Has Female Bodybuilding Died ?

The end of the Ms.Olympia to many was a signal that the sport of female bodybuilding was over. Cynics and detractors claimed the sport was on a slow decline, but they failed to realize this was an evolving activity. Female bodybuilding like other women’s sports struggle to survive due to sexism, lack of media coverage, and unequal pay. It is not that women are not great bodybuilders, its just they got too good for some peoples’ taste. The muscular woman still remains anomaly to a portion of people in the public and even in the fitness industry. Women had to fight hard to get competitions organized and even get recognition. Many dated cultural mores in regards to femininity and gender roles explain why women still continue to struggle in the sports world and the strength sports in particular.   Even with all the negativity and obvious discrimination women continue to be part of a smaller sport. The reality is bodybuilding can no longer just be called one sports activity. The new categories emerged such as fitness, figure, physique, and bikini. While fitness emerged in response to the increasing musculature of female bodybuilders , fitness athletes also went up in size. This followed by the figure category for women who could not perform the acrobatics on stage and were larger. Women with bigger body frames had to either stay in a middle weight bodybuilding category or struggle to be in a lightweight category. Physique was the introduce to accommodate these women. Then came bikini, which at first was controversial. Now the appearance is being retooled for this division and it is unclear where it will lead. Female bodybuilding has not died or been replaced with a beauty pageant format; it is evolving while simultaneously developing factions in terms of aesthetic ideals. If the sport was truly dead it would be stagnant. When there is no change, there is no progress. There has been unexpected results in relation to the bodybuilding revolution for women. The number women who want to develop their bodies increased and there is a small portion of fans. There is probably more visibility of the muscular female form now than in any other point in human history. Female bodybuilding has not died, but changed form. What it will culminate in is impossible to guess.

        During the 1970s female bodybuilding was in its infancy. There were early pioneers of the female muscular form such as Abbye Stockton in the 1940s and 1950s. Women prior to 1977 had no competitive outlet for bodybuilding. It was considered male only and women could only compete in bikini contests between men’s shows. Sometimes  women’s beauty pageants were conducted between men’s events as well as filler. There were physique contest for women staring in the 1960s. The first female bodybuilding competition was held in Canton Ohio. The Ohio Women’s Physique Championship was developed by Henry Mcghee and at the time, it seemed that it would not expand into what it is today. Muscular women existed before the sport, but they never had an outlet to compete. Look back, there development was different from what a fan sees today. Gradually, more contests and organizations would appear. They would either fail or have difficulty surviving. The early prototypical era lasted from 1977 to 1980.

FBB 1919
Female Bodybuilders of the 1970s
FBB 1980s
Female Bodybuilders in the 1980s
Female bodybuilders of the 1990s
timthumb (1)
The female bodybuilders of the 21st century

If it were not for the Canton YMCA a place in which women did weight training activities, there may have never been female bodybuilders in competition. The feminist movement for all its faults, should be given credit for changing society’s view of women. Title IX radically changed may women’s lives giving them access to school athletic programs. These girls would grow up loving sports and pursuing athletic careers. Although women were entering sports in larger numbers, there was a level of anger and trepidation coming from those with less progressive ideas about sex politics. There was a widespread belief that there were some things women should not do because it was not “proper.” Developing muscle was even more taboo in the past for women. Such attitudes were so pervasive, organizers of the first female bodybuilding competitions asked women not to do a double biceps pose thinking it would scare the audience. The athletes had to face both criticism from externally and internally. Many women found that their families would not be supportive of their endeavor. Combined with an American society already uncomfortable with women’s rising prominence in the public sphere. By 1980 the Ms.Olympia had come into existence. The physiques were becoming more defined compared to the first pioneers.

       The 1980s presented a different type of physique.The physique that Rachel Mclish present was different in regards to definition. Visibly an observer would note that there were lines defining muscle separation. Earlier female bodybuilders of the 1970s had bodies closer swimmers.

The sport was evolving, this time in terms of body definition. While earlier competitors had great shapes there was limited definition on their bodies. Rachel Mclish then took this a step further. The women still had to navigate a subjective and nebulous judging criteria. During this period they had to experiment with training techniques and physique presentation. Carla Dunlap presented a physique with more size, while Bev Francis ushered in a model of physique prevalent on the heavyweight bodybuilding stage today. This rift between a sleeker image compare to a larger one still divides the female bodybuilding community. Even with various weight divisions that would later emerge ( lightweight, middle weight, and heavyweight), there were judges still not comfortable with the idea of women with muscle. Objections, which are still echoed today still focus on what is appropriate for women. There are people who still believe that a woman of a different appearance is abnormal. This was most virulent even during the golden age of the sport (1980 to  2004 ).  The golden age marks the appearance of various competitors such as Lenda Murray, Iris Kyle, Cory Everson, Kay Baxter, and many others. Each were unique in their own way from posing, training technique, and opinions in regards to women in sport. It should be understood that bodybuilding is not a mainstream sport, but did get mainstream exposure. Female bodybuilding at its height was getting TV exposure and coverage.

Women’s sports suffer from a lack of coverage and this puts subcultural  sports women are involved in at more of a disadvantage. During the golden age ticket sales to the Ms.Olympia were high, yet the women’s pay in terms of prize money was still low compared to their male counterparts. There was and continues to be sexist discrimination as well as double standards. Women were scrutinized for not being ‘”feminine” enough. This claim has been used to describe the decline in the mid-2000s. However, this complaint by critics has been around since female bodybuilding’s inception. There was even disagreement among fans of the sport on which type of body best represents the bodybuilding sport. Fans either fell into several camps: the sleeker model, a mid-range size, or a larger musculature. These models of body structure have shown them selves in the categories of the 21st century. By the end of the first decade of the sports existence women began to gain more size than ever before.

         The 1990s saw the golden age continue, followed by a decline. The audiences began to shrink for competitions by the end of the decade. Many cite that women just got “too big” and the sport simply was not marketable. This was not true, due to the fact there was a loyal fan base that emerged over the years. The rise of the internet gave athletes the opportunity to start their own websites rather than waiting for a fitness magazine to promote them. Fitness competitions were introduced by the IFBB to counter the image of the larger female bodybuilder. The intent backfired in some regards, because the fitness competitors resembled the earlier female bodybuilders of the 1970s  with better training . With a new category women could switch between the two if they desired.

 Some fitness competitors even switched to the bodybuilding category, if they felt that it was a better fit. During this period it was the era of Lenda Murray who even in retirement promoted the sport. The competition was also quite formidable. Laura Crevalle, Debbie Muggli, Kim Chizevsky  and Andrulla Blanchette. Women such as Julitette Bermann, Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia  and Valentina Chepiga also held the Olympia crown. Iris Kyle would go on to be the most accomplished in the sport. The IFBB made rule changes in the year 2000 stating muscularity should not be “too extreme.” This was an unclear and subjective statement. Then five years later there was the 20% rule. This dictated that that athletes had to reduce their muscularity by 20%. It was only applied to the women’s categories.

The institution that the Weider brothers built did not treat the women fairly. The continuation of double standards and a second class status of women in the sport frustrated athletes. Yet they  marched on and continued to compete. While the golden age ended in 2004, there were still great athletes. Iris Kyle went on to break Lenda Murray’s record and be the last Ms.Olympia. Although the Ms.Olympia was gone by 2014, female bodybuilding competitions still continued. The problem was that it was the most iconic one. Fitness was the first emerging category branch, but figure would follow in the 2000s. These contests did have posing and women were slightly more muscular. This was an excellent choice for women who could not do the gymnastic moves of fitness, but were not muscular enough for bodybuilding class.Women who had more size had another option of going to a newly developed physique class. These new categories did not harm the sport. The change had the opposite result. More women got involved in the sport. Compared to the 1970s  and beyond the numbers have increased. More classes means more opportunities for women to get involved in the sport, who otherwise would not have. The sport appears to be a survivor mainly because of the talented athletes and the fact it was not mainstream in the first place. The changes that happened from 2004 to present many just be the sport going back to its roots.

         There was another consequence that may not have been intentional. Female bodybuilding has spread across the world. Although its birth place was in the United States, it has spread to Asia, Africa, Europe,  and South America. When people state that female bodybuilding is dead, they ignore the fact that it is present in other countries outside the West. The US being the world’s most powerful nation, tend to ignore the accomplishments and contributions of other nations. This narrow perspective does not let people realize just what a phenomenon the sport has become. The National Amateur Bodybuilders’ Association (NABBA)  has sponsored contests around the globe. This organization had physique contests prior to being introduced in North America.

If there is some decline continuing it is only happening in some parts of the West. This is significant because it shows the sport is becoming more diverse. Examining past competitions in North America, most of the competitors were white women.  It was a reflection of a racist society and the US still trying to challenge injustice. With unequal barriers removed the playing field opened to women of various backgrounds. decolonization of the Global South during the 20th century also changed the world for the better. This improved women’s status in various African, South American, and Asian countries yet some still clung to traditional views about women. Some states continued to reduce women’s rights as a whole.

Iran even has female bodybuilders.  This is Shirin Nobahari find out about her experiences living in the Islamic Republic  in this article : Iran’s First Female Bodybuilder Tells her Story.

 States that are highly religious and conservative do not value women. They especially do not approve of women doing something out of the traditional gender role paradigm. This does not deter women who really want to participate in a particular activity. Female bodybuilders in Iran like Shirin Nobahari have to fight restrictive laws and prejudice.While many tend to focus on large international competitions, it is often ignored that there are local and regional contests throughout the globe. India and South Korea have joined the sport over the past three decades and women followed. Some of these competitors have even made it to international competition.

 The other bodybuilding categories are also present in these countries. Just like in America, their judging criteria  is evolving as well. One element remains universal is subjectivity and particular standards. This debate will never be settled and it depends on what a judge’s preferences are. The rise of fitness and bodybuilding culture shows the power of the cultural dynamics of globalization. While there is an economic aspect, there is also a level of acculturation. The West tends to believe it has a monopoly on culture and promotes itself being part of a “civilized world.” This racist position ignores nations of the Global South and their contributions to various fields. When detractors say female bodybuilding is dead, they only focus on the sport in America. Little do they realize that just south of the USA there are Latin American nations that also hold contests. Across the Atlantic women in Uganda are becoming competitors.

Uganda FBB

Ms. Kampala
Irene Katsuubo competing in the Ms. Kampala Fitness Competition

The Ms.Kampala Fitness Competition is just like any other bodybuilding contest, but it is one of the few contests on the African continent. It would not be such a shock to see African women competitors reaching the international level. It seems that in other parts of the world, female bodybuilding is not dying. There is growth or gradual evolution. This sudden spike would indicate that the sport is not dead. Latin America also has contests for women. The Arnold Classic Brazil has the female bodybuilding category.  However, the last two years it seems to have more of the physique category.

 South American female bodybuilders come to the US to compete. It is not just from Latin America, but all over the world. Competitors are not lacking in enthusiasm. If that were to happen there would be a sign of possible death.  Although small in number, it is not imaginable that all women would just stop competing. Their dedication and love for the sport seems as strong as ever. As long as that remains constant the sport can go in a positive place.

        There has been evolution in the sport. Without it it would have fallen into obscurity or become a mere historical footnote. Change means new ideas are developing and being stagnant indicates decline. There was a level of decline in the mid-2000s in terms of economics relative to the sport. Ticket sales were not as high and the prize money still low. Women’s sports struggle for survival due to a long standing male dominance. Faced with such challenges women in the sport had to make adjustments. Pay websites and session wrestling became methods to finance their athletic endeavors. Hardcore fans known as schmoes became a financial support for an industry that ignored athletes. It seems odd that the Weider Corporation did not tap into this market. It seemed to work out better for the athletes, because they did not have to go through a corporate gatekeeper. This new business model did have controversy. Some objected saying it was inappropriate. It was no more inappropriate than how fitness magazines sexually present women. One just has more acceptance. The women in the 1990s were also changing the aesthetics. There was a race for size, which was ushered in by Bev Francis. Lenda Murray perfected it. While there was an emphasis on size, other elements such as symmetry and definition may have been less valued. However, the winners of the ms.Olympia had to have a great balance of all these elements. Bodybuilding is not just about large muscles; its about sculpting a physique the that incorporates symmetry and conditioning. This explains why some larger competitors may not always win. They show great physiques, but they may be weak on one part of the criteria. This was why Iris Kyle was able to win so many Olympia contests, because she worked on all these elements. Cory Everson had done this before winning the Ms.Olympia six times.

There are many great women bodybuilders, its just acceptance of what a woman can do is not that progressive. Women can be political leaders, scientists, entertainers, but for some reason looking different generates disapproval or shock. Even within the fitness community there are claims “women went too far.” One should not expect an evolving sport to remain static. There was a trend toward larger competitors followed by a reduction, there seems to be s trend to a fuller shape once more. Physique divisions if observed closely resemble female bodybuilders of the late 1980s to early 1990s. Really it is female bodybuilding repackaged for a new era. It is more similar to lightweight bodybuilding divisions. There are many times in which a physique competitor could just add a few more pounds and enter a bodybuilding division.

Britney O’Veal switched from physique to bodybuilding in 2016.

Some complaints have come from athletes that there are so many divisions. They present this argument that it is so simple to get a pro card in this current climate. The more competitors means that it would actually be harder to get IFBB professional status. Back in the 1970s there was a greater chance reaching that level faster, now it could be a decades long process. These divisions could be best thought of as weight classes. There are weight divisions ( also one based on height) in the bikini, figure, physique, fitness, and bodybuilding categories. This gives women of multiple body types to be participants on stage. Women of ectomorphic body types would find fitness and figure more to their liking and larger women the bodybuilding category. The addition of new categories demonstrates the sport is evolving and more women are going to be a force in the bodybuilding sports. The sport has definitely come a long way since the Rachel Mclish and Carla Dunlap era. If we were to transport them from the time of their physical primes, it seems dubious if they would place in a figure competition.

Critics also state that performance enhancing drug use caused a decline. While it is true that drug use has been a part of most sports, one must wonder why muscular women were ostracized for their appearance prior to the creation of anabolic andogenic steroids. Men consist of the majority of users of AAS, but women are scrutinized more. This points to another double standard and issues surrounding body image. The public got the notion that a woman with muscle must automatically be on steroids, due to preconceived stereotypes and views. The image of  a woman with side effects of virilization is what the general public thinks of when they hear the word female bodybuilder. This does not represent reality. There are drug tested competitions and women are still criticized for being muscular. While many women have began to lift weights, there are always assurances “you won’t get too big.” Some ridiculously blame female bodybuilding for scaring women of weightlifting. Really the culpability of the blame comes from an unrealistic beauty standard that women must follow. Being thin to the point were it harms health has been promoted by magazines, movies, and advertisements.Being a large or muscular  woman who falls out this standard are either harassed or ostracized.Women choose what they want to look like. No one should dictate this to them. People should understand that there are multiple forms of beauty. It should also be clear that female bodybuilding is not a beauty pageant. While it presents a standard to judged at its core is sport that is very competitive. That competition differs from a pageant. The only change it seems to be is that the hyper muscular size on competition stages is becoming less frequent in appearance.

Just because one model of bodybuilding physique is seen less does not mean it has disappeared. The number of contests the larger version of physique has decreased, but it has not faded away. There are trends and cycles in this sport. This is another stage in changes that have been occurring since 1977. Three decades have shown that this process is far from over in terms of judging, training techniques, and aesthetics. The multiple divisions are just part of the development. Fitness was at first disparaged, but as the years went on it got acceptance. The gymnastic and acrobatics require a high level of athleticism. To just say that the fitness division should not be part of the bodybuilding family is not fair. Similar arguments are made against the bikini division. Since its existence the physiques have changed and now it is distinguishing itself. Athletes made statements that it did not require training or effort. These accusations were false. Not only have women entered bikini, sometimes they transition to the physique division.


These divisions are not all the same, but are part of the same strength sports family. It seems that fitness contests are declining compared with the new other divisions as well. Compared to the 1990s when fitness competitions began the audience had shifted its taste to figure competitions. The dance and acrobatics are amusing, yet the trend shifted once more. Fitness competitors by the mid-2000s began going into figure or bodybuilding . This sport is still relatively new, but the change has been rapid. The growth is a sign of creativity and that is greatly needed to keep the sport alive. There has been a level of decline in terms of media coverage and opportunities to compete. This is no uncommon with other sports women compete in.  The media coverage of the female athlete is minimal even in sports that are more popular like tennis or soccer. When they do receive media attention commentators focus on their appearance rather than their list of athletic accomplishments. This problem was prevalent in the 2016 Rio Olympics. There was a time that female bodybuilding was broadcast on ESPN. As the years past they dropped it off their schedule. The peculiar aspect is that the channel broadcasts poker, so why not a variety of sports? Ratings could be a factor, but it seems executives show what they think audiences would like rather than what they want to see . Whether one approves or disproves of what these women do, it has to be acknowledged this has been an incredible journey.

          Female bodybuilding and women’s sports in general may struggle to survive, yet there are women who are embracing muscular development. This is a new phenomenon , that started with female bodybuilding and has influenced other sports. Crossfit and weightlifting are sports women are not afraid to participate in anymore. To these athletes they love to see progress and push themselves to their maximum physical limit . If it were not from the 19th century and 20th century strong women who pioneered weightlifting, these athletes would not have these opportunities. Now women have access to better training facilities, techniques, and platforms for competition.

People may not have imaged women could get this strong 100 years ago. It is not uncommon that female athletes work out with weight to improve their performance in a particular sport. There still is a level of stigma that has to be confronted, yet this does not deter them. Track and field athletes, swimmers, tennis players, and weightlifters are display physiques more muscular than in the past. This is part of the fitness revolution ushered in by bodybuilding. Even women who are not athletes may just want to “tone” ( a repacked term for building some muscle). These women are doing it merely for the sake of improving health or controlling weight. The great aspect is that older people are now taking up such exercise and prevent chronic illness.Bodybuilding is a subculture that has gotten mainstream exposure and elements of it have been diffused into the mainstream. If the sport for women has reached a slump it can always go back to its underground roots. There has been to some degree a popularization of a woman with some muscle. Maybe not to the level of various competitive divisions, but at least in great physical shape. The phrase “strong is the new skinny” has been used in fitness circles. The extremely thin body type has been challenged with a small body acceptance movement and a growing fitness culture that women have developed. The amazing part of this is that women are redefining what it means to be beautiful on their terms, rather than by society’s standards. If female bodybuilding sports do not survive, muscular women will be here to stay.

         Female bodybuilding technically has not died. There was a decline or close to a slump. The sport is going through shifting trends and readjustment. The evolution of this sport and the aesthetic it presents has not reached a conclusion. No one can predict the future. There were many who believed that no such sport for women could survive. That was proven wrong over the decades and women still continue to compete. Although the rewards are limited even when achieving pro status, women do this for the love of the sport. As long as that dedication and devoted passion is still part of competitor’s motivations it will be safe. Women should not expect the IFBB to treat them fairly. Realizing this they have acted. Lenda Murray is a promoter of competitions. When the Ms.Olympia ended in 2014 a successor competition emerged. The Rising Phoenix Wings of Strength in 2015 became the new major contest for female bodybuilders and many of the familiar faces returned to stage. The quality of the competitors was a great as ever. Margie Martin took first place in the first post- Ms.Olympia era. With every industry or form of entertainment there is a decline. Theatrical animation disappeared with the rise of television. TV then caused a rebirth in the animation industry during the late 1980s to early 1990s. Film was in a dire state until the rise of the blockbuster. Hopefully a new generation of athletes and organizers can induce a renaissance. One matter is certain is that the sport knows how to survive under less than optimal circumstances.

Has Female Bodybuilding Died ?

The Bikini Division: A Positive or Negative Development ?

The bikini division has emerged in strength sport competition and has generated controversy. There are claims that the relatively new category is just there as a sex sells method and that it is designed to phase out the traditional bodybuilding for women. Some have made the claim women got too extreme in appearance causing the move to a more acceptable mainstream model. The general public may never be accepting of women’s sport participation or sports such as these, but there seems to be factions in terms of aesthetic ideals. There is the group that favors a more muscular and larger appearance of the female bodybuilder. Other want a more classic image of the female bodybuilder of the 1970s and 1980s  when favoring physique and figure. Fitness was the outgrowth of women who did not favor neither of these models, but wanted to also demonstrate acrobatic skills and gymnastic skills in their routines. These women of the established divisions have made complaints that bikini is not even much of a competitive endeavor. To an extent they may be correct. It would be difficult to distinguish them from an average woman in a bikini or regular bikini model. Other observers claim this represents the death of female bodybuilding and is probably a negative development. This assessment is not entirely accurate. Bikini is still evolving and the female bodybuilding category still exists. There is one positive element is that more women are becoming involved in fitness sports. Some women enjoy the look of muscle so much that they even switch over to the physique and bodybuilding divisions. To comprehend bikini one must examine the attributes of the category. Its rise can be positive or negative depending on a fan’s perspective.

          Just like other categories the bikini competitors have judging rules. The first is balance and shape. There is no emphasis on muscle size or definition in particular. There still has to be symmetry presented in the physique that is presented on stage. Skin tone, poise, and complexion are parts of scoring. Overall presentation, which is pivotal to all categories is also part of the total score. These are the general guidelines by the National Physique Committee. These set of standards do seem nebulous, but competitors do seem to be able to present physiques through trial and error. Physique, fitness, and bodybuilder competitors claim that doing this category does not require that much training. That is not correct, because bikini competitors are doing some form of weight training.  The difference can be seen when on stage.

Bikini competitors appear leaner just like their bodybuilding, physique, and fitness counterparts. The same process applies to an extent. Cutting fat levels, exercise or training regimens are employed to produce a certain appearance. Bikini may favor women who are sleeker in body and do not have the ability to add size to the level of a physique or bodybuilder competitor. This does give more women a chance to compete who have the desire to do so. Navigating the often contradictory or unclear judging criteria seems to be a challenge for most competitors. Sports such as these are subjective which does cause some confusion. One  element that can be agreed on is that judging can be difficult to understand.

      One argument that persists is that bikini competitors so not have the look of an athlete. Depending on the sport that is played athletes can have various body types. A tennis player may not look like a weightlifter. The reason is they train for different physical activities. The argument seems to lacks cogency that their is one single athletic appearance. This applies to the bodybuilding sports. Muscle size, definition, conditioning , and symmetry varies among the classes.  When one compares a bikini competitor to the average bikini model there is a significant difference.

The women on stage are still defined, but not as large as figure, bodybuilding, or physique competitors. Bikini is relatively new, so it is still evolving. The sport for women as a whole seems to be doing that as well. The critics of bikini seem to forget the history of the sport. The first women bodybuilders of the 1970s  almost resemble the bikini competitors of today. As the years progress women’s physique did increase in size. The female bodybuilders  had a more lean sleeker look in the 1970s. The 1980s brought a more middle level amount of size as represented by Rachel Mclish and Carla Dunlap. The hypermuscular image was born in the the 1990s  with Bev Francis, by started earlier with Kay Baxter. The bikini division wants to resurrect the sleeker body  image.

These paradigms have varied over the years causing debates over aesthetics. When women entered bodybuilding there was objection to having them participate. They faced extra scrutiny for their looks . While there were men who embraced this new image, other who were more conservative repudiated women’s involvement. It was inevitable at some point the factions would develop new categories. The 1991 Ms. Olympia was the turning point in the debate. The fitness competitions emerged and the same criticisms were used against it. Later there was acceptance with some female bodybuilders switching over. Bikini competitors just have revived an other aesthetic of the 20th century.

        There is a negative aspect to the rise of this division. It could be used by the corporate gatekeepers mainly by the Weider Corporation to phase out female bodybuilding. This may be an attempt to present fitness for women as more marketable seeing as the popularity of standard female bodybuilding has declined. The end of the Ms. Olympia in 2014 demonstrated a decline, but not death. There are still bodybuilding contests for women although not as large in number. Another problem is that some longtime competitors feel that now pro-cards are so easily obtained with the multiple divisions available. The positive part about this is that more women can get involved in the bodybuilding sports. There are attempts to mainstream this underground sport. This does not seem feasible considering the popularity of football, basketball, and the Olympics. The idea that a new division can make this happen is misguided. The only reason it should be there is to give women a fair chance to compete who do not have the size for bodybuilding, figure, physique, or cannot perform the gymnastics of fitness competitions. Sports need divisions and weight classes for the sake of fair competition.

To a person attempting to find out more about the sport to can be confusing. A potential competitor may find it challenging to figure out which division is best for them to compete in. It would probably make more sense to do research before hand before just randomly selecting a division. The judges need to elucidate the differences and standards. Otherwise, it would make more sense just to call these weight classes. This confusion goes to a larger controversy in the sport for women.

           The size controversy continues to be an issue in the sport. Critics claim that when women got “too big” that caused the decline of the bodybuilding division and the rise of fitness, figure, and bikini. There could be some truth to this, however that is not the entire story. Women have never been fully accepted into sports. This is due to long term sexist prejudice and dated gender roles. The strength sports  cause problems for women who are either viewed as less feminine or “too extreme.” These criticisms are relative. To extreme conservatives women who pursue careers or independence are masculine. Thankfully, there are more open mined individuals. Women have to struggle in most sports to keep them going and expanding. There is a bias that effects each sport for women. The problem with bikini is that there are attempts to reduce it to merely a sex sells model. While the presentation of a muscular physique looks attractive to some, sexual objectification does not help the sport. The idea that if the women were smaller in muscle size that this would improve marketability is not proven. Women’s divisions have lower attendance and the athletes are less than their male counterparts. This was even true back in the golden age of female bodybuilding in the 1990s.  There is no reason for women to impose limitations on themselves just because society finds it inappropriate. There is no reason larger physiques cannot still be part of the fitness circle.

timthumb (1)The divisions as they are now could solve the size controversy. The split between fans and organizers can be mended as well as competitors. There should be a place for women of various fitness levels. Only if the sport is allowed to thrive and be promoted can this issue be resolved.

          The addition of bikini contests does not seem like a negative or positive development. It is still a neophyte division and gradually evolving. There is uncertainty to how it might develop in the distant future or its overall impact. There is at least a positive development among women. More are coming into the fitness world due to the opening of the division. Some even switch over to physique and bodybuilding wanting to reach a higher level. A new generation of women athletes are emerging. Women do not see physical fitness as male only or strange. There were vexed reactions to the additions of fitness and figure competitions. This soon dissipated as athletes proved themselves as talented. Those divisions are now accepted as part of the fitness community. Bikini should at least be given a chance. There will soon be competitors that will impress peers and fans alike putting to rest the debate. The best action women can do in the sport is to show solidarity. There should not be enmity  between divisions, but collaboration on certain issues. Unequal pay and limited coverage are problems that should involve every woman in the sport to challenge. Only then can women be fully integrated into a male dominated sport.

The Bikini Division: A Positive or Negative Development ?

Iris Kyle : The Best Bodybuilder Ever

Iris Kyle has been one of the most successful bodybuilders of the 21st century. Her impressive amount of victories demonstrate a true talent for the bodybuilding sport. She was able to break both Corey Everson’s  and Lenda Murray’s records. Since 1994 she has been competing and has been a force to be reckoned with. Iris Kyle will certainly be remembered in IFBB history has one of the most important athletes to grace the stage. Iris Kyle won the Ms.Olympia in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Besides her Ms. Olympia titles, she holds seven win in the Ms. International competition. She did this in a span of ten years. Although a woman of many talents she had generated criticism from fellow competitors and detractors alike. Whatever one thinks of the physique she presents, one cannot say is not a great bodybuilder. Talent like this keeps the sport alive and interesting. Iris Kyle was born in 1974 in Benton, Michigan and participated in sports during her childhood. She ran cross country, played basketball, and,  softball. She would continue to play basketball on a sports scholarship, receiving a degree in business administration  with a minor accounting from Alcorn State University. Her contact with bodybuilding did not come until she moved to California.

When she was in Orange County Iris recalled being amazed by the gym she went to seeing fit looking people. There she became a devoted reader of Flex, Muscle and Fitness, as well as Iron Man Magazine. What took her by surprise was seeing Lenda Murray’s physique in a magazine. To Iris’s own admission, ” I wanted to develop a physique like hers.” Everyone gets inspiration from somewhere and Iris found her’s. She was also inspired by Bev Francis. Iris then at the age of 23 won her pro card at the 1998 NPC USA Championship. Before that she won her very first bodybuilding competition in the 1994 Long Beach Classic. It was clear that she was going to be major competition going into the 2000s. A new generation of female bodybuilder had emerged.

       Iris kyle would go against some of the longtime greats such as Juilette Bergmann and Lenda Murray. She lost the overall to Bergmann, but won the 2001 heavyweight title. Iris would come in second both in 2002 and 2003 to Lenda Murray who even out of retirement was formidable. The 2004 Ms.Olympia was different and Iris dethroned Lenda Murray. There was criticism from fans and even competitors alike.

images (8)

Lenda Murray said ” she destroyed her look as a woman.” This seems ludicrous, because their physiques are similar with only slight differences. Critics who never liked or wanted female bodybuilding in the first place claimed that Iris Kyle had gone “too far in her appearance.” These statements and claims seem baseless. Iris was presenting a larger and balanced physique which is why she won some many contests. At 5 ft 7in  and 165 pounds in competition she was able to sculpt her body into a new model for the female bodybuilding physique. Just like Bev Francis and Lenda Murray they ushered in a new look. when these new paradigms are introduced, they are not always accepted. The Lenda Murray comments can be seen as a form of jealousy. When you win so many times it natural to feel frustration when you lose.  It seems odd that someone Iris idolized would say such a thing.  The 2004 Olympia was the passing of the torch. Many observers of the sport claim this was the period female bodybuilding went on a sharp decline. The sport was not generating as much revenue or gaining as much attendance, but that does mean the quality of competitors went down.

Iris Kyle’s dedication and persistence shows that women can do this just as well as the men. She would continue to dominate the sport in the 2000s and 2010s. She would later retire ( temporarily) in 2014 after winning another Olympia. This was a low point, because 2014 was the last Ms.Olympia and Iris was no longer competing. When it was announced that there was to be the Rising Phoenix to replace the ms.Olympia Kyle then came out of retirement. She announced that she would appear in 2016 on stage, but something happened. For some reason she was not invited to the competition. This is a deliberate violation of IFBB rules. If you are professional then you are allowed to compete in contests. It seemed as if the sponsor the Rising Phoenix show did not want Iris to compete and complications occurred over contracts. This was a mistake to have a show that was a successor to the Olympia and not have Iris Kyle in the line-up. Decisions like these harm the sport and anger fans.  Tim Gardner the organizer of the show made this mistake. Hopefully, Iris Kyle will make a stage appearance in 2017.

         The ten time Ms.Olympia has gathered a following over the years. Iris Kyle also has engaged in business ventures opening Bodi Cafe which specializes in smoothies and supplements. Iris Kyle also has her own Youtube Channel in which she shows training techniques. The channel currently hold about 2,388 subscribers.

2009 Arnold Sports Festival
Follow Iris Kyle : Iris Kyle YT and Iris Kyle Facebook

Her Facebook page has generated a following of 150, 778 people. Besides that Iris Kyle maintains a website IrisKyle.com  in which she also helps and consults in regards to weight training. Iris kyle  continues to have influence in the bodybuilding community and her name is readily recognizable in many fitness circles. Her constant victories and uniqueness have gained her nicknames such as ” the female Ronnie Coleman” and “iron maiden.” She also got exposure in mainstream entertainment on the show Wipeout . Being a vary religious individual she has stated “Christ has strengthened me.” She starts her days reading the Bible and with a prayer. Iris Kyle’s time is spent training clients, conducting seminars, and doing guest posing. The Olympia champion certainly has a busy schedule.  Iris Kyle has faced many competitors including greats like Yaxeni Garcia, Alina Popa, Lenda Murray,  Juliette Begmann, and Vicki Gates.

Iris Kyle had stated that her biggest challenge was competing against Lenda Murray and Yaxeni Garcia. These two competitors were difficult for her to beat, but she eventually did. There was a level of confusion in 2005 with the 20 percent rule. The IFBB stated that all competitors in women’s divisions must reduce their muscularity by a 20 percent margin. Iris wanted to follow the rules and come to competition smaller.  Iris went in at 155 pounds, but Garcia came in larger and won. The contradiction in judging has always been frustrating to athletes, At that moment Iris Kyle realized she had to change and it had to be guided by her own assessments. The irony was that Lenda Murray was announcing the winner that year. Iris Kyle then reverted back to the same training regimen. She trains from heavy lifting to supersets  and drop sets.

 After losing to Lenda Murray in both 2002 and 2003 she was determined to win. Iris has facetiously claimed ” if you are going for the champ you have to completely knock out the camp.” Iris Kyle then began a long reign in 2004 of dominating both the Ms. International competitions and Ms.Olympia. Kyle puts her success down to “training smart not hard.” During the off season she trains five days and has two days of rest. She trains one body part per day and allows herself to do three days of cardio training. Kyle although successful has faced criticism. Critics claim she took her physique “too far” and that it was harming the bodybuilding aesthetics. These claims are baseless, because she is no more extreme than any other physique that appears on stage. Iris Kyle simply to the physical paradigm to another logical step. Her physique combined the large size of Bev Francis and the balance of Lenda  Murray while maintaining the symmetry and definition of Corey Everson and Carla Dunlap. Iris Kyle perfected what these early pioneers had started. The idea that women who get “too big” lose their femininity is antiquated and sexist. This is about building a physique and although people may not find it suitable for women, no one can say women are terrible bodybuilders. There is a point when it becomes more than just pleasing judges or acclimating to a particular perspective. Iris Kyle revealed in an interview “never allow someone else’s opinion to dictate your future.” Surprisingly she admitted that someone once said to her she would never become Ms.Olympia. They were obviously wrong. There may not be a Ms.Olympia contest anymore, but Iris Kyle being the last one carries on that legacy. Iris Kyle will be considered in sports history as one of the most accomplished bodybuilders.

Iris Kyle : The Best Bodybuilder Ever

Why Men Hide Their Love of Female Muscle

It should be no surprise that some male admirers hide their love of female muscle. There are reasons for concealing this affection. The fact that women with strength and muscle are not accepted, generates ostracism. Society always wants to impose conformity, not just in thought but in how groups should be and behave. The man who likes female muscle is subject to ridicule. Either their sexual orientation is attacked, they are labelled a sexual deviant, or an eccentric strange person. These labels and pressure from society, friends, and family may force a fan of female muscle to be secretive about their admiration. They either seek materials in print or on the internet and read them when no one is around. When asked about their interest they either deny it. This mean there could actually be more lovers of the muscular female physique than previously thought. The circumstances for this furtive conduct is an intersection between sexism and regimented views about what women should be. It also demonstrates how this views are also restrictive to men as well. Some men get tired of being silent about their love of female muscle and choose to experience it in person. This may explain the rise in sessions and muscle worship. The truth is liking a muscular woman is just a preference, not a strange or abnormal condition.

            The accusation that is directed a male female muscle lovers is that they are gay. This demonstrates a homophobic attitude of detractors. There is nothing wrong with having a different sexual orientation, but used in this context it is designed as an insult. It is designed to be offensive to men who are heterosexual, but may have doubts about their masculine identity. Doing so it dehumanizes people of different sexual orientations, while reinforcing narrow definitions of masculinity in a cultural context. This attempt at making it a pejorative also lacks logic. If the fans of  were homosexual, they would be looking at men. The muscular woman is viewed in this prejudiced mined set as no longer being a woman. They have taken a major masculine identifier as strength, breaking down their regimented socially constructed concepts of gender roles.

Women are in this perspective are suppose to be weak and submissive. Doubtless of what a closed mined view projects, muscular women are still women. The muscular woman and or female athlete challenges the idea of female biological inferiority. When the myth is challenged the negative reactions become more vituperative. Homophobia and sexism are reliant upon one another to maintain the status quo. Here it operates on the idea that men should like one particular type of woman and that women should all look a certain way. Any man or woman who deviates from this is a sexual orientation outlaw. When women began being active is sports the lesbian label was directed at them in the same manner. It was a way of degrading them by questioning their femininity. It was also done to ostracize women of various sexual orientations in sport. Gradually, society is becoming a little more tolerant. However, homophobia and sexism are still prevalent in sport. This bigoted view could be why female muscle fans usually keep silent about their support.

         The idea that female muscle fans are sexual deviants also is another negative association. When a person unfamiliar with the subculture first is exposed to it, they think about schmoes and muscle worship. These activities are related to fetishes, but hardly would count as paraphilia. Muscle worship would not even count as an unusual sex practice. Session wrestling could at times border on BDSM, but the objective is not inflicting pain. The desire is to see the full physical power of the strong woman. Some clients may just be satisfied with women just posing. It is uncertain just how many men engage in sessions and muscle worship. There are men from all walks of life who do them. They come from various ethnic, religious,  and class backgrounds. Some are married or single and seek this out without the knowledge of their wives or girlfriends. Paraphilias revolve a particular object or act. Not all female muscle fans enjoy wrestling simply because of the possibility of getting harmed. Others may enjoy simply watching a video. Then a section of fans want to actually just see contest posing.

There continue to be misconceptions that are prevalent in the subculture and the general public. There is also another misconception is that somehow the muscular woman is a dominatrix. The women who participate in session are by definition, not considered to be a dominatrix. The assumption is they automatically fit the part due to their appearance. While there could be women who are muscular who do this, that does not mean everyone does. The idea that the muscular woman is more aggressive or dominant are based on prejudices in regards to image. This is rooted in the belief that a woman with any type of power either physical or mental is either dangerous or deviant. Many times detractors say it is improper implying that ridged gender roles should be maintained. It was in the past acceptable for women to admire men’s physical strength. Now, with the rise of the female athlete and muscular woman men are starting to show admiration for these unique physiques.

The reality is gender relations have changed. This has not occurred all around the globe, but gradually it will. People are now becoming slowly accepting women as doctors, lawyers , scientists, and political leaders. It seems strange that physically strong women are still seen as an anomaly. It is not just hard on women who have this appearance, but their admirers. The men who like women such as this are either viewed as perverted or weak men. These criticisms reinforce sexist convictions. The idea that men are strong and women are weak has become a dated concept. The idea that a man liking a strong woman makes him less of a man reveals the belief that women should be controlled. Healthy relations between the sexes are based on equality. Who having the attributes of muscles and strength does not make them any less feminine.

 Physical strength has in a way become less of a male only attribute. While there is acceptance (to a limited extent), there is still none for the lover of female strength. The fear of either being labelled a fetishist or a deviant explains why some men hide their love of muscular women. This is an obvious double standard. No one would question a woman who likes a strong and or muscular man. Why then is it such a conundrum for a man to like a physically strong or muscular woman? It seems that gender roles are also restrictive to men as well, when viewed from this perspective. The lovers of female muscle may not even have cratolagnia and sthenolagnia. They may just have a predilection for a particular body type. Just for that fans are either given certain labels. The thin body type for women has for most of the 20th century seen as the ideal. However, no one ever makes the claim a person has a fetish for thin women. The reason is that society through media, culture, and entertainment has presented it as normal. The muscular woman then is a mystery to people have been raised to think in a particular way. The female muscle fan may feel as if they are an outcast and shunned. People who are different and think differently from mainstream convention are normally castigated by the wider community or society.

        The view of the female muscle fan is one of being eccentric. This expresses more ostracism. The claim is normally directed at lovers of female muscle is that they are weird .The common stereotype is that they are obsessive and have voyeuristic tendencies. There have been known in any circle that gives individuals notoriety to have a group of obsessive fans. This does not represent the majority. The collection of photographs, memorabilia, and other items of material culture is just a part of fandom. Many franchises, sports, and other forms of entertainment have a fan base. This is not seen as strange. The reason for the eccentric label is that muscular women are rare and bodybuilding itself is not mainstream. The mainstream has a tendency to present subcultures a bizarre or dangerous. Even though this is not the truth, the general public seems to accept exaggerations or falsehoods. Collecting items does not make you obsessive or a stalker;it just means you are a devoted fan.

Football fans buy Jerseys, mugs, caps and other products. This should not be any different. There does not seem to be a label to these fans. A conformist society labels anything that is different or unique as strange or abnormal. If ideas and society remained the same there would never be any advancement. This fear of being presented as an eccentric outcast is another reason why men hide their love of female muscle.

       There also is the factor of family and friends. Peer pressure can be a powerful force in an individual’s daily interactions. Family pressure can be even more influential. Young girls and boys first learn what is considered appropriate behavior from their parents. Going through a phase in which an adolescent is discovering what is sexually attractive to them makes matters more complicated. If the young man discovers he likes female muscle feelings of shame and trepidation may emerge. Their parents may not be so understanding. For the young woman who pursues sports or strength building activities, they may face negativity from their friends and family. It is not uncommon to hear statements like “your a pretty girl why are you destroying yourself ?” or “if you keep this up you’ll never find a husband.” These dated and backward notions view women as merely objects only valuable for their appearance. Friends may criticize and even tease lovers of female muscle. The rejection that could come from close social circles could be too much to handle for some. They will still seek materials related to female muscle (videos, magazines, or websites), but take extra care to hide it. Secret admirers of female muscle do this so well that not even their closest associates know. Generally, there is a discomfort when it is known that an individual has this love. Far from being a horrible secret, it almost seems ludicrous to go through all the effort to conceal.

           Men who like female muscle react different ways to such taboos. Some attempt to conceal their love by extreme measures. Worst of all, they pretend they do not like it and even engage in ridicule of muscular women as a cover. This is unfortunate mainly resulting in the person ostracizing being unhappy and perpetuating a system of sexism. There are other men who like female muscle, but articulate it in a different way. They normally state ” I like athletic women”  or “I like women with some tone.” Women athletes of today come in various shapes and sizes depending on what sport they play. However, it is not rare that you see women with muscle. These women in mainstream sports have a little more acceptance, so no one would question this preference. The term toning really means building muscle, but used in this context to a lesser degree.

The reason these phrases and terminology are used is due to the notion that muscles and women are not an acceptable combination. So, the mainstream fitness industry had to develop these concepts with out using the accurate word muscle. Men who like female muscle, but want to distinguish they do not favor a much larger look use the mainstream vernacular. Mainly, they are influenced by the negative stereotypes of female bodybuilders and weightlifters. This group like most of mainstream society thinks that women cannot be muscular and feminine. Often their criticism is that “they crossed the line.”This is coded language for a woman who is too muscular, too strong, and is no longer in the appropriate bounds of gender. These accusations are made by people who are threatened and scared by strong women in both the physical and mental sense. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with the aesthetics, but condemning or suggesting women should stop the development of their bodies is a demonstration of subtle  misogyny. This group likes physically strong women to a certain degree they find acceptable in gender boundaries. The more open minded group of female muscle fans enjoys women of all fitness levels. They could be “toned,” good shape, athlete, or hypermuscular. Any amount of muscle is considered beautiful of the female form.

e93c5bb85e30c390617748bad5f2a846   Another misconception about lovers of female muscle is that these are the only type of women they like. There are numerous body types they could be open to. It could be larger women, thinner ones, or women of a voluptuous structure that attract female muscle fans. The problem with society and its concepts of beauty is that it reduces it to one paradigm. It seems that the thin body type has been challenged, by individuals who define beauty for themselves. These fans of female muscle of various varieties do not hesitate to admit their love of it. Many times, if asked men who do like female muscle try to deny it. Even if family members and fiends find materials they collect, they still do not discuss it.

       At some point there is not reason to suppress what you are a fan of. Although society presents negative perspectives about physically strong women, they are based on biases, rather than fact. The trepidation being alienated among friends and family for the love of strong women drives men to hide it. There is no reason to hide or keep secret the admiration for such an amazing group of women. It is not a disorder, a  perversion, or abnormal paraphilia. Liking muscular women is just a body preference. The rise of professional women athletes and women being more active in physical endeavors maybe at some point the muscular and physically strong woman will not be something strange. Considering that women’s sports and female bodybuilding is struggling in particular, it is more pivotal that fans show their support. This means buying tickets to sporting events, supporting athlete’s websites, and watching  women’s sports on TV. The most important part is to admit you love female muscle and defend your position from detractors. This may help dismantle biased attitudes or prejudices against women with muscle.

Why Men Hide Their Love of Female Muscle

Russia Should Not Be Banned From the Olympics

Russia has been accused of a state sponsored doping program. Now there are attempts to ban Russia from the 2016  Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Anti-doping agencies are pressuring the IOC to take legal action against Russia in the matter. There are claims that there was a cover-up of positive tests of certain athletes who competed in the 2012 London Olympics. The question remains what evidence is there of a large state sponsored doping program? Is this really about performance enhancing drug use or political motivations?When examining the events this possible ban becomes all the more suspicious. If this complete ban  goes through the IOC will have officially abandoned its policy of international inclusion. Other nations like the US or UK do not seen to value that promoting the ban of Russia in their newspapers and mass media. It is not fair nor is it wise to ban Russian athletes. Doing so, is unjust to athletes who did not use performance enhancing drugs. The World Anti-doping Agency has now brought the War on Drugs to sports and it could have devastating consequences. Sports organizations have the right to ban whatever substances they wish, but they must realize every drug cannot be detected. If this practice is to continue then eventually a vast number of nations could be banned. Suspending individual athletes from competition is fair within certain rules, bur collective punishment of a country shows a vindictive motivation.

           This movement to ban Russia from the games began with the former director of Russia’s Anti-doping lab. His name is Girgory Rodchenkov  who is now presented as a hero in the Western media. He claimed that the Russian government forced him to cover-up positive drug tests that were from athletes who competed in Sochi and the 2012 Olympics. Roddchenkov  made the claim of an alleged state sponsored doping program to The New York Times in May. The World Anti-Doping Agency took his claims seriously, which prompted an investigation. It seems odd that all of a sudden he would reveal a program or claim it exists. This is only one person, but there are accusations from other individuals. Yulia Stepanova said she was provided performance enhancing drugs under a state sponsored program. Her husband Vitaly Stepanov  corroborated her claim. The two filmed what appeared to be Russian athletes discussing doping with their coaches and gave it to a German broadcaster ARD. They told their story which became a television documentary  in 2014.

Yulia Stepanova

Her husband was working at the Russian Anti-doping Agency. How can one be certain that all were using performance enhancing drugs? It could be possible that Yulia’s husband provided her with drugs, but not others. They could have known others using, but were not organizing as a collective unit. The fact that these whistle blowers did work in Anti-doping labs  gives them credibility. There are still unresolved factors. Specifically which officials were involved in the day to day management of the program? This appears to be the actions of coaches and athletes obsessed with winning at all costs. Government officials either had some knowledge or none about the actual practice of performance enhancing drug use. This means it was not a secretive government policy. East Germany during the Cold War had a doping program dictated by government policy. Furtive it gave athletes performance enhancing drugs without their knowledge or consent. Rodenchenkov claims he switched urine samples before the Sochi Games in 2014. Although there are still questions in these series of events some have already made up their minds. Anti-doping agencies from more than ten nations are pushing for a ban on Russia participating in the Olympics. The Anti-doping agencies of the United States, Germany, and Canada have become the most vociferous. This development leads to another discussion of a motivation bigger than sports.

           Russia and the West are witnessing a deterioration in relations. Particularly with the United States, Russia has found no common ground. Disagreements over Ukraine and Syria are creating conflict. This had projected itself in all areas of life. This Russian ban from the Olympics may be America’s way of seeking revenge against Russia for hindering foreign policy objectives. The United States wanted to see regime change in Syria by killing Bashar Al-Assad with rebel groups active in the country. Russia intervened on the behalf of the government fighting both ISIS and US supported rebels. The US encouraged the protests against President Viktor Yanukoych. The democratically elected government was deposed and Russia reacted by supporting rebels in the Eastern section of the country. This was then followed by a referendum by Crimea to join the Russian Federation. Washington was vexed at Moscow and then set about as presenting Russia as a danger. Part of this campaign is to present Russia and its people as malevolent. This Cold War like mindset and Russophobia has contaminated the sports world. Russians are now seen as “cheaters” or ” evil dopers.” It ignores the fact that athletes from other nations have used performance enhancing drugs. It is not a monopoly of one country, but if one only has Western mainstream media as their only source of information  many would be convinced.

Russia Today provides its perspective on the ban on Russia. It provides some valid points.

This has not been the only time the West has attempted to stop Russia from being a participant in international competitions. There were attempts to stop Russia from hosting Sochi Olympic Games and the World Cup. This behavior is following a pattern. Isolating Russia will not solve anything in sports or politics.

           The IOC is in the process of coming to a decision on whether or not to ban Russia officially. This raises the question of fairness, a concept that is preached, but never practiced. There is a change that individual athletes can still go to the games to compete. However, this case by case basis could take a long period of time considering there are 25 sports federations that non-users would have to go through. Time is already short and Russian athletes are eager to compete. This process should have been done months ago if it were actually trying to be fair. Then again, the Olympics has never been truly fair. It has a long history of sex and racial  discrimination. Transsexual athletes are still marginalized and treated with suspicion. Sports have a long history of homophobia. A complete ban would be a regression. It would prove that the idea of Olympic inclusion is a myth and further divide sports organizations. Athletes who followed the guidelines in regards banned substances would be punished for no reason. Many athletes who trained hard are being denied the opportunity to compete over disputes not even related to doping itself. Yelena Isinbayeva champion pole vaulter  athlete has harshly condemned the rulings of the IAAF. She  has revealed that the organization is now under orders to prevent Russian participation in the games. Talent athletes who never used performance enhancing drugs  like Isinbayeva now have to  defend themselves in courts of athletic governing bodies. Athletes thought is they followed the rules perfectly nothing would ever happen to them. That belief has been proven false.

Yelena Isinbayeva had to submit an application to compete.

   The biggest irony out of this was that Yulia Stepanova will be allowed to compete in Rio. She has confirmed her use and acted as an informant. The Doping Review Board of the IAAF has cleared her for competition.  When her biological passport  showed irregularities in 2013 she was banned. Then she moved to the US with her husband. Yulia will not be competing for Russia, but as an independent neutral athlete. The fact she has earned eligibility to compete demonstrates an egregious double standard. The message is if you are willing to collaborate with a particular agenda former incidents will be absolved. For others the rules will be applied differently, but it will not be the same for everyone. Yelena Isinbayeva has to fight to compete, even though she did nothing wrong. So far, there is no evidence that her biological passport was altered. This only proves that fairness is an illusion in sports.

         A  War on Drugs model is slowly being adopted and this could have dire consequences. It has been known that in the US the War on Drugs has fueled a prison industrial complex, which targets non-whites. It has made profits off of people’s incarceration. The sports world is now adopting this model and it will eventually cause more problems. The World Anti-Doping Agency may seek assistance from the UN to go further than just forcing sports organizations to ban athletes. They may try to give them prison time. The IOC and the IAAF  may become compliant with this to improve its already negative image. Certain nations will be targeted simply because they are non-Western. There should be concrete proof of state sponsored drug programs, before it is taken seriously.  Otherwise nations with vendettas against one another will attempt to get the other banned. India could try this with Pakistan or Israel with its Arab neighbors. The current system of suspending athletes who test positive works well enough. Suspending entire nations will lead to hostility. The crusade against “drug cheats” seems like a self righteous and almost egotistical campaign. It is true that performance enhancing drug use has been a part of sports through out history. According to mainstream media, one would assume that it is mostly athletes who consume these drugs. The reality is is non-athletes are taking mostly anabolic androgenic steroids. The casual non-athletic user may do it as a quick method of weight loss. Drug use may not be as extensive as previously thought. There is corruption just like other institutions. Condemning entire nations to a no competition prison reflects an extreme bias.

           it is unfortunate that athletes who did not test positive have to go through an application process. Collective punishment has never been proven to be just.  Russia should be allowed to compete in the Rio Games out of the principle of fairness. Fans want to see various nations compete, not a select few. The world is a vast and diverse place of different people. Exclusion will only harm possibilities of understanding and trust. Although many want to keep politics out of sports, its unavoidable. Some would like the Olympics to become a place were different nations can come together and enjoy great entertainment. The Olympics could be a platform of reducing international tension through sports activity. People who seek it to be a divisive tool or a way to exclude certain countries are doing a disservice. There are already wars and economic disputes further eroding an international community. The Olympics should not be a part of that. Banning Russia is not a rational answer to performance enhancing drug use. Updated drug testing and more competent sample analysis can help. Most importantly there needs to be a shift away from the win at all cost culture that has emerged in sports. This value drives athletes to drug use. Russia must not be banned for the sake of IOC credibility. A final decision will be made on Sunday July 24 on what legal action to take. The only hope is that Russia will be given clearance to send its athletes to Rio.

Russia Should Not Be Banned From the Olympics

Top Ten Reasons to Love Athletic and Muscular women

  1. They can be inspirations to other women and young girls – It is important that women and girls have a role model to look to if they decide to enter a profession that is male dominated. This is important for sports, were support is generally  limited. The athletes now will motivate future contenders to carry the torch.
  2. They embraced the “strong is the new skinny” before it was the fitness Zeitgeist – This concept has been seen as a recent fitness phenomenon, but the muscular women of sports were preaching it before it was hip. They were the true harbingers before the mass marketing fitness campaign.


  3. They challenge the weaker sex stereotype– Some men have used the argument that seeing as men are stronger, this gives them the right to control women. These women destroy this belief with the flex of their biceps. They may not be as strong as the strongest man, but surpass average men.


  4. Their athletic talents and strength feats are amazing– Considering the physiological differences, women’s accomplishments in sports are impressive. They are able to achieve strength, endurance, and speed even though  there is a difference in body composition and skeletal mass.


  5. They are symbolic feminist icons–  The athletic and muscular woman represents the concept of amazon feminism. This branch emphasizes that women can be physically capable and biological differences are not a limitation. 

  6. They overcome obstacles that are imposed on them– The athletic and muscular woman has to deal with certain barriers. This includes disparities in pay and training facilities. Harsh public scrutiny and ostracism does not help either. Yet, they still succeed at their profession. There has been great talents emerging over the years.
  7. There is a level of confidence among them– The athletic and muscular woman does not care what people think about their appearance. They are secure with themselves and their body image. Never do they say everyone should be like them. They are happy just playing their sport and achieving their fitness goals.


  8. Their diligence is admirable-  The amount of work women do to excel at their sport is something to respect. They have to work twice as hard and to see such immense results of that is an inspiration. Dedication, discipline, and focus they prove are the attributes needed to reach certain goals.


  9. The aesthetic is unique– There are not too many women who look like this. They are something special in that regard. Washboard abs, big biceps, and round full posteriors create a combination of curves and power.
  10. This is sexy–  There are men who like these types of women, but do not admit it. There could be more men who love physically strong women. The internet has allowed more people to get easy access to photos, when the only source use to be magazines. Power is an attractive quality and here women are displaying a version of it.

Top Ten Reasons to Love Athletic and Muscular women

Rebuttal to John Romano’s “The Death of Women’s Bodybuilding Did “Ugly” Kill Female Pro Bodybuilding?”

The Death of Women’s Bodybuilding Did “Ugly” Kill Female Pro Bodybuilding?

There have been many reasons for why female bodybuilding is struggling to survive. John Romano is a personal trainer and gym owner. He has been involved in the fitness industry for years and also writes for various fitness magazines including being a regular contributor to the T Nation Forums. He pontificates the reasons for female bodybuilding’s slow decline. These arguments lack cogency and thoughtful analysis. Romano’s claim is that female bodybuilding declined due to lack of femininity, what he refers to as “man face” ( colloquial term for virilization), and the subculture of schmoes that emerged in the sport. John Romano’s claims can be challenged with facts. Female bodybuilding during its early stages was never fully accepted by the mainstream. Women’s sports have in general never been accepted by the public. Bodybuilding has in general never been a mainstream sport. Yet, women still cannot escape the culture of sexism that exists in sport. Their presence was never wanted or appreciated. While there are competitors who do use drugs, not all do. If this is such a problem then one should question why the IFFB does not have a vigorous drug testing policy. The statement that the sport is a beauty contest is inaccurate. John Romero seems to not respect the sport or the fans. He ignores the gender bias that still remains in the industry. The sport still has a fan base that the corporate gatekeepers do not target in marketing. Female bodybuilding is not dying, but going through a decline. It is not because the women were incapable of being great athletes, but they were too good. This is unacceptable in an atmosphere that devalues women and their accomplishments.

        The major problem with bodybuilding in general is that it is not a mainstream sport. It does not have the same level financial investment as the NFL or Major League Baseball. It is small niche in the sports world. Men who compete would never make as much as a football player. Men do have the opportunities to get supplement contracts. Women are on the other hand at a disadvantage. Bodybuilding as a sport is already underground and women’s sports in general get little attention or coverage. ESPN used to cover both men and women’s events. It is rare that a major cable channel covers bodybuilding events. Women were usually regulated to a secondary status next to their male counterparts. Even when the Ms.Olympia was at its height, when it was broadcast on TV it seemed like a form of charity for the women. It was a side event compared to the more important men’s event. Being an underground sport does not help women. Usually, they will be further marginalized because they are entering a male dominated activity. This underground atmosphere gives bodybuilding a unique  subcultural atmosphere that makes it interesting. The problem is it is cut off from the benefit of mainstream consumption. Bodybuilding survives by being connected to the fitness industry through supplement companies, exercise equipment, and magazine publishing. Women have been present in the sport, but they still face prejudice.

         Sexism has been a part of sports since its existence. Bodybuilding continues to be the sport most blatant in their intolerance of women. During the golden age of women’s bodybuilding muscle was never accepted on women. Currently, there are many who object to this, but it was worse in the early years. Women stated entering contests in the 1970s and even judges were questioning whether women should be there.


The same arguments appeared back then are often spoken today. Statements such as the women were too big or they were mannish were uttered vociferously. This mainly came from the general public who still believed in rigid gender roles. Men are suppose to demonstrate power, while women are to be fragile and delicate. Rachel Mclish became the first Ms.Olympia exhibiting a physique that was muscular, but not large. As the 1980s progressed the size issue became a problem for women. Women according to IFBB judges needed to have muscle, but not too much. This was not a problem for men, because it was assumed they would be the better athletes. The traditional convention was that women should not be more powerful than a man. Women showing physical strength caused discomfort among traditionalists and people who did not want to see women involved. Some women challenged the vacillating judging criteria and shifted the aesthetic. Bev Francis decide she was going to put on as much muscle as possible. Bev Francis never won a Ms.Olympia even though she was a great bodybuilder in terms of size and symmetry. If she were a man, she have been awarded and praised. Yet, in a male dominated sport she was condemned. downloadShe was considered too huge to be feminine. The judging criteria after 1991 started focusing on femininity. This was a ludicrous decision considering there was never a masculinity criteria for males. This was in a sense policing gender. None of the women changed their  biological sex by becoming athletes. The fact that women were becoming skilled at strength sports bothered more of the conservative elements. The Weider Corporation wanted not to present woman as athlete, but sexualized  commodity. The goal was to sell magazines with women who were attractive to the general public. Portraying women as sex objects was and continues to be more profitable to corporate gatekeepers. The gatekeepers realized portraying women as accomplished athletes would not suit their purpose. This emphasis on femininity was a way to control women who were showing themselves as capable athletes in the sport.  Bev Francis’ impact already influenced other female bodybuilders. Women continued to gain size despite sexist attitudes. Lenda Murray went on  to break Cory Everson’s  record. Romano mentions Corey Everson as the ideal saying that it was femininity that brought fans. He states “when Corey Everson was Ms. Olympia from 1984 to 1989, the contest was often held in Madison Square Garden in front of a sellout crowd of screaming fans.” Here he is implying that the audience was not impressed with an athlete, but looking merely for a sexual thrill. John Romano reduces her to a sex object and ignores her accomplishments. Fans loved Corey, because she was the first to win the Ms.Olympia on multiple occasions. Six times she was victorious and retired undefeated.


It cannot be ignored that she is an attractive woman, but that is not why she is a great athlete. She inspired many female bodybuilders who emerge in the 1990s and 2000s. Besides only valuing women for their looks or as objects , rather than people he forgets other important Ms.Olympia winners. Lenda Murray broke Corey’s six Olympia win, but he does not mention her as a model of beauty. It would be presumptuous to say that their is an ethnic bias here, but a reader would have to wonder. Lenda besides displaying a powerful physique  is also  a woman of high pulchritude. It is odd that the writer does not use some visuals of her to demonstrate his point. The only concern to John Romano is that the women are attractive based on his standards ( whatever that maybe), not that they are great athletes. This claim is the most revealing : “issues of femininity aside, a female bodybuilder, even with extraordinary muscle, could be hot as hell if her face weren’t busted.” What one’s face looks like has little relevance, considering the muscles of the face are not being judged.At this point readers now understand that this man only values women as pieces of meat. He has a sexist perspective, but denies that he has a prejudice.


Doubles standards are prevalent in the sport. Never on any occasion is a man asked how handsome he is. Femininity becomes as issue only when people are view through a system of binary opposites. Here woman is defined in relation to men. Woman is defined as less than and femininity is constructed culturally. This is the element of gender appropriateness and it puts extra restriction on females. Women showing strength ( physical or mental ) is not proper in this context. This has changed in certain places around the globe, because like culture definitions of masculinity and femininity transform. Then Romano makes one of the biggest generalizations :” now, obviously, there’s a general consensus of what we find feminine, attractive, admirable, etc. It is those attributes that attract an audience willing to support women’s bodybuilding.” If he means there is a media constructed paradigm of what is presented as attractive, that has validity. A thin body type is valued more in western culture and is presented constantly through mass media outlets such as television, advertising, and film. What is feminine or attractive varies from culture to culture. Large breasts can be a mark of beauty in American culture, but not in Japanese culture. Being feminine in more traditional cultures would be women being passive and obeying a male figure ( husband, father, or boyfriend). The Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia differ on views of women and femininity  compared with countries like the UK. It was at one time considered unfeminine for women to focus on their careers or get an education. Relevant to this conversation, most people believe bodybuilding is an activity women should not do.


While Romano mentions that during the golden era it was easy to sell out a Ms.Olympia, he ignores the negative aspects. Women received little financial gain in terms of prize money. They did not get much press coverage like their male counterparts. Only a select few magazines focused on women’s bodybuilding. Women’s Physique World  and Female Bodybuilding Magazine were a few publications available to a wider reading public women not getting that media exposure put them at a disadvantage. So from the beginning, the Weider brothers failed to promote a product that was popular and had a fan base. Investment was meager in female bodybuilding compared to the men’s division. This was only setting the sport up for decline.


 The rise of the internet however gave women another outlet and exposed the sport to  a larger audience. Athletes now have personal websites, others are devoted to photography, and commentary including competition results. There is a fan base present, but the corporate gatekeepers do not want to utilize it. Limited financial reward, double standards, and limited exposure contribute to a culture of sexism. This institutional prejudice is a major reason for the sports decline. Romano seems to indirectly suggest that is the women’s fault.

       Another topic expressed is the concept of beauty. According to John Romano, if the women were more beautiful the sport would not be in decline. This argument is flawed on multiple dimensions. Beauty has different meanings to people. Aesthetics have changed dramatically in the evolution of bodybuilding. Among fans there is not consensus. Some prefer the lager hyper-muscular body as a model. Others are convinced that a moderate mid-range middle weight body is the ideal. More tend to like the sleeker, yet “toned” ( for lack of a better term) appearance. A significant portion favor all of these models of female muscular development. That is the an example among factions between fans of the sport. When examining the wider society the concept branches off further.



An example of the wide range of muscular development.

The mainstream media tells people that being thin is the ideal for women.Some people reject this and decide for themselves the ideal. We have been told that curvy and being plus sized is a positive attribute. There is still resistance to women with muscle. They are still viewed as anomalies. Even though who preach the new fitness fad of “strong is the new skinny” have their doubts. While the fad promotes women to engage in strength training it assures them they will not become “too muscular.” The question here should be asked is why a muscular body is such an aberration? The reason is a woman with power ( in this case physical power ) is viewed as unfeminine or unattractive. Misogynists believe that only men should have power and authority. While their has been advancement in terms of women’s rights this notion is still prevalent. This explains why Romano’s theory that female bodybuilding would be more popular if the women more attractive lacks cogency. He asserts  “if the top ten of the Ms. Olympia sported a row of faces that looked like the bikini division, Ms. Olympia would probably be alive and well today.” This is false, because even in the golden age women faced severe vituperation for their physical appearance. The women who by Romano’s standards were beautiful still faced insults questioning their femininity and womanhood. He conveniently ignores the fact there are very muscular women who meet his standards, but are still ostracized. The fact is a woman of a certain physical size will not be accepted by the mainstream. They could have the most pretty and full faces, but will be repudiated. Common statements are ” she’s pretty, but she is too big” or “her biceps are too large for a woman.” These comments and reactions come from men and women not familiar with the sport. At times they are contradictory and conflicting when spoken. They see a woman who can be considered attractive, but are conflicted when seeing a woman exit the boundaries of traditional gender roles.


These women do not have “busted faces” as Romano puts it, yet are still marginalized in and outside of the sport.   

The idea that a woman could challenge a man on a physical level is unsettling to some. Men who feel threatened by women’s advancement in society, feel that the physical domain is the only area they have left. Women who enter this activity or other sports in general challenge this notion. This is an explanation to the negative reaction to the muscular female body. Women athletes who do not even have the same level of muscularity as bodybuilders still face scrutiny. The New York Times  published an article stating famous tennis champion Serena Williams was “built like a man.” This rude and ignorant statement seems to be a common belief in the sports world. It is the notion that muscles are male only and sports are designed solely for men. The disturbing aspect of this is the subtle message it sends. Women are here to only be useful or serve men and the most important thing for a female is to look good, based on a distorted body image paradigm.

Serena Williams poses with cake celebrating her 400th career win after she defeated Sabine Lisicki during their quarterfinal match at the Miami Open tennis tournament, Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Williams won the match 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-3. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The public has a warped view of beauty. There is nothing positive about starving one’s self to a size zero.  John Romano then states ” “It’s not a beauty contest,” we hear them say” and expounds further to say that is not true. Then claims ” bodybuilding is all about beauty.” Then another error is expressed in the text:  “It’s when we get away from beauty that we get compromised aesthetics, bad symmetry, and big guts.” Bodybuilding is a sport and a form of athletic competition. A beauty pageant does not involve athletic contest. While both do judge physical attributes, a pageant  has a section with talent performance, with judgement points for personality and dress. This is mainly rating women on how attractive they are based on conventional  beauty standards. There is no form of physical activity. Bodybuilding involves competitors to develop posing routines and poses multiple times on stage with others. While muscle size, shape, and symmetry are pivotal to points, the posing routine is essential. This is physically demanding considering many competitors do this on very little water. It should be lucid to Romano that bodybuilding is a sport, not a beauty contest. Many have articulated that bodybuilding was the male version of a beauty contest. This is inaccurate, because bodybuilding was the product of weightlifting. Bodybuilding aesthetics have been rapidly changing, so saying it has been “compromised” is not a descriptive assessment. It is an evolving process.



Examples of women who are involved in beauty contests. If you compared these two with the bodybuilders the beauty pageant contestants would not be considered athletes. 

Female competitors become frustrated with the lack of clarification among judges. Either they want the women lean, less lean, or to reduce size. This confusion and indecision harmed female bodybuilding in a way. The twenty percent rule, which required all competitors to cut back muscle size is a representation of this. A less muscular woman in their view would make a more acceptable female bodybuilder. No such rule was applied to men, who were becoming more massive and almost caricature like. Romano claims that women were acquiring “large guts” and “bad symmetry,”  but when examining some contest this does not seem to be corroborated. The top three competitors of the last two Olympias did not have enlarge stomachs or minimal symmetry. This is more common among the male contestants who prefer size over symmetry.


Iris Kyle has won numerous contest, because of her symmetry and the balance in her physique. She broke Lenda Murrya’s record for a reason. Iris has faced an unjust amount of criticism for her appearance. Lenda Murray once said that “she sacrificed her look as a woman.” This was a ludicrous comment, due to the fact their physiques were vary similar. There was a slight difference in upper body development. Iris had a bigger upper body compared to Lenda’s.  It seems that even women who are involved in the sport have issues with large muscles on women.


billdobbins10c (1)

This was the period when Iris Kyle rose to prominence (2003-2004). Developing her upper body more specifically the trapezius allowed he to beat Lenda Murray.

To say that female bodybuilding should be transformed into a beauty pageant only displays the level of intense sexism present on the sport. Beauty being described as one definite model is a falsehood that has infected every aspect of society. People have been brainwashed into one perspective, repudiating possible alternatives.

         The use of anabolic steroids was discussed in the article. Not so much their dangers, but the side effects, such as virilization. While performance enhancing drug use is prevalent in sports, when done by women it adds extra complications. When men do use them, it is seen as acceptable. When women do it they are viewed as an abomination. The  double standard is obvious. Even though men who use exhibit negative side effects that the general public would find repugnant, it is accepted because “it is a male hormone.” The fact is women produce small amounts of testosterone and other women could possibly produce more naturally. The only concern people have is that women who are using will “destroy” their appearance. Romano makes it clear that is his only concern. If steroid use is to blame for the decline of women’s bodybuilding, why has the IFBB instituted stricter drug testing? The answer is lucid. They condone use as long as it is not publicly admitted to. This could be damaging to their publishing empire. While Romano states that female bodybuilders are abusing drugs, he fails to mention that it also occurs in figure, fitness, bikini, and physique divisions. This was why natural competitions emerged as an alternative for competitors who did not want to take substances to be competitive. Romano does not mention the women who compete in drug free contests and how they are still marginalized. As much as this exaggerated as a serious problem, men account for the largest number of users. Depending on the type of steroid and the dosage used women may not experience virilization.


Marion Jones used performance enhancing drugs, but never showed signs of virilization.

Romano forgets to mention that some women use estrogen blockers. This can add to the appearance of secondary male characteristics. Some believe that steroid use induced a decline in the sport. This cannot be true, due to the fact that use was probably happening even in the 1980s. Fans who are devoted seem to care little about an athlete’s use or non-use.  Drugs being the problem masks other  issues.

       Romano makes it no secret that he really does not care for the fans of the sport. The real devoted and fanatic ones referred to as schmoes, he had contempt for. John said that the current situation made him reverse previous positions. The Rising Phoenix Contest  showed what fan support could accomplish. Margie Martin’s performance also made a great impression. The IFBB could have made Ms.Olympia like this, but they chose not to. Schmoes as Romano realizes are keep the sport going financially. They are the ones going to shows, becoming members on sites, and doing sessions ( controversial to many). Women have few financial avenues and session wrestling provides extra money. Schmoes should not be viewed with disdain. They are a part of the subculture  and seem to be initiating fan supported contest. Not all schmoes are extreme fetishists, but men who love muscular women very much. Romano lumps them all together in his article.

Clip0002 (1)

Numerous men meet muscular women in private, because it would not be socially acceptable to praise them in public. Judgmental peers pressure the fan of female muscle to hide their support and  admiration. A private setting allows the fan to express that respect without repercussions. The peculiar part of this is that Romano never disparages the IFBB, but use to view schmoes as “having a perverse nature.”  The truth is schmoes come from a variety of backgrounds and occupations. It could be males between the ages 24 to 80. There are even schmoes who are regular gym goers. This is no surprise seeing as this is a place where they are likely to see women such as this. The reality is schmoes are a part of the fan base, so they should not be excluded.

        Romano’s last remarks are rather disingenuous.  The last paragraph includes these thoughts: “we all deserve the opportunity to pursue our dreams and aspirations”  and ” it’s always nice to have a venue in which to showcase and be rewarded and recognized for your effort.” It is unfortunate that bodybuilding and the sports world do not think this way in regards to women. Romano concludes the article by articulating that if the sport remains fan supported, then it proves it is not a beauty contest. It was never a beauty contest in the first place. The general public never supported female bodybuilding and the fitness industry never supported women. This has been for a longtime a fan driven sport. The IFBB was an obstruction in may respects. They did not target hardcore fans. This opened the door for others to capitalize. Female bodybuilding is not dying, but has gone on a decline and sudden evolution. The other divisions are seeing more muscular women. Rachel Mclish probably would not be able to compete with a fitness figure, bikini, or physique competitor even in her top physical condition. Most of the physique competitors could easily be confused for lightweight or middle weight bodybuilders. Where ever this evolution of the sport goes, it is certain that the muscular woman will never disappear.

Rebuttal to John Romano’s “The Death of Women’s Bodybuilding Did “Ugly” Kill Female Pro Bodybuilding?”