Understanding the Difficulty Women Have in Losing Lower Body Fat

Photo credit: Millard Baker / Muscletime

Having worked with many different female clients, I can attest to the difficulty of getting their lower body as lean as their upper body. Over the years I have tried many different strategies to get them to lose lower body fat like men. One thing I have learned is that patience and commitment make all the difference. If you have those two with you, science can help with the rest. [Read more…]

Cyborgs in the Gym: The Technopolitics of Female Muscle

My general argument in this paper is that, contrary to the popular view of it as merely a simpleminded pursuit for large, oddly shaped, animated pieces of meat, bodybuilding is a scientific and technological practice. The bodybuilder not only conceives of her body as a site to be disciplined through various chemical and mechanical technologies, but as a collection of discrete parts distinguished from the whole, which can be individually manipulated. Thus I suggest that the bodybuilder is a cyborg. In her article, “A Cyborg Manifesto”, Donna Haraway attempts to create what she calls “an ironic political myth” which combines postmodernism with socialist feminism. Central to her myth is the image of the cyborg, which is “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” The cyborg for Haraway is both a metaphor for the postmodernist and political play of identity and a lived reality of new technology. [Read more…]

Female Bodybuilders, Fitness Competitors and the Crisis of Representation

This article is not just about female bodybuilders or fitness competitors. It is not about who is posing where and how. It is not about who is more feminine, athletic, sexy, muscular, or appropriate. It is about the creation, maintenance, and representation of a so-called crisis.

Avid watchers of physical culture, or anyone who reads mainstream muscle mags on the Stairmaster, will know that in recent years a “crisis” has been introduced into the world of women’s bodybuilding. This crisis is, of course, the appearance of fitness competitors, who are lauded by supporters as providing an athletic yet feminine alternative to ungainly and androgynous female bodybuilders, and criticized by detractors as being little more than pectorally amplified lingerie racks. [Read more…]

Female Bodybuilders and the Feminine Mystique: Where Bev Francis meets Betty Friedan

Will there ever come a day where women become separated from how the world views their bodies or are they destined to forever be defined by them? The female physique is a constant topic of debate between those intent on controlling it and those who wish to be freed from its constraints. Female bodybuilders pose the ultimate threat to the male ego as they challenge the shared assumption that men are, and will always be, more powerful than women. Based on this notion, society has continued to over sexualize women’s bodies in a concerted effort to diminish them from attaining any real power; as it is much easier to accept a muscular woman if she is portrayed as overtly sexual. For this reason, most women have learned to justify and/or apologize for their physical development in order to be accepted by a population who fails to understand it.

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The Language of the Female Physique

The female physique continues to be a constant topic of debate between those intent on controlling it and those who wish to be freed from its constraints, as women strive to become separated from how the world views their bodies. A woman’s gender role requires the strict adherence to the ideal female form judged by standards of femininity that are culturally specific and historically located designed to keep her in a perpetual state of weakness. There are numerous examples from popular culture which outlines how women’s power has become dictated by the media, their weakness embedded in a language that glamorizes addiction and their continued participation reinforced through the adoption of Western standards of beauty across the globe in a deliberate intent to create and maintain control over their body and mind. The combination of these efforts serve to keep women’s progress under wraps and prevent them from attaining any real form of power or sense of control over their lives. [Read more…]

The Weighting Game

I have been an athlete all my life, having participated in everything from basketball to figure skating, but focused on volleyball and rugby as a York U Varsity athlete. Sport wasn’t just something I did, it represented who I was and, more importantly, what I wanted to become. I first started training with weights after university at a fitness club in Toronto. Initially, I was interested in training for triathlons, but soon found I enjoyed strength training more than I had expected and results came quickly with relative ease. Given my history of athletic participation, educational background in Kinesiology, academic interest in feminism and personal views regarding sexuality, bodybuilding for me represented a point in my life where all of these elements collided into one big grand experiment. I was drawn to the feeling of physical empowerment the weights provided that I never received with aerobic conditioning. Bodybuilding seemed to be a natural progression and an ideal fit after years of participating in team sport. It provided me with the opportunity to pursue an individual sport where I would be completely responsible for my own success and/or failure. [Read more…]

After the Northern Lights: Florence Griffith Joyner and the Making of Contemporary Women’s Sport

Shooting stars, exploding cinders, her feet barely
The lines of her muscles
Stretched tighter than any tree. She cried
When she won it a second time and we cried
When she stood on that platform
`Fastest woman in the world,’ for we felt
Something in our chests leap and stretch.
Florence, you were so far
Ahead of the rest of them that day
Your legs were hungry jaws
And we were no longer afraid
To be female and fierce,
No longer afraid
To feel ourselves full of spaciousness
And angry light. [Read more…]

Athletic vs. Pornographic Eroticism

How Muscle Magazines Compromise Female Athletes and Delegitimize the Sport of Bodybuilding in the Public Eye

“I was fast asleep,” Ben Weider writes, “on the morning of the 30th of January, when sometime around 3 AM, I received a telephone call from Nagano, Japan, informing me that the IFBB had been granted official IOC recognition and that bodybuilding was now a sport to be respected the same as other sports.”i Weider waxes lyrical about the years it has taken to reach this goal: his struggle to legitimize a sport that–though those of us within the bodybuilding community may hold it dear, giving it much of our free time as well as the literal sweat off our brows–still isn’t seen by the mainstream as a sport. Nope. For the most part, out in the “real world,” bodybuilding is still seen as a pathetic parade of narcissistic steroid freaks. [Read more…]

The Bodybuilding Grotesque: The Female Bodybuilder, Gender Transgression, and Designations of Deviance

The other day I received some email from a man who had visited my women’s weightlifting website. He was so emphatic in his pronouncement that he felt he had to send the message twice, once with the content in the subject line just in case I missed it the first time. His important missive, in entirety: “Muscular women look gross.” After some digestion of these four words, I realized that in an idiot-savant sort of way, this individual had summed up a great deal of material about gender construction, the categorization of deviance, and the role of the grotesque in the gender presentation of female bodybuilders. [Read more…]