Freakshow

"eww"
"THATS GROSS!"
"omg She looks like a man"
"Please dont get super buff"


As my body transformation is taking place and I am compiling a mental list of goals and desires, talking about them with my friends and family, there is this aura of apprehension and sometimes even repulsion.

How did we get to a place where seeing a woman's muscles is frowned upon?

We all know women are designed to hold more body fat, we have fatter hips and bellies designed to stretch and spread.  Breast tissue is almost entirely fatty and our upper bodies are softer in order to protect and provide warmth to a newborn, if we were say, to live in a cave?!  Women have always needed to be strong, the strength required to hold up our end of the family survival agreement has always been there, it is just often hidden under a layer of soft bosom.  Strong women have been something to be feared, they were featured in sideshows as freaks, referred to as "amazons"  By the 1800's upscale women were seen as ethereal, tied up in corsets, unable to breathe and prone to fainting.  The idea of women working in the fields was limited to the poor and the immigrant population.

  A 1878 article for The American Christian Review, for instance, outlined a nine-step path to sin and humiliation, down which women participating in sports were headed — a simple croquet game could lead to picnics, which led to dances, which led to absence from church, which engendered moral degeneration…poverty…disconnect…disgrace…and, finally, ruin.

By 1900 strong women were starting to emerge in "freak shows" but gaining notoriety, by the 50's we had become circus acts rather than just freaks.  Strong women were taken to with less apprehension if they were beautiful and could preform.  Gymnasts, trapeze artists?  They needed to be strong.  The expectation of their craft centered solely on strength, but the expectation was that they were to preform and not flex their muscles.  Between 1950 and 1970 women's bodybuilding had a bit of a surge, you can find pictures of women lifting weights.  Often in bikinis and heels, Including the famous picture of Marilyn Monroe benchpressing, but weights were small, the women were still held to a preconceived beauty standard and their muscles were down played.


What does this mean for women today?  I hang out with women that lift.  Women that want to be strong that want to wear their strength on their sleeve.  Meaning, I can pull up a picture of a women with a lean hamstring tie in and we can all see the beauty in it.  We can see the months of work and dedication and not feel threatened.  This belief system doesn't carry over well in all areas of my life.  At work, at the grocery store we can joke that I want to be a bodybuilder and it is fine, because I still have that level of maternal fat that leaves me looking very feminine.  When I lose that body fat? We revert back 100 years and along with my strong women fore-mothers I then become a freak.


The ambivalence about women and muscularity has a long history, as it pushes at the limits of gender identity. Images of muscular women are disconcerting, even threatening. They disrupt the equation of men with strength and women with weakness that underpins gender roles and power relations.” ~Patricia Vertinsky

If anyone wants to disrupt an undertone of misogyny and push back against oppressive gender roles.... Its me.