KEYWORD “Female Bodybuilding” – 17

KEYWORD “Female Bodybuilding” – 17


Female Bodybuilding and the Postmodern Culture

In these increasingly modern times where men’s sports almost always have its female counterpart, female bodybuilding is experiencing a crisis. Where before female bodybuilding was bodybuilding in its purest form, now it is gradually giving way to the sports’ old adversary which is femininity.

Bodybuilding is a sport that combines weigh lifting, good diet, and rest. Primarily designed as a male-only pursuit, bodybuilding in women soon gained momentum in the 1980s when female bodybuilding competitions began occurring in various regions.

Female bodybuilding began with Lisa Lyon who was a UCLA graduate and a student of the Japanese martial arts called ‘Kendo.’ She had a typical dancer’s physique, slender and graceful, which by today’s female bodybuilding standards would have been deemed laughable. But this was a different era, a time when female bodybuilding athletes were willing and able to make their bodies look like acrobats’.

At the encouragement of Arnold Schwarzenegger who was the world’s most famous bodybuilding icon, Lisa Lyon entered and won the first World Women’s Bodybuilding Championship. Ms. Lyon was followed by Rachel McLish who won the International Federation of Bodybuilders’ (IFBB) first Miss Olympia competition in 1980. Mclish’s had the soap opera good looks and narrow-waisted, rippled body of the IFBB’s ideal female bodybuilder and for a while, she was the quintessential athlete.

The next female muscle to take the sport by storm was Bev Francis whose 24-inch thigh, buffed pecs, and planed abdomen changed the world of female bodybuilding forever, thus catapulting it into the crisis the sport is now facing today. Bev Francis was bigger, bulkier, and more muscular than any other female bodybuilding athlete of her time. Her appearance set the a trend in female bodybuilding as other athletes strived hard to achieve the level of physique Ms. Francis acquired.

The introduction of Ms. Olympia into the silver screen in the ‘90s sharply brought the meaty women into the viewers’ living rooms and their responses varied from awe, to shock, to disgust. In answer to the fan’s reactions, IFBB set the standards of female bodybuilding back to the time of Ms. McLish. This new branch in female bodybuilding became known as fitness competition.

As opposed to female bodybuilding which was more hardcore, fitness competition is female bodybuilding lite where bodybuilders were fit and toned without the muscle bulk. But this controversial new development in female bodybuilding has set many tongues wagging, especially in feminist organizations and women in power lifting, bodybuilding, and strength training circles. Their criticisms are sharply centered on the increased magazine spreads of fitness athletes wearing lingerie and swimsuits.

Even so, this new female bodybuilding type of competition continued to garner positive viewers’ responses. And most believe that the reason for this is that the women in fitness competition epitomize an era of female bodybuilding where the women were good to look at.

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