Women’s physique & women’s bodybuilding: A choice given, a choice taken away

Women’s physique & women’s bodybuilding: A choice given, a choice taken away

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Trish Swander (physique)

Trish Swander (physique)

Women have always had it tough. For years, they were treated as inferior to men, and were not allowed to read, study or vote. They were supposed to do and act as they were told, without questioning or demanding explanations. This may sound as a very pro-feminist way to start this essay, but trust me, there’s a reason to it.

Women in the world of iron have always struggled, and especially female bodybuilders. They struggle balancing their professional or personal time with their training and preparation time. They also struggle with the cost of a lifestyle in which they must pay for food, coaching, posing suits, make up, tanning and hair services, traveling, competition fees and all those things required to participate in shows. But besides all of that, they deal with the harshest criticism from sometimes even family, relatives, acquaintances, and especially now with social media. Posting a photo on one’s personal Facebook or Instagram page has become reason enough for unwelcome strangers to comment on it in very unpleasant ways.

Some may argue “why do they pursue bodybuilding then? No one is forcing them”. Well, they do it because they want to, just as some people decide to take up music lessons, basketball, writing or whatever the hell they want to do. As a basketball follower, I never heard anyone criticize Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson for playing basketball. I never heard of people criticizing Pelé for playing soccer, or Martina Hingis for playing tennis. It’s all about respecting individuality.

So when the Arnold Sports Festival announced that its 2014 edition would not feature the Ms. International category and that this would be replaced by another male category instead, aspiring and active female bodybuilders finally witnessed their sport receive a deadly blow. They had seen it coming since the late 90s and early 2000s with regulation changes and less sponsorship from promoters. But this wasn’t just any show. It was an Arnold Schwarzenegger show, who has remained an international symbol of this sport for decades. Who do you turn to for support when the bodybuilding ambassador of the world won’t either?

Bikini, figure, fitness and women’s physique are all categories that derive from female bodybuilding, and while many women may not want to pursue the hyper muscular size, they should at least have the choice to do so, even if there were only two competitors that day. It’s a simple as this: if there is male bodybuilding in a show, there should also be female bodybuilding on it. There will always be an audience for both, big or small. We claim to live in a modern society in which there is equality, but that is simply not true.

Despite all of this, I do believe that the women’s physique category is a good addition to the sport. I have seen the effects of this addition in Texas. Newcomers and competitors that used to do figure are switching to physique because they are attracted to a more muscular look, as well as the artistry and fun of the routines performed on stage. And you know why this happens? Because it looks and feels like female bodybuilding! It certainly looks as I remember it when I was growing up, watching it on TV and movies.

So is women’s physique bad? No! It’s a great idea. What I do not agree on is on killing female bodybuilding, a category with tradition and history that deserves respect, whether we like it or not. It’s not a question of whether we think it’s sexy or not.

I think both categories should exist… What do you think?

For full appreciation, we strongly recommend viewing the photos in full screen mode by clicking the “maximize” button on the lower right of the viewer.

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  • Jodi-Leigh-Miller-womens-physique

  • IFBB-Pro-Tina-Chandler-bodybuilder

  • IFBB-Pro-Tina-Chandler-bodybuilder-1

  • IFBB-Pro-Lisa-Sanders-womens-physique

  • IFBB-Pro-Laurie-Hairston-womens-physique

  • IFBB-Pro-Kendel-Dolen-womens-physique

  • Ginger-Schomber-bodybuilder

  • Ginger-Martin-bodybuilder

  • Elizabeth-Bradshaw-womens-physique

 

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Alfonso Aguirre is fitness photographer with an MBA and a major in Marketing. He is also a guest judge for Musclemania Texas.

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