion of women are either attracted to or gravitate towards. Both gender focused feminism and political correctness will create backlash rather than confronting the problem of sex and gender discrimination.
The pay gap remains one of the biggest obstacles to women in the workforce. Part of the challenge comes from the fact women do not go into certain fields in large numbers. Science,technology, engineering, and mathematics requires more women to challenge the income disparity. Richard Wood’s program for Plaza Construction cannot fully be condemned. The question remains how effective it can be. The military, law enforcement, and construction fields must work harder to recruit women. Besides personal choice in career selection it must be understood that the neoliberal capitalist system is unstable. Wages remain stagnant, while inflation continues to rise. The cost of higher education has expanded the amount of debt and federal income tax puts the middle as well as working class at a disadvantage. If there is going to be serious discussion about income inequality than the neoliberal capitalist system must be challenged. Social democracy could solve some of America’s problems, yet a country that demonizes government and its programs may not be willing to adopt such as system. At minimum the United States could adopt a mixed economy which takes both socialist and capitalist economic policies. Employers must increase wages of workers to ensure a functioning economy. Women need to start businesses of their own. To often students leaving the university or college seek employment from someone else, rather that starting their own. Entrepreneurship should be women’s objectives in getting a larger foothold in the global economy. Doing so allows for a smooth transition into a technology based post-industrial society . The global financial crisis harmed construction horribly between the years 2008 to 2010. Many workers came to the realization job security could be an illusion and being in the workforce will require constant learning to attain new skills.
The nature of the workforce is changing. Automation, artificial intelligence, and information technology will have a major impact on the economy. Some observers call this a fourth industrial revolution. Construction workers may in the distant future be replaced by robots who can work faster and longer than a human being. The simple solution would be to train the next generation of construction workers in the manufacture of technology. However, self building robots may even eliminate this possible solution. As businesses,companies, and corporations become less reliant on human labor discussion of inclusion will disappear. They will have already achieved what they have wanted : obedient workers that do not make any demands. Labor unions are already decreasing in number and stable employment has become elusive. Stagnant wages translate to limited consumption, which means smaller businesses would be at risk . The unskilled worker and the less educated will find it more difficult to remain in the labor market. The middle class may slowly vanish with living standards and good paying jobs being replaced by robotic automation. These are concerns that are not seriously examined by governments or corporations. Developments such as the fourth industrial revolution are going to possibly have negative social and political consequences.
Although this does not seem like important news discussing signs there is some promising data. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics : “while women nationally make only 80 percent of what men earn, in construction, they earn 91.3 percent of their male counterparts.” The remaining percentage gap could relate to the fact women are not being promoted or that their numbers are so low it misleads the data. Signs are not going to improve wages,eliminate prejudice, or increase benefits. Rather than have signs saying “men and women at work” it would probably be more helpful to encourage women to seek management positions. Even if more women are recruited in construction that means little without power or the ability to influence the industry. So far, it seems Plaza Construction has a pleasant atmosphere in the workplace for women. The era of #Me Too has exposed women face a disproportionate amount of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Merely adopting buzzwords such as “inclusion” or “diversity” is not going to make this issue disappear. Rather than “inclusion” the goal should be acceptance in the workplace through human resources training. When such policies and programs are initiated women can fully be integrated into male dominated occupations.
The first ever women’s fitness club open in Kabul. Fitness culture has been growing around the world and it is no longer exclusive to men. This fitness club in Afghanistan shows that women are doing something to reassert the rights they lost under years of war and neocolonial conquest. The gym is owned by Tahmina Madidnuristani and she states that it was her lifelong ambition to run a business. Violence from the Taliban, Haqqani network, and multiple terrorist organizations make leisure activity difficult in Afghanistan. Sports facilities are limited and few women have access to them. This however is changing. Women’s lives are so restricted in remote areas they are forbidden to go to school or gain employment. The opening of a fitness club is a major women’s rights statement. The new fitness clubs that are emerging have grown in popularity and male disapproval has not stopped women from joining. For once, Afghanistan has at least some positive news.