Friday, November 12, 2010

Mind And Matter by Sheena Hunter

Imagine you have just spent, let's say, 16 weeks intensely training, dieting, and performing up to 2 hours of cardio a day. You then spend several days in a state of total depletion of carbs, sodium, and maybe even water. You show up with your absolute best package, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, ready to collapse, but summoning the energy to appear on stage and have your hard work acknowledged. When it's your turn to stand on stage, you realize that the 20 girls next to you have physiques just like yours. You turn to the left and wait. You turn again, while the crowd judges your backside (eek!). You turn again, and you realize it's strangely silent. You face the audience, not knowing what they see but hoping for the best. Crossing your fingers in your mind, you are nervous and everyone is watching...but you can't see them. All you see are the bright lights and the indifferent faces of the judges. After the humiliation of waiting to hear your number called, you stand still, flexed, and smiling as the judges measure you up against the girl with the boob job. Yep, she's better. Then they stand you next to the girl with the waist-long brown hair. Shit, you have short hair and the male judges like long hair. Then they stand you next to the girl with the high glutes and make you turn around while they compare your asses. You try not to be humiliated. Shit, her ass was genetically rounder, and the judge was an ass guy. You make mental notes to grow your hair out, get implants, and put on more eyeshadow next time. After all of your hard work, you just lost because you weren't pretty enough.

Whether you are a competitor or not, if you are female you have probably felt this degradation. We are measured up against each other, media images, and impossibly subjective standards. Whether we like it or not, we need to identify the prettiest girl in the room, because we are so used to being measured that we learn to measure ourselves. As Ani Difranco observed, “God forbid you be an ugly girl, of course too pretty is also your doom, 'cause everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room.” What Ani didn't mention is that the prettiest is in the eye of the man whose attention we need. In competition, it's the judge(s). In life, it's our spouse, boyfriend, crush, boss, coach, etc. When it appears to be a tie, we look to him for the decision.

Female bodybuilding is an escape from that. It's a way out of the “prettiest girl” mentality. It's a gigantic “Fuck you” to the feminine standard that asks us to starve ourselves thin and associate guilt with appetite. It's a place of refuge, space for empowerment, a motivation to eat and grow mentally and physically bigger and stronger. It's a venue by which we can put beauty aside to display our hard work on our own terms.

The IFBB does not want any association with female bodybuilding, and they have made this clear. In my last column, I still had hope for Women's Physique, though I had doubts. I was upset that WP would be replacing female bodybuilding, but I was willing to hear what they had to say about it. Now that standards have been officially posted, it is clear to see that the IFBB does NOT intend for the WP to replace female bodybuilding; however, while I thought I'd be relieved, I'm actually outraged. You see, the IFBB has made it clear that WP is not a lesser standard for female bodybuilders—it's a higher standard for figure competitors.

According to what the IFBB released today, there are certain words associated with female bodybuilders that SHOULD NOT be used to describe the ideal Women's Physique competitor. These words include, but are not limited to, STRIATED, VASCULAR, and RIPPED. Furthermore, we will be posing open handed with twists at the midsection (the tricep pose looks like an effing curtsey!), and there will be none of those scary, ultra masculine lat spreads. There will also be no more solid suits, and the bottoms must be V style. I'm not sure if anyone else reads the implication here, but the V-bottom is about as close to your clit as they can possibly cut it. Rounded bottoms also cover up scars...and it can't be a coincidence that they aren't allowed anymore.

BUT. The most humiliating aspect of the WP, just in case any female bodybuilders were going to give it a try, is the comparison round. Instead of having our hard work speak for itself, we will suffer through humiliating call-outs and comparisons. We will have our hair, nails, makeup, boobs, and asses compared. We will be judged on our overall aesthetic package (aka, sex appeal, which they call “beauty flow”), while the audience measures us against each other. When physiques are similar (which they inevitably will be), they won't be judging our biceps peaks, or our striations, or the hardness and leanness of our legs; instead they will be choosing the blonde over the brunette, the long hair over the short hair, the 21 year old against the 28 year old. We have all heard the spectator comments about Figure: “They are all so alike, you could switch all of their heads and not know the difference...” At that point it comes down to personal preference, and I have seen some amazing athletes get totally robbed (for instance, Allison Moyer at Nationals). Beauty pageants are not even half as degrading and humiliating as the IFBB has made physique sports.

Summary, for you article-skimmers: Female Bodybuilding is dying of natural causes, and will dissolve itself entirely in precisely two years. It will not be resurrected by Physique. Bodybuilding is being replaced by “beauty flow.” How insulting.

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