gender; society; bodybuilding; weightlifting; feminine; masculine
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Gender ideologies form the basis of how we view men and women as masculine and feminine. Through more traditional gender ideologies, men are generally taught to act and look as “manly” as possible while females are to look and remain as “womanly” as possible. So as long as one does not perform gender in ways that disrupt or blur the lines of these ideologies, conflict does not arise. But for women who deviate from the status quo and develop moderate to extreme muscularity, their gender and perceived femininity is often questioned and conflict often arises in their lives. Comments such as “don’t get too manly” to “muscles are gross on a woman” are common in those who want to weight lift or compete in bodybuilding competitions. The policing of women’s bodies is quite evident in today’s media/society but for the muscular woman, it seems, it is further magnified. Women who choose to lift weights and/or compete in bodybuilding competitions stray from or resist the traditional ideas defining femininity. These women truly redefine what it means to be a woman. Yet, in doing so, they are often ridiculed and punished for failing to conform to traditional ideas of femininity as defined by society.
Through a literature review and interviews of women who currently weight train and compete in bodybuilding divisions such as bikini and figure, I describe common themes of their experiences as muscular women in every day life, dating, concepts of femininity in and out of competitions, etc. Men who compete in bodybuilding were also interviewed to gauge their opinions of how they make sense of the gendered meanings of women who are heavily invested in weightlifting to build body mass. Consideration was also given to the ways in which the evaluations of the bodies of men and women bodybuilding competitors are guided by traditional gender ideologies.