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The death of women's bodybuilding

Der Tod des Frauenbodybuildings

Has "ugly" killed female professional bodybuilding?

Here's a quick summary

  1. In 2015, the Ms. Olympia competition was removed from the program, marking the possible end of female professional bodybuilding.
  2. "Man face" is a term used to describe the masculinization of the facial features of female bodybuilders.
  3. Of course, steroids can cause such a "man face", but other factors are also involved.
  4. The audience for women's bodybuilding is shrinking, but the fetishists may be keeping it alive.

The decline of women's bodybuilding

A long, long time ago, there was only one category for men who wanted to compete in body sports: bodybuilding. And the same was true for women.

Today, women can compete in the bikini class, the fitness class, the physique class and the bodybuilding class. The posing and the necessary requirements in terms of body development are different in each class, but the main difference is obvious: the size of the muscles.

But something has changed in 2015: The Ms. Olympia title was no longer awarded. It was removed from the program.

Let's look back to 2005, when the IFBB introduced the infamous "20 percent rule". In a memo, they asked female bodybuilders to reduce their amount of muscle mass by 20%. They didn't say, "Ladies, would you please reduce the amount of steroids?" or "The audience is shrinking because many people - and even bodybuilding fans - say you look kind of gross." But the message was clear.

The question is whether it was the muscularity that was the problem or - for lack of a kinder expression - the "man face", as this masculine facial expression is also known in bodybuilding.

It's time to show your true colors

There has been a lot of teasing about the facial features that some female bodybuilders display when they are in competition shape.

Sunken eyes, veins on the forehead, a sharply defined jawline, a larger nose and a general coarseness to their dark orange skin that made the stowage of an oil tanker look silky - and this also matched the sound of their voices.

Such discussions tend to be quite unfriendly.

Inevitably, there will be those who react quite defensively to this topic, which is especially true if they are happy to be one of those women out there on stage.

But the truth is painful.

That doesn't mean I necessarily have to say it, but then we'd be ignoring something that virtually every one of those giant pink Amazons in the room displays: a male face.

It's a trending topic in light of the cancellation of both the Ms. International and Ms. Olympia competitions. Could this state of affairs potentially be part of what's contributing to the decline of women's bodybuilding?

"It's not a beauty contest," we hear them say. But that's not entirely true.

Bodybuilding is all about beauty. It's only when we move away from beauty that we get compromised aesthetics, poor symmetry and big bellies.

As far as women are concerned, bodybuilding has been beaten with an ugly stick. And now women's bodybuilding is disappearing.

Does femininity attract fans?

When Corey Everson was Ms. Olympia from 1984 to 1989, the competition was often held at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Thirty years later, it's a sideshow at the Olympia Expo - or at least it was.

At first glance, this makes me a bigoted misogynist, but that's exactly how it was. It's not my fault that women's bodybuilding is disappearing, I'm just describing what happened.

There is no shortage of men who can't wait to give their opinions on femininity and how female bodybuilders have destroyed it and ultimately their sport.

No matter how true this may seem, in reality, no man has the right to say this. Personal femininity is defined by each woman for herself - even if what she looks at in the mirror has developed the face of a man - beard shadow and all.

Even the most seemingly gnarly women have an aspect of femininity. As long as she has a mu-mu and all X chromosomes, she could look like one of those old Indian characters from American tobacconists like Cameron Diaz, while there's still a trace of that somewhere that makes her feel like a woman.

But clearly there is a general consensus about what we consider feminine, attractive, admirable, etc.. It is these attributes that attract an audience willing to support women's bodybuilding.

Say what you will, the fact remains that the Ms. Olympia competition in the late eighties could fill large halls, while the Ms. Olympia competition of today has breathed its last. You can't argue with history.

Issues of femininity aside, a bodybuilder with exceptional muscle development could be smoking hot if her face wasn't completely ruined.

Ruined faces, shrinking audience

The level of muscularity and the pursuit of it has created a face and body image that is no longer sufficiently attractive to be supported by the public.

The declining interest is what led the IFBB to cancel the top two events in women's bodybuilding. Obviously - among other undesirable attributes - there were a lot of ruined faces up there.

If the Ms. Olympia top 10 had featured a set of faces that looked like the faces in the bikini class, the Ms. Olympia competition might still be alive today.

And if the top 10 of every competition in the bikini class had the faces of bodybuilders, then this type of competition would quickly come to an end.

I'm not saying that professional bodybuilders are ugly. That's such an ugly word. What I am saying is this: the Cory Everson era female bodybuilder that used to fill big gyms would probably be competing in the figure class today.

In the course of this evolution, the IFBB created the Bikini Class, the Fitness Class, the Figure Class and the Physique Class, gradually paving the way for female bodybuilders to put more and more distance between themselves and what is achievable and desirable.

And they have done a great job. They have literally done away with the Ms. Olympia title with their freakish looks.

What exactly is a so-called "man face"?

Prolonged hormone abuse tends to cause women's ears, nose, eyebrows and jaw to grow, promoting a masculine appearance to their face. But that's not the whole story.

What transforms a previously pretty and undoubtedly feminine face into a "man face"? Apart from hormones, there are a whole range of other factors.

Each one of these factors on its own is not necessarily a threat to the female facial features, but when all of these factors come together - as is the case with competitive bodybuilders - a woman can end up with a face that is an absolute knockout - which was literally the case for the Ms. Olympia competition.

The general structure of women's skin is inherently thinner than men's and also contains less collagen. This is also the reason why women tend to age less gracefully than men.

The older a female bodybuilder is, the greater her susceptibility to developing a "man face". The rapid aging of a woman's skin is the foundation upon which the development of an increasingly gnarled "man face" is built, while the other contributing factors accumulate over the course of a bodybuilder's career. This puts a lot of strain on their face.

A diet that is strict enough to make streaks visible on a woman's leg flexors will also negatively affect her facial features. One would have to travel back in time to Auschwitz to see more frightening manifestations of facial architecture.

Such repeated forays into the land of definition to the bone will dig deep furrows in a woman's face that no amount of residual saline will ever fill.

Facial hair is a direct result of some of the hormones that female bodybuilders use. Some female bodybuilders shave, others use lasers, but the fact remains that it's there.

Probably Mother Nature's cruelest joke is that the more male hormones a woman uses, the more of it her body will turn into DHT, which docks onto follicle receptors and causes androgenetic hair loss.

If only the hair that is meant to grow on the face would grow on the head. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

Take the omnipresent wig, add a shadow of beard to the deep furrows where cheeks once were and you're approaching the kind of face not even a mother would love. But it can get worse.

Sebum is a skin oil that we secrete that makes the skin soft and supple. Men tend to secrete more sebum than women, but when a woman reaches menopause, her skin literally dries out.

This makes the skin appear coarser and drier as a woman ages. Adding testosterone to a woman mimics the signs of menopause - reduced sebum production being one of them.

Women who use male hormones will secrete less sebum and therefore have drier, often older-looking skin. Remember that women already have less collagen in their skin to begin with. Combine this with their thinner skin and less sebum, add male hormones and the condition worsens.

Basically, we have a situation where women are naturally predisposed to dry, rough, thin skin as they age.

Enhancing these characteristics with anabolic and other artificial agents will make the face even thinner and more emaciated.

Add to this extreme dieting and there is little hope of avoiding a man face. Add all these detrimental effects together and you have the perfect recipe for something most people find abhorrent.

When you consider the paltry pittance that even the winners of the TOP IFBB shows were rewarded with and the painful impediment to their beauty, one can only speculate as to why women do this to themselves.

Could fetishism save women's bodybuilding?

Interestingly, there is a subculture that finds these extreme cases of masculinized women attractive and desirable. In America, these men are also known as "Schmoes" - men who sexually fetishize female bodybuilders.

I used to look at these men who book female bodybuilders for private posing sessions, wrestling matches and other kinkiness with disdain for their perverted nature. But because of the female bodybuilders out there who are intent on pushing the boundaries further, I'm going to change my mind.

These guys have managed to save the appearance of elite women's bodybuilding....

Since 2015, there has been a new competition for professional female bodybuilders called Rising Phoenix. Promoted by Tim Gardner and financially supported by the "Schmoes", this show offers former professional female bodybuilders the opportunity to boost their bank account with prize money of $50,000 plus a Jeep worth $55,000. This beats the top Olympia prize money in its heyday.

Looks like you can make a nice chunk of money with a Man Face. And that's a very good thing.

We all deserve the opportunity to pursue our goals and aspirations. And it's always nice to have a place where you can showcase yourself and get recognition for your efforts.

It doesn't matter if the masses accept it as long as enough people support it.

If such promotions continue and women's bodybuilding is supported by fans, then this will be proof that it is indeed not a beauty contest and the women who are so inclined can just do it.

by John Romano

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