Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Chicks ain't what guys want them to be

Should women soldiers serve on the frontlines, and have their legs blown off?

I'm used to women being in the Army, but the idea of them being in total harm's way, where they can lose limbs, let alone life, freaks me out. Guess I've still got a few of the "I Am A Male Animal Who Must Protect Helpless Females" sexist genes left in me. The idea of women in combat messes with my gender stereotyping.

When it comes to really messing with gender stereotypes, nothing beats the documentary "Pumping Iron II: The Women." It's about female bodybuilders (the Schwarzenegger doc was Pumping Iron I). They show these women in serious body building training, with real muscles. BULGING muscles. MASCULINE muscles. It's freaky.

As a guy watching this truly revolutionary movie, I defensively and quickly latched on to the female body builder whose body most resembled a familiar sex object (big tatas, narrow waist, big butt). But as the movie continued, and I got used to bulging muscles on the ladies, some of the others who didn't look like standard women began to look bonkable to me. My standard of bonkability changed. I was like the frog in the pot of water being slowly brought to boiling point so it never jumps out until it's cooked. I could imagine myself in bed with a muscle-bound Amazon, something which would've repulsed the hell out of me before the movie began to condition me to look at muscular women and not necessarily lose my libido.

I also began to wonder what it would be like to sleep with a woman who was demonstrably stronger than me, and would be able to fuck me up if I didn't fuck her right.

But the real freak-out was this. In the finals of this body-building contest, there was a woman who had worked so hard, and was so muscle-bound, she didn't look like the stereotype of a woman anymore. She was just a muscle-bound creature. Neither woman nor man. She had basically trained her breasts away. She looked like an alien. She made you feel uncomfortable in the way a man dressed none too successfully as a woman might -- or as some transgendered people do who still retain too many characteristics of the gender they're trying to transition from.

There was this truly bizarre scene before the final judging, where the judges sat down, obviously in a quandary. Should we declare this woman the winner, who doesn't look like a woman anymore? She deserves to win, but should we let her? If we give her the big prize, won't it put women off our sport, and lose us our following? We need someone to represent our sport to the world, and she does not look like a poster child for female body building at all. In fact, she looks like an anti-poster child. It would be bad PR for us if she won. Even though she obviously deserves to win, because she's got the most muscles.

This woman had had the balls to take the logic of body-building all the way, and was thereby threatening her sport.

From an Amazon review: "Pumping Iron II: The Women centers on a major question that cuts to the heart of female bodybuilding: What should a female bodybuilder look like? This is not a frivolous question, because even though you would have thought the star of this show was going to be sexpot Rachel McLish, at the heart of this film is Bev Francis, a bodybuilder from Australia. The problem is quite simple: Bev's body looks like a man's. There is not a doubt in the world that her muscles are bigger than any other woman's in the competition; it is not even close. But in the minds of the judges -- not to mention the other competitors, the sponsors, and the fans -- that might not be enough. After all, the sport of bodybuilding is about physical appearance. This film raises some fascinating questions about the criteria that defines this sport (and its ultimate social implications), all of which are debated rather explicitly in this documentary. You cannot help but be involved, figuring out where you stand on these issues and how you would cast your vote."

The judges couldn't resolve their impasse at the meeting, but when the finals came, they didn't give Bev the prize. They gave it to a more womanly-looking body builder.

Muscle-bound Bev was justifiably very upset at this unfair result, and so was her male trainer. They had worked harder than anyone else, and rightly felt they had been robbed by ridiculous criteria. There was a heart-breaking pathos to their searing disappointment.

This movie should be mandatory in all gender studies. You think you're above gender stereotyping? Rent the movie. It'll challenge you to the core if you think you're quite open-minded. If anything, it will expand your notion of what a woman can look like. Try it. But don't do drugs at the same time. Your psyche might not be able to hold up under the onslaught.


At 5/22/2005 11:07 AM, Blogger drumgurl said...

Yeah, you make some good points here. I haven't seen the movie, but I think in general women aren't supposed to be "too" anything. We should be thin, but not too thin. Our boobs should be big, but not too big. And we look great with toned little muscles, but we shouldn't have too much muscle. So I've learned to just stop worrying about what other people think. You can't please everyone.

I like how you admit that your standard of bonkability changed as the movie progressed. People think they are above social norms, but I don't think anyone really is (including myself). Some things probably are due to biology, such as finding symmetrical facial features attractive. But other things are due to what your culture finds attractive.

What's funny is that I'd LOVE to be a super-muscular woman. But I don't have the build for it. I'm pretty defined, but I can't bulk up. Oh well.


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