Fans of female bodybuilders often describe them in the most robust and hyperbolic terms: Angels. Goddesses. Queens. Alpha females. Dominant. Powerful. Stronger sex. And so on.
While this reaction is completely understandable, it obfuscates a larger truth that, at first, may seem like an insult but is anything but: Female bodybuilders are normal people.
Yes, this is true. The strong muscular ladies we love are just like you and I. Just like Hollywood celebrities who occasionally suffer through bad hair days, messy divorces, professional setbacks, and cabin fever from being quarantined indoors (although it must be nice to live in a luxurious mansion during these difficult times), at the end of the day they’re just like us. Sort of. The same is true for female bodybuilders, even if it doesn’t always seem like it.
Female bodybuilders carry an almost mythical social status to their fans. We describe them in divine ethereal terms because they do seem nearly God-like. Or sent by the gods. Or a physical manifestation of God. Or a literal god. We treat them – even though we theoretically know they’re simply human beings who’ve achieved something marvelous – like deities because bombastic terms are the only terms that seem appropriate. It feels insulting to frame them as being beautiful women with big muscles. Our descriptions of them must go the extra mile because not only do they deserve it (and they do), to not do so would seem like a gross mischaracterization.
Yet, as much overhyped praise we may shower upon them, it is valuable to remember that FBBs are simply normal human beings who are no different than the rest of us. This is important not just for ethical reasons (there is no excuse for abusing or harassing a female bodybuilder you have a celebrity crush on) but for practical reasons as well. Female bodybuilders were not born that way. They did not purchase their muscles from a grocery store or online boutique. They earned their muscles through hard work, sacrifice, grinding away day after day, and making life choices that most of us would reject in a heartbeat.
Most of us could live like a bodybuilder for a couple of weeks. But very few of us could last for several years. Or decades.
This is why for me, I do not find female muscle growth fiction (FMG) very appealing. I understand why certain people love that sort of content – both as consumers and creators – but that’s not my jam. This is no disrespect to anyone who does love FMG art, just an expression of a personal opinion. I’m not into FMG because part of the reason why I love FBBs is specifically because of the hard work and sacrifices they must endure in order to achieve their coveted physiques. The lifestyle of a professional (or dedicated amateur) bodybuilder isn’t easy. One does not become that massive by accident, happenstance, or through shortcuts (no, steroids does not automatically make you that large). It requires focus, determination, intentionality, and making difficult decisions that could have lasting repercussions.
One of the reasons I love female bodybuilders is because they “earn their beauty.” Some FBBs – and I will respectfully withhold naming any names – are not born with natural traditional beauty. But don’t worry! They more than make up for it by transforming their bodies into the statuesque figures of muscle goddesses. A woman (or man, for that matter) who isn’t blessed with genetic beauty can become an Irresistible Muscle Queen through hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and the belief that human limitations are subjective. They “earn their beauty” in the same way we earn a paycheck at work. Nobody not named Andrew Yang wants to give us money for doing nothing, so we must earn it. Likewise, female bodybuilders earn the adoration of fans like us because they too have earned it.
FBBs are perfectly normal because that is how they started out in life. “Normal” is the default, not an insult. We are all normal to a certain extent. Whether or not we transcend that normalcy is entirely dependent upon what choices we make in life. It should be obvious that every female bodybuilder has made a series of choices that make them abnormal in the eyes of society. And for the record, “abnormal” isn’t an insult, but rather a descriptor.
I love FBBs not because they are more than human, but because they are perfectly human. They are not goddesses or angels. They are regular flesh-and-blood human beings who live by the same laws of physics, science, and biology as the rest of us. They haven’t “cheated” science through divine means. Synthetic steroids and human growth hormones may seem like cheating from a competitive perspective, but it’s still science. Like I said before, steroids are not a magic potion. They’re not an elixir conjured up by a coven of witches hiding in a mountainous cave. To believe that is to misunderstand what steroids actually are.
Setting aside the steroid debate for a moment, FBBs are especially beautiful because they have chosen a path that is scientifically feasible, but emotionally and physically difficult. It’s not a mystery how Rene Campbell became as massive as she is. We all know how she did it. In fact, thanks to social media many bodybuilders (both male and female) are remarkably transparent about their daily routine, diet, training regimen, and supplementation choices. The instruction manual has been laid out for us. But not everyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and assemble the Ikea kitchen cabinet themselves.
And unlike climbing a mountain, planting a flag, and taking a selfie to prove that you did it, once you become super muscular, you must continue to work hard day-in and day-out to maintain your physique. Rene’s muscles will shrink if she stops lifting, eating right, and supplementing regularly. So in order for her to remain in top shape, she must continuously live the bodybuilder lifestyle as long as she wants to look the way she looks. But once you’ve climbed the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, you can brag about that accomplishment for the rest of your life. Nothing can take that away from you. It’s yours forever.
But a muscular physique does not last forever. It would be like climbing a mountain that never ends. Or hiking up a trail conceived by M.C. Escher – just when you think you’ve reached the top, you realize you’re still at the bottom. Which means the only way you can go is forward without risking falling backward.
Maybe this is why I always preferred the Indiana Jones, Die Hard, and Mission: Impossible movies over anything Marvel has produced over the past several years. There’s something fun about seeing a “normal” person (in Hollywood terms, I’m using that word loosely) rise up to the circumstances and defeat the forces of evil using nothing but his sheer willpower, intelligence, cunning, improvisational skills, and luck. Watching superheroes like Wonder Woman, Superman, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor smash bad guys into a pulp is fun enough, but it gets dull after the first five minutes. There’s something about having a superpower that makes the action less exciting.
Likewise, female bodybuilders don’t have superpowers. They weren’t given large muscle mass by some magic spell, scientific experiment, or divine intervention. On the contrary, nobody gave it to them. They had to earn it. Bit by bit. Day by day. Little by little.
“The Perfectly Normal Female Bodybuilder” is, in fact, the highest compliment I can give someone. It acknowledges reality and expresses how impressive the existence of an FBB really is – and why we all must respect their accomplishments. She is not a freak. She is not a genetic outlier. She is not special. Rather, she is perfectly normal…and has chosen to become abnormal through readily available means and methods.
This should be a valuable reminder why we must be especially thankful to female bodybuilders (as if we really needed another reason!). We are not entitled to their existence. We do not deserve them. We do not have them because we asked nicely. FBBs exist because they choose to exist. You or I had nothing to do with it. FBBs look the way they look because they want to look that way. The rest of us are along for the ride. We are a passive audience, not an active participant. Without us, FBBs could still exist. To believe otherwise is to demonstrate a horrid lack of humility.
We should be thankful for FBBs because they have the option to “undo” their accomplishments and deprive us of their beautiful bodies. When a muscular woman decides to “retire” and give up the lifestyle, it’s understandable why many of us greet this news with the feelings of melancholy. It feels tragic because it feels like a death. Her muscles will, over time, slowly “die” and disintegrate into nothingness. The human being still lives on, but her muscles have retreated into the afterlife. However, we should also be thankful for the fact that there are hundreds of more women who will gladly take her place. So the supply chain isn’t broken. But that doesn’t mean we can’t “mourn” every loss when it comes to us.
Just as FBBs can return to “normal” after a year or two of not training and eating a high protein diet, “normal” women can become as statuesque as Cindy Landolt or Aleesha Young if they put their minds to it and do what it takes to achieve that look. “Normal” is a two-way street. Whether you’re leaning into the FBB lifestyle or taking a step back, nothing about you changes. You’re still the same mortal human being you were either way. Your outer shell can morph in a variety of ways. This doesn’t affect your inner self.
But if we’re being honest for a moment, that’s really what this is all about. Who you are – or can become – on the inside. What really defines us is who we are as people, not how we look or appear. Muscles come and go. Your body is just one part of your identity (albeit an important part, no doubt). The other part – arguably the most important part – is how you treat people, your surroundings, and your legacy.
Inner growth. Emotional growth. Intellectual growth. Developing into a better human being who can make a real impact in people’s lives. Isn’t that the essence of living on planet Earth for the short finite amount of time we have here? Shouldn’t we all strive to leave our planet in better shape than when we arrived on it? To say during our lifetime that we truly made a difference? Not all of us have an epic legacy that future generations will remember. Some of us will be remembered by millions, others will be remembered by a few hundred. But every one of us can control what we do in the here and now.
Nobody said it would be easy. Life throws curveballs at us all the damn time. We may occasionally swing and miss, but at least we’ll go down swinging. Female bodybuilders are teaching us this lesson: you cannot hit a homerun without swinging your bat. Staying still will achieve nothing. But this choice isn’t just reserved for an elite few. Rather, this is a choice any one of us can make.
Any one of us. No matter how “normal” you think you are.