Quite the discussion tonight over a bodybuilding competition. I’m still chewing this over.

I’m fascinated by women bodybuilding. It’s unusual enough for men to take it to such a high level of competition, so when women do it, it presents a level of competition so high, it’s almost suprahuman.

There is a fascinating book called “Shoot The Women First” that talks about what happens in the world of international terrorism when women are in the drivers’ seat. There has been a widely-held belief that when women are pushed with their back against the wall, they will fight more feriously than men to protect their homes and children. It’s sort of a “mama bear” belief in that women have a docile nature that can be provoked into fury under threat.

The book’s author has a very different perspective. It is her position that when you train men to become killers, you are really training them to hone a socially acceptable behaviour that our society identifies as desirable, though only in men. With women, you aren’t honing a latent tendency. In fact, first you are breaking them and building from the ground up. This break is what makes women terrorists so dangerous: stripped of their mama bear inclinations, you get a killer so heartless, she will not hesitate to kill. Hence, “shoot the women first” is a command made to level out the playing field a bit during terrorist situations.

It is also what fascinates me about women bodybuilders. Women in western society fight with a norm that would love to keep us in pearls and heels so we can perfect our pies. Some women break free and do a lot of yoga. Others get short, functional haircuts and wear comfortable shoes. In one scenario, the yoga ladies have simply redefined beauty to be healthier. In the other scenario, women have rebelled and have rejected traditional labels altogether.

So along comes women bodybuilders. They work their bodies to a masculine norm of musculature, blow dry their colour-treated hair, apply all the makeup they can carry, and don a crystal-studded bikini. Then they strut their spray tanned muscles in stripper heels across the stage to be judged for how well they were able to turn chopped turkey and twice-a-day at the gym into pure muscle. It’s like a glam pageant… only… without the soft feminine attributes we accept as normal.

To me it says something like, “Am I pretty? Tell me I’m pretty. Tell me I’m pretty or I’ll snap your fragile male spine between my thighs.”

I am still not sure what to make of the conversation I had with a friend who is at such a competition today. I admire the risk these women take with their competition. I also find it fascinating that they have broken through the barrier of cultural norms for women… kinda sorta.

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