Female bodybuilding is an activity where women compete in bodybuilding competitions or just women that like to lift and have muscle definition. With the rise of women who bodybuild in media: a television movie, a poster, a commercial, and photos on Internet, the more of both positive and negative opinions about female bodybuilders. Some media views female bodybuilders negatively, sending a wrong message about female bodybuilding, and some try to normalize and inspire them. Female bodybuilders are portrayed on media differently from male bodybuilders because of what they wear and how they pose. Different countries have different perspectives toward female bodybuilders. They are viewed differently depending on their ideal body type. The positive is that media changes peoples’ attitudes toward female bodybuilders.
Female bodybuilders are viewed as bizarre and masculine, and the television movie Getting Physical portrayed female bodybuilders in an inaccurate way. Getting Physical (1984) is a television movie about Kendall, a female bodybuilder who suffers from self-esteem issues due to her weight, and is disliked by her father and her boyfriend because of her tough look. In the movie, Kendall’s dad is curious about her biceps. However, his perspective is that visible biceps belong to men and it must not be accepted. Moreover, he says that Kendall’s back looks like “Green Beret” and he mentions that bodybuilding is a freak show. Her boyfriend is supportive but he still does not understand why Kendall wants to be a bodybuilder. This movie was made back in 1980s and fitness phenomenon was just in, which made it difficult for men to accept tough looking women. I think the reason some women like to be a bodybuilder is it might be their favorite activity to do, the enjoyment of the progress they see, and it boosts their self-esteem. This is related to myself because lifting is my routine and I enjoy seeing my body getting leaner and toner.
The Getting Physical poster portrays a female bodybuilder in an inaccurate way. The poster shows Nadine , a woman in a bikini, posing a muscle pose, and a small picture of Kendall on the side. There is a written text above the picture says “When a beautiful woman becomes a bodybuilder, the sport take on a whole new shape, and her life new meaning”. In the article, ‘Getting Physical’: Text/Context/Reading and the Made-for-Television Movie”, Schulze wrote that Nadine’s body shows little muscle mass than what a female bodybuilder actually looks like, and the image shows that women with little muscle mass represents the new ideal of beauty. This poster shows a female with no marks of muscle, but the movie is about the female bodybuilder, who is muscular. When searching images of female bodybuilders, it results in pictures of women with big and lean muscles. The poster might misunderstand the audiences because it shows the wrong image of a female bodybuilder.
Male and female athletes are not equally compared on media. Women athletes or bodybuilders are view in negative ways. In the article Male & Female Athletes In The Media: Are They Equally Portrayed?, Robson (2012) compares male and female athletes. He mentions female athletes are often viewed as sex symbols because of how they pose in pictures and how they dress. The author shows picture of female athletes with sexual poses, little clothing, and heavy makeup. Media views them as weak, submissive and less biologically equipped to deal with the stresses of high-level sporting endeavors. On the other hand, male athletes viewed differently from female athletes. Male athletes are usually viewed by media as athletes with high ability in the sport. Men are mainly referred to as heroic, tough, strong and powerful. I have never viewed female athletes as sex symbol, soft, girlish, or weak before.
From my perspective, I see female athletes or female bodybuilders the same as other male athletes. It is surprising how pictures of female athlete on medias who wear little clothing, heavy makeup, and sexual poses are viewed differently from males. There are many males in bodybuilding competitions, and male fitness models wear little clothing and fake tan as well. In the article, the author gives an example of female tennis athletes who wear little clothing and a lot of makeup. I think the media might view female bodybuilders differently because it is necessary for them to wear bikini and heavy make-up in order in compete on the stage. This is because the lights on competition stages are bright which make the figures look unpronounced both facial features and muscle. I am aware of how male and female athletes are viewed differently in media, because if female athletes dress too little and wear too much makeup, they can be viewed as a sexual symbol, weak, and submissive. Robson did not write about female bodybuilders in her article. Female bodybuilders must wear little clothing because they have to reveal their body muscle on the stage, similar to female fitness models. The audience who read this article might view female athletes differently. They might view female athlete as what the author of this article wrote. However, it might change people mind of how they view female athletes. Bodybuilding can be both a sport and modeling. Therefore, people might focus on what female bodybuilders are wearing in addition to their ability and power in sport.
Additionally, female bodybuilders are viewed differently in Thailand because thinness is their ideal body type. This Thai Pizza Hut commercial, directed by Littichai Siriprasitpong, is about a female bodybuilder. Its purpose is to attract anyone who wants to work and eat at Pizza Hut, since they do not judge people on how they look. This commercial was broadcasted on television in Thailand and on social media in 2013. In the commercial, the main character likes bodybuilding, but people around her view her as strange because of her muscle. She says that no one wants to be her friend, and that makes her want to disappear from the world. However, she still believes that there is some place that accepts her for who she is. That is Pizza Hut, where any kind of person is accepted in the restaurant. This commercial is an exaggeration of reality. I am from Thailand, and the people there are not like in the commercial. Women with muscle or female bodybuilders in this commercial were very rare in Thailand in 2013. The majority of commercials are about skinny and pale women, which are idealized in Thailand. However, that doesn’t mean women with muscle are unacceptable. Female bodybuilder can apply work anywhere just like here in America. With the rise of female bodybuilding trend on social media such as Instagram and Youtube, it is more acceptable these days.
The creator of the commercial “Pizza Hut: Muscle Women” aimed to boost the self-esteem in women with muscle. This commercial makes me feel great that the company doesn’t judge people on the look. Even though I am similar to women in this commercial, the people around me are different from the people around her. In reality, most people don’t judge others on how muscular they are. The commercials purpose of this media product is to attract more workers and customers at Pizza Hut. The message from this commercial is not specifically on women with muscle but other genders and body types, as well.
Female bodybuilders on media can inspire people to get in shape. There are female bodybuilders on any media platforms that are inspirations but “oldest female bodybuilder” stand out the most. The video from Youtube is about Ernestine Shepherd (80 years old) who is the Guinness World Records’ oldest female bodybuilder. This video was produced by Mandy Oaklander and Kristen Harding. Its purpose is to inspire people at any age and people with health problems to be healthy again. The audience is everyone on Internet but this can inspire people at her age, too. Ernestine Shepherd is the oldest female bodybuilder who inspires a lot of women around her age to get back to healthy lifestyle again. She has a sister who wanted to be in the Guinness World Record of “The World’s Oldest Female Bodybuilder,” but she died due to health problems. Ernestine also faced health problems but she wanted to complete her sister’s dream and that was the beginning of her bodybuilding story. In the video, Ernestine also teaches a gym class and she inspired her clients, mostly senior women and she says that age is nothing. Anybody can get fit.
From my experience, I go to the gym 5 times a week and I do not see much of senior women lifting weight. Ernestine Shepherd shows that anyone her age can be a bodybuilder or just to stay fit just like her. The most revealing in this video is that her health problems disappeared after she started to become a bodybuilder. It can inspire many people with health problems to start picking up weight and eat healthy. She also stated in the video that it is fine for females to lift weight. This video looks like a commercial but it is not. They use her voice-over to inspire the audience, and the music is very motivating. They also include a real interview from her clients and her competition on the stage to make this video credible. The video looks like a short version documentary but still inspiring.
In conclusion, female bodybuilders are viewed differently from male bodybuilders on media. They are sometimes viewed differently in other countries, too. These women with muscle on media are powerful and inspiring and can change other people’s lives. People might see female bodybuilders as masculine and sex symbols. Skinny is the ideal body type in Thailand and that made female bodybuilding strange to the society. It becomes more acceptable now because of media. Female bodybuilders in media inspire many other women to feel that it is okay for them to lift weight just like men do. Media today tries to publish female bodybuilders in positive ways. They make females with muscles more acceptable in society. That what makes the world a better place to live, because everyone can feel accepted and be comfortable no matter how they look.
Stern, S. H. (Director). (1984, March 20). Getting Physical [Video file].
Siriprasitpong, L. (Director). (2013). Pizza Hut: Muscle women [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUvSAMgZmD4
Robson, D. (2012, July 16). Male & Female Athletes In The Media: Are They Equally Portrayed? Retrieved from http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson42.htm
Schulze, L. J. (1986). “Getting Physical”: Text/Context/Reading and the Made-for-Television Movie. Cinema Journal,25(2), 35. doi:10.2307/1225458
Harding, K. (Director), & Oaklander a, M., & Harding, K. (Producers). (n.d.). Worlds Oldest Female Bodybuilder [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRhIJlVcf2Q&feature=youtu.be