Friday, February 27, 2015

Oops, was that the line I just stepped over?

In class, we discussed female bodybuilding and its perception in society. There seemed to me three main purposes to bodybuilding:

  1. To be in shape.
  2. To compete in competitions of strength.
  3. To compete in aesthetic competitions.
Of these, the main ones which worry me are the ones in the third category. These women surpass the limits of femininity and plunge head-first into the masculinity.
More ripped than my (and most girls') boyfriend
These girls tend to be more willing to take steroids or other muscle enhancements to achieve increased muscle mass. The health issues associated with such drugs and workouts are staggering. It thus doesn't surprise me that videos of these aesthetic competitions shock and awe the class. I couldn't seem to look away as these huge women tottered about the stage, flexing almost balloon-like muscles in a deep orange spray tans.

The surprise did come when we were talking about women who workout to be in shape. Many in the class described these 'fit' women (as opposed to almost obscenely muscled women in competitions) to be unattractive, but perhaps that surprised me because I consider myself to be pretty fit. I'm perhaps not as fit as some of the bodybuilders featured in the video we watched in class, but I was in a similar condition during weight training over winter break.

Female Bodybuilder Featured in a Motivational Video
Me, Post-Boxing Practice on 2/24/15 (Excuse the Face)

I suppose she has a bit more in the arms than I do, but I'm on par when it comes to abs, I think. While I admire the fitness of the women featured in these motivational videos, I question their reasoning behind working out with their hair down, piercings in (note the belly button piercing on the above bodybuilder) and makeup on.

I maintain a high level of fitness like these bodybuilders, working out for two hours and running just over two miles, about six days a week. I identify strongly with these women and the physical goals they strive to achieve. When weightlifting, I admit to feeling extraordinarily attractive when completing a set of strenuous exercises. In particular, completing high-rep sets of squats (generally my own weight plus 25 pounds), deadlifts or power cleans make me feel more attractive than any amount of makeup or complimentary clothing ever has. But being at this level of fitness doesn't make someone stand out, at least not in a way that's never been noticeable to me. After all, no one in class noticed my fitness level (nor seemed to believe me when I claimed to be similar to the bodybuilders we were discussing). Is this surprising?

These women can easily cover up any "unacceptable" breaking of social norms. A common emphasis of our class is how the visibility of a body modification can affect its acceptance in society. So perhaps it is for this reason that fit women are increasingly common.

But my real question for this post is in my title: where is the line of attractiveness, and (narcissistically) did I go over it? An outsiders' perspective on whether my fitness level crosses the boundary of femininity would be welcome!

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