In one corner you have a group of women who say they are being denied an opportunity to achieve their best in bodybuilding because they refuse to give in to how society, the IFBB or the NPC says they should look.
They have taken their fight to a gender discrimination level claiming that the rules for the women are unfairly biased. In another corner you have a group of women who say the sport needs to change. In short, they are tired of the negativity and confusion.
"My personal vision is that bodybuilding put more emphasis on femininity and symmetry, and not only judges based on muscle mass," said Austria's Susanne Niederhauser, who placed fourth in the 2005 Ms. International lightweight class. In the middle of this catfight is the IFBB.
Prior to the Ms. International, the first pro bodybuilding show of 2005, a new rule was legislated for the women saying they must reduce their muscularity by 20 percent, while no changes on aesthetics were adopted for the men.
This marked the second time since 2000 that new rules were set forth for women. Both times the federation suggested that the women were too big and too muscular.
Can the two sides come together and challenge the man in the middle? That's the next question to be answered. Apparently, the IFBB sides with no one. Just image and money.
Some fans were hoping the IFBB would have backed up its mandate and chosen Niederhauser as the overall winner. Her physique took the sport back to the Cory Everson days.
Instead, the judges passed and crowned Yaxeni Oriquen, the same women who had won twice before. Not saying she didn't deserve to win. But this show was expected to set the standard for the rest of the year.
Guess the time has not yet come for such drastic change.
If Not Now, Then When?
If money is truly at the heart of the matter, then what measures will the IFBB take to promote the women in a way that the shows will make more money and the athletes will make more money? Perhaps there is something else going on. Inquiring minds would like to know.
Female bodybuilders are being exploited in the worst way; everything from poor promotion, to being poorly paid. They have been given mixed signals about the how they should look for far too long.
At one point they were convinced there was no money for the sport, yet somehow prize money was dug up for a new sport called Figure. They complain about these issues but not loud enough to be heard.
When will female bodybuilders stand up and fight for their rights to be respected and paid like pro athletes and stop fighting against each other?
Let's go to the mailbox and see what came through on the subject.
Email No. 1:
Money isn't everything. Some female bodybuilders compete because they love it.
Answer: How tragic. They need to decide if they want bodybuilding to be a sport or a hobby. What sense does it make to have a pro division if there are no extra perks? In the words of a pro athlete,
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Email No. 2:
Why ask the women to decrease muscularity for health reasons and not the men?
Answer: Men dressing up like women, acting like women and looking like women is big business and not the other way around. Bottom line is androgyny and hyper muscularity on women is obviously part of the problem. The facts show that the fan base for women's bodybuilding has been on a steady decline as the physiques began to get more muscular.
(Let's be clear that a fan base does not mean a group of people who love to lick women's biceps. It means people who will pay money to see the shows.) Prize money for the men keeps going up.
The top 10 guys nowadays make at least $50,000 per year. The top 3 make over $300,000 per year. Some of these guys get paid $2,500 a month by magazine publishers just to tell their fans what they ate for breakfast and what bodypart they trained and what girl they think is cute.
The proponents of hypermusculairty have no proof their package will sell and bring more fans to the arena. If they do, then they should put their money where their mouth is and make it happen. The opponents can at least say there were sellouts when the women were more feminine.
Email No. 3:
Who should decide how the women should look.
Apparently when it comes to bodybuilding, the only real difference in gender is a penis and a vagina. Hmmm... the opponents ask,
"Is not the basis of bodybuilding purely aesthetics, which separates it from all other strength sports?" If this is true, then aesthetics means every single thing is pleasing to the eye.
Email No. 4:
What will it take to bring women's bodybuilding into the limelight?
Answer: Take a look at the women's pro sports that are making money and why they are successful versus the ones that aren't. Women's bodybuilding, women's basketball, boxing and golf all fall into the same category of surviving almost solely because the men's division subsidizes them.
They also share a common factor of being difficult to market by corporate America because they carry a negative stigma. But unlike bodybuilding, these other sports have enough fans to keep them in the limelight.
Gyms are full of young women who want to get fit. But how many look at female bodybuilders and say "I want to be like that when I grow up?"
Bodybuilding came along way before boxing. But boxing is picking up more popularity because its stars are good looking women. And we all know men enjoy seeing women fight each other.
Meanwhile, the women's sports which are lucrative and popular are tennis, track and field, beach volleyball, surfing, gymnastics and ice skating, to name a few. Why? Because they all carry an image of glamour and beauty combined with power and strength.
Again, men will pay to watch because the women for the most part are scantily clad and aesthetically pleasing. Its stars are making money, too. Wheaties box material. Nuff said.
Email No. 5:
Female bodybuilders are scrutinized because men don't look at them as sex objects.
Answer: Well, some do. That's for sure. In general trying to leave the man's opinion out of the mix is preposterous. The target audience for sports business is 25-40-year old males.
Men run bodybuilding, the supplement companies and the fitness magazines, if you haven't noticed. The latter is the first group of men to whom female bodybuilders need to appeal. Apparently, they don't.
Email No. 6:
The only answer is mandatory drug testing. Get rid of all the cheaters and drug pushers.
Answer: Well. Drug use is and has been a part of sports for a long time. And probably will be for a long time. Drug use is not so much the problem as is drug abuse. Drug abuse is when the use takes its toll on the body, be it deteriorating health, distortion (which includes bloated bellies) or death.
Ironically, very few people will pay to see some 200-pound natural bodybuilder and fewer want to see a 200-pound juiced up chick with 20-inch arms and a 40-inch back.
Heroin, crack, cigarettes and alcohol kill and destroy the lives of far more people than steroids. So in pushing for a drug-free America, let's start with getting rid of those other drugs first.
From The Survey Department:
Why do you think the Ms. Olympia does not make a profit?
Answer: Poor promotion and marketing. The Olympia promoters should consider giving Jim Lorimer a call. Or Arnold. Wayne Demilia's housekeepper. Or somebody. The
Ms. International was packed. The
2004 Ms. Olympia night show was nowhere close to being full capacity. It seems the prestige of the Ms. O is only in the name.
Disclaimer: The news and views expressed in this column are the result of numerous conversations, emails and interviews from people in the industry who wanted to share their opinions. So don't hate me. I just work here. I am just that tired old lady who refuses to give up her seat at the front of the bus.