Thin is In? Think Again. New Research Shows That Muscles and Body Tone Are Increasingly Rated As More Attractive Than a Purely Thin Female Body

New research shows that muscles and body tone are increasingly rated as more attractive than a purely thin female body

It seems that once more body ideals of attractiveness are changing. The study that was conducted by Frances Bozsik of the University of Missouri-Kansas demonstrated how media can change particular perspectives and attitudes. This study just examines the United States and does not explore other parts of the world. The results were published in Springer’s journal Sex Roles. What the team did was examine Miss USA pageant contestant photographs and documented the change overtime. Undergraduate students were selected to rate and look at the photographs. The collection were photographs between the years of 1999 to 2013. Based on the study it seems that the contestants became more fit with bigger muscle definition. The 64 graduate students in the study were shown photographs of  that were identical. The only difference was one had a thin body displayed and a more muscular one. They were show the images separately and then together. The more fit woman in the photos were rated as more attractive. The study however did not ask what the subjects’ body ideals or preferences were. This could have distorted the study. This does not mean that the muscular body type or a thin body is an ultimate ideal, but men’s preferences are vast and more extensive in terms of activeness. The study seems to indirectly prove how images and media can control an individual’s perceptions and attitudes. Social media may explain the rise of a more powerful female physique becoming mainstream. Beauty as demonstrated by the study is not one concept, but can vary depending on culture and personal preference.

          The 64 subjects used in the study should have been surveyed about their ideal female body type. If most of the men in the study had a preference for muscular women that would obviously distort the results produced. These men would probably rate muscular women higher just because of preference.

It should be no surprise that there are men who like not just women are are in shape, but display a huge amount of muscular development. Then it is problematic with the use of the term toned. This term is not always lucid. The photos shown as “toned and thin” almost seem like a contradictory statement. Tone used in this context implies some muscle definition. This raises some other interesting questions. They used beauty pageant contestants, but what if the study employed some photographs of female bodybuilders or larger women. This could have cased another split in the survey.

Thin woman compared to a slightly athletic woman 

A larger woman compared to a slightly more muscular woman. 

The highest degree of development 

The study does not explain which level of muscularity is preferred on women. If this was to be investigated further one could conduct a study of women of multiple body types. There are also limitations in terms of the survey size. The number of men and women should be equal, but large enough to make a more precise assessment. There were 78 women who looked at the photographs. It should also be considered the differences in men and women’s reasoning for ratings. Women may rate certain women higher,because they either see something they want to emulate. It may not be an indication of  the attractiveness of a body ideal, rather a physical fitness inspiration. Men’s ratings may also be a little more complex. There may be a factor of amusement simply because women of a certain physicality they do not see in their daily lives. The high rating may be one of respect, rather than an admission of  attractiveness. There may be admiration for someone who accomplished such athletic feats, but it may not be in line with their personal concept of aesthetics. To be through, surveys should have been conducted afterward to find out why participants picked the body type they did.

The beauty pageant contestants have gotten bigger compared to the past. It seems fitness has influenced body ideals. Bodybuilding culture has spread. It seems that beauty pageant contestants are adopting training methods of the fitness and figure class more so. 

The main reason could be is that they were exposed to images of strong women prior to the study. The internet and social media platforms are responsible for this rise. This was only over a fifteen year time span, which was relatively short. This survey should be done once more with more men and women. If the results are the same then it is definite that there has been some form of paradigm shift in the attitudes regarding women’s bodies.

       The study notes the rise of the concept of fitspiration. This neologism refers to a culture that embraces fitness and exercise, but also encourages others to follow by example. What makes this subculture unique is that it is mostly women participating in larger numbers, but it is getting exposure through mainstream sources such as social media. The concept of exercise and fitness being a hobby or a pastime is nothing new. The difference now is that women are becoming a major part of this movement. The reason women are a big part of this fitness movement is because there are now more female athletes that are visible. Title IX encouraged women for decades to be involved in sports . There also is a global movement in which women are becoming a presence at the Olympics. This was almost unimaginable 100 years ago.

images (18) There is a female fitness culture that has supporters and detractors. A schism has emerged in this movement about purpose and objectives. Supporters claim it helps build confidence in a society that attempts to make women feel bad about themselves. Detractors say that it is an obsession with appearance and should be focused on health. The more vociferous objections come from sexist who believe it is not gender appropriate for women to be engaging in fitness culture at all. These issues do need to be addressed. Fitspiration does not make the demand that every woman look fit. The dominant fitness magazines tend to market weigh loss rather than exercise to women. Obsessions with thinness come from mainstream media sources, not fitspiration. This fitness movement is small compared to the dominant mainstream culture. The problem is not women exercising or getting in shape it is sexual objectification that is projected in emphasis in appearance. The mainstream media presents only one image of beauty. Fitspiration is not attempting to present one image, but just to get women physically active. The sexist arguments normally follow the lines of that such physiques on women are unnatural. The reality is that humanity has the ability manipulate their own biology to a certain degree. They are not unnatural, because nature is changing. Human evolution is an example of how the body can change overtime.

Women who are of such physicality are not abnormal. It is just for so long there has been restrictions on what is appropriate for women. The difference now is that women are beginning to define what is beautiful on their own terms. There should be no confusion that women who  embrace fitspiration are solely doing it for the purpose of appearance. Some are serious athletes improving their performance, others are women who are entering the fitness industry, or simply casual lifters. Some women have used this fitspiration movement to develop their  business  related to fitness. Women although large participants in fitness are largely excluded from the business aspect. Social media has allowed for women to promote themselves rather than going through the established corporate gatekeepers. If women’s sports do not get enough coverage on television social media and the internet can be as useful tool to challenge the disparity. It is not entirely clear whether this fitspiration subculture is a positive or negative development.

     Social media has become an international phenomenon. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat  are used by billions of people. The internet and social media have contributed to the rise of the image of the muscular woman becoming more prevalent. Frances Bozsik even states :” These websites allow individuals to collect images of women with whom they identify or admire, essentially allowing them to cultivate their own media repertoire of highly salient thin and fit media.” A user can easily go to Pinterest or simply use Google to find images and other materials on muscular women. Prior to this, the only way to see one was to either go to a watch a sport or go to a gym. There was print media to a limited degree, but it is now more extensive with the internet’s global reach. Social media has power to influence people and ideas. Depending on how it is used, it can be a helpful tool in changing people’s attitudes. There seems to be a gradual acceptance of women with muscle and strength. Female athletes do receive huge amounts of traffic to their websites and social media.

Seeing as the mainstream entertainment platforms devote less time to women’s sports this helps athletes immensely. Women can manage their own image rather than being reliant of a public relations firm or corporate sponsor. Fans and supporters can interact with their favorite athlete and have access to enormous amounts of material. Video streaming sites like Youtube, Dailymotion, or Viemo give users access to women’s sports to a greater extent than television. Fans will no longer face frustration about not seeing a particular female athlete. The new entertainment medium of social media has become a positive development for women’s sports and the image of the physically strong woman in general.

popular social media icons
The internet has become a powerful communication and entertainment medium producing blogs, websites, social media, video streaming and electronic commerce.

 There is also a negative dimension to the rise of this new medium. Cyber bullying and harassment have been too ubiquitous for many users of social media. There is also the issue of the rapid spread of false information. Relevant to the physically strong women they are subject to rude comments or ostracism from internet trolls. The anonymous nature of the internet emboldens sexists, racists, and the churlish  to insult whoever without consequence. Many muscular women have reported that sometimes they do receive unwanted commentary to their faces, but not as often compared to an online setting. The comments are pretty much similar in thought from phrases like “she looks like a man”  or “that’s too much for a woman” and voicing another insult of women being “disgusting.”

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Everyone has the right to their own opinion,but that is not a license to insult or be exclusionary to people. The reasons for such reactions can vary. Some people may not be used to the idea of a muscular woman and do not know how to react. Some responses con from ignorance. The other type of commentary is out of jealousy. This mainly is from other women who do not like the idea some other women are getting attention. Instead of being introspective about such emotions they rather attack other people who they perceive as more successful. Men who are insecure may just attack women in general because they want to validate their masculinity. There is a strong feeling of threat that comes from women who are confident in themselves or are unique in some way. These same men would probably be threatened by women who are very educated or make more money than they do. A large portion of trolls are just hateful people who attack anyone who is different. The major problem is that many people still view women in terms of gender stereotypes and dated sex roles.

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This is an example of blatant sexism. Strength if its demonstrated by women is shown as being gender inappropriate.

There has been an uneasy relation between women and exercise throughout the modern fitness culture. The attitude is that women should be physically active, but they should not develop themselves to the maximum. The notion that women can develop themselves to be “too much” seems ludicrous. One would not ask an artist to stop painting too many murals or an architect to stop constructing buildings. There are differences in what makes the most aesthetic physique, but there is room for all of them in the fitness culture. There is an obvious size bias. Female bodybuilders are sometimes ignored or repudiated by members of the fitness culture even when they were the harbingers to the women’s physical culture phenomenon of today. The women of the 1970s had a more difficult time with public stigma and misunderstanding. Women now have at least a slightly improved situation compared to the past.  There has been progress, because for every negative comment there are more positive ones that can be seen on social media. There is also another dilemma with this. Sexual harassment directed at the women. Such commentary makes users feel uncomfortable and adds another challenge.

  There is a difference between admiration and sexual objectification. A simple compliment would be welcomed. However, there should be a clear understanding why sexual advances or comments  are not appropriate on social media .  Thankfully, there are blocking features that can be used to counter harassment. Technology can be abused, but this can be avoided if it is utilized responsibly. Then there is the question of privacy. Some athletes may find that they have an online stalker. While there are complications that come with technological advancements, it has allowed the idea that women and strength are not two contradictory concepts.

This new image of female strength would not be as prevalent or influential without the contributions of social media and a vast global internet network.  This has produced positive and negative effects.

        It can be debated that simply the presence  of various images produces body image dissatisfaction. It cannot be ignore that there is a strong pressure at least in the West for women to have a thinner body type. The fitness woman image has become a recent phenomenon. To say that women who see such images will automatically feel terrible does not have basis in fact. The real problem is what message the images are conveying to the consumers. Magazines directed at women focus excessively on weight loss or appearance. Bozik states ” This process of selecting preferred images and then narrowing the media focus by placing these images on their ‘boards’ may inadvertently increase the risk of developing higher levels of body dissatisfaction, as well as subsequent disordered-eating behaviors that are linked to it,” Looking at an image does not immediately lead to an eating disorder or psychological distress. Not all consumers will be susceptible to these issues. There are women who are more vulnerable : those with low self-esteem and easily pressured. The basis of mainstream consumption in a capitalist system is that it plays on consumers fears and insecurities. If society puts a huge amount of pressure to reach an ideal unattainable it will take some internal fortitude to resist. If there is a lack of confidence or low self-esteem then such psychological disorders can emerge. There has been a counter to this which has been the body positive movement. It seems odd that it favors women with curves, yet the physically fit women are not even part of the discussion.

Many times the same promoters of body positive movements will body shame women who are exceptionally fit. If one is against body shaming, then there should not be a reason to target fit and muscular women with negative criticism. There is also a problem with the body positive movement. It wants to replace on standard of beauty with another. Replacing paradigms is not the solution. The only way this will change is when women stop putting so much effort and energy  into their appearance. While sexism is to blame for some of these attitudes, women are partially responsible. Fashion, make-up, and beauty products are commodities that women have control over. They profit from making other women feel awful about their appearance. Men are not solely to blame as many third wave feminists would want some to believe. Numerous times its other women who disparage other women’s appearance. The only solution is to teach young girls that they are more than their appearance. Society must learn to value women as people, rather than the misogynistic view of being sex objects. If such actions are not taken then no change will occur. That is why it is futile to stop using photoshop on magazine covers or  promote plus size models. As long as the negative perceptions about women’s roles and worth are present there will always be a problem. A solution would not be to stop showing images of fit women.

The media does have the power to influence. However, it is too simplistic to say prevalence of the fit woman image is causing body dissatisfaction. Correlations between media consumption and extreme behavior are inconclusive. Video games are not the cause of extreme violence nor is television.  They may be a factor, but that does not explain the phenomenon. Relevant to women in body image it is the message being conveyed is the issue. If one body type is presented as beautiful either directly or a  subtle  manner that is the root of the problem. If you favor one type over others this becomes an issue. Beauty can be both cultural and personal preference based.

        Beauty and aesthetics vary from culture to culture. Some societies like bigger women others mostly in the West are focused on a slim body. The promotion of a particular aesthetic is a recent phenomenon. This rise of photography, advertisement, and visual media contributed to the promotion on single image of female beauty. TV and movies contributed to this and distorted the public’s thinking. What emerged was the notion that all women should look a certain way based on particular images from mass media. While women who do not follow the image are ostracized, men who find other paradigms of beauty are also subject to harsh criticism. There seems to be limited tolerance for men who have varieties of beauty concepts in regards to women. If the more voluptuous body type is being embraced, others should be embraced as well.

Some people enjoy curves or a more athletic type. There are a large portion that favor numerous paradigms of beauty. The reason this has become an issue is that it is related to sex roles and psychology. Body image is related to sex roles and psychology has become interested in the study of body image. The reason is related to methods of confronting mental disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. These conditions which are eating disorders or an obsession with weight disproportionately effect women. While men can have these mental disorders women are the majority in terms of diagnosis. Such disorders are products not only of a constant circulation of images.

       The way people view the bodies of women are based on strict sex roles. These are normally restrictive and have sexist overtones. Women were once seen as the weaker sex. Their primary role in the traditional culture was to be mothers and caretakers of children. The medical view was in the past that the female body was naturally weak and its only purpose was for childbirth. The male body was the opposite a symbol of strength and power. When women gained more political and social power it spread to other areas. Women began to take control of their own bodies. This was not only done with reproductive rights and an emphasis on women’s health, but women participating sports. Now, after decades of Title IX women are enjoying the benefits of exercise and physical fitness in larger numbers. Women who became active also took their fitness a step further and developed their bodies to their physical maximum. Never before in human history have women reached this level of physical development. There were muscular women that existed in the past, but they did not have a competitive outlet. Nor did they have access to training facilities or an extensive knowledge of exercise physiology.  Women who show great physical power and prowess are challenging strict  gender roles. However, women themselves still struggle with the idea of muscle and strength. Even supporters are skeptical about the aesthetics. Women can be strong, but not too strong. There is a belief that too much muscle would compromise a woman’s femininity. Women are at this stage not afraid to show whatever muscularity level.

The most significant paradigm shift is that women who get involved in fitness culture are not there for appearance purposes. They become serious athletes. Crossfit and women’s increased participation in the Olympics has made an impact. Sports and fitness will no longer be the sole domain of men. Social media is becoming a more powerful tool to organize and market something to a global audience. There is a possibility that this is a mere trend which will fade away. Social media has a predilection for various sudden trends becoming more expansive with multiple hastags. This change in preference in terms of body type was occurring before social media’s appearance. When it was introduced to the public, this explains the surge in interest. User were sharing images and materials with other users. The study’s conclusion can be debatable. It is too early to saw that a strong female physique will become the new mainstream beauty paradigm. The image would have to expand into film, television, or other popular media. What is definite about the study is that people could have multiple preferences in terms of body ideals, even though society continues to promote one. The radical occurrence from this change comes from the women themselves. They are deciding what is beauty for themselves, rather than have it dictated by the wider society or mass media. Where ever this shift in beauty concepts goes, it is uncertain. What can be observed is that women’s mindset about fitness and exercise has changed.

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Thin is In? Think Again. New Research Shows That Muscles and Body Tone Are Increasingly Rated As More Attractive Than a Purely Thin Female Body

Wanda Sykes : If Women Were Stronger Than Men (2006)

 

When it comes to comedy or a sense of humor, it seems that many women lack it. Well, there are female comedians that prove that notion wrong. Wanda Sykes has been making audiences laugh for decades. This one video holds a special place here. Sykes ponders what life would be like if women were stronger than men. There could be a few altercations here and there. Watch Wanda doing what she does best and Happy April Fool’s Day .

Wanda Sykes : If Women Were Stronger Than Men (2006)

Cheerleader Anna Watson: Dark Side of Female Muscle Worship Fantasies

Cheerleader Anna Watson: Dark Side of Female Muscle Worship Fantasies

This article written by Ewan Palmer for the International Business Times is an example of media sensationalism and subtle moral panic. Anna Watson was a cheerleader and student at the University of Georgia  who received media attention for having an impressively muscular physique. The media called her “the strongest cheerleader in America.” While there was some positive publicity, there were also detractors who were more vociferous. The media often casts activities or groups it has limited understanding of  as either deviant, freakish, or unnatural. Prejudice and conformist attitudes are enforced through a medium that should inform the  public. The subject of women and physical strength becomes a controversial subject.  There still are many people who have a problem with women having muscular physiques. Female muscle and its subculture is something that can easily be misunderstood. Palmer’s article gives the mainstream audience only one section of a larger subculture. Followers and the culture that has emerged are regulated to a “dark side.” The fact that it is referred to that demonstrates the degree of closed minded convictions prevalent in society. Anything that does not conform to the mainstream standard is designated abhorrent. Female muscle fandom is far from being deviant. Palmer admits ”  the idea that some men may find this woman sexually attractive may not be the most unusual concept, especially when you consider some of the darker and grotesque sexual fetishes.”  This however is still presented as abnormal. Female worship fantasies are not unusual; they are another form of sexual expression. The fandom is a larger community than one might think and it goes beyond mere imagined fetish.

           The fandom the exists in this community can be divided into several categories. Schomes who love the most muscular women, fans who are dedicated to the sport, and the person who like the look of muscle on women. There are factions that have different perspectives on aesthetics. The casual female muscle fan may prefer a woman who does not have immense size, but a small amount of shape. Other may like a in between a figure or physique athlete size. The schmoes like the largest women, but this does not mean they would disapprove of women of other muscular levels. Palmer’s analysis does not include this classification within the community. If there is to be a description of the subculture one has to describe the community. Athletes would have to be included in this analysis. Women are not just passive objects in this subculture; they built it. The sport of female bodybuilding emerged in the 1970s and by the 1980s was gaining mainstream exposure. Female muscle fans emerged along with the growing female bodybuilding subculture. Women’s impressive athletic performance in the sport attracted fans and notoriety. Rachel Mclish, Corey Everson, Lenda Murray, Kim Chizevsky, and Iris Kyle became some of the best bodybuilders winning the famed Ms.Olympia titles.

Women changed the fitness culture in a radical way. They demonstrated that women can be strong and that weightlifting as well as muscular development was in their physical capability. Being strong was not longer considered gender inappropriate.  Athletes who were in the industry realized that they had to have some business skills to compete and support themselves. There have been recent setbacks for the bodybuilding category. However, the idea of the muscular woman has spread. It was first promoted by these athletes in small circles and now it has reached the mainstream. Women are becoming more interested in weightlifting and crossfit either for recreation or professional competition. Even though the number of traditional bodybuilding competitions has decreased in number the other categories of fitness, figure, bikini, and physique have emerged. This probably is the best time to be a female muscle fan. This is not happening only in the United States, but in other nations. The women involved in the sport are driven by the desire to succeed and the confidence it gives them. The athlete’s time is spent training and having periods of recovery. Besides that it could involve business activities with supplement companies or their own enterprises. The community is close between fans and athletes seeing as the sport is small. There exists a symbiotic relationship between the factions of fans and the athletes.

           The clinical terms that the author does use to describe female muscle fans properly is cratolagnia and   sthenolagnia. These terms describe arousal from the muscles or demonstrations of strength. This does not mean that every female muscle fan has this fetish. Arousal may come for other reason and they could simply just be fans of the female bodybuilding sport. It just seems more likely that men with cratolagnia and stenolagnia would gravitate to the culture.

Being a fetishist and a fan are two different things. It is possible to be both. This culture and fandom of female strength has many branches. Liking the muscular body type could just be another preference.It is rare that someone claims that a person has a thin woman fetish. There are different ways people display their sexual expression. Sexual fetishes are a part of this. The problem is society has a distorted view about human sexuality. Either there is an obsession projected through various media including film and television or the extreme puritan conservatism of the past. Sexuality and the urges that are associated with it are a part of life. The unusual aspect about it is that people are afraid to discuss or explore such topics. There still remains debate on whether or not to teach sex education in public schools.  Sexology are attempting to educate people about this part of human nature. Muscle worship certainly would not be classified as a mental disorder, but in the article it implies it. This is nothing more than a part of bigger culture.

       The article fails to mention the a large part of female muscle fandom is mixed and session  wrestling. Relevant to athletes session wrestling provides funding opportunities for their endeavors. Female bodybuilders wrestle men for a certain fee sometimes costing up to $500 or more for one hour. It is bizarre that the article does not mention session wrestling as part of the female muscle fandom. There is a difference between mixed and session wrestling. Session wrestling refers to a wrestler or bodybuilder providing a wrestling event for a fee. Mixed wrestling refers to a wrestling match between a man and a woman. There are clubs and leagues that women and men are a part of in which they gather to wrestle. Mixed wrestlers or session wrestlers are not always bodybuilders, but the origins of these activities is rooted in the subculture. Mixed wrestling predates session wrestling, but wrestling mostly became part of the culture due to Kay Baxter and Bill Wick. Wick,  former wrestler himself   would film tapes with Kay his wife wrestling one another. He then got Kay to wrestle other men and started selling videos than other companies emerged. The rise of the internet also saw the expansion of mixed wrestling to a wider and global audience. Some athletes may devote most of their time to doing sessions, because the amount of pay is better than winning a contest.

The motivation for women is part finance and business related. Yet, that is not the complete story. Women also get a thrill from this. There is a level of enjoyment and fun they may get from physically dominating men in a way.  There is to an extent role reversal in which women take charge. Men according to a patriarchal society are suppose to be the strong ones, but this has changed to an extent. Women are more involved in politics, science, and finance so it would only make sense the next step would be to enter the sports world.  Women who have weight trained and built muscle have often stated that it has been an empowering experience. They gain a new sense of self and confidence which they translate into other areas of life. To an extent they define their own paradigm of beauty. The reason why women do mixed or session wrestling is that it gives them a sense of power normally deprived of them in their daily lives. There could another reason for this activity that is more simple. It could just be frivolous fun for both men and women. The act of simple play is something that is left behind in childhood. Here in such an environment adults can play around like children again. Work or family responsibilities can be forgotten for a brief period. Mixed wrestling has been mentioned in the mainstream and it may have more devotees than previously thought.

         Another important element of female muscle fandom is photography. Pictures and photographs are an essential part of the female muscle fandom. Fans love to collect photo sets of their favorite athletes. Photographers who may struggle to sell their photos have an supportive market with this base. Pictures can range from contests shots, candid photos, or other environments. This is more of the artistic aspect of the female muscle fandom. While dedicated collectors like the professional photographs rare images are also sought after. Other times fans will take clippings from magazines.

While photographs can vary, there are some common themes. Standard poses are common such as front double biceps, lat spreads, or side chest. Sometimes these photographs have women posing in a manner that would be seen in magazines appealing to a male gaze. The majority consumers of such materials will be men, which explains the sometimes suggestive nature of photographs. Nude photographs can either be artistically presented or more lascivious in nature.

There is also photographs that focus on specific areas of the body. It could either be the biceps, glutes, or legs. Themes that are recurring are either women in sport, doing some job, or a depiction of strength feats.The themes that are most common are women posing as cops, construction workers, boxing, or lifting weights in the gym. Lifting weights photographs make more sense compared to the other themes in photographs. Sometimes there are also women who are posing as a nurse, which is an overused theme in magazines of a certain caliber.

Fans join websites to pay for photo sets of their favorite athletes and competitors. This is not as the author says ” the timid world of female bodybuilding.” This a much larger following. There would be no questions raised at all if these photographs contained pictures of women one sees in regular magazines. The common misconception is that female muscle fans would reject women of different body types. This is not true, there tastes could be very diverse.

Photography is an art form and when athletes are presented in a such a medium fans have more respect for it. There also is an growing industry of fitness modeling. Athletic apparel companies want to market to a female demographic  and they want women who look the part.Some athletes start their own business producing clothing for other athletes. Collectors of photographs are similar to how fans of baseball would collect cards. The difference now is that this process is digital based. The traditional print magazine is in decline and the internet shall be the wave of the future. Female muscle fans will not have to go buy a magazine to see photos. There is now an instant access to photographs, that allows collectors to gain more.

        Female muscle growth is a large part of  female muscle fandom. Ewan Palmer makes it seem as if its the only dimension. It should be clarified what are the specific denotations. There is a female bodybuilding subculture which revolves around sports activities. The female muscle fandom is a subculture in which female bodybuilding falls under but is broader in the regard that it celebrates all women who are strong or muscular. Palmer states :  “Female Muscle Growth (FMG) goes outside the usual attraction of female bodybuilders and extends into a sexual fetish involving fantasy woman with obscene and unnaturally sized muscles.” What one considers obscene or unnatural is relative. While this is the fetish element, it is an artistic expression. Stories and artwork feature muscular women, but may not always be female muscle growth. Some artwork either is fan art depicting female cartoon characters as muscular or original characters produced by the artists. Art can be controversial, extreme, or imaginative and that is what makes it great. It seems that the muscular female body also threatens people on paper and canvasses as well.

The writing and stories also can very, but normally follow a simple formula. A woman who is either abnormally weak either gains physical strength by magical or scientific means and proceeds to use it in a forceful way. The woman can either be a protagonist or antagonist. A majority of the time women are the protagonists. The artwork can be paintings, drawings, computer generated images, or mixed media. The most popular format for FMG is comic based art. This subculture is very audiovisual based. Renditions can range from a realistic portraiture to cartoon like. The comics that are made by FMG artists could either be action based or comedic. Palmer is correct that “far removed from the mainstream – you will not be able to find these works of fiction in any local library or bookstore.” Such artistic renditions or writings were never meant to be mainstream. The mainstream sometimes adopts elements of a subculture then popularizes it for a wider audience. Some subcultures are just too small to be taken to the mainstream. It is highly unlikely that FMG will go mainstream, because it may appear to be too strange for a conformist public. Most female muscle fans my not want it to go mainstream simply because when a subculture does this it loses something. That close community evaporates and is replaced with capitalist hyper-consumerism.

          Videos are a pillar of the material culture of female muscle fandom. Websites offer exclusive content of women posing, doing strength feats, or being interviewed. Fans also collect videos of their favorite athletes as well. This also ties into the mixed wrestling element.  Sites like Scissorvixens and Utopia Entertainment feature videos of muscular women wrestling men. These feature women of various muscular levels. During the golden age of female bodybuilding it was broadcast on television. ESPN or NBC would show contests, but by the late 1990s this was beginning to end. However, the internet and specifically the rise of video streaming gave the muscular woman more exposure. Not only that, to a wider global audience. Fans began sharing videos and becoming more connected to one another across the world.

The female muscle  fandom and subculture seems best suited for the online environment. The types of videos fans like are either ones showing a contest, individual posing videos, or one of a more muscle worship related nature. During the early years of female bodybuilding such videos had to ordered in the back of magazines or bought from another person. Bill Wick mailed the videos he filmed from his house to individual buyers. Now a buyers can make online purchases. Many websites devoted to female muscle also provide news and coverage of contests that is lacking in mainstream fitness publication. There is the challenge of online piracy, but this does not stop people from making the legal purchase of copyrighted material. Hardcore fans pay membership fees to various websites just to add to their personal collections.

Athletes also produce videos of their own on their personal sites. There they can charge fans for exclusive content. Seeing as the mainstream fitness industry has either ignored or abandoned them they are now free to act as their own gatekeepers. Without the middle channel of  corporate gatekeepers athletes can manage their own image and have funds go directly to them. Videos also hold another significance. They are historical documentation of female strength. Many fans want to preserve videos considering women like this are rare. The unique nature of such women is what attracts attention. Videos are also for fun and pure entertainment value. There do exist videos of an erotic nature, but that is not the only content that exists. The female muscle fandom subculture seems to have branches. Palmer makes it seem as if it is only one thing. Subcultures can be more complex even when they appear to be simple. There is a set of activities, language or terminology, both material and non-material culture.

           Female muscle has come to the mainstream. It may not be the actual female muscle fandom, but its presenting its self in different ways. Women athletes in other sports are displaying stronger looking physiques compared to the past. Women are involved in many sports that get television coverage such as weightlifting, professional wrestling, basketball, track and field as well as crossfit. There has also been an impact on women who are not athletes. Some are joining gyms and using weights like their male counterparts.

Although they are not specifically training to get large muscles, they have a degree of noticeable strength and tone from their regimen. The female athlete is here and here to stay. Everyone is not accepting. The traditional notions about gender and what a woman should look like are still present. Body shaming seems to be a modern phenomenon of Western culture obsessed with looks and youth. Women who do not fit a weaker sex stereotype are either designated as unfeminine or unattractive. These feelings are the psychological projections of a misogynist culture that only values women for their looks or how they can be used by men. This also harms men who support women who fit this different paradigm of body image. The fans of female muscle are either depicted by the mainstream as deviants, perverts, or eccentrics. Ostracism is designed to marginalize groups that do not follow the status quo by shunning them from the wider society. Women who challenge sexist stereotypes or cultural mores are often subjected to this treatment. Even societies that consider themselves progressive, the idea of a woman having too much physical or social power creates a level of trepidation or anger. The fact the article refers to elements of the female muscle fandom as a “dark side” only illustrates how narrow minded readers and reporters can be against something that is not part of standard societal convention. It seems it will take more time for society to accept people have different  preferences   and that women have the right to look like however they want. As long as a fantasy does not cause harm to anyone it really is not a problem. Society does have many vicious elements, but female muscle fantasies are not one of them.

Cheerleader Anna Watson: Dark Side of Female Muscle Worship Fantasies

Physically Fit Recruits Are Hard To Find

Not Fit Enough

A recent study has shown that a large portion of the American population is not physically fit enough for military service. Obesity and lack of exercise are culprits in this health and military issue. The interesting discovery is that the people with the worse fitness were in the South. This has been traditionally the largest area of military recruitment. Compared to other parts of the country, it demonstrates a disparity in health. Unfit recruits are more at risk for injury. The report done by the US military ( by researchers at Citadel Military College) wanted to determine if certain states could be a burden in terms of military readiness. They used body mass index as an indicator, however this measurement can be misleading. Cardiovascular measurement seems to have more precision. Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured with incidents in relation to injury during training. The examination used Spearman correlations. While it is true the US has a weight problem, this can be reversed. Doing so will solve high injury rates in military recruits.

       The use of the body mass index for the study may not be the best measuring tool. BMI can classify people who are muscular as being overweight. It also can classify individuals who are thin as being underweight. The study was unclear about the morphic body types of the populations surveyed. The southeastern region which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia ,Texas, Tennessee, North and South Carolina had people who were in worse shape compared to other regions of the US. Some of the people in the data may not have a weight problem. People with endomorphic body types are not technically obese. Their body fat levels are higher, but it is not enough to have a deleterious effect on health. Knowing this it means that some of the data is more of an approximation.

Adding weight to the body will not always result in poor health. Women who are now joining the  military understood that they needed the strength to do certain task. However, when doing weight training they added mass in terms of muscle, which pushed some women out of the weight range. The Marines reversed this decision and women can be at a higher weight. Using the calculation of BMI its flaws can be seen.

 Margie Martin and Colette Nelson’s BMI provides an inaccurate picture. Margie would have a BMI of 27.4 and Colette stands in the 29.11. Both values are in the overweight range of the chart. They are not overweight, because they just have more muscle mass. The BMI scale does not account for different body  types.Although the BMI is not a great clinical tool it is obvious that Americans are suffering from obesity and weight related illnesses. According to the CDC there  is a 35% rate of obesity in the South. This increase is dramatic compared to previous decades.  America now has a poor diet that consists of sugar and high fat. Simultaneously, Americans are getting less physical activity. These are contributors to a growing public health problem. This explains why the injury rate increased 28% among the least fit states.

        The problem is that the military does not examine the issue from a physical fitness perspective. Besides just being overweight, many may not be in shape. Men and women who are not active, but do not have weight problems would probably have injuries. This is proven by the fact the report shows that even the recruits from fit states had injuries increase by 22%. Physical fitness capacity varies depending on health condition, genetics,Somatotype,  and sex. A person who is obese or overweight is going to have circulatory or skeletal joint issues. Strenuous work would be difficult and it makes it harder carrying excess fat on the body. The opposite end of the spectrum is the ectomorphic body type. Thinner people would have trouble doing tasks that require large amounts of physical strength.

 The man pictured is not overweight, but may not be in the best of physical shape. The lady however is at a high physical fitness level and would have an easier time meeting physical demands. 

Sex becomes another factor in military physical fitness. Due to biological and physiological differences the total physical fitness capacity is higher in men. Men are on average stronger than women due to endocrinology, body composition, and difference in body size. Men have more skeletal and muscle mass. Testosterone allows for a higher rate of protein synthesis. Protein is essential for muscular hypertrophy, but that is not the sole factor. Insulin growth like factor 1 and human growth hormone play roles in muscular hypertrophy other than just sex hormones. Aerobic capacity differs due to the fact men have larger lungs and hearts. Women would run slower due to the shape of their pelvis and the difference in the rate tissues are oxygenated. The difference in hemoglobin between men and women is also a factor in physical fitness. What this means is that there will probably be more men in combat jobs, even though more are open to women. Women’s numbers may continue to remain smaller. Lowering standards is not a solution. It means women will have to train to meet the physical fitness standards. If the average woman has lower physical fitness capacity, that means she will have to train harder to reach a particular level compared to a man.

These men and women shown are fit, but the average American does not exercise as much as they do. 

Women would have to train before attempting basic training to prevent injury. Women’s injury rates are higher due to the influence of sexual dimorphism. Relevant to obesity women are at higher risk and would find it more difficult to lose weight. Women have higher fat percentages due to estrogen and progesterone. Despite these differences weight training can increase a woman’s strength. During World War II only 50% of young men were qualified to join. Today even with the expanding roles of women in the service it has dropped to 23%. The number may also be a dramatic shift due to the fact it includes people without a high school diploma and a criminal record. It seems that allowing women in combat is a wise decision if the recruitment selection becomes low. While physical fitness is important, a woman or a man does not have to be Rambo or GI Jane to become a soldier.

The mental aspect is also a pivotal element. Then there is translation onto the battlefield. Collaboration and coordination are keys to a successful fighting unit. This means each soldier pulls their own weight and fulfills obligations as needed. There is also the factor of leadership and tactics. Soldiers even though some armies have the benefit of modern technology still need to be in an optimum health condition .This does not mean just being fit and strong will win wars. There were many powerful nations, states, and empires that should have won conflicts, because their armies were strong. Germany by examining its military strength could have won World War II. The United States from the strength of its army should have won Vietnam. The Roman Empire did not fall because of military defeat, but due to internal corruption and a series of weak emperors. The barbarian invasions were just another small nail in the imperial coffin.The US could have a military of the strongest men and women ever, but that does not guarantee victory.

Just being strong and fit does not produce a high quality soldier. It takes the acquisition of numerous skills in combat and survival to do so.  Maria Anderson is a major general  and  matched against Kristy Hawkins , kristy would not be prepared because she does not have military training.  

It is an exaggeration to say America’s lack of physical fitness is a national security risk . The US military will have to get recruits to enjoy physical activity and learn to control eating habits. There is also another factor that should be considered. If there were to be a draft of women they would need an extensive physical training program. The average woman’s upper body strength is lower and doing exercises that target those muscle groups is essential. The obese and overweight would have to go through a weight management program to meet before going into basic training. Drafting women would have challenges simply because of differences in physiology. It would most likely take longer to get the unfit into shape. Although it would be longer, there would be more soldiers at the end of the process.

The average woman would struggle to meet physical demands. The female athlete would not have such problems. If women had programs specifically designed to increase their physical fitness levels this would reduce complications of a draft of women. 

The portion of  people eligible for the selective service may decrease unless a new policy is implemented. The US military should employ personal trainers who task is for focusing on soldier fitness and health. Educating recruits about diet and exercise may help reduce  the amount of injuries. The task will be difficult. Physically demanding occupations do have an attrition rate for employees. Age and strain will eventually take its toll on the body. That is why it is preferred to get younger recruits between the ages of 18 to 49. As seen from higher performing athletes men and women reach their physical peak in their 30s. Training can reduce age related decline to an extent. Understanding fitness can prevent permanent or short term injuries in basic training.

        A improvement in the American public’s health must start at an early age. This includes putting an emphasis on physical education, healthy diet, and a new attitude in regards to exercise and physical activity. Many may be turned off at the thought of physical activity, because a sedentary lifestyle is all they know. The first step involves improving physical education. Children will start to develop their attitudes in regards to exercise first in a PE class. Making PE fun and amusing will get children moving as well as developing a positive attitude in relation to physical activity. Doing this would make the children who become adults maintain health, if these habits are reinforced.

Mark Herling a retired three star general stated that “recruiting challenges are going to get tougher for the military.” 

Making a gym class an unpleasant atmosphere will influence children for life. They will associate exercise and physical activity with something negative. There also needs to be another issue addressed with physical education. Girls are not encouraged to exercise as much as boys. Even at a young age their standards are lower. At this point there are very little physiological differences prior to puberty, so having lower standards in terms of physical activity makes no sense. The sexist notions about women’s physical capabilities still remain present in physical educator’s minds. This can impact women worse. If women have lower bone density and rarely do anything to build it they risk higher rates of osteoporosis. Simultaneously, there remains a cultural bias in terms of women’s roles. The backward notion that women developing strength and physical skill is unfeminine must be discarded. Exercise, sports, and fitness are viewed as a male only pursuit. While this has gradually changed with more women involved in sports and the passage of Title IX  there is more to be done. Besides obvious bias and discrimination, women will have to change their attitude as well. There are some women who shun any form of physical activity. They do this even with simple tasks such as opening a jar or shoveling snow. The idea that there will be a man there to do something for you will not always be the case. Women should learn to embrace exercise and develop physical competence. A dramatic shift has to be made in terms of attitudes toward exercise. This must be done, because it appears that American society is beginning to see obesity and be overweight as normal. The strange element is that fat acceptance has evolved into a movement. The reason this probably emerged is because of the weight loss industry presenting another unhealthy image of  extra thin body type.

 Body size is not the sole factor in determining health, but carrying excess weight can cause health problems. The skeleton will suffer extra strain combined with a circulatory system vulnerable to heart disease. Depending on the individual’s diet, there could be a risk of diabetes. Fat acceptance may not be the best for health. When living in a country of abundance it is simple to over indulge. Food, smoking, and alcohol are commonly over consumed. People must learn restraint and self-control to solve weight issues. There is a psychological element to changing habits. It must be done with the encouragement of friends, family,doctors, or fitness professionals. Shaming or scolding a person will only result in failure; positive reinforcement and motivation will be a pathway to success. There should also be a revision of goals. The sole purpose should not be only loss of weight, but rather improving physical fitness capacity as well as maintaining an active lifestyle. Clients may go on diets lose weight, then regain it. They may become discouraged attempt multiple times or simply quit. The only way improvement in health can remain permanent is that behaviors and lifestyle changes are persistent.

    Rather than just losing weight one should seek to improve overall physical fitness.

The most difficult part of this is maintaining a healthy diet. The nation is filled with fast food restaurants and supermarkets filled with junk food. To say that it is entirely  an individuals fault for weight related problems is not true. Healthy food such as fruits and vegetables cost more compared to junk food. The high obesity rates in the South could reflect the dire economic situation of that region of the USA.  Poor families would not be able to afford healthier food. The combination of poor diet and limited access to healthcare or reasonably price insurance means life expectancy could decrease.

If affordable healthcare is under attack and could be dismantled it will have devastating consequences on public health in the future. 

If obesity and weight related illness becomes so immense the government will have to act. The conservatives and far-right Republicans claim to be pro-military, but rarely do anything to address this issue or veteran’s needs. The only solution to a population that is less fit is to encourage exercise. This will have to be done at the state and federal level. Building better sidewalks to encourage walking is a start. The construction of recreation centers and parks may also encourage physical activity. The UK has experimented with putting taxes on drinks high in sugar. Office buildings are adopting standing desks. The data gathered from this study was accumulated between the years of 2010 to 2013 and  ever since there has not been any major change to policy.  It was reported in 2005 each soldier lost to attrition cost the government up to $31,000. If ignored expenses will only increase. The wider population may become a financial burden with mass decline in health.  The Department of Health and Human Services should take this matter seriously. Only a public policy based solution and address the rapid decline of health and fitness.

Physically Fit Recruits Are Hard To Find

Anita Sarkeesian and a Gamer’s Response

Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes versus Women in Video Games” generated much controversy. While there is no denying there is sexism in video games her videos present the average male gamer as a misogynist and internet troll. The unfortunate aspect of this is that there are male gamers who fit this description.  Sarkessian’s analysis and the venomous responses of some individuals represent how extreme third wave feminism and men’s rights advocates seek to divide the gaming community. It is clear that there is an agenda to promote Feminist Frequency a website run by Sarkeesian. She claims to be a dedicated game enthusiast, but it has been rare to see her actually do so, rather than criticism. Her style of debate is to make small selections of data, rather than examining the entire picture. There are also people in the gaming community who also make such outrageous claims. The video “Anita’s “Myths” Versus  Real Myths ” also represents a distortion. A Youtube user by the name Prince Asbel responded to Anita’s video in the same irrational manner. The debate centered around the concept of women being the weaker sex. Users like him only give Sarkeesian fuel and paint a negative image of the gaming community. While sexual dimorphism is a biological reality, this does not mean gender stereotypes are based in truth.

         The video wants to challenge Sarkeesian’s claim  of women being stereotyped as the weaker sex. The problem is that Asbel uses a subject that actually disproves his point. The video shows Jill mills arm wrestling  three men and losing to two of them. One should realize that arm wrestling is not a precise measure of strength. This involves a level of technique as well as strength from the wrist, pectoralis major,  and biceps brachii.

His example was to demonstrate that women really cannot be strong. Jill mills has the ability to lift cars and do many feats of strength from years of training. She is certainly not weak. If this presentation wanted to be precise it would examine bench press, leg press, and squat records of female and male athletes. Men on average are stronger. This does not mean the female body cannot acquire strength. Jill Mills can deadlift 475 lbs for reps. Jill currently can bench 286 lbs and do a 442 lbs squat. These are impressive records and the reason she could not beat these men at arm wrestling is because she had limit training for it. It would be doubtful if the men in the video can do what Jill does without any training. However, it would not be possible that Jill could out lift the world’s strongest man.

The strength difference is not solely due to muscle. The male skeleton contains denser bones, larger ligaments, and bigger tendons. The video sites that Jill is covered in muscles and therefore she should have beaten the men. Large muscles do not automatically equal more strength. It has to do with the distribution of type II muscle fibers and the rate of muscular contraction. Type II muscle fibers are critical for explosive power. It is possible for a person with smaller muscles to be stronger if they are specifically training for that purpose. A weightlifter may be able to lift more than a large bodybuilder simply because one athlete is training for hypertrophy. The bodybuilder’s goal is an aesthetic one.

The notion that women are weaklings falls into the frailty myth. Physical weakness or lack of physical skills were thought to be women’s natural state. It seems Abdel falls into this perspective, but attempts to appear non-biased by mentioning his sister. Average does not correlate to all men being stronger. There are multiple factors that play a role in physical strength. Body type, endocrinology, body composition, and fitness level. Women produce more estrogen which allows for more body fat, rather than lean body mass. Myostatin in particular determines how large muscles can grow given a training regimen. Testosterone allows for greater muscular hypertrophy, which enables more protein synthesis. Genetics play a role in both sexes in terms of fitness levels. Men have more natural strength, but women also respond to the stimuli of weight training. At the cellular level, there is no difference between male and female muscle. Men just have more type II muscle fibers. The disparity is more about quantity rather than quality.

The difference in upper body strength is the greater compared to the lower body. The average woman according to rough estimates has about 55% of males’ upper body strength. Women have a closer range of lower body strength which is between 25% to 75%. This shows that men do have larger muscle fibers. This does not mean a man who does not train will be stronger than a woman who does. A woman who trains seriously could either equal or surpass the average man in strength. Then training method is also important. Training at high intensity allows women to acquire more strength and the use of plyometrics. The physiological and biological differences explain why female athletes have to train harder than their male counterparts. The differences in physical fitness potential change during puberty, when hormonal changes alter the body. Anatomically women have wider hips and narrower shoulders, which do effect athletic performance.

There is of course overlap between women and in men. The explanation for this is that each individual’s physiology is different, which gives then a natural advantage over other competitors. There also is the factor of technique in athletic skill. Strength and speed are critical, but if one has not mastered skilled movements for a particular sport, it will ultimately effect the total performance optimum. This may explain why some women could beat men in a physical contest if the skill and technique level is high.

This man clearly is stronger, but loses. The woman has a technique that nullified the strength gap. As you can see arm wrestling is not an accurate measure of strength. 

Sexual dimorphism is the product of millions of years of evolution. This does not prove women are inferior, but different. Humans are primates of a mammal order and usually males tend to be larger than females. There are exceptions seeing as gibbons are the same size for both sexes. The reason for size and strength differences between men and women may have to do with mating strategies. Our early ancestors of the past had to compete for mates. Size and strength would have been an element of natural selection to spread particular genes. There is vast amounts of genetic diversity in the human species, which allowed it to survive. Relevant to this discussion of female representation being a woman does not make one biologically inferior or physically weak by default. Stereotypes and negative attitudes do effect peoples’ behavior  and conduct in regards to certain groups. This is why women face extra scrutiny in occupations that are physically demanding like the military, law enforcement, firefighting, and sports. The assumption is that they are too frail and incapable of such work. Men are stronger, but that does not mean they have a monopoly on  physical strength. Asbel seems to present a distorted argument just like Sarkeesian.

        The problem with Anita Sakeesian is that she does not acknowledge that women in video games do not all fall into the damsel in distress trope. This trope is older than electronic entertainment and can be seen in film, television, and literature. There is a progression which features women characters as the stars of their own games. Fans are responding positively to this new development. The Tomb Raider reboots and Uncharted Lost Legacy  are great examples of this change. They fight, shoot, and march their way through danger in their new adventures. Gamers do not care that they are women.

The wonderful aspect about Uncharted Lost Legacy  is that it features non-white characters staring in their own game. Black and Asian representation has been lacking and this was a excellent remedy to that problem. While it may be true their is a social construction that women are helpless and ineffectual, there has been a change in particular beliefs. A female heroine is not such a shock to people anyone when consuming various forms of entertainment. When gamers  found out that Samus was a woman at the end of the first Metroid  game it shocked them. Samus continues to be one of Nintendo’s most popular characters. There are male gamers who do fit the archetype of woman hating trolls who want to exclude them from the culture. They are the minority, but are vociferous and get more attention. The reason the negativity appears is because women are having a greater presence. What the maker of the video does not understand is how some people operate on prejudice. Despite this, there has been progress. Sarkeesian does not help her case by painting all men as vicious misogynists. There are many gamers who do not approve of such convictions. There are many female characters that are strong and show character development.

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What should be avoided in female character creation is tokenism or predictable tropes. What Asbel calls reality actually is what he perceives. This is the same manner in which Sarkeesian presents her arguments. Ignoring that there is a problem will not magically make the issue of subtle or blatant sexism go away. Asbel want one to believe that there is no such issue. Sarkeesian wants to convince people that all gamers are rude misogynists. These are two extremes of  a spectrum. Video games and electronic entertainment should be an inclusive community. People promoting political or social agendas should look elsewhere to do so. The challenges can only be addressed if more women get involved in game design, start their own companies, and become leaders in the industry. Mere complaints will not lead to change; action must be taken to redress such grievances.

Anita Sarkeesian and a Gamer’s Response

No love for women’s sports? RT Segment (2011)

This segment from Russia Today exposes the often sexist treatment women face in sports. While men’s teams normally get invited to the White House, while women’s teams on rare occasions do. There is also structural challenges. There are no professional leagues for women’s baseball or  American football. These are the team sports which get much attention and commercial investment. Then there are those on the extreme end of the spectrum that say women should not play sports, because they were designed for men. James Preacher a  religious fundamentalist believes that women should not be involved based on scripture. Such archaic ideas are still prevalent. There is a level of misogyny that has been a part of the sports world and women’s entry as professional athletes has not erased it. Only when women become owners of teams, develop their more organizations, and challenge the pay gap can women reach equality in sport.

No love for women’s sports? RT Segment (2011)