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Women’s Bodybuilding: Freaks or Not?

Women’s Bodybuilding Spawns Mass Confusion


I've been a bodybuilding fan for years now, but every time I see coverage of female bodybuilding in a magazine, I simply turn the page. It doesn't interest me in the least. Women's bodybuilding is pretty friggin' weird, in my opinion.

Here's the way I look at it. If you think about men's bodybuilding, the quest to become more muscular makes sense. Masculine qualities include strength, a deep voice, a penis and muscles. Women are just the opposite: sexy, curvaceous, soft, weak and in need of a man. (Specifically, me, if I had my way.) For women to want to make themselves look like pseudo drag queens is just wrong!

You see these 'girls' (we all know they look like guys because of their drug abuse; don't try telling me differently) with their gross muscularity onstage, oiled up, jacked on a boatload of drugs, and they're hitting poses and being judged by bodybuilding judges. (You can forget about bringing up the way they gyrate their hips and try to act sexy, because it makes me sick to my stomach.) Even worse, the judges are analyzing them on a f'ed-up scale that was meant for men! I mean, what the hell is that about?

The audience of perverts chimes in, excitedly proclaiming things like, 'Look at those lats!' 'She looks like Dorian!' 'Awesome back!' Those traits are for men and men only! Why does the sport exist? Who actually digs looking at these girls?

I'll tell you who. Schmoes. Schmoes are weird. They want to wrestle these jacked-up female lifters and get squeezed by their huge thighs'and all kinds of twisted pseudosexual deviances. To get their money's worth, said schmoes will start to pound off. The girl then does what's known as a hand release, which is basically a glorified term for helping the weirdo climax.

It's prostitution. Sadly, it happens all the time. What makes a girl want to do this to herself? Why do women want to take their physiques so far that they look like men?

Then there's the face factor. I think most are in denial about the deformity there too. 'I still look feminine!' they say. 'Just more muscular'and you can't handle it!' Pule-e-eze. Kmart is running a special on bullshit, and it's free to all female bodybuilders.

Try looking below the surface of a female bodybuilder's grotesque, striated musculature, and you might find a sincere person, but that sincerity is kind of painful to see. A top pro bodybuilder who wishes to remain anonymous revealed that the great majority of these girls have serious body-image hang-ups. 'I would be teased all the time in school,' she admitted. 'I was beaten badly by one of my boyfriends, but I could never let go of him. I loved him, you know? After that, I never wanted to be picked on again'mentally or physically.'

I find that a pretty heart-tugging scenario. I do find it odd that despite having such problems with their looks, female bodybuilders opt to do so many androgens that their faces are affected. A woman's face is the mantelpiece of her body. It becomes very distorted with near-man-like proportions. What better way to make yourself stand out like a freak than that?

As far as I'm concerned, the sport of female bodybuilding is a dead issue. Ticket sales are down, the prize money is pathetic, and no one gives a damn. I'm fine with that! Grab onto my blubber and allow me to take you back to the glory days of Rachel McLish and Cory Everson.

Rachel and Cory certainly had muscles and were lean like bodybuilders, but one could definitely tell their sex. Both had thick asses, which they still have to this day. Cory, who's now in her 40s, looks totally hot and incredible. Check her out in the August '01 IRONMAN. The woman defies the aging process. Most girls hit the wall around that age, so they desperately try to hang on by becoming sophisticated-looking with their hair and wardrobe. You've seen Kathie Lee, right?

Speaking of Cory, in her prime she looked more like the fitness girls you see today than the women bodybuilders. I think fitness is where it's at. While female bodybuilders definitely have thick glutes and legs, their giant, steroid-enlarged clitorises are gross. You could choke on those things. Fitness babes are extremely sexy, feminine and the de facto (I don't know what that phrase means, but I know it belongs at this point in the sentence) standard for what girls should look like.

I know I'm supposed to respect female bodybuilders' athletic achievements and all that, but if I were judging a fitness show, I would vote for the one I thought was the hottest. How many pushups she can do or how many times she can hit that pose where they sit on their hands, elevate their bodies and spread their legs out to show their crotches to the audience'none of that matters. What the f'k kind of pose is that anyway? If they're going to do that, they might as well bend over, back arched, ass out and flap their butt cheeks repeatedly with their hands like strippers. I'd pay to see that. Fitness babes have the best behinds on the planet. I think fitness is where female bodybuilders should go. Period.

Women's fitness isn't all glory, though. Marla Duncan, the '90 Ms. Fitness USA champion, multiple-state champion and former pageant queen, was one of the first fitness stars. Her insights on the underbelly of the sport are very interesting. 'Fitness in its infancy was a beauty pageant with muscles,' Marla said. She placed well in early shows, but she was the only competitor wearing a thong. (I think she should have won on that alone! Thongs are the shiznit.)

Inspired by the sultry heroines in the comic books she'd read growing up, Marla began her journey into fitness. She achieved some success in competition, but she decided to retire from the sport due to guess what? She didn't want to use steroids. 'Drug use started [in fitness] around eight or nine years ago, and I chose not to make that part of my lifestyle,' she said.

Check out the pictures of Marla on her Web site, www.marla duncan.com. Compare them to the fitness girls of today. Something is seriously wrong here. The physiques have drastically changed. What's up?

'Diuretic use is out of hand,' Marla said. 'I'm a woman, and I know that the female body can only lose so much water naturally.'

I was surprised to hear that. I didn't know the fitness girls were taking it that far. Diuretics? They're for bodybuilders. What on earth do diuretics have to do with women's fitness? According to Marla, the drug use goes much deeper than that.

'We're talking steroids, estrogen blockers and growth hormone. It's very scary,' she revealed.

That sounds like a scaled-down drug stack for a pro bodybuilder to me.

The reasons girls go into bodybuilding or fitness are strikingly similar. Said Marla, 'I haven't met a fitness competitor or physique star who didn't have some sort of eating disorder on some level. I'm sure a lot of people are not going to like hearing that, but most everybody who competes has psychological battles with food. I was one of them, and that's how I can say that.'

Despite some of the above points, fitness seems to be what women's bodybuilding was originally meant to be. According to Marla, 'There's a lot to be said for going back to what the contest was originally meant to be about: healthy, fit women performing onstage and looking good.'

Editor's note: Is The Sandwich a pig or what? Let him know by dropping an e-mail to [email protected] Before you do, however, check out Bill Dobbins' rebuttal below.

There's No Meat in The Sandwich
(Or: Dumb-Ass Sexism Rears Its Ugly Head)

by Bill Dobbins

Regarding the article by The Sandwich on women bodybuilders: What an awful, sexist piece of crap it is! But let me try to be diplomatic. Amazingly, in this age of political correctness, when you can't make nasty, derogatory comments about people on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual preference or national origin, there seem to be two glaring exceptions: Muslims and female bodybuilders. Arab-bashing, however misguided, has its origins in the fear and anger aroused by a series of threats and acts of violence, many of which were perpetrated by Islamic terrorists.

Desperate for villains now that the Cold War is over, Hollywood movie- and TV-show makers and popular novelists (as well as too many journalists) have decided that Arabs make good bad guys, even though most Muslims aren't international terrorists. As for the bashing of female bodybuilders, you have to wonder what motivates the huge amount of hostility directed at them. How many airplanes have muscular women hijacked? How many embassies have they bombed? What dignitaries have they kidnapped or assassinated?

According to the author, who calls himself The Sandwich (evidently consisting of white bread, Cool Whip and a lot of baloney), women bodybuilders are 'pseudo drag queens' and they make him sick. He resents their being judged onstage hitting bodybuilding poses because that was 'meant for men.' Male bodybuilders have striated muscles, female bodybuilders have 'gross striated musculatures.' Audiences that like that kind of competition aren't bodybuilding fans, they're perverts. But, as the author freely admits, his judgment is not really based on some deep philosophical position regarding the appropriate roles of the two genders in various athletic activities nor on his research into the acceptable morphology of gender identity. The crime of female bodybuilders is that they don't make his dick hard.

Longtime fans of bodybuilding will remember a time in the late 1970s and early '80s when the AAU and then the NPC had a lot of gays involved in judging competitions. Now, there's nothing about being homosexual that qualifies or disqualifies you as a physique judge, but those particular individuals misused their position to reward bodybuilders they happened to find sexually attractive and as a means of attempting to seduce them. Of course, that led to some serious problems in the sport, and those judges were eventually forced out of the NPC. They were thinking with their dicks, just as The Sandwich admits he is.

But what kind of juvenile, self-centered, male arrogance would lead somebody to believe that an entire sport should be devoted to giving him erections? What kind of immature sexism would cause him to feel that it's inappropriate for women to pursue developing their muscles for aesthetic purposes? (Unless, of course, they happen also to be 'babes' and score high enough on his T&A peter meter.)

How can somebody who purports to be a bodybuilding fan not understand that women can make their bodies into beautiful pieces of sculpture just as men can?

Charles Gaines, author of Pumping Iron, pointed out decades ago that the aesthetically developed female bodybuilder is a new archetype in our culture, something 'new under the sun,' and as such is going to disturb and anger many people. A similar antifemale reaction was frequently evident over the course of the 20th century, as women began to participate more fully in politics, education, science, medicine, business and sports. Even so, women becoming involved in activities and occupations once thought appropriate only for men is one thing, women actually changing their bodies in a way that runs counter to whatever concept of femininity happens to prevail in any given society at any given time is quite different.

Look at the jokes and insults Janet Reno had to endure during her time in Washington because she wasn't young, attractive and nubile. What on earth did her looks or level of sexual attractiveness have to do with her performance as attorney general? Of course, The Sandwich tries to justify his point of view with more than just what happens to pull his trigger. Women bodybuilders, he asserts, do not look like they do because of very special genetics, years of hard, consistent training and good nutritional practice. Based on his Ph.D. in biochemistry, his years of laboratory research and field studies and his extensive medical education, in his opinion what's wrong with female bodybuilders'the reason they don't make his dick hard'is because of steroid use.

Of course, if he'd ever coached women's sports in high school or college, he might have a different opinion. He'd have seen mesomorphic young girls show up for track and field, basketball, softball or other women's sports with naturally athletic physiques and abilities that demonstrated a fact of genetics: Most people are fairly normal in abilities, but a very special few at the upper end of the bell curve are simply effing amazing. In other words, some small percentage of women'and of men as well'are genetically programmed for strength, muscle and physical development, and they'll end up bigger and stronger than the rest of us, drugs or no drugs. The only difference is that we've known that about men for many thousands of years. It's only now becoming evident that it is, and always has been, true of women as well.

The Sandwich praises the early female bodybuilders like Rachel McLish and Cory Everson, both of whom were beautiful and extremely muscular (at least for their time). He doesn't seem to realize that there were many other female bodybuilders of the time who were criticized and penalized for being 'too masculine' even though they were no bigger or more muscular than Rachel or Cory but simply didn't have their aesthetic gifts. In other words, they didn't make somebody's dick hard.

Competing in Sydney at the recent Olympics, sprinter Marion Jones displayed a degree of muscularity that would have enabled her to win most bodybuilding contests in the 1980s'or certainly be in contention. She was far more developed than most of the female bodybuilders of 15 years ago who were viewed as too masculine. But Marion ended up in commercials and on the covers of Vogue and almost every other major magazine. She has more muscle than 90 percent of the men you'll ever see, but who was calling her a 'pseudo drag queen'? Who has claimed that only perverts like the way she looks?

Marion Jones has a beautiful face. Evidently, she's making a lot of dicks hard. The fact is, we perceive with the mind, not the eye. People don't believe what they see, they see what they believe. Many have their minds made up about female muscle, and there's no confusing them with facts. For example, it was somehow decided that Kim Chizevsky, who is four inches taller than Lenda Murray and competed at only about 10 to 12 pounds heavier, was nonetheless some kind of steroid monster, so that's the way many people 'saw' her in their mind's eye. Never mind that she came in leaner and sleeker her last two years in bodybuilding, got rid of the lines in her face and improved her overall appearance with excellent hair and makeup. The IFBB simply ignored her efforts. They only saw what they had already decided to see.

Of course, The Sandwich is not an IFBB official. He's simply a male chauvinist jerk with a lot of highly discriminatory, sexist opinions. Why IRONMAN decided that such disgraceful comments needed to be published, I can't say. I would be more agreeable to this if the magazine had shown more support for female bodybuilders than it has over the past few years.

There is one benefit to publishing a nasty piece like this, however. It reminds me of a comment once made by Martin Luther King. Dr. King had led a civil rights march through Cicero, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Life magazine that week was filled with photos of angry whites standing on the curbs, shouting and waving their fists, their faces distorted by virulent anger.

Don't you feel bad about causing all that anger and hostility? an interviewer asked Dr. King. He replied that no, he didn't cause that reaction. It was always there. The freedom march simply revealed it.

View From the Top:
An Interview With Wayne DeMilia, IFBB Vice President, Pro Division

by Ruth Silverman

Ruth Silverman: What was the public's reaction to the sport and also to the female bodybuilders when you first started putting on shows?

Wayne DeMilia: Women's bodybuilding was started in the late '70s because television was looking for events to put on. George Snyder had been running a women's event in Warrington, Pennsylvania, and there was always some kind of women's contest'I wouldn't call it a beauty pageant, but just some sort of girly show'held at the Mr. Olympia. They decided to make it women's bodybuilding, and the first event was held at Caesars Boardwalk Regency in April of 1980 and taped for television. It was the USA Pro-Am Championship, I believe. Nothing was sanctioned. We just wanted to see what would happen. What we saw was that about 40 women entered, and about 400 people showed up on a Tuesday afternoon to watch it. We said, You know, there's something here. So the next thing you know, Snyder said he'd put on the first ever Ms. Olympia, which was held in August of 1980 at the Philadelphia Sheraton Hotel. Rachel McLish won both of those events, and women's bodybuilding started to take off.

RS: What was the response to Rachel?

WD: Everyone loved her. She stood out. She had nice tanned skin, dark hair, and she wore a white bikini. She was very attractive, and she had enough tone and muscle, but there was hardly any muscle back then in comparison to now. Women's bodybuilding started to take off because women thought, 'Well, if I train with weights, I'll look like her, and that's the way I want to look.'

RS: What was the attendance at those first shows, and what was the prize money?

WD: There were about 1,500 people. The original prize money at the first Ms. Olympia was $10,000. Remember, it was 1980. And then it jumped to $25,000 the next year.

RS: In '84 Cory Everson won for the first time, and then in '85 you began holding the contest at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum, correct? WD: Yes, John Traetta and I promoted it. The movie 'Pumping Iron 2: The Women' came out that year. We got an eight-page article in Penthouse and an eight-page article, with photos, in Playboy, and we were in Glamour and Cosmo and other magazines. We sold 4,800 tickets'totally sold out. Women's bodybuilding was a phenomenon at that point.

Then in '86 we were about 150 short of a sellout. In '87 it dropped down to about 4,200. And then '88 we were about 3,800'about a thousand empty seats.

To me the correlation was, as the women became more muscular, more extreme, the attendance started to drop. We held it at the Beacon Theatre in New York in '89 and '90, and each year we just barely sold out'about 2,800 people. Cory Everson won in '89, retired, and Lenda Murray won in '90. In '91 the show was moved to L.A. David Zelon promoted it, and paid attendance was probably about 2,000. So it dropped again, but prize money kept going up. Ben Weider kept pushing the prize money higher. It was about $115,000, with $50,000 to the winner. The show fell back into my lap in '92, and I put it in Chicago, because we had a very successful Mr. Olympia there in 1990. We drew about 1,600, and we lost money.

In '93 I moved it back to New York, and we drew about 2,000. We just about broke even. We decided to put the Mr. and Ms. Olympias together in '94 in Atlanta. We had the first Masters Olympia too'on Friday night, with the Ms. Olympia. The attendance went up to about 3,000, but you can't say how much was for which contest.

In '95 we added fitness, but attendance dropped to about 2,000, so we moved the show back to Chicago. The men's show was on Saturday night, and the other three were on Friday. Attendance dropped again. In fact, only 900 people paid on Friday, but we had 4,000 paid on Saturday. Our attendance didn't even cover the prize money, and then on top of it you have hotel, airfares, food allowances, etc. So we lost, and it was the Mr. O that covered the cost. So in '97 we split the shows and put the Ms. and the Fitness Os in New York. We just about broke even.

RS: Then the next year, '98, was the big shift.

WD: Yes, all of the sudden Jarka Kasternova comes along and says, 'I want to run the Ms. O in Prague.' And someone came from Monaco and said he wanted to put the Fitness O in Monaco. For me it was a relief because I'd been running these shows and putting in the time and effort and getting paid nothing, sometimes taking a loss. The contest in Prague was a sellout. She had 1,200 seats, and she had sponsors. She should've made money, but she was overly accommodating with banquets and cocktail parties. So even though the show should've made a profit, I don't think it did. But Jarka decided she wanted to run the '99 show in L.A. We all said, 'Don't do it. Just amend your expenses here, and you'll come out ahead.' Well, at six weeks out from the show she pulled the plug'with only 46 tickets sold.

So we had to shift gears quickly. We stuck it with the Women's Pro Extravaganza, last minute, and it didn't even seem like an Olympia. Joe Weider put up the prize money'about $50,000.

So now we get to 2000. We saw that as the physiques became more extreme, we couldn't market it. Rachel McLish was in mainstream magazines 20 years ago. Now these women are not. They're not even in the muscle magazines. There were some people who were suggesting we eliminate the sport, but that affects all amateur promoters because there are women who want to be bodybuilders. We just had to reestablish a fan base.

RS: So what did you do?

WD: At the beginning of 2000 we sent out a criteria that the athletes had to come in with more of an emphasis on symmetry and muscularity and that the face would be judged. We also switched to weight divisions so that the smaller women wouldn't have to try to get big like the larger girls. Those suggestions came from the athletes themselves in a meeting we had in '99.

RS: How's it working?

WD: There's an increase in amateur participation, so that's encouraging. And in 2000 the Ms. and Fitness Olympias covered their costs. Now we've got to stay on this track. Like I've said to everyone, this is not going to turn it around in six months. If we're lucky, we can turn it around in three to five years.

There are a lot of people out there like The Sandwich who have little respect for women, who insist on limiting their opportunities and ambitions, who think they only exist as sexual objects and who tend to judge everything about women on the basis of what arouses them sexually. The evolution of women's bodybuilding hasn't caused this reaction. It has simply revealed it. And The Sandwich has done us all a favor by illustrating very clearly how nasty and vicious that mind-set can be. IM

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