Fitness Volt : The Sudden Demise of The Ms.Olympia

Bodybuilding Top 3

The Ms.Olympia Demise

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. It seems that in this era, opinions matter more than reality. Andy Carnegie offers his insights into reasons for Ms.Olympia’s cancellation. These observations are of course wrong and their are some corrections needed in the text. The 20% rule was made in the year 2005 and the last Ms.Olympia was held in 2014. It was not in 2015 this happened and when this article was written the end of the Ms.Olympia was not sudden. Carnegie blames the end and decline of female bodybuilding on drugs and appearance of competitors. The problem with this argument is that ignores the amount of sexism women face and body image conformity. His bias is present even in the way he describes the athletes. Statements and the evidence provided are simply generalizations. The comments at the bottom of the article also reveal a more hostile sexism : ” Just because they expressed how they see it doesn’t mean they are a bigot when most male fans of bodybuilding don’t like over roided man women and most women get grossed out by it in general. ” That was written by a user called Anonimal who then adds”  Also you’re pulling the “ideal physique card” as well considering you got all butt hurt over someone’s views and opinions that are pretty damn accurate.”  Well, the opinions expressed are not accurate nor correct. This requires more explanation. Andy Carnegie proclaims the era of the overly muscular woman is over,however that was premature. The Ms.Olympia is coming back in 2020 and even before that their were still female bodybuilding contests being held. The Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix was the successor to the Ms.Olympia and generated enough following to have a Ms.Olympia revival.

        Carnegie makes the claim before the 1980s there was “no such thing a female bodybuilder that looked freakishly muscular.” Calling women freakishly muscular is a phrase that just projects one’s taste in aesthetics. Here it seems he has a low opinion of women who compete in general. Freakish implies that these women are some type of abnormal abomination. The argument used ad nauseum  is that women are doing activities that are not natural to their bodies. The fact is men do not naturally look like Mr.Olympia either. Humanity has found a way through exercise physiology, pharmacology, and sports medicine to push the body’s physical capabilities beyond what could be done in nature. We are even extending our own lives beyond what people could have thought of centuries ago. Women’s bodies are capable of many things and muscular women are nothing new. The term freakish cannot be applied here,because as nature show our phenotypes can vary immensely. Besides just being a vituperative insult, big women were present in the early years of the sport. Laura Combes who competed at 155 lbs from the years of 1979 to 1982. Iris Kyle the Ms.Olympia champion  of the 21st century competes at range of 157 to 165 lbs. That means Laura could have easily by adding more weight could have fallen in the range of a modern day Ms.Olympia winner. Women had very muscular physiques, even though they did not weigh much. Kay Baxter was considered “too big” for some judges,which explains her odd placings in contests. Female bodybuilding’s origins predate the 1970s with the 19th century strongwomen. They would preform in circuses , on the streets, music halls,and in  vaudeville acts. At the time, they were also looked at a strange or violating natural gender norms. The same message is used by detractors in the modern day.  Strongwomen like Mariam Kate Roberts and Pudgy Stockton often faced more harsh criticism for their athletic abilities.

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Miriam Kate Roberts
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Pudgy Stockton
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Laura Combes
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Kay Baxter

Kate Roberts was a stronwoman who toured in music halls  in Britain, Australia, and most of Europe. Her feats of strength became popular among audiences. The strongwomen of the 19th and 20th century were not training for aesthetics,but they did gain impressive physiques from years of lifting. Kate Roberts has the musculature that could be equivalent to a physique competitor or lightweight bodybuilder.  Pudy Stockton’s muscles were in that similar range . She was the pioneer of weightlifting and bodybuilding for women. During the 1940s she was a fixture on Muscle Beach. Muscular women have existed prior to the 1980s, the difference is that women have in the first time in history began developing physiques to their maximum. Lisa Lyon became inspired by the images she saw of Pudy Stockton. She when on to be a female bodybuilding pioneer in the 1970s. She won the first IFBB Women’s Professional Bodybuilding Championships in 1979.    Prior to this Kellie Everts pioneered the concept of  building muscle for aesthetic purposes.  The physiques of this era were more sleek with some definition. The real shift came prior to Lenda Murray and Bev Francis. Before those athletes it was Rachel Mclish and Carla Dunlap. Rachel Mclish was the first Ms.Olympia and had slightly larger and defined muscles compared to the female bodybuilders of the 1970s.

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Kellie Everts
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Lisa Lyon
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Rachel Mclish
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Carla Dunlap

Carla Dunlap took the image of the muscular woman even further. Her body was much more massive compared to other Ms.Olympia competitors. Bev Francis arrived into bodybuilding after being a powerlifter. She was still trying to figure out how to sculpt a physique. Carla Dunlap and Rachel Mclish provided the foundation for both Lenda Murray and Bev Francis. Prior to that the athletes of the 19th and mid-20th century broke the restrictive barriers. What changed was that women no longer were afraid to look different. Women wanted to get as muscular as they could. Before, women were expected to adhere to one body type based on the culture or society in which they live.

         There is a tendency to blame the end on the Ms.Olympia on anabolic steroids. The side effects at high dosages can be seen through virilization. The fact is that female bodybuilding is not a beauty contest. Just taking drugs does not produce the physiques you see on stage. Carnegie claims this is when female bodybuilding took a turn for the worse. Women do not need steroids to build muscle and their are women who use that do not attain the same level as seen on a professional bodybuilding stage. The fact a woman has developed muscle does not indicate that she has used anabolic androgenic steroids. The only way to know for certain is to take a drug test. Andy Carnegie statement becomes baseless : ”  make no mistake though, many current competitors are using PED’s but nowhere near the extent to which they were used before.” The use of various drugs could be as high or the same as it was in the past. There are multiple drugs available which include insulin, growth hormone, and selective androgen receptor modulators. There really is no way of knowing accurately, because athletes may no be willing to talk about their experimentation or use of drugs. Andy Carnegie seems more concerned about a woman’s appearance rather that the health risks that can happen from long term use.  The circulatory system, liver, and reproductive system could be at risk from steroid abuse for athletic performance. That should be the only concern rather than just what it does to women’s appearance. Women may not even experience side effects like others, because depending on the type of drug used the reactions could be different. The reality is performance enhancing drugs have been a part of sports throughout most of its history.   Carnegie is right  when he says ”  what a human being decides to do with their body and life is a decision reserved only for that person. ” Too bad people are so willing to judge and be prejudiced. He falls into this classification. Even when drugs are not a factor people are still uncomfortable about female muscle and athleticism. Female athlete who have not used drugs are even criticized about their bodies. Drugs did not harm women’s bodybuilding, rather its the promoters and sexist attitudes prevalent in sports culture.

           Andy Carnegie has a masters in exercise science, but he gives answer to how women build those physiques, which is rudimentary considering hist level of education. He simply states anabolic androgenic  steroids. A woman who just takes steroids is not going to look like Ms.Olympia. Training,diet,nutrition, and genetics are major factors in how much muscle mass a person can gain. Testosterone is not the only hormone involved in building muscle. Insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) , glucogen, and cortisol play significant roles in muscular hypertrophy.  Steroids obviously do not transform people into athletic champions. The most egregious error is when Carnegie claims : ” So females who use anabolic steroids, can level the playing field and even surpass the musculature of a grown natural male (Steroids are that powerful).” A man who lifts can easily still be stronger  than a female bodybuilder on steroids. The main reason is that men’s testis are producing more testosterone in comparison to a woman of various fitness levels. This would mean women are carrying more fat in comparison to a man who would be of larger size on average. Estrogen blockers probably would not even make a difference. Strength of the body is dependent on skeletal size,ligament, and tendon strength. Ultimately steroids to not cause the skeleton to drastically increase in size.

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Andy Carnegie makes the argument that there are more so “toned” bodies appearing on stage. The idea of toning does not have a basis in exercise science. There are just degrees of muscularity that women are carrying. The bikini, fitness, physique,  and figure athletes are not models with just toned bodies. The average model is thinner and does not have the same level of experience with strength training. This is typical of detractors to insult and vituperate women with success in a male dominated field. The “she’s on steroids accusations” is meant to disparage female  athletes and their accomplishments. The athletes now are just as good or possibly better, yet the same amount of disrespect is ubiquitous. Drug use does not explain why women who achieve their physiques without pharmaceutical aid are still subject to vituperation.  Unless you equate masculinity with strength and power being male only attributes maybe such women would fit the description. This is backward thinking especially in an age of gender equality and empowerment of women taking place around the world. Women train diligently to obtain a look that could take decades. Supplementation, exercise methods, and advances in nutrition have aid this change in women’s bodies, not just performance enhancing drugs. When viewed from this perspective, the question of drugs is an irrelevant topic.

          The image of  causes feelings of fear or discomfort to some. Even Andy tries to comfort himself by saying : “if you look at the female bodybuilders and even CrossFit athletes, you’ll notice that they are in great shape but it’s just a level down from the crazy physiques we’ve seen in past years.” The women are not only bigger and better, there are more women in sports than ever before. The muscular woman’s physique has gotten more exposure. The female bodybuilders in the years 2014 to 2019 still strive for a look similar to Lenda Murray or Bev Francis. Take for example Margie Martin and Aleesha Young  and the physiques they have built . If they were to compete  with Lenda Murray or Yaxeni Oriquen Garcia  it seems they would be on equal  footing. The competitors of today have improved and their bodies are no more crazier than the ones in the past century. What is happening is different levels and varieties of physiques seeing as their are more categories for women. Men’s physique came after women’s physique. Men have only two bodybuilding categories while women have five. Bikini will eventually see some form of evolution as it develops overtime. Physique has in many regards transformed into lightweight bodybuilding. The women are not just presenting bodies of muscular size rather they also focus on shape, symmetry, and conditioning. Simply have big muscles is not going to win contests unless you have the balance of all the required elements.

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Margie Martin (2019)
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Lenda Murray (1990)
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Yaxeni Oriquen Garcia (1999)
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Aleesha Young (2019)

The IFBB may have saved female bodybuilding unintentionally, when attempting to eliminate it. The year 2013 brought women’s physique into existence with a body type that resembled women bodybuilders from the years of 1989 to 1990. Dana Lin Bailey was the first women’s physique champion and has since gone on to compete in weightlifting . Her physique resembled a bigger version of Rachel Mclish. From 2013 to present, it seems that the physique athletes are looking closer to female bodybuilders. It is difficult to tell them apart. The hints are with some slight differences in muscle size. Then there is the difference in posing. More categories means more opportunities for women to compete and it seems the numbers have been increasing compared to 1979. This leads to what exactly will the image of the strong woman look like years from now. This is an evolution that has been going on for sometime. It is unknown what the final result will be. What is consistent is the constant objections to women being involved. No one dares blatantly projects their sexist or misogynist beliefs that women should not do this. So, coded language and disingenuous comment. The message that is presented comes to although women can do the same things as men, it does not mean they should.

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Dana Lin Bailey (2013)
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Jessica McKenzie (2016)
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Lindsay  Cope (2014)
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Amy Luu (2015)

The fear and discomfort comes from the reality that women can no longer be excluded from a male dominated sport. Really, at this stage in bodybuilding’s history it can no longer be considered male dominated seeing as women have more classes to compete in. Discomfort stems from something new and never have in the history of the world have women looked like this or pushed their bodies to this level of physicality. Yet there is a plethora of closed minded beliefs : ” many would call women’s extreme bodybuilding a freak show or just plain crazy but these women who are passionate about the sport; just see it as who they are.” Bodybuilding is not a mainstream sport, so the general public may not be as responsive to it. Football is internationally popular and has mainstream appeal.Calling female bodybuilding a freak show or crazy is just an exaggeration. Women competing are no more abnormal than any other person. Pursuing this sport is no more crazy than playing American football with the risk of concussion or the possibility of getting hurt in a MMA match. At least it is acknowledged that they are passionate and it is clear women can be great bodybuilders. The double standard is clear when you see the extremes men go to produce bigger physiques. Men got so extreme not balancing size with symmetry, the physique division was introduced. The notorious hgh guts have been a feature on many male bodybuilders at the Mr.Olympia. Women never went to that level. While there are people who do not like the idea of muscular women or strong women in general, there are people that do. The IFBB was slow to realize this and must catch up to a growing demographic of fans.

         Andy Carnegie claims that there was no money or desire to keep the Ms.Olympia going. Fans wanted it to keep going, but their desires were ignored. Saying nobody likes it when sports organizations do not promote it is a poor excuse. Female bodybuilders began to market themselves. Personal websites and other fan sites have exclusive material that fans can pay for. Gene X Magazine  has competition photos and videos members pay for to get access to. Herbiceps does interviews and posing videos in which members can pay for. These are just two examples on multiple sites that feature female muscle to a wider audience. Digital media is the wave of the future, yet it seems the fitness publications are still bent on selling magazines in supermarkets and bookstores. The truth is you can sell anything to a customer. People buy products they do not need or use. This depends on marketing and public relations. Female bodybuilding must be marketed in the correct way to ensure its survival. The target demographic should be males 18 to 34. They are the ones who would most likely enjoy buying tickets. Social media and websites should be organized to promote the sport. There are many platforms on the internet which can help. The Ms.Olympia was killed, because the IFBB let it be. Now that it is returning, they now understand that there is some potential value in it. Carnegie despite the surname does not see business potential in it : ” the truth is… nobody was interested in Ms. Olympia anymore and there was no money to be made. Yes, it was because nobody wanted to see “roided-up” females anymore and it just wasn’t pretty… literally!” That is not a truth, rather an opinion. It seems that in this day and age fact and opinion are used interchangeably. Female bodybuilding is not a beauty contest and the concept is subjective. There are a portion of men who like the look of a muscular woman’s physique.

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Carnegie claims the era of the large female bodybuilder is over, yet they never disappeared.  Jake Wood was pivotal in organizing the Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix, which from 2014 to 2019 was a successor to the Ms.Olympia. It found success that the Olympia agreed to a sponsorship deal with the Wings of Strength. Some new competitors are also emerging giving the more seasoned ones more of a challenge on stage. Fans of female bodybuilding have chosen to consume it through the internet and digital media. The IFBB just realized the possibilities. The return of the Ms.Olympia should not be a surprise to people who have followed developments with the Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix .

       The worst distortions detractors make of the sport is the claim no one likes it or that people that do are some how bizarre. It is no secret that there is a fetish culture related to muscular women. While women in the female bodybuilding class are associated with muscle worship or session wrestling fitness,figure, physique, and bikini women also do it as well. Seeing as the sport pays the women’s divisions less this can be a means of making income and financing competing costs. The large sponsorship just might not be there for women. Fans are either criticized for liking the sport and schmoes are accused of giving it a horrible image. These accusations seem baseless coming from critics who do not like the sport in the first place.The fandom surrounding female bodybuilding is a niche community, not bound by mainstream conventions. To say all men or most hate  female bodybuilding can be challenged by the fact that a large portion of men may engage in session wrestling or visit female bodybuilding websites. There is a vast cross section who are either fans of muscular women in general or specifically  female bodybuilders. Some men hide their love of such women to avoid being ostracized. However, Andy Carnegie perspicaciously explains  “men will pay top dollar to be dominated by a woman who is bigger and stronger than them and it’s not really hard to see why (Some of you men know exactly what we’re talking about).”  Women posing in bikinis will generate male attention and muscular women will get male attention, even though most men will not admit it. When the stigma of being a male fan is removed, only then can the fandom grow. There is nothing wrong with liking muscular women or female bodybuilders. A message like this must be spread,which can ultimately help the sport.

      The declaration that female bodybuilding is dead seems to be premature.If anything, there has been an explosion of muscular women more so than in the past. The sport has survived with much struggle,but the women continue to present impressive bodies. The desire women have to compete will not be stopped or  stifled. There is a place for all women of various muscularity levels. The various classes have enable more women to compete at both the professional and amateur level. Some women who were in physique have moved into the bodybuilding class. Female bodybuilding looks like it will be around for a while. The revival of the Ms.Olympia happened for a reason.Despite the disrespect and vitriol directed at women in the sport they still continue to progress. As long as women compete and have involvement female bodybuilding will be fine. Even former Ms.Olympia champions have been promoting. Lenda Murray has been promoting her own contests since her retirement from competition. Women must support other women to ensure the growth and sustainability of the sport. Even if the Olympia disappears for another time, the wonderful result is that women are no longer afraid to build muscular bodies.  The modern female athlete presents a physique more powerful than their predecessors sixty years ago. The change is a silent revolution and it is uncertain where it might lead. The physically strong woman is gradually getting more exposure in both mainstream and underground culture.

Fitness Volt : The Sudden Demise of The Ms.Olympia